Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.




— History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?

— The ways of the Creator are not our ways, Mr Deasy said. All history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.

Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:

— That is God.

Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!

— What? Mr Deasy asked.

— A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.

James Joyce, Ulysses, Episode 2: Nestor.


Ulysses is one of my top five favorite books. And I treat A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as the introduction of it. Or Ulysses as the former’s appendix. Either way, Stephen Dedalus is intertwined with the life of Leopold Bloom. Dedalus, who reneges against the Jesuits and priesthood at the end of Portrait, is now a teacher and cannot escape God, nor history for that matter. Both books have had tremendous impact upon me, especially about a man who cannot escape religion and God… and history. God is, indeed, a shout in the street.

Today is Bloomsday, that annual celebration of a day in the life of Bloom, who wanders Dublin as a Modern Odysseus. Thousands around the world take part in travels and readings and pints raised. Today, however, I am under the weather and not feeling well. So, I am not going to Dublin, at least. But for me, who has been so deeply soaked and drenched and drowned within Greco-Roman history and literature and the esotericisms of Christian theology and Western culture and education and Modernity and postmodernity, Ulysses is a sort of dream come true for me. It is an achievement of so many things and a real pleasure to read and digest. From Augustine and apotheosis to masturbation and Molly. Molly, that unstoppable, unquenchable, wonderful loving girl that she is. Yes. yes. yes. yes. yes. yes.

Ulysses is Platonic form and chthonic Aristotle. And worth an attempt. You will not catch all the references and allusions. Joyce meant it that way. But you will experience a love and awe of life. It is something that you let wash over you. Just keep reading. Though you may be lost at first, keep reading. You will eventually get home.



Henri Matisse’s cover and illustration for an edition of Ulysses for subscribers to the Limited Editions Club, 1935, recently on auction.



About the author

Add comment

Leave a Reply

By Burke
Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 288 other subscribers

Top Posts & Pages

Follow Us