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Text Genetics in Literary Modernism and Other Essays

Hans Walter Gabler

4. Structures of Memory and Orientation: Steering a Course Through Wandering Rocks

To the memory of Clive Hart

Texte intégral

1‘End of First Part of “Ulysses” | New Year’s Eve | 1918’. This was the note James Joyce appended to the last page of his fair-copy manuscript of the novel’s ninth episode, Scylla and Charybdis. It affirms his accomplishment, as well as the assurance that Ulysses will go forward for another nine episodes. In early planning phases for the novel, Joyce had wavered between twenty-four and seventeen chapters, but at the time he reached mid-novel by chapter count, its extension to eighteen episodes stood firm. When declaring the end of the novel’s first half, it is true, Joyce does not reveal how he intends to commence its second half. Reading along the surfaces of action and character movement, we feel nonetheless little surprised when, on leaving the National Library, the narrative takes us out into the throng of the city. The tenth chapter is universally recognised and celebrated as the novel’s Dublin episode. In terms of the backdrop of Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey, however, we should by rights be intensely surprised that this chapter does not have a counterpart episode in Homer. By Joyce’s workshop title, which we still universally use to identify the novel’s chapters, it is the episode of the Wandering Rocks. With it, Joyce realises in Ulysses both of Circe’s suggestions to Odysseus how, upon leaving her, he might continue his journey. In Homer, Odysseus chooses to be rowed through the perilous narrows between Scylla and Charybdis, the rock and the whirlpool. He eschews Circe’s alternative, the passage through the wandering rocks. The legendary source and frame of reference for the novel’s tenth episode is the phase of greatest danger on Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece: the passage through these wandering or clashing rocks, the symplegades. Wandering Rocks has hitherto been read and explored almost exclusively as the book’s Dublin chapter. More attention to the episode’s workshop title and singular design therefore seems warranted.

2In form, the chapter stands out by its division into segments separated by triple asterisks. When written in early 1919, this tenth episode was the first Ulysses chapter to be in any way sub-segmented. The patterning of the seventh episode, Aeolus, using crossheads resembling newspaper headlines, happened later, in proof, while the novel’s seventeenth episode, Ithaka, divided differently again into ‘question-and-answer’ units, was yet a long way from being written. In the surviving materials from Joyce’s workshop, only one precedent exists for the division of narrative material by asterisks. This is a collection of ‘purple passages’, separated by the triple asterisks, in a notebook used towards the composition of the third episode, Proteus. The individuation of the passages in the notebook precedes the compositional structuring proper of the Proteus chapter, into which the passages are subsequently found to have been dispersed, and from which the asterisk dividers disappeared in the process. In the case of Wandering Rocks, however, the analogous dividers have made it into the published text: they actually determine the episode structure.

  • 1 Clive Hart, ‘Wandering Rocks’, in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Critical Essays, ed. by Clive Hart and Dav (...)
  • 2 Pages 1 to 31 a holograph in James Joyce’s hand, pages 32–48 written out by Frank Budgen at Joyce’s (...)
  • 3 This is discussed in detail in my essay ‘The Genesis of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, i (...)

3Is it an abstract structure? Is it properly divisional, or are we encouraged to read continuously across the dividers, much as we presumably do with Aeolus — since in that chapter the crossheads, while momentary jolts to smooth reading, can always be ‘overread’ in favour of the continuous narrative that remains discernible beneath them. The case is altered with Wandering Rocks insofar as each segment is a self-contained micronarrative. Does the segmentation as such derive, one might wonder, from an assembly of material for the chapter akin to the ‘purple passages’ preliminarily assembled for the Proteus chapter? The speculation does not seem unwarranted that the aggregation of text for the chapter may have begun with the collection of more or less self-contained units; in their published form, they are still sufficiently detached from one another in narrative content — Clive Hart’s just plea for the chapter’s very special mode of unity notwithstanding.1 It is through modes of correlation across its detached segments that the episode succeeds in being the novel’s Dublin chapter and does not fall apart as an assembly of vignettes of Dublin citizens in their city surroundings. However individually independent the texts between asterisks may have been in their first writing, in the published text, and before it in the pages of the Rosenbach Manuscript,2 they structurally cohere, and the asterisks marking their division are integral to the structure. Essential to that structure is their number, nineteen in all. The Rosenbach Manuscript happens to give specific evidence that the number nineteen was on Joyce’s mind at the time of writing. At the bottom of manuscript page 24 a passage lies concealed, since struck through, replaced by other text, and itself (further revised) repositioned elsewhere. As originally written, it reads: ‘Two bonneted women trudged along London bridge road, one with a sanded umbrella, the other with a black bag in which nineteen cockles rattled.’ The uneven total organises the sequence of segments symmetrically around the middle segment, the tenth. This is where Leopold Bloom sneak-previews and buys Sweets of Sin for Molly. What Joyce thus does in pivoting the Wandering Rocks chapter upon its tenth segment is, in miniature, what he had accomplished once before in structuring the entire novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man symmetrically around its middle segment. Underneath this novel’s division into five chapters lies a total of nineteen segments, already characteristically divided by asterisks, too.3

4That the manuscript of the Wandering Rocks chapter for Ulysses as we first have it is not wholly in Joyce’s hand but, in approximately its final third, in the hand of Frank Budgen, is unique in the Rosenbach Manuscript. Joyce himself, again in his own handwriting, authenticates it on the last manuscript page: ‘pp. 32–48 were written by my friend Francis Budgen at my dictation from notes during my illness Jan Feb 1919[.] James Joyce[.]’ Joyce’s illness was an acute worsening of his chronic eye troubles. What ‘notes’ would he have had to resort to, which he felt incapable of himself turning into a holograph continuation of the fair copy of pages 1–31, yet was capable of dictating at an equal level of fluency and literary stringency to Budgen for pages 32 onwards? The text does not in any significant way change in character between the pages in Joyce’s hand and the subsequent lines penned by Frank Budgen, hence we cannot suppose that the source materials that stood behind the respective document sections changed when the hands changed. We cannot but assume that what Joyce called ‘notes’ for the Budgen stretch was simply the continuation of the kind of draft material from which he prepared his own fair copy through the preceding thirtyone pages. It seems natural enough to posit that the draft material in its entirety was already segmented throughout into units delimited by asterisks. However, the fair-copy inscription carries evidence of distinctly greater significance. Clive Hart, and Frank Budgen before him, have taught Joyce readers to pay attention to what Clive Hart calls the ‘interpolations’ throughout the chapter segments: stray snippets of text that seem displaced, since their narrative context is not the segment where they are found, but some other among the nineteen segments in all. The interpolations have been noted but have hitherto remained under-explored as to their function and effect in the episode. In particular, moreover, we have as yet no knowledge when, genetically, they were interpolated at their respective positions in the chapter text.

