Episode 11, Sirens, or “Ulysses, The Musical”

Nations of the earth. No-one behind. She’s passed. Then and not till then. Tram. Kran, kran, kran. Good oppor. Coming. Krandlkrankran. I’m sure it’s the burgund. Yes. One, two. Let my epitaph be. Karaaaaaaa. Written. I have.



This is just one example of why Ulysses can barely be read without some sort of guidance, save those who want to read it while on hallucinogens.



For those still interested in event concerning this book: Episode 11 takes place inside the Ormond Bar, (recently saved from demolition, above). The overlying theme of the chapter is “music”, picking up from the Odyssey in which Odysseus instructs his crew to tie him up aboard his ship, while passing the Sirens so that he will not veer off course. His shipmates have their ears plugged, but Odysseus chooses to be put in constraints so as to hear the lovely siren song.

In Joyce fashion, the beautiful but deadly siren calls are converted into a cacophony of noise and melody taking place in and around the Ormond Bar. If Ulysses as a whole is in many respects an homage to the oral story-telling traditions of Ireland, then “Sirens” takes this a step further with its attempt to directly interpret/replicate the experience of listening to music through the written word. Try reading a few passages out loud to yourself and you will, perhaps, find your admiration and wonder at Joyce renewed.

Clock whirred. Miss Kennedy passed their way (flower, wonder who gave), bearing away teatray. Clock Clacked.

Bloom heard a jing, a little sound. He’s off. Light sob of breath Bloom sighed on the silent bluehued flowers. Jingling. He’s gone. Jingle. Hear. 


There is also the return of various passages from earlier in Ulysses – a re-telling of words and phrases and sounds. The whole novel is becoming more experimental (so get ready, or run for your lives and find another book!) with the style largely dictating the narrative, highlighting the restrictions of form upon narrative as well as narrator/author upon narrative.

There is some action to be told, namely the dramatic narrative of the Boylan/Molly rendezvous, close upon us at 4 p.m. Bloom sees Boylan enter the Ormond and, upon running into his friend Richie Goulding outside, agrees to enter to have dinner and keep an eye on Boylan. He can’t help himself. And yet, he also cannot confront or otherwise stop Molly’s betrayal.

Boylan soon exits however, and Bloom is left, quite sad, to distract himself with music. First, a love song, then an operatic aria (similar to the potentially dramatic nature of this Episode, and yet our expectations for a confrontation are cut short, of course), and later, a nationalist tune, “The Croppy Boy”. The gathered men take over the singing, departing from the original Odysseus where the Sirens song is the allure. Here the Sirens are clearly the two barmaids, Miss Kennedy and Miss Douce. (more on these ladies in the next post), though maybe in fact they are the singing men?

Bloom spends this time contemplating all things, the melody of the music drawing him from his son Rudy, once more, to the mathematics of music, to the mimicking relationship of music to every-day noise. As usual, Bloom possesses both wisdom and insight, if not the straightforward ability to join in and be part of the social settings he is flirting with. He sees the sentimentality of singing these old nationalist tunes and rejects this outright as a sort of quick sand that is keeping his country and countrymen submerged in inaction through their romanticizing of the past.









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