restricted access Molly and Bloom in the Lists of "Ithaca"
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Molly and Bloom in the Lists of "Ithaca"

List, O List

Stephen gone, Bloom has at last reluctantly entered the bedroom, and the first thing he notices—no doubt because he is looking for it—is this pile of Molly's discarded clothing:

What miscellaneous effects of female personal wearing apparel were perceived by him? A pair of new inodorous halfsilk black ladies' hose, a pair of new violet garters, a pair of outsize ladies' drawers of India mull, cut on generous lines, redolent of opoponax, jessamine and Muratti's Turkish cigarettes and containing a long bright steel safety pin, folded curvilinear, a camisole of baptiste with thin lace border, an accordion underskirt of blue silk moirette, all these objects being disposed irregularly on the top of a rectangular trunk, quadruple battened, having capped corners, with multicoloured labels, initialled on its fore side in white lettering B.C.T.

(Brian Cooper Tweedy).(U 17.2090–2100)

One of the first things we as readers can notice is that this pile of discards appears, on the page, as a list. No doubt we too are looking for lists and even expect them by now. Lists have, after all, burgeoned in the later part of Ulysses, and they are everywhere in this chapter, from Stephen and Bloom's itinerary and the things the duumvirate deliberated while on it, to Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer (U 17.12–17, 2322–26).

One way of thinking about the list would be in terms of parataxis, which is usually described as the arrangement of elements in a coordinate rather than subordinate relationship: flat, horizontal, and sequential rather than hierarchical, vertical, or internestling. "I came, I saw, I conquered" is the classic textbook example.1 David Hayman takes up the term in his [End Page 494] 1970 study, Ulysses: The Mechanics of Meaning,2 which famously gives us the idea of the Arranger, a sort of para-narrator or subeditor responsible for features such as the headlines of "Aeolus" or the interpolations of "Wandering Rocks" and "Cyclops." Paradoxically, at the very moment when parataxis has been proposed as a structural principle of the book, the Arranger has the task of reducing parataxis: whatever the waywardnesses of the text, with the Arranger they can all be attributed to the deliberate choice of an imagined personlike figure in the wings, keeping its hands busy with cutting-and-pasting rather than fingernail-paring.

In this essay, I want to take parataxis in a different direction, toward something that is deeply impersonal at the heart of narrative: not only in this particular narrative, but also in narrative in general. In his later book, Re-Forming the Narrative, Hayman will use the term paratactics to describe a form that abandons both subordination and coordination.3 This is perhaps closer to the more severe figure of asyndeton, the omission of conjunctions.4 Asyndeton is the figure of the list. Where parataxis easily maintains its connecting principle (and in "I came, I saw, I conquered," that principle is nothing less than the might of Empire), the asyndetic list is a bit more reticent. It just throws everything together, like Molly discarding her clothes on the trunk.

But even this may not go far enough: the omission of conjunctions implies that they were at least implicitly there to begin with, and have only now, at some comparatively late stage of the game, been omitted. Let's think of it instead from the other end: asyndeton is what you have before conjunctions arrive on the scene. In this sense, asyndeton predates what Freud calls secondary revision, which is where things like connectives and, above all, narrative movement get added to what has until now been without them. Asyndeton is more like a glimpse—perhaps a barely possible glimpse—of those primary processes in which, for the first time, elements become essentially representable, structured only by condensation and displacement.5 (Let us for the moment only note the connection between asyndeton and the unconscious: we shall return to it.) Asyndeton is thus not just the omission of a connecting principle: more significantly, it raises the connecting principle...