5The Rosenbach Manuscript reveals that the interpolations were not an afterthought — that is, the fair-copy and dictation stretches contain the interpolations, in their majority, already in place, even while quite naturally, and according to Joyce’s constantly accretive mode of composition, a few more were added both to the Rosenbach pages and in successive proofs. Taken together, the presence of interpolations at the fair-copy/dictation stage and their further increase goes to prove that there is narrative method and functional purpose behind them. In other words, we may with confidence assume that Joyce’s ‘notes’ were essentially the outcome of the creative thought he had already invested in the texting and structuring of the episode before it reached the Rosenbach Manuscript stage, and that Joyce very well knew what, in particular, he wished to achieve with those conspicuous text dislocations throughout the chapter. To put a thesis in a nutshell: they are, and were to Joyce, textual devices bracketing the chapter’s segment divisions. They are innovative in the manner in which they create cohesion: in the spirit of modernism, they do so non-narratively. They make full claim upon the reader’s alertness and memory. At a distinct further level of complexity, moreover, they constitute the textual markers by which the novel’s chapter about Dublin turns simultaneously into its epic template, the mythic episode of the Wandering Rocks.

  • 4 Clive Hart, ‘Wandering Rocks’ (see note 1); the List is on pp. 203–14. Hart omits one early passage (...)
  • 5 First published London 1934. Clive Hart himself re-edited this early classic of Joyce studies in 19 (...)

6To his own essay on ‘Wandering Rocks’ in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Critical Essays of 1974, Clive Hart usefully attaches a list of ‘The Interpolations’, extending to thirty-one items.4 Hart’s list constitutes a text specification with commentary on the interpolation patterning to which Frank Budgen already draws attention in his book, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses.5 Budgen simply assesses the interpolations as dislocations in terms of place and time in the reality of the episode’s narrative Dublin environment. In contrast, Hart attempts (and is sometimes at a loss) to interpret why the dislocations should have been placed in just the context into which they are set. Neither Budgen nor Hart see or reason the interpolations as a compositional feature sui generis. They relate them firmly to time, place and personnel in Dublin as the chapter tells them, but do not provide narratological reflections on the structural and significative potential inherent in the episode’s modes of construction. Only Budgen, in a few instances, fleetingly invokes memory as the faculty with which to allay the puzzlement of the text dislocations. He hints thereby at the role to be played by the reader in comprehending the episode’s multiple significances.

7The interpolations are forward-directed as much as backward-directed elements in the text. Where their direction is backward, the links they establish are likely to be picked up with just a small effort of memory. Where they project forward, however, the linkings they aim at remain obscure, or may not be picked up at all on a first reading. But as soon as we engage in a second reading, we appreciate at once what stimulus springs from the forward-directed linkings. The recall established on a first reading turns into an anticipatory memory co-active in creating for the reader, during the rereading process, the text that is yet to come. On this assumption, Wandering Rocks models the way the cultural skill of reading works and how written texts challenge that skill. The episode exercises for us and with us what it means, through active and engaged reading, to construct and experience worlds.

8The interpolations found in the second to fourth chapter segments help to specify the technique and its effects. The mention in the second (Corny Kelleher) segment that ‘Father John Conmee stepped into the Dollymount tram on ‹Annesley› Newcomen bridge.’ (213–14) becomes an ‘interpolation proper’, it is true, only at the sixth stage of proofing through its being separated off there as a paragraph of its own. Yet it possesses its interpolative function already in its first notation as the end of a paragraph in the Rosenbach Manuscript, and it is likely to be perfunctorily registered as synchronising sequences of events between the first and second segments. The other interpolative half-sentence in the second segment, ‘˄[…]while a generous white arm from a window in Eccles street flung forth a coin.˄’ (222–23), signals the potential of interpolations to refer back not just to matter narrated in the current chapter, but to activate, too, reading memories of the preceding narrative of Ulysses as a whole. It allows one to consider in one’s imagination why that arm should be white at all, that is: naked. The first interpolation in the fourth (Dedalus sisters) segment combines and tops the functions of these preceding ones: ‘Father Conmee walked through Clongowes fields, his thinsocked ankles tickled by stubble.’ (264–65) It is double-tiered. On the surface, it is merely a link back to the ‘Father Conmee’ segment. Yet at its core, it aims to activate powers of multiple discernment through reading memory. Not only must the mention in the episode’s first segment that ‘Father Conmee walked through Clongowes fields’ (185–86) be recalled. It must also be remembered that he did so only in memory. Hence it must, or should, be recognised that the retrospective link established is, beyond the confines of Ulysses, to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, to which the ‘Clongowes fields’ belong. The first example of a forward-directed interpolation, by contrast, bursts into the one-legged sailor’s jerking himself up Eccles street in the third segment: ‘˄J. J. O’Molloy’s white careworn face was told that Mr Lambert was in the warehouse with a visitor.˄’ (236–37) We are never anywhere in the episode enlightened (I believe) as to who tells J. J. O’Molloy where to find Ned Lambert. More than 200 lines on, in the eighth segment, he joins Lambert and a visitor — dentified only by his visiting card as the reverend Hugh C. Love — in the vault of St Mary’s Abbey. As the reverend is about to depart, the narrative is interrupted, enigmatically to a first-time reader, by another forward-directed interpolation: ‘From a long face a beard and gaze hung on a chessboard.’ (425) The reader’s memory will, on a second perusal, construct this as an anticipatory projection across another eight segments to the sixteenth, where Buck Mulligan points out to Haines (the Englishman) John Howard Parnell ‘our city marshal’ (1049) with a partner over a chessboard in the DBC (‘damn bad cakes’) bakery.

