Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Potent Quotables: Shells

Taken from Stuart Gilbert's famous study of Ulysses:

Esoterics use the name 'shells' to designate bodies discarded by the soul, tenements emptied of life. The 'facts' of history, its dates, battles, marches and countermarches, alarums and excursions, are shells, hollow shells into which the historian vainly seeks to pour the life of his own quick imagination. Such life as they may seem to gain is fictive; their own has passed on and cannot be recalled. The melee of history, 'joust of life,' is ever pushing forward to new fronts, leaving on the abandoned field a debris of discarded vehicles, empty shells.
-pg 115


  1. I didn't remember this passage from my not recent reading of Ulysses, but it fits in very well with the tip that the hen is picking through in Finnegans Wake. It does seem like Joyce has a little more use for this rubbish heap in FW than he proclaims in the earlier novel.

  2. The quote is actually from Stuart Gilbert's commentary called "James Joyce's Ulysses". Although Joyce oversaw the writing of the book and supposedly Gilbert read the whole thing aloud to him, the words are Gilbert's not Joyce's.

    The passage refers to the "Nestor" episode where Stephen's boss has a case on his desk filled with old coins which are to Stephen like empty shells. This theme is also repeated in the "Proteus" episode with SD walking along the beach crunching the rocks and shells.

    And yeah, it's definitely the same element he uses for the midden heap. FW itself is supposed to be like a big midden heap.

  3. I did read some of that book, though I don't know if I got to the Nestor part. I remember the part about Joyce's 'overseeing' of the project, though and think it's kind of amusing.

    On another note, I sent a response to your paper draft earlier today, and just want to make sure you got it, because my computer was acting a bit odd right at that moment. If not, I can send it again.