LinguaPhile, June 2001
A monthly e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.
IN THIS ISSUE . . .
LOOKING AHEAD TO JULY: The Lazy Days of Summer
"Bloomsday" is June 16, the day detailed and immortalized in James Joyce's revolutionary stream-of-consciousness novel Ulysses, published in 1922. Ulysses has many levels of meaning: the mythological, the theological, the historical, the allegorical, the aesthetic. At its most literal level, however, Ulysses details Leopold Bloom's life in Dublin during one ordinary day: June 16, 1904. Apparently that was the day that Joyce had his first date with Nora Barnacle, who later became his wife. Can you think of any other first dates that are celebrated by millions of people around the world nearly a century afterward?
There are many ways to celebrate Bloomsday. Some bookstores have marathon readings of the novel. I like to try, for some moments of the day, to be as aware of my surroundings as Leopold Bloom was of his, to imagine all that my day would contain if I were describing it in 783 pages.
Yet another way to celebrate: I recently learned that the word in the English language that James Joyce considered the most intrinsically beautiful was cuspidor. (I was not able to learn the rationale behind his selection -- or perhaps intrinsic beauty needs no rationale.) Which words do you consider especially beautiful -- or ugly? See some other people's selections at http://members.aol.com/gulfhigh2/words10.html
Here are a few Web sites to help you celebrate:
Quotes of the Month . . .
A writer should never write about the extraordinary. That is for the journalist.
I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.
It is interesting to compare the previous quote with the following:
So thoroughly did [the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904] represent the world's civilization that if all man's other works were by some unspeakable catastrophe blotted out the records established at this Exposition by the assembled nations would afford the necessary standards for the rebuilding of our entire civilization.
Today 16 of June 1924 twenty years after. Will anybody remember this date?
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Little-Known Facts About James Joyce . . .
He and his family -- his wife and children -- spoke Italian at home.
His eyesight was so bad that he wore a white suit in order to better see his page while writing Ulysses. He preferred to increase his light (which reflected off his suit) rather than to wear stronger glasses.
Joyce suffered from brontophobia, an excessive fear of thunder.
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Correction: "The Man Without a Country" . . .
In the review of "The Man Without a Country," which appeared in the October issue of LinguaPhile, I said that this was a true story. I recently received an e-mail message from Margaret T. Jones, great granddaughter of Edward Everett Hale, the story's author, telling me that the story is entirely fictitious. As proof, she cited pages 132 through 142 of Edward Everett Hale: A Biography by Jean Holloway.
I am sorry for this error. "The Man Without a Country" is still an excellent story with valuable lessons of patriotism. From this example we can see how an author can enhance a story by adding an appropriate frame.
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Sharpen Your Vocabulary: imply, infer . . .
Both imply and infer are verbs that have to do with meaning that is suggested rather than stated. A speaker or writer might imply or "hint at" something; a listener or reader would infer or "draw a conclusion." Notice the following correct uses:
Mom's look implied that she did not approve of my actions.
I inferred from Mom's look that she disapproved of my actions.
Follow-Up on Abbreviations . . .
Readers' contributions enrich LinguaPhile. We were delighted with these responses to last month's discussion of abbreviations.
"I have some further thoughts on abbreviations. First of all, leaving off the periods after Mr., Ms., etc. is standard British usage. Using the period is (or was) standard American usage.
"More importantly, what about energy and scientific terms? The abbreviation for megawatt, for example, is mW (megawatt hours is mWh), and the abbreviation for kilovolt is kV. Since watt and volt are named after people (volt is from Alessandro Volta), those elements are capitalized, even though when one writes out watt and volt they aren't.
"And then there is M as an abbreviation for 1,000. Hence Mcf is thousand cubic feet and MMBtu is million Btu."
"It's likely that the abbreviation for prisoner of war *had* to be capitalized because the word pow already existed. Hence not to capitalize the abbreviation could lead to misunderstanding or confusion."
Q and A: The Biannual Dilemma . . .