9Numbers of further interpolations which need not be cited individually are simply either backward-or forward-directed. Yet a few interestingly, too, fulfil additional functions. By capturing characters notoriously roaming through Dublin, some interpolations help to enrich the episode’s telling the city: the H.E.L.Y’S sandwichmen, for instance (at 377–79), or Denis J. Maginni, professor of dancing & c (added in only at the fourth proof stage, twice: at 56–60 and 599–600); or Richie Goulding carrying the costbag of Goulding, Collis and Ward (at 470–75); or Denis Breen leading his wife over O’Connell bridge (at 778–80); or Cashel Boyle O’Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell, a Dublin presence just by the mention of his name (at 919–20); or the two old women with umbrella and midwife’s bag (originally at 752–54, but repositioned with revisions to 818–20); or even, in anticipation of the subsequent Sirens episode, ‘Bronze by ‹auburn› gold, Miss ‹Douce’s› Kennedy’s head ┌1[with] by1┐ Miss ‹ Kennedy’s › Douce’s head, appeared above the crossblind of the Ormond hotel.’(962–63) — here one observes, by the retouching of the colours and their reattribution between the Misses, how fluid the text for Sirens must still have been while Wandering Rocks was being written. Similarly, though eventually only at the first proof stage, and not strictly by way of an interpolation, even Gerty MacDowell has a flash appearance in the chapter (at 1206–07) among the crowd attending at the grand finale, the viceroyal cavalcade — regardless of the fact that her true hour in Ulysses is yet three episodes ahead.

10There are, furthermore, a couple of interpolations at mid-chapter that are again likely enigmas to a first-time reader. The isolated mention in the ninth segment is puzzling that ‘The gates of the drive opened wide to give egress to the viceregal cavalcade.’ (515–16) It gives the first inkling of the matter on which the episode eventually closes. A companion piece two segments further on reinforce it: ‘The viceregal cavalcade passed, greeted by obsequious policemen, out of Parkgate.’ (709–10) Neatly framing the episode’s symmetrical centre — its tenth, or Bloom, segment — and preparing for the narrative staging of the cavalcade at the episode’s end, these two forward-directed interpolations halfway through the chapter assume a veritable expositional function. As Ithaka, the novel’s penultimate episode, in due course will show, belated exposition is one more modernist wrinkle to Joyce’s narrative art.

11In a singular category, finally, should be classed the two interpolations registering ‘a skiff, a crumpled throwaway […] Elijah is coming, [riding] lightly down the river.’ In slightly variant wording, it is entered twice in the manuscript margin in Frank Budgen’s hand, once, in lines 294–98, against Joyce’s holograph text, and once, in lines 752–54, against dictated text in Budgen’s writing. Clearly, introducing the crumpled throwaway drifting down the river came to Joyce as a relatively late idea in the course of turning his ‘notes’ into fair copy. Backward-directed, these interpolations call up a reading memory of this crumpled paper being thrown into the river by Bloom in the eighth episode, Lestrygonians (U 8, 57–58). Within Wandering Rocks, however, their reference is at the same time forward-directed. Downriver, the throwaway’s course is eastward — and so it sails aimlessly on a parallel course to the cavalcade passing from west to east, first on the north, then on the south side of the river.


12Having made our way as first-time readers through Wandering Rocks to the end of its eighteenth segment, and having laid the ground, with its interpolated text dislocations, for such special reading skills as this chapter requires, the nineteenth segment should be plain sailing. However, in speed, density and sheer artistry of language, the final segment overwhelms anew. Again and again, it would seem, it tests just how genuinely skilled we have become in playing along with its orientation game founded on reading memory.

13To explore this contention, here is an abbreviated version of the first seventy lines or so of the episode’s end segment:

William Humble, earl of Dudley, and lady Dudley, accompanied by lieutenantcolonel Heseltine, drove out after luncheon from the viceregal lodge. […]
The cavalcade passed out by the lower gate of Phoenix park saluted [1180] by obsequious policemen and proceeded past Kingsbridge along the northern quays. The viceroy was most cordially greeted on his way through the metropolis. At Bloody bridge Mr Thomas Kernan beyond the river greeted him vainly from afar. […]
[…] In the porch of Four
Courts Richie Goulding with the costbag of Goulding, Collis and Ward saw him with surprise. […]
From its sluice in Wood quay wall under Tom Devan’s office Poddle river hung out in fealty a tongue of liquid sewage. […]
[…] On Ormond quay Mr Simon Dedalus, steering his
way from the greenhouse for the subsheriff’s office, stood still in midstreet
[1200] and brought his hat low. His Excellency graciously returned Mr Dedalus’ greeting. From Cahill’s corner the reverend Hugh C. Love, M. A., made obeisance unperceived, […]
[…]. On Grattan bridge Lenehan and M’Coy,
taking leave of each other, watched the carriages go by. Passing by Roger
[1205] Greene’s office and Dollard’s big red printinghouse Gerty MacDowell, carrying the Catesby’s cork lino letters for her father who was laid up, knew by the style it was the lord and lady lieutenant but she couldn’t see what Her Excellency had on
[…]Over against
Dame gate Tom Rochford and Nosey Flynn watched the approach of the cavalcade. […]
[…] A charming soubrette, great Marie Kendall, with
dauby cheeks and lifted skirt smiled daubily from her poster upon William Humble, earl of Dudley, and upon lieutenantcolonel H. G. Heseltine, and also upon the honourable Gerald Ward A. D. C. From the window of the D. B. C. Buck Mulligan gaily, and Haines gravely, gazed down on the viceregal equipage over the shoulders of eager guests, whose mass of forms
[1225] darkened the chessboard whereon John Howard Parnell looked intently. In Fownes’s street Dilly Dedalus, straining her sight upward from Chardenal’s first French primer, saw sunshades spanned and wheelspokes spinning in the glare. […]
[…]. Opposite Pigott’s
music warerooms Mr Denis J Maginni, professor of dancing & c, gaily apparelled, gravely walked, outpassed by a viceroy and unobserved. By the
[1240] provost’s wall came jauntily Blazes Boylan, stepping in tan shoes and socks with skyblue clocks to the refrain of My girl’s a Yorkshire girl […]
[…]As they drove along Nassau street […]
[…] [u]nseen brazen highland laddies blared and drumthumped
after the cortège:
     But though she’s a factory lass
     And wears no fancy clothes.
     Yet I’ve a sort of a
     Yorkshire relish for
     My little Yorkshire rose.


