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Henry Flower Writes a Story
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I

"Henry Flower" is Leopold Bloom's assumed pen name and literary persona in Ulysses. He adopts it in a clandestine correspondence and carries around a visiting card with the name on it. Hitherto, commentators on the novel believed that no piece of writing by this wonderfully gifted man of letters survived, but they are wrong. They have overlooked a whole episode in Joyce's novel—"Eumaeus." I contend that the episode is narrated by none other than this fabulous author.

Henry Flower's contribution to early-twentieth-century journalism, essayism, and belletristic writing is the epitome of a characteristically outmoded, thoughtless, sloppy style of writing, which Joyce, the radical modernist, rightly resented and ridiculed—and occasionally reproduced with ironic relish. "Make it new," Ezra Pound's battle cry for a vigorous, precise, graphic literary style, is the programmatic antidote to Henry Flower's pseudo-elegant, inflated logorrhea. Unlike Ernest Hemingway, who did away with all unnecessary adjectives and qualifiers, Joyce takes an entirely different approach to exposing the outworn, pre-modernist literary stance in this episode of Ulysses—not by rejecting but by mimicking it. In many sections of Ulysses, the author delights in irreverently amalgamating bits and pieces of "high" and "low" literature and culture, as is proper for an encyclopedic representation of Dublin's everyday life. "Eumaeus" is the shattering parody of what half-educated characters such as Leopold Bloom might consider a dazzlingly clever literary diction. My hypothesis is that Henry Flower's florid rhetoric is behind the episode in question.

II

"Eumaeus" is an ingenious compilation of almost every stylistic atrocity the author could imagine, a demonstration piece of bad writing. Its rhetoric is pretentious, long-winded, cliché-ridden, insincere—in every way, the reverse of the young Joyce's artistic ideal of exact observation, radical honesty, and terse expression in "a style of scrupulous meanness" (LettersII 134). Stanislaus Joyce refers to the language of "Eumaeus" as "flabby Dublin journalese, with its weak effort to be witty," admiring the "almost unlimited adaptability" of his brother's writing, though regretting its increasing lack of poetic beauty (LettersIII 58). Most of the earlier critics seem to have disregarded the burlesque aspect of the narrative strategy of the episode and found little of interest in it. For many years, this section was understood as a tiresome piece of imitative writing, meant to match the late hour of the day and the fatigue of the main characters. A. Walton Litz writes of the "failure of the Eumaeus episode," and S. L. Goldberg calls it "one of the weakest sections of the book." This conception has undergone a marked revision in more recent years. Joycean commentators seem now to draw considerable enjoyment from the episode and its purposefully wordy and elaborate phrasings. It is found to be "a very funny chapter" by Marilyn French and "a brilliant exercise in comic obfuscation" by Zack Bowen. An important step towards recognition of the stylistic profile of the episode is made by Hugh Kenner, who notes the "Bloomian" quality of the narrative and points out the context of Leopold Bloom's literary ambitions and fantasies. A number of other critics have followed this approach, which is also the basis of the present contribution.

The rhetorical hallmark of "Eumaeus" is a dissonant mixture of slang, attempted witticisms, would-be elegant and educated expressions, a vast number of idioms and formulas that have become trite, and sclerotic clichés, as well as countless verbosities, redundancies, linguistic stuffings, and puffed-up phrases. The worn-out quality of the language is indicated by the classification Joyce chose for the episode's "technic," according to his famous schema—"Narrative (old)." The overall manner of "Eumaeus" is one of pretended wit, rhetorical boasting, and attempted in-group jargon, conveying the cumulative impression of vulgarity, vacuity, and a general lack of truthfulness, self-knowledge, and identity.

This jarring and insincere quality of the text is confirmed by the factual story that can be deduced from the episode. Although Stephen Dedalus (the "noctambulist"—U 17.930) may be bored and tired, Leopold Bloom (the "diambulist"—U 17.929) is clearly wide awake. At last, he is alone with the young student...



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