From charlesreid1

Chapter 17 Ithaca

Gilbert Schema

Scene: The House

Hour: 2 AM

Symbol: Comets

Art: Science

Technic: Catechism (impersonal)

Odyssey Parallels


There is something eerily soothing about Ithaca, despite the fact that it is perhaps the least literary of any of the chapters of Ulysses.

Ithaca” is therefore sometimes seen as the actual end of the story in the novel (Gibson, 4), a “homecoming” that ends Bloom’s journey.


Its method is usually seen as derived from catechism (Gibson, 23; Gilbert, 357), an assumption supported by Joyce’s own claim that “Ithaca” is written in the “form of mathematical catechism” (Ellmann, 501).


Reading Chapter 17 is a bit like reading a Chapter 17 User's Manual; the FAQ format has echoes of the dry technical nature of scientific papers or software documentation, but it also echoes the Catholic Catechism (as referenced above). In fact it is entirely likely that in reading the FAQ for the latest SQL library, there are deep literary echoes from the scientific literary tradition, which itself is an echo of the dry, rigorous nature of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

If we trace that back further, the Catechism's structure has its roots in Aquinas, who was himself mimicking the rigor and structure of the meticulously-numbered numerical sections and subsections of scientific books from ancient Greece, authored by Euclid, Archimedes, and Aristotle.

There are also echoes of certain sections of the Bible that are cataloging genealogies or enumerating species.

The chapter opens with a full list of topics Bloom and Stephen discussed (17.12-17), which is followed by a list of all other occasions on which Bloom discussed the same topics (17.48-59). Also in the form of catalogue, we are given the contents of Bloom’s kitchen shelves (17.298-318), a list of his books (17.1361-1407), and contents of two drawers in Bloom’s bedroom (17.1775-1823, 1855-67). Finally, we are offered Bloom’s recapitulation of events that took place during the day (17.2044-58) and his complete budget of June 16, 1904 (17.1455-78).




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