In my son's workbook, the words biannual and semiannual both seem to mean "twice a year." However, the dictionary shows biannual meaning either "twice a year" or "every other year." This confuses me. How can I know what is meant?
Biannual, with its two possible meanings, is indeed confusing. As far as I'm concerned, the word is worthless since its meaning can be discerned only with another contextual clue. There is a word, however -- biennial -- which means "occurring every two years." You have probably heard it used in relation to plants with a two-year cycle. Perennials, which come up each year, may be even more familiar.
Similar problems occur with the bi prefix in other words, such as biweekly or bimonthly. The least ambiguous way to deal with the problem is to use the word semiweekly or semimonthly to indicate that something occurs twice within the time period and the phrase "every two weeks" or "every two months" to indicate the longer interval.
We invite your questions for this feature. Send them to Fran at GrammarAndMore.
Apostrophe Appreciation Month . . .
According to Chase's Calendar of Events, June is Apostrophe Appreciation Month. The American Apostrophe Association is encouraging protest demonstrations against U.S. businesses whose names include possessive forms that omit apostrophes.
I was unable to find more about either the event or the organization. It can't hurt, though, to celebrate by placing apostrophes correctly and by sharing with at least one person the foolproof method for correctly placing apostrophes in possessive nouns:
1. Ask, in these stilted-sounding words, To whom does [the item] belong? (The reason for this particular wording is to identify the owner before the noun is made possessive.)
2. What is the last letter of the word that answers your previous question?
3. If the word does not end in s, add 's; if it does end in s, add only an apostrophe. (If you prefer an additional /s/ in the possessive form of a name ending in s -- Chris, for example -- you can add an extra s. Either Chris' or Chris's would be correct, but the words would be pronounced differently.
Portico Books News . . .
If you're an educator, I hope you're planning to order a copy of Hands-On English for each of your students for next year. Think how much easier your job would be (not to mention your students' jobs!) if everyone in your class had quick access to this wealth of information. The more your students use Hands-On English, the less they'll need to use it.
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Fran will be exhibiting and presenting a vendor workshop at the NICHE conference in Des Moines on June 15 and 16. If you will be there, please stop by Table #43 in the West Gym to say hello. If you know others who will be attending, please urge them to do the same. The workshop will be Friday at 5:30 in Room #1227.
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On June 20 and 21 we will be at the CHEF conference in St. Charles, MO. We look forward to renewing acquaintances and making new ones!
Joyce's Works as Examples of Their Aesthetic Theory . . .
In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, character Stephen Dedalus propounds an aesthetic theory based on the artist's placement of his image in relation to himself and to others. As the artist matures, he increases his distance from his work, moving his art to a higher level. Here is Stephen's introduction of the theory:
"The image, it is clear, must be set between the mind or senses of the artist himself and the mind or senses of others. If you bear this in memory you will see that art necessarily divides itself into three forms progressing from one to the next. These forms are: the lyrical form, wherein the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself; the epical form, the form wherein he presents his image in mediate relation to himself and to others; the dramatic form, the form wherein he presents his image in immediate relation to others." (Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations in this article are from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Viking Press, 1964, pp. 213-215.)
"His image" can represent either the image the artist presents (in literary works, the word) or the image of the artist himself. For either of these interpretations, Joyce's work illustrates the aesthetic theory that it contains.
Even the title A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man suggests the lyrical level, the artist focusing on self. Throughout the novel Stephen searches introspectively for himself. At the end of the novel, in the diary entries, he achieves a life of his own. He is no longer simply a character being written about by Joyce. Joyce has achieved the dramatic level, having totally freed his character. Stephen, the artist, however, is at the lyrical level, writing introspectively in first person.
Ulysses represents the epical form of art. It is epical in the traditional sense of the word because it is a novel of simple action and noble theme. Its ending comes as no surprise because the outcome has been foreshadowed throughout the novel. The greatest predictor of the outcome, however, is Homer's Odyssey, after which Ulysses is patterned.