14With a reading memory of the chapter’s preceding segments, we understand that we are in Dublin and that the viceregal cavalcade of carriages and riders is proceeding from its north-westerly point of departure at Phoenix Park along the river, crossing at Grattan Bridge and moving further in a south-easterly direction down Dame Street and along Nassau Street outside the south wall of Trinity College. But just how well do we instantly identify all those people dropped into the text by not much more than their names and seemingly arbitrarily-sketched features, gestures, appurtenances and fragmentary actions? Does this relentless parataxis of listings and names aggregate into anything with a claim to being understood as narrative? In their sequence, the utterances and statements given have a seminal narrative appeal. Yet they appear randomly collocated without a compellingly inherent relation. Singularly bared of explicit context, they fail to become a stringent narrative. Nonetheless, it is true, we feel urged to fall back on our reading experience to construct (as best we can) the chapter’s end. From our efforts to understand it arises afresh an apprehension of the build of the episode.

15This may be illustrated by one exemplary network of texts from the many that make up the chapter. Against the mention (1183–84) ‘At Bloody bridge Mr Thomas Kernan beyond the river greeted him vainly from afar’, we recall from the episode’s twelfth segment:

A cavalcade in easy trot along Pembroke quay passed, outriders leaping, leaping in their, in their saddles. Frockcoats. Cream sunshades.
Mr Kernan hurried forward, blowing pursily.
His Excellency! Too bad! Just missed that by a hair. Damn it! What a pity!

16In the nineteenth text segment, the mention of Mr Thomas Kernan is seemingly cryptic. Yet in substance it recalls — and, as we realise, mirrors from the opposite side of the river — the appearance of Mr Kernan within his own storyline earlier in the chapter. It is initiated in the eleventh segment with the mention that he is pleased at having booked an order (673). This human interest aspect is taken up at the opening of segment 12, which properly develops the storyline centred on Mr Kernan. He goes through in his mind once again the negotiations that led to the deal, remembers that he and his business partners small-talked over the day’s top headlines about the General Slocum catastrophe of yesterday in New York, and is aware that he was appreciated as much for his looks and dress as for his business acumen. Urged by his vanity as he walks, he preens himself ‘before the sloping mirror of Peter Kennedy, hairdresser’ (743) and a few lines later (755), ‘Mr Kernan glanced in farewell at his image’ to continue his perambulations. He mentally recalls names of people he knows, some of whom are our reading acquaintances, too: Ned Lambert, for instance, and this because he mistakes a person he sees for Ned Lambert’s brother; or Ben Dollard, whose masterly rendition of the ballad ‘At the siege of Ross did my father fall’ he associatively remembers from his reflections on moments of Irish history such as the execution of Emmet triggered by his, Kernan’s, present itinerary along which he identifies the actual place: ‘Down there Emmet was hanged, drawn and quartered.’ (764) His trying to remember by further association where Emmet was — or is said to have been — buried: ‘in saint Michan’s? Or no… in Glasnevin’ (769–70), in turn brings Kernan back to this morning’s burial: ‘Dignam is there now. Went out in a puff. Well, well.’ (771) In effect, it is because he enmeshes himself so thoroughly in reminiscences, associations, reflections and vanities that poor Mr Thomas Kernan misses what would have been his crowning satisfaction: greeting properly, and being greeted by, the lord lieutenant of Ireland whom, passing by on the other side of the river, he at Bloody bridge instead merely ‘greeted… vainly from afar’.

17This example shows how reading the chapter depends on internalising the models of reading configured throughout the episode by way of its methodically distributed interpolations and text dislocations. To read, or re-read, the episode from the vantage platform of its final segment demands skills of memory, association and freely jumping backwards over segment demarcations of the episode, as well as across chapter divisions. To make the connection from the nineteenth back to the twelfth segment, we must synchronise the segments and learn that progression in reading time does not equal progression in narrated time — an illusion we may perhaps be initially excused for having fallen for through the sequence of segments one to eighteen. But whatever regularity in their temporal sequence existed through segments one to eighteen, segment nineteen does a repeat run through that time sequence. It does so equally through Dublin characters who have made appearances once or repeatedly in those earlier segments, as for instance Tom Rochford, Nosey Flynn, Simon Dedalus, Hugh C. Love, Lenehan, M’Coy, Blazes Boylan and more. Given as names in the end segment, they could be ‘filled in’ as Tom Kernan was filled in from segments eleven and twelve. Other names however cannot be so substantiated, or could not be from the chapter. One, for example, is Tom Devan, by whose office in a building above Wood Quay wall the sluice is located, from which ‘Poddle river hung out in fealty a tongue of liquid sewage’ (1196–97) — and who, as a person, is not a character in the Wandering Rocks, or Ulysses, narrative; but he is a man with an office in the Dublin of 1904, and it is true that his name turns up once more in the novel when Molly Bloom in the final chapter identifies him as the father of two sons, young men she is aware that Milly ‘is well on for flirting with’. (U 18, 1023–24)

18But if we must go back to segment 12 to read with contextual understanding the one snippet in the viceregal cavalcade segment about Mr Kernan, ‘At Bloody bridge Mr Thomas Kernan beyond the river greeted him vainly from afar’ — does this mean that there one is told the full context in a satisfying instance of narrative closure? Far from it. Instead, the segment sends the reader off on further adventures of contextualising. Shackleton’s offices, Peter Kennedy hairdresser, or ‘John Mulligan, the manager of the Hibernian bank’, not to mention all the callings-up of buildings, streets or bridges by hardly more than their names, catapult us right out into extra-textual Dublin. For Ulysses, and our reading of it, extra-textual Dublin, to be sure, has a strong intratextual counterpart. That is where, say, Ned Lambert, or Ben Dollard, and (sadly) Dignam belong. But it is not the local narrative, not Kernan in his inner-monologue roaming, nor the mediating narrative voice, that places them there. The contextualising reinforcement, whether in the extra-textual or the intra-textual direction, is wholly the reader’s achievement. Constant challenges of contextualisation keep the reader on the alert and send him or her constantly beyond the moment of easy, since present, linear reading progression through the text. Formally speaking, this is supported by the fragmentation of textual continuity into short sub-segments, many of which are challenges again to contextualise beyond the segment under scrutiny into the episode as a whole, and further beyond into Ulysses in its entirety, or beyond Ulysses comprehensively into Joyce’s oeuvre — which, be it emphasised, works not only retrospectively; it works prospectively too into Finnegans Wake; and, not to forget, it contextualises as well the reader’s experience of Dublin — as of the world throughout.

