...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Monday, December 11, 2006

Elijah is coming! Is coming!! Is coming!!!

Today in Apocalypticism, Kugler asked us to reevaluate John Collins and Co.'s working definition of apocalyptic literature: "[A]n apocalypse is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world." Sure, ancient books like Daniel and Enoch and Baruch (what? exactly) and Revelation might contain all those elements, but apocalypticism as it manifests itself in contemporary culture, religious traditions, and literature rarely does. I mean, rarely are you going to find works that contain the both a priestly and a royal messiah, Gog and Magog, angels, demons, dream visions, journeys through heaven and hell, an Antichrist, etc, etc, all crammed into one work.

How, then, should be define apocalypticism? Kugler argued that it's better understood as a strategy, instead of a genre: the strategy with which, as one girl suggested, people understand the finitude of their own lives, protest their own deaths, and reconcile themselves to the nature of the world.

On the one hand, yes, I agree. But on the other hand--and I almost said this in class, but didn't--there are still contemporary movements and works that contain all of those apocalyptic elements. Just check out the last paragraph of chapter 12 of Ulysses, in which our protagonist and assimilated Jew Leopold Bloom flees the drunken and violent sheeplike men of the tavern and is swept up in a chariot vision, all whirled together and exploding like his Roman candle on the beach as he watches Gerty McDowell in one great blast of apocalyptic imagery and motifs:

When, lo, there came about them all a great brightness and they beheld the chariot wherein He stood ascend to heaven. And they beheld Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Him. And there came a voice out of heaven, calling Elijah! Elijah! And he answered with a main cry: Abba! Adonai! And they beheld Him even Him, ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness at an angle of fortyfive degrees over Donohoe's in Little Green street like a shot off a shovel.

I mean, in that passage alone you've got your Jesus imagery, you've got Elijah, you've got some Revelation thrown in (his clothing matches that of the pregnant woman clothed with the sun), you've got your angels and your heavenly journey. But the thing is, if you define apocalypticism as only a strategy, then I'm not sure that passage, or Ulysses as a whole, would count, because while it's chockablock with apocalyptic motifs, it's not particularly eschatological. The last image of the novel, the penultimate chapter before entering the washed-in-the-blood river of Molly Bloom's stream of conscious, is one of peace and rest and stability; Bloom and Molly lie in bed together, in their warm Dublin room: "At what state of rest or motion? At rest relatively to themselves and to each other. In motion being each and both carried westward, forward and rereward respectively, by the proper perpetual motion of the earth through everchanging tracks of neverchanging space."

Everchanging tracks of neverchanging space. What does that mean for Ulysses as an apocalyptic work, and what does that mean for Bloom as a symbol of Irish and Jewish messianism?

If I could answer that question, I would have a much easier time writing Kugler and Rishona's papers.

Edit: Man, does anybody know what I was talking about there? Yeah, me neither. Let's just chalk it up to contransmagnificanjewbantantiality. Here's the procrastination report: I have a seven-pager for Rishona due tomorrow at 6, and it's so, so difficult for me to start papers the day before they're due when I know I'll have a solid two hours tomorrow afternoon to work. But it's about Ulysses! and Judaism! And those are two of my very favorite things to talk about! Plus, I have to revise a few reading summaries for Paul tomorrow, and find my EB Tylor summary. Stupid Tylor. Though all things considered, I'm surprised I've only misplaced one of the summaries. Goal: Ulysses until 9, then coffee and revising my Hume, Durkheim, and Schleiermacher summaries. I would like to be in bed by 1am or 2 at the latest so I don't start hallucinating Peggy again.