Leopold Bloom, in his wandering around Dublin, represents Ulysses; Stephen Dedalus represents Ulysses' son Telemachus, who searches for his father. Although Stephen is not Bloom's biological son, Bloom is acquainted with Stephen's father, and Bloom's son died at the age of eleven days when Stephen was eleven years old. It is suggested that both boys were changelings. Even more important are Stephen as the representative of all sons and Bloom as the representative of all fathers.
Ulysses also represents the epical form in Stephen's aesthetic theory: "The simplest epical form is seen emerging out of lyrical literature when the artist prolongs and broods upon himself as the centre of an epical event and this form progresses till the centre of emotional gravity is equidistant from the artist himself and from others. The narrative is no longer purely personal. The personality of the artist passes into the narration itself, flowing round and round the persons and the action like a vital sea."
Joyce uses many images to flesh out this theory. One of the most prominent is the father-son motif. The artist is the father, the creator; the work of art (a novel, poem, sculpture, etc.) is his creation, his "son," the offspring of his soul and his experience.
Stephen's search in Ulysses is external. Although he is at the lyrical level of aesthetic development at the end of Portrait, he must find a father figure in order to be able to create on the dramatic level. After having seen some of the same things during the day and having crossed paths several times, Stephen and Bloom are united at 11:00 p.m. Their union is shown in several ways: spoonerisms from their names (Blephen and Stoom); writing Greek and Hebrew characters, wherein Bloom supplies the paper and Stephen the pencil; and each silently "contemplating the other in both mirrors of the reciprocal mirrors of theirhisnothis fellowfaces." (Ulysses, Random House, 1961, p. 650) Earlier in the evening each had looked into a mirror and seen his image reflected as that of William Shakespeare, discussed in Ulysses as the "ghost of Hamlet," another work with a central father-son motif.
The aesthetic theory becomes fully substantiated in Exiles, a three-act play that is one of Joyce's lesser-known works. Aesthetically, as well as generically, Exiles represents the dramatic form of art, "the form wherein [the artist] presents his image in immediate relation to others. . . . The dramatic form is reached when the vitality which has flowed and eddied round each person fills every person with such vital force that he or she assumes a proper and intangible esthetic life. The personality of the artist, at first a cry or a cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalizes itself, so to speak. The esthetic image in the dramatic form is life purified in and reprojected from the human imagination. The mystery of esthetic like that of material creation is accomplished. The artist . . . remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails."
The characters of Exiles do indeed have a life of their own. Their separation from the artist is implicit in the title of the play. As exiles, they are theoretically free of the artist's creative hand.
As in Portrait and Ulysses, the artist whose image is presented can be shown to be Stephen Dedalus. Stephen does not appear in the play, however. Instead he remains "within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence . . . ." The "framed crayon drawing of a young man" (Exiles, The Viking Press, 1965, p. 15) that hangs on the wall above the sideboard in Exiles may well be a portrait of Stephen. In the course of the play it is implied that the portrait is of Richard Rowan's father. Because Richard is a character in the play and Stephen is the theoretical author of the play, Stephen is indeed Richard's father. Stephen can be seen as the father and the ghost of Exiles as in Ulysses Shakespeare is portrayed as the father and the ghost of Hamlet.
Additional evidence can be cited to establish Stephen as the "author" of Exiles. In Ulysses when Stephen completes his discourse on Hamlet, which includes reiteration of his aesthetic theory, Mr. Best suggests that he write his theory in the form of a dialogue. While almost any play could be called a dialogue, the term is especially appropriate for Exiles, a play of words rather than of actions and a play which frequently involves only two characters at a time. Both Exiles and Hamlet are primarily domestic plays with an underlying national theme. Each involves a father's rival, a "guilty queen," and a son who is searching for his identity.
Stephen is to the characters in Exiles as Joyce is to Stephen himself. A study of Joyce's letters (his lyrical writing) indicates that Joyce and Stephen lived in some of the same homes, attended some of the same schools, and knew some of the same people. Similarly, Portrait and Ulysses reveal that Stephen and the characters of Exiles have common experiences. This suggests that Stephen, in Exiles, is writing from his experience as Joyce has written from his.
