Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Gablerizing Error: "Wandering Rocks"

Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Gablerizing Error: "Wandering Rocks"

Article excerpt

Error lurks behind the title of "Wandering Rocks." Other episodes of Ulysses feature much more obvious mistakes: elsewhere, Leopold Bloom repeatedly misquotes the book of Exodus (U 7.206-1 1; 13.1 157-60), mangles the Italian language (U 16.346) and misattributes various songs and musical works (U 16. 1737-43). But Joyce singled out "Wandering Rocks" in the schema that he sent to Carlo Linati in September 1920 (SL 270-71), translating the title as "Roccie Erranti" and listing "Errori" ("Errors") as a characteristic "Simbolo" ("Symbol"). These choices are unusual: le rocce galleggianti or "the floating rocks" is a more usual Italian designation (le rocce vaganti or "the wandering rocks" enjoys a currency equal to that of le rocce erranti in Italian-language criticism of this chapter). What's more, Joyce's translation comes with errors of its own, "volitional" (U 9.229) or otherwise. Not only does "Roccie Erranti" depart from standard usage but, as several authorities agree, the phrase is itself mistaken in supplying "Roccie" for the plural form of "Rocce." As this episode's symbol, the schema's "Errori" might sanction such blunders and departures. Indeed, the root of the word "error" in the Latin verb errare meaning "to wander" lends a coy etymological justification to the slip. This essay, then, will wander the rocky road to Dublin signposted by the episode's Homeric appellation; it follows an erratic coursing of the mistakes and errors that Joyce committed, corrected, and left standing in "Wandering Rocks" during the two key periods of its composition, late 1918early 1919 and the summer and autumn of 1921. Drawing upon the evidence of Hans Walter Gabier' s Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition (1984), the essay argues that error and the erroneous form a juncture between the novel's concern with mimesis and with linguistic experimentalism.

Upon its publication, Gabier' s edition and its treatment of "Wandering Rocks" in particular acquired a sudden and unfortunate prominence.4 John Kidd, its fiercest and most vocal critic, pointed out in the New York Review of Books that, contrary to all previous printings, the 1984 edition of Ulysses referred to "H. Shrift" instead of "H. Thrift" in the closing description of cycling competitors in the "quartermile flat" handicap race (U 10.1258-60). Kidd' s article opened with an account of the academic and sporting career of the historical "Harry Thrift" and lamented this apparent effort to erase him from literary history.5 This alteration was not, however, the result of some arcane editorial practice; it was a simple misreading of manuscript. Gabler and his team of scholars may have been misled by the fact that the portion of the manuscript in question was not written by Joyce himself, but dictated to his friend Frank Budgen.6 Their mistake lends false confidence to Kidd' s assumption that the historical record provides a reliable analogue to Joyce's editors. In the same closing sections of "Wandering Rocks," during the viceregal cavalcade, the narrative notices:

From its sluice in Wood quay wall under Tom Devan's office Poddle river hung out in fealty a tongue of liquid sewage. (U 10.1 196-97)

As it happens, the Poddle river emerges at Wellington Quay. Similarly, the route described by the cavalcade takes it over the Grand Canal on any map of Dublin, but according to Ulysses:

At the Royal Canal bridge, from his hoarding, Mr Eugene Stratton, his blub lips agrin, bade all comers welcome to Pembroke township. (U 10. 1212-1 A)

Pointing out these ruptures with verisimilitude, Clive Hart contends that the latter departure is so glaring as to make it likely that Joyce intended error as part of the episode's ironic response to Imperial spectacle. Dublin's very landscape has started to wander and the facts of cartography may no longer be an accurate guide to the episode's dealings with historical realities.

These problems are endemic and can be traced to the mythic origins of "Wandering Rocks," where, as Fritz Senn observes, "places are conflated. …

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