19The significance of the segmenting technique—that is, its importance for constituting connections and thereby meanings of the narrative by means of reader participation — is underscored by the way the chapter comprehensively trains the reader to it and draws her into collusion with it. This works in the first instance through the interpolations and dislocations. One of their functions has been recognised as a synchronising of events in different areas of Dublin during (roughly) the hour from three to four allotted to Wandering Rocks on 16 June 1904. For the reader to grasp the synchronisation means having to jump between the segment divisions and thus to generate the necessary contextualisation. Its other main function therefore lies in ensuring constant reader alert. Examples in the twelfth segment include lines 740–41:

— Hello, Simon, Father Cowley said. How are things?
— Hello, Bob, old man, Mr Dedalus answered, stopping.

a dialogue Tom Kernan cannot hear, since he is not en route at that moment on Ormond Quay Lower where it takes place. This circumstance is confirmed when segment 14 in lines 882–83 commences literatim with the same exchange, and localises it in front of Reddy and Daughter’s antique dealers, or lines 778–80:

Denis Breen with his tomes, weary of having waited an hour in John
Henry Menton’s office, led his wife over O’Connell bridge, bound for the office of Messrs Collis and Ward.

again a movement not within Tom Kernan’s vision; even less can, or does, he see the passage of the throwaway skiff on the Liffey (at 752–54):

North wall and sir John Rogerson’s quay, with hulls and
anchorchains, sailing westward, sailed by a skiff, a crumpled throwaway, rocked on the ferrywash, Elijah is coming.

20These latter two intercalations, even while picked up once more in segment 19, do not properly provide references that link within the Wandering Rocks episode at all. They constitute, as we are able to contextualise, continuations of the Ulysses narrative from a preceding chapter, the eighth episode, Lestrygonians.

21Not that, in being trained, we as readers are not also being played with when we are tested about how alert we are to the game, and perhaps momentarily fooled. How discerning and knowledgeable are we when, in following Kernan’s associations apropos Emmet’s execution, we read (lines 764–66):

Down there Emmet was hanged, drawn and quartered. Greasy black rope. Dogs licking the blood off the street when the lord lieutenant’s wife drove by in her noddy.

22No, that was not Lady Dudley just come by, whom we know is this very moment cavalcading along Dame street or thereabouts with her husband, lord lieutenant William Humble, earl of Dudley. In the historic account, the mention is of ‘a woman who lived nearby’. It is Kernan who is made to upgrade her into the wife of the lord lieutenant in office back in 1803, insidiously so, to lure us into the trap and by better contextualising extricate us from it again.

23Alerted to the need to cross the visible or felt divisions segmenting the material surface of the text, we become aware of the generative energy invested in the rigorous segmentation of the tales told and the consequent reduction of narrative plenitude. Yet this is but a seeming reduction. By making the narrative, and specifically the understanding of it, dependent on an alert cross-over reading between text segments, continuity of the tale is, on the reception side, created through the acts of reading themselves; while on the production side, continuity and discontinuity of the narrative may be said to be construed and constructed in conjunction. With increasing immersion in the chapter, as must be emphasised, narrative plenitude is not reduced at all. On the contrary, the narrative method enables an aggregation of narrative content far richer than could be achieved through explicit straightforward telling of an hour’s events in Dublin on 16 June 1904.


24Not surprisingly, the chapter’s main narrative substance in fictional terms is triple-centred, aggregating around Stephen Dedalus, Molly Bloom, and Leopold Bloom. Most circumstantially and comprehensively, it aggregates around Stephen. Not only are two segments (6 and 13) given largely to him, but his sisters at home feature in the chapter, in segment 3 boiling dirty clothes (not food) on the kitchen stove; his sister Dilly abroad in town waylays her father in segment 11 to wheedle housekeeping money from him, and she is (in segment 13) herself run into by her brother at a second-hand bookdealers’ where, unsuccessful in selling a book or two (of Stephen’s), she has become engrossed in a French primer instead. Their father Simon Dedalus figures not only with his friends — he and they are, as we know, recurring characters in Ulysses (which stimulates once more the jumping of chapter boundaries to establish the pertinent connections); here alone in Ulysses is Simon Dedalus encountered, too, in his strained relationship with his daughters, especially over money for the family, and this in turn, by the by, gives a pawnbroker and an auctioneer’s lacquey walk-on roles in the episode.

25All this belongs to what might be called the Joycean ‘matter of Dedalus’, and we realise that nowhere in Ulysses outside Wandering Rocks is that ‘matter of Dedalus’ so comprehensively laid out. Be it noted that even the very first segment of the episode belongs firmly to it. Stephen Dedalus was a pupil of father Conmee’s back in the Clongowes days of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as we know, although father Conmee is not made to recall the fact. Without our knowledge of the connection, Conmee’s dominance over the lengthy opening would make distinctly less sense in the episode and for the novel — or it would make sense only at the level of symbolism: Church in the episode’s first segment against State in its last one, as has often been observed. The ‘matter of Dedalus’ brought to bear on Wandering Rocks is thus particularly rich — yet for us to activate it, we must jump segment barriers not only within Wandering Rocks or Ulysses, but we must, from our reading memory of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, too, generate comprehensive implications for the meaning of the narrative localised in Wandering Rocks.