Eight-year-old Archie, the child in Exiles, is reminiscent of Stephen as a child in Portrait, attuned to sounds and other sense images. Archie is also an embodiment of the play itself. He is the son who is synonymous with Exiles as Hamlet is the son synonymous with Hamlet. The time of Exiles is June, 1912, eight years after the Bloomsday of Ulysses, when Stephen's artistic capabilities moved to the dramatic level.
Richard Rowan, Archie's biological father within the play, also has connections to Ulysses. A rowan is an ash tree. In Ulysses Stephen carries an ashplant as a symbol of his creative powers. Several times he throws the ashplant away as he might try to separate the character Richard Rowan from himself, to make Rowan an "exile."
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Exiles can be seen as a trilogy that illustrates the aesthetic theory propounded by Stephen Dedalus in Portrait. This same trilogy, comprising three portraits of the artist, traces Stephen's artistic development. Although Joyce reaches the dramatic level when he frees Stephen in the diary entries of Portrait, Stephen does not reach the dramatic level until he frees characters theoretically created by him in Exiles.
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Applications of Joyce's/Stephen's Aesthetic Theory . . .
One way of gaining a clearer understanding of Stephen's aesthetic theory is to apply it to other works. Of the books reviewed previously in LinguaPhile, several are clear examples of the dramatic level: Nothing But the Truth, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Giver, and Rootabaga Stories. Each of these works is completely separated from its author. In Nothing But the Truth the documents stand on their own merits, revealing the story without the author interposing himself or providing commentary. The other three books have settings so different from our world that the author seems totally separated from the work of art. The lyrical form, in which the work of art is presented in immediate relation to the artist, is equally easy to spot; the epical form is more difficult.
Since establishing distance between oneself and one's work of art moves the art to a higher level, it is worthwhile to identify (and perhaps practice) some exercises that would lead to the attainment of that goal.
1. Rewrite an account of an experience, changing from first to third person.
2. Change a few details of your experience to improve the artistic integrity of the piece. For example, change the setting to a time or place that will create a more appropriate mood.
3. Instead of writing basically about your own experience, extract a few details from your own experience to include in a piece that is primarily about something else.
4. Write a play, in which characters can achieve more independence than in a story or novel.
5. Create a character. Have your character create works of art, such as the poems of Dr. Zhivago.
6. Write from the point of view of someone else -- perhaps a historical character, a fictional character, or an inanimate object.
Puzzlers: . . .
A. Bible Brainer
Once again I must apologize for not being able to credit the source of this wonderful puzzle. It appeared, with no attribution, in my church newsletter years ago.
There are names of sixteen books of the Bible mentioned in the paragraph below. See how many you can find. A pastor once found fifteen of the books in twenty minutes then took two weeks to find the last one! How long will it take you?
I once made a remark about the hidden books of the Bible. It was a lulu; kept people looking so hard for facts . . . and for others it was a revelation. Some were in a jam, especially since the names of the books were not capitalized. But the truth finally struck home to numbers of our readers. To others it was a real job. We want it to be a most fascinating few moments for you. Yes, there will be some really easy ones to spot. Others may require judges to help them. I will quickly admit it usually takes a minister to find one of them, and there will be loud lamentations when it is found. A little lady says she brews a cup of tea so she can concentrate better. See how well you can compete. Relax now, for there really are sixteen names of books of the Bible in this paragraph.
B. Food Search
The names of eighteen foods are embedded in the following paragraph. Can you find them?
This short piece of writing may not have much pizzazz, but terrifically it includes the names of eighteen kinds of food. If you like to cook, you might find them most easily. Looking for them might be a bit of unusual fun, somewhat like a roller coaster. When you are searching for them, you might feel either delight or anger. You must ardently maintain your quest. Some at least are carefully hidden in order to astound you when you find them. People who live in this age and have a lot of pep perhaps will find the words more quickly than others, although the logic behind that is questionable.
Answers next month.
Answers to May puzzler: pushy
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© 2001 Fran Santoro Hamilton