Hugh Kenner


HOMER AND HAMLET

... Couldn't you do the Yeats touch?
He went on and down, mopping, chanting with waving graceful
arms:—The most beautiful book that has come out of our country in
my time. One thinks of Homer. Ulysses (U2I3/207) 1

Ukalepe. Leathers' Leave. Had Days. Nemo in Patria. The Luncher
Out. Skilly and Carubdish. A Wondering Wreck. From the Mermaids'
Tavern. Bullyfamous. Naughtsycalves. Mother of Misery. Walpurgas
Nackt. Finnegans Wake, 229.

The myths endure. In years of exile from Ithaca, observing many cities—Paris, London, Trieste, Pola, Rome, Zurich—enduring troubles and hardships in the struggle to save fellow-citizens who were determined to perish of their own madness, Joyce could not have failed to see his own plight and that of Ulysses repeated in the situation of any man of good will in Dublin. Ulysses had been his favourite hero in a classroom essay of his Belvedere schooldays; he had thought of writing a story, "Ulysses", about the wanderings of a citizen named Hunter, for the Dubliners series but the project "never got any forrarder than the title"; at another time he had intended to call the collection of stories Ulysses at Dublin, and even accumulated some Homeric parallels, but he lost interest in what was proving a none too satisfactory structural device half way through the writing of a book that was assuming what we have seen to be a compulsive unity of its own. 2 His homage to the Odyssey was not to be performed for another ten years, though he had vaguely realized from the time he completed Chamber Music that the Odyssey held the clue to much of his job.

His error in starting to hang the stories in Dubliners from a string of incidents

____________________
From Dublin's Joyce (London: Chatto & Windus; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1956), pp. I79-97.

-118-

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