5. Anecdote v. Image

Ulysses: Bloom's moist tender gland

The common discourse within which Eliot and Miller sought to advance rival modernisms--albeit one poetic, the other novelistic--is fully in evidence throughout Ulysses, but is perhaps best exemplified in a passage from early on, from the breakfast excursion which serves as an overture to Bloom's very anecdotal walk through the city of Dublin. As in Miller's Germaine "chapter," the associative sequence proceeds from food to women, from hunger to misogynous desire. In this regard, an examination of the breakfast excursion will prove illustrative of not only the techniques which divide Miller and Joyce's modernist practice, but the manner in which their "formal" dispute extends beyond "aesthetics" into the realm of ideological reproduction. "NARRATIVE IS NOT MERE ANECDOTE, BUT THE PROJECTION OF A METAMORPHOSIS OF REALITY," proclaimed the authors of "The Revolution of the Word," ratifying what they understood to be Joyce's greatest accomplishment.[59] The metamorphosed realities projected by Miller's anecdotal narrative and by the synecdochic structures of the paradigmatic novels of New Critical modernism have much in common with each other and with the reality they purport to change. Their variations upon a culture of consumption and patriarchal misogyny will be treated at length in a later chapter. Here my concern is with the "Order, and Myth," the hermeneutic code, inscribed within Bloom's anecdotal excursion, which marks Ulysses as the novel against which Tropic of Cancer most directly pits itself. The realities these works represent, the ideologies they reproduce, appear under this aspect as incidents of the hubris Joyce and Miller share as rival novelists. Both are inspired by the conviction that the novel's form can embody the force of history as it makes and unmakes the reality of our time.

I wish to begin with Bloom's purchase of the "moist tender gland" and conclude with his "morning mouth bad images" of the Promised Land. As throughout Ulysses, Joyce precedes his more extended narrative developments with anticipatory images, providing in advance the legible code of metaphor within which narrative, its interpretation thus imprisoned, will unfold. Standing at the butcher counter, Bloom shifts his "soft subject gaze" between a newspaper article describing the model cattle farm and the "nextdoor girl." The two merge in metaphor, "young white heifer," and in a plan to sustain metaphor in narrative, "To catch up and walk behind her if she went slowly, behind her moving hams."[60] With this, Bloom rushes his purchase:

His hand accepted the moist tender gland and slid it into a sidepocket. Then it fetched up three coins from his trousers' pocket and laid them on the rubber prickles. They lay, were read quickly and quickly slid, disc by disc, into the till.

Although the food/women metaphor--now overlaid with the Victorian conceit that joins sex and money in "spending"--permeates this passage, the presentation is emphatically narrative in its exaggerated adherence to the chronicle: there is no transformative movement in the history of this purchase, but a sequential displacement of discrete objects, each described in mimetic brevity, from one concrete place to another. From this bedrock of narrative, synthetic metaphor--symbolism--must be rebuilt after Bloom emerges from the butcher's store to discover that the "young white heifer" has escaped from sight: "No sign. Gone. What matter?"[61]

As Bloom begins his walk home the mimetic chronicle of the act of purchasing the "gland" gives way to "stream of thought," to a series of signs of purchase. Having first found the unifying image of the "young white heifer" while reading at a standstill, Bloom, fallen into narrative, reads on the run:

He walked back along Dorset street, reading gravely. Agendath Netaim: planter's company. To purchase vast sandy tracts from Turkish government and plant with eucalyptus trees. Excellent for shade, fuel and construction. Orangegroves and immense melonfields north of Jaffa. You pay eight marks and they plant a dunam of land for you with olives, oranges, almonds or citrons. Olives cheaper: oranges need artificial irrigation. Every year you get a sending of the crop. Your name entered for life as owner in the book of the union. Can pay ten down and the balance in yearly installments. Bleibtreustrasse 34, Berlin, W. 15.
Nothing doing. Still an idea behind it.[62]

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