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Free Study Guide-A