Sunday, March 1, 2009

Connections: Ulysses and Infinite Jest

I'm tackling James Joyce's Ulysses now and finding similarities between Ulysses and Infinite Jest as well as insight into The Jest. Here's one example.

3.416-417, in the Gabler edition of Ulysses is this little piece of text: the veil of the temple. I was actually looking on Google for anything about airing his quiff, from 6.196, and came across a good description of this phrase in Ulysses Annotated, by Don Gifford. Poking around in Ulysses Annotated, I found the veil of the temple, and then the A-Ha neuron fired.

Get this (from Ulysses Annotated): 3.416-417 the veil of the temple...shovel hat -- As described in Exodus 26:31-35, the veil acts as a multicolored screen between the outer "holy place" and "the most holy" (behind the veil). And this veil is rent at the moment of Jesus's death (Matthew 27:51). Berkely argued that "Vision is the Language of the Author of Nature" (The Theory of Vision [London 1733], section 38); in other words, the visible world is like a screen with signs on it, a screen that God presents to be read and thought rather than seen. Thus, the signs on the screen could be regarded as something taken out of one's head (or hat). A "shovel hat" was worn by some Church of Ireland and Church of England clergy in the eighteenth centure.

So, Madame Psychosis sat behind a tri-fold screen during her FM broadcasts from the MIT student union. And she wore a veil.

This seems to mean so many things on so many levels; I'm still piecing it together. And I'm just blown away by an intellect that can intentionally make connections and references like this, although I realize my admiration may come from reasoning more like the Watchmaker argument of Creationists (i.e., the Universe is too well put-together to have come about by chance, therefore, there must be a God.) Maybe DFW just accidentally put veils and screens in The Jest just because he read a lot; I just have trouble believing that it was accidental.

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