26The chapter is furthermore interwoven with ‘the matter of Molly’. Molly, admittedly, makes her appearance in the chapter metonymically only, by merely an arm. But with it, she throws a coin out of the window to a onelegged sailor, himself in turn important enough to the chapter’s web to be seen hobbling along on his crutch in three separate segments. Right at the chapter’s opening, father Conmee registers him as a British navy veteran. His missing leg therefore should be taken to stand in (an unhappy turn of phrase admittedly in this instance) for his admiral’s (of a century or so earlier), Lord Nelson’s missing arm — to be contrasted, in its turn, to Molly’s very present arm. Nelson is dubbed the ‘onehandled adulterer’ in the seventh, the Aeolus episode, of Ulysses. In other words, ‘the matter of Molly’ is by, again, combinatory association of carefully distributed segmental snippets, to be grasped in terms of the theme of adultery — which should cause no surprise: for, after all, the Wandering Rocks hour from three to four culminates in the preparation for the adulterous tryst pending at 7 Eccles Street (set for four, though delayed eventually until four thirty). The preparations, private and intimate, are Molly’s. The preparations, public, extrovert and very much promiscuity-tinged, are Blazes Boylan’s, so that (again in a spread over chapter segments) we accompany him in turn on his walk through the city, stand by his side as he orders his fruit-basket present for Molly, watch him flirting hotly with the fruit-and-flowershop girl, and overhear his telephone call to his secretary, whom, set apart by a chapter segmentation, we also meet herself, bored and abandoned, at her typist’s desk. In such ways, ‘the matter of Molly’, variously aggregated and distributed, plays beautifully into, and at same time emerges out of, the episode’s game of segmentation.

27It is debatable, perhaps, whether a ‘matter of Bloom’ can be established in the chapter on a scale similar to that of the ‘matter of Dedalus’ and ‘matter of Molly’. But Bloom is present in the chapter, and the way he is present is related, on the one hand, to the chapter’s establishing its themes, and on the other hand, it is importantly related to its technique of segmentation. Segment 10 is the episode’s Bloom segment. It is a close-up of Bloom alone at the bookstall trading under-the-counter porn at Merchant’s Arch. Selecting a book to bring home for Molly, as he does, we see and overhear Bloom, alas, perversely pandering to her erotic longings in his own way as we have seen, and anticipate seeing, Boylan doing in his. Through his sample reading of The Sweets of Sin, at the same time, Bloom is stimulated just as, towards the end of the preceding (ninth) segment, Lenehan relates having been aroused when sitting next to Molly’s warmth once on a winter’s-night carriage ride back from (aptly) Featherbed Mountain. In one sense, therefore, the Bloom segment together with the Lenehan passage closely preceding it extends the chapter’s ‘matter of Molly’. At the same time, though, segment 10 is the episode’s one autonomously Bloomian stretch of narrative. As, numerically, the episode’s mid-point, it runs counter to the technique’s distributive, dispersive and associative effects with which I have hitherto been concerned. To this point, I shall shortly return.

28If one may define the ‘matter of Dedalus’, or the ‘matter of Molly’, dispersed over the chapter by means of its construction by segments, one will also join in the general consensus that ‘the matter of Dublin’ pervades, indeed dominates, Wandering Rocks. Extrapolating from what we have observed of the generative power of the narration by segments, we have no difficulty in appreciating just how richly Dublin grows in our imagination by our participatory engagement with the text — as well as, it must be emphasised, from what real-life experience and knowledge one may possess of the city and its lore of history, legend and myth. Many have contended that it would be the episode to start from to realise Joyce’s boast that, were Dublin to be destroyed, it could be rebuilt afresh from Ulysses. Perhaps. But if so reconstructed it could be as an imaginary city only, extrapolated precisely out of a generative engagement with the segmented, indeed fragmented nuclei for Dublin that the text of Wandering Rocks and of Ulysses gives.

29Put simply: Dublin could from Ulysses be reconstructed only through acts of reading, not through any material reconstruction and reliving. This can be supported by the fascinatingly successful failure of the experiment of re-enacting Wandering Rocks onsite in Dublin on the occasion of the International James Joyce Symposium in 1982, the centenary year of Joyce’s birth. With actors, large numbers of the populace, and even with the city itself, in a sense, participating, all dressed up for the occasion, and with the chapter’s segments staged at their diverse locations and as precisely as possible to their inferred times within the Wandering Rocks hour, Ulysses could, through this mid-novel episode, be brought back to Dublin and become a real-life presence. Or so it was thought. Triumphant, and bathetic at the same time, the idea was. The individual events were entertaining, but the chapter, one might say, fell completely apart. For it was impossible for any individual observer to read it whole, that is to say: to be in more than maybe two or three locations in time to witness what happened there. Connections to all other ‘matter of Wandering Rocks’ were completely severed. The experience of Clive Hart, for instance, eminent Joycean, was extreme. Got up in clerical garb as father Conmee, he walked from Mountjoy Square to Newcomen Bridge and there duly boarded a tram (turned into a bus in the meantime) to follow his prescribed itinerary from Mud Island, now Fairview Park, to Artane along streets that a hundred years earlier had been largely open fields. Returning to the Symposium gatherings later in the afternoon, he sadly had to admit that his exercise had been entirely solitary. Nobody was out there in Dublin’s north-east watching his progress, that is: reading Clive Hart’s Conmee itinerary in Ulysses terms. And even to begin with, when he started off from Mountjoy Square, no-one watching Stephen and Buck Mulligan leaving the National Library in Kildare Street shortly after 3 p. m. could possibly at the same time be in Mountjoy Square for father Conmee’s encounter with Mrs Sheehy, or his little clerical intimacies with the schoolboys from Belvedere. Wandering Rocks, in other words, holds together not through any material or topographical localisation, but through acts of reading alone: reading the episode from its construction as a text. The unifying experience that arises from reading the chapter, moreover, is generated precisely (and paradoxically, one might say) from its narrative technique of dispersive segmentation.


30Segmentation is a technique and an art of dispersing text and content into an ‘open’ narrative construction designed to stimulate acts of reading that will re-discourse and thereby recontextualise the text so dispositioned. At its surface, the text is centrifugal. Against its centrifugality is then set a reading energy that generates effects of understanding and insight. These can thus far surpass and hence be far more encompassing than any that a consecutive, narratively ‘closed’ text could achieve. Logically, therefore, it follows that, as counterweight to the surface centrifugality of a segmented text, the reading energy invested in it should be seen as a centripetal force. That this is no fanciful assumption may be demonstrated on the structural level of Joycean texts.

  • 6 See further this volume’s second essay above, ‘He chronicled with patience’.

31Experimenting with and deploying techniques of segmentation is a mode of literary composition not unique to James Joyce. On the contrary, writing and narrating in segments is a pervasive device of high modernism in literature (and as such has often been paralleled with, for instance, the fracturing of surfaces and colour in cubism). Virginia Woolf, to name but one example, appears, in the process of writing her novel Jacob’s Room in 1920, to have discovered the core potential of text arrangement by segments, namely, to configure narrative interstices so that the reader can imaginatively and co-constructively enter into it and join its segments through her co-constructive reading interpretation. For Joyce, segmenting and the segment itself were early preoccupations that grew first, it appears, out of structural concerns. His epiphanies, while initially discrete as individual compositions, soon offered themselves for concatenation, that is: for arrangement as nuclei from which to generate consecutive narratives. The numbering on the back of the leaves containing the epiphanies that survive in Joyce’s hand bear witness to such an arrangement, and the manuscripts of both Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man confirm that such was the purpose of the numbering. A stretch of text in the second chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man shows materially how Joyce built a narrative progression out of concatenating epiphanies. This is the sequence of Stephen’s visits to relatives and to a children’s party, on offer to the reader because Stephen is said to have ‘chronicled with patience what he saw’ (P-G 2, 251). What Stephen saw is, as we realise, recorded in epiphany form: in their majority, the text passages in question happen materially still to survive as epiphanies. They are asyndetically arranged here over some hundred lines in the Portrait text, and it is really from their interstices that the tension arises that holds them together — and holds the reader’s attention.6

32Joyce planned Stephen Hero throughout in units, in groups of chapters, before he properly began to write it. He wanted to write it to the length of sixty-three chapters, or nine groups of seven chapters, schematised according to the ages of man. He accomplished four of these nine groups. Yet, filling in the pattern by ‘reading’ his own biography, life and age drifted seriously apart in the fourth group: the narrative’s protagonist should have reached the age of 28 at the end of it, but Stephen Daedalus is barely over 21, just as James Joyce was in real life, when the fragment breaks off near the end of chapter 28 and, in terms of narrated action, on the verge of the ‘Departure for Paris’. We may speculate that Joyce encountered not only the increasing impossibility of telling a literalised autobiography beyond the age and the experience of his real life, but also the problem of the concatenation of the narrative units incrementally progressing. The section from Portrait just discussed seems to indicate this factor as one imaginable reason for Joyce’s abandoning the Stephen Hero project. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as finished solves what we implicitly recognise as the structural impasse encountered with Stephen Hero, namely the serial, and thus the exclusively forward, movement of the narrative.

33A Portrait, by contrast, is a novel in five chapters. As has been rightly argued, there is a relentless forward movement to them, of which one effect is to ironically distance Stephen: the position of awareness, even self-awareness, that Stephen reaches at the end of each chapter is regularly undercut and collapsed at the beginning of the subsequent one. This forward impulse carries over even into Ulysses. In episode 9, Scylla and Charybdis, Stephen bitterly reflects:

Fabulous artificer. The hawklike man. You flew. Whereto?
Newhaven-Dieppe, steerage passenger. Paris and back. Lapwing. Icarus.

Pater, ait.
Seabedabbled, fallen, weltering. Lapwing you are. Lapwing be.
U9, 952–54)

34At the same time, however, a grouping of five chapters, which is an uneven number, has a central chapter. This for Portrait is chapter three, the chapter that turns on the retreat in honour of Saint Francis Xavier. In the middle of the retreat stand Father Arnall’s hell sermons. In terms of the retreat, they spread out over three days. Yet in terms of the disposition of the novel, they are contained within one segment. For not only is Portrait divided into chapters centring on the third chapter but below the chapter level, as pointed out above, the text is articulated, too, into nineteen segments divided by asterisks — the number, as we have noted, that recurs for Wandering Rocks. Their mid-segment, 10, comprises the hell sermons and thus perversely constitutes the dead centre of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

35It was in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in other words, that Joyce discovered how to contain in chapters, and to pivot on a structural centre, a narrative progressing by serial segmentation. The nineteen divisions below chapter level, though less discussed, are as important in terms of the compositional achievement of A Portrait as is its overarching division into five chapters. Rewriting Stephen Hero into A Portrait, Joyce began with a notion of sub-dividing the narrative into ‘episodes’ generated from the chapter units in Stephen Hero. He explicitly names the prospective units in his working notes ‘episodes’ in the margins of the Stephen Hero manuscript fragment. But he abandoned the term as, in a subsequent round of reflections on how to shape the novel, he segmented its material into the units now between asterisks. Moreover, he must also have developed a conception of how to fit these under the umbrella of the novel’s five chapters. As if to make very sure not to get carried away by an exclusively forward movement of the narrative, he constructed chapters one and five of A Portrait as mirror images of each other in relation to the novel’s symmetrical middle, doubly defined in terms of chapters as chapter three and in terms of segments as segment ten.

36Within the Portrait segments, though, it is true, the narrative propels forward still in essential linearity. Nor does this narrative mode much change throughout the first half of Ulysses — up to New Year’s Eve 1918, so to speak. Yet under the surface (as it were), it must have become ever clearer that reading and understanding Ulysses — and in fact writing and composing it, in the first place — depended on simultaneous forward and backward as well as crosswise reading, remembering and contextualising. Hence, Joyce devises a meta-narrative strategy for Wandering Rocks — the first out-and-out one, perhaps, of its kind, to be followed by his teaching of reading in terms of the perception of music in Sirens, or of foregrounding the dependence of world views on the deployment of style (Cyclops and Nausicaa), or indeed on the very epistemology built into language in its historically variable constructions of perspective (Oxen of the Sun). Through Wandering Rocks, the episode that disperses its narrative widely, and yet firmly anchors it on a central segment and character, we are taught how to read Ulysses, and Joyce’s work as a whole, always crosswise — besides, of course, always in relation to the city of Dublin.


