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The Stakes of Stephen's Gambit in "Scylla and Charybdis"
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In a sense, the beginning of Stephen's day—as we track it through breakfast at the Tower, teaching a class at the Dalkey school, a walk on Sandy-mount strand, delivery of Deasy's letter to Myles Crawford followed by two pub sessions, both at establishments called "Mooney's"—can be considered as "preparatory to anything else" (U 16.1). "[A]nything else" includes the events at the National Library of Ireland that unfold in the episode we call "Scylla and Charybdis" and that arguably constitutes one of the climaxes in the story of Stephen's day in Ulysses. What, precisely, is a "climax" in narratological terms? Marie-Laure Ryan offers one of the more intriguing discussions of this question in the provocative context of "story generation"—that is, the creation of models of story telling that might effectively be deployed in artificial intelligence computer program design.1 Instead of a simple definition, Ryan offers a series of characteristics of the narrative climax, the most interesting of which she calls "functional polyvalence." "The events with the greatest number of functions are likely to form the highlights of the plot," she writes (249). These include the solution of a problem, the source of a problem, an infraction worthy of punishment, as well as merit and reward and the possibility of offense and revenge. There is no question that Stephen Dedalus has a problem on June 16, 1904—indeed, a number of problems. After his decision of the morning not to return to the Tower, he is homeless. He remains in guilt-ridden mourning a year after his mother's death. He chafes under the patronage of his friend Buck Mulligan to the point where he appears ready to provoke a break in their friendship. He has no effective outlet for his creativity and talent and no viable prospect of transforming his art into a career. And he appears to be earning himself a reputation as a wastrel and a prankster—a reputation he can afford far less than can the more financially and socially secure Mulligan. His decision not to meet Mulligan and Haines at the Ship does nothing to solve his problems and, indeed, may only aggravate them. But when we meet Stephen in discussion with the librarians at the beginning of "Scylla and Charybdis" we see him actively working to achieve a solution to at least some of his problems. The stakes of his maneuver are high because his discourse is designed to display his intellectual and critical merit and earn him the reward of admiration and support from a group of well-respected Irish editors, authors, and intellectuals. His maneuver also carries a high risk because if he fails, he will have lost his best opportunity to make his mark in Irish literary and cultural circles and may instead stimulate disapproval and possible censure.

But "Scylla and Charybdis" might also be regarded as a high-risk extra-textual maneuver for Joyce himself. The contemporary 1922 reader of Ulysses familiar with Irish literary and cultural history might have been startled to find that characters in the episode included quite well-known living Irish literati. Twenty-first-century virgin readers will have to consult Gifford and Seidman's "Ulysses" Annotated to learn that the four men who engage with Stephen Dedalus's Shakespeare lecture were all historical figures with impressive credentials.2 Thomas William Lyster (1855–1922) edited a series of volumes called English Poems for Young Students and translated Henry Dunster's Life of Goethe in 1883. Although he is called "the quaker librarian" in the episode, Lyster may actually have been a member of the Anglican Church of Ireland.3 But he was a librarian at the National Library of Ireland in 1904. John Eglinton was the pseudonym for William Kirkpatrick Magee (1868–1961), a highly regarded essayist whose pre-1904 work included the Introduction to the 1899 volume Literary Ideals in Ireland, which featured essays by W. B. Yeats, AE, and Magee himself. In 1904 he worked as assistant librarian at the National Library of Ireland as well as an editor of Dana, which billed itself as the "magazine of independent thought." Richard Irvine Best (1872...



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