37Yet why should it have been needful to explore free relational reading techniques just with the novel’s tenth episode, Wandering Rocks? In terms of the overall progression of Ulysses, the chapter marks the moment when the novel embarks on as yet unchartered courses across the depths and shallows of its adventurous second half, for which not just its author, but its readers, too, will stand in need of fresh navigational aids and tools. Was it, at the point of invention, Jason, the commander of the Argo, who proffered the template for orientation? His hope for survival lay in navigating those narrows between the rocks that were constantly moving. This required a sense of timing of the rocks’ movements and a stereoscopic eyesight.

38To all appearances, James Joyce derived the idea of how to deal with Jason’s navigational problem, and the reader’s problem of how to steer unscathed through Wandering Rocks and Ulysses, from Leopold Bloom. Of his ruminations, we read in the eighth episode, Lestrygonians, the following.

After one. Timeball on the ballastoffice is down. Dunsink time.
Fascinating little book that is of sir Robert Ball’s. Parallax. I never exactly understood. […]
Par it’s Greek: parallel,
parallax. Met him pike hoses she called it till I told her about the transmigration. O rocks!
U 8, 109–13)

39Here, constructed into Bloom’s mind, is a link between parallax, the scientific term for an optical phenomenon conditioning and enabling stereoscopic sight (stereopsis), and a time-measuring device of which Bloom fumblingly tries to make sense. Never exactly having understood ‘parallax’ gives him — at the back of his mind, so to speak — the advantage of ‘parallactically’ correlating the stereoscopic and the stereo-temporal. For another four-hundred lines of the chapter text he subliminally broods on the problem until he verbalises it again and understands that synchronising Greenwich time and Dunsink time is in Dublin performed by the falling time-ball at the ballast office. This, for him, exemplifies ‘parallax’ —which, having to his own satisfaction so understood it, he now wants defined by an expert:

Now that I come to think of it that ball falls at Greenwich time. It’s the clock is worked by an electric wire from Dunsink. Must go out there some first Saturday of the month. If I could get an introduction to professor Joly […] man always
feels complimented. […]
Not go in and blurt out what
you know you’re not to: what’s parallax? […]
U 8, 571–78)

  • 7 As Wikipedia meanwhile already knows, ‘The word and concept feature prominently in James Joyce’ s 1 (...)

40What for the present argument is most amazing is that the first of the preceding quotes ends with Bloom’s exasperated expletive ‘O rocks!’ over Molly’s dexterity in playing hard words by ear. Could there be a creative undercurrent from it overflowing into Wandering Rocks? In exemplifying from the chapter’s Tom Kernan narrative the linking of segment nineteen back to segment twelve, I drew attention to the circumstance that Kernan’s vain greeting of the viceroy from one side of the river in segment twelve was narratively registered from across the Liffey divide in segment nineteen: ‘At Bloody bridge Mr Thomas Kernan beyond the river greeted him vainly from afar.’ So mirrored and synchronised, the moment is doubly caught by Bloomian parallax. Once alerted, we find, retrospectively from segment nineteen, multiple such double anchorings with sightlines across and between them. Throughout the chapter, the structural game is often amusingly playful, too — for instance in the case of the skiff, the crumpled throwaway, ‘Elijah is coming.’ At lines 294–98 it is floating regularly eastward down the river. At lines 752–54, by contrast, the text holds the river bank firmly in sight from the point of view of the throwaway rocked on the ferrywash. It fixes the North wall which, consequently, unmovable in its position though it is, appears to sail westward. The correlations build up to a principle of structure for the chapter. The interpolated dislocations of text with which we began this discussion equally realise the principle. Their function, as generally recognised, is prominently to synchronise narrative strands and events between the chapter segments. This in its turn means that Wandering Rocks deploys ‘parallax’ on the Lestrygonian terms of both space and time.7 It turns Bloom’s fuzzy notion of ‘parallax’ into an innovatively modernist mode of narrative.


41With Wandering Rocks, then, we as readers are cast as Argonauts bent on safely passing through the symplegades. By Jason’s ruse, as the rocks sway hither and thither, doves are sent out between them to focus and to time their movement: witness the many tail feathers trapped, or wedged into the swaying rocks, or en-taled, that is: worked by the cunning author into the tales configured in the main chapter segments. Every feathery sub-segment that ‘really’, according to time and personnel and topography, does not belong within the chapter segment in which we find it, playfully represents, I suggest, such a snipped-off tail/tale feather. Once we detect it and identify it for what it is and where it does connect, our orientation parallactically focusses and we are set and safe for the next stretch of navigation. This is part of the enjoyment of reading, and from our reading, constructing, Wandering Rocks. For after all, as through the passageway of that episode’s swaying rocks we enter into the novel’s second half, we steer irrevocably out on its open seas to sail before the crosswinds of the unending rereading adventure that is Ulysses.


1 Clive Hart, ‘Wandering Rocks’, in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Critical Essays, ed. by Clive Hart and David Hayman (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 181–216 (pp. 188–89).

2 Pages 1 to 31 a holograph in James Joyce’s hand, pages 32–48 written out by Frank Budgen at Joyce’s dictation.

3 This is discussed in detail in my essay ‘The Genesis of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, in Critical Essays on James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. by Philip Brady and James F. Carens (New York: G. K. Hall, 1998), pp. 83–112.

4 Clive Hart, ‘Wandering Rocks’ (see note 1); the List is on pp. 203–14. Hart omits one early passage qualifying as an ‘interpolation’, overlooking, it seems, that Budgen before him had opened his account of the displacements with just this half-sentence; I number it ‘2a’ in order otherwise to maintain Hart’s numbering in the fresh version of that list that I append here. The line references are now to the critically-edited reading text; at the same time, the text is given in the layer-and level-coding of the synoptic text that faces the reading text on the left-hand pages of the three-volume edition of James Joyce, Ulysses. Critical and Synoptic Edition of 1984-86.

5 First published London 1934. Clive Hart himself re-edited this early classic of Joyce studies in 1972: Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of ‘Ulysses’ and other writings (London: Oxford University Press, 1972); Budgen’s discussion of the ‘interpolations’ extends over pages 126 to 129.

6 See further this volume’s second essay above, ‘He chronicled with patience’.

7 As Wikipedia meanwhile already knows, ‘The word and concept feature prominently in James Joyce’ s 1922 novel, Ulysses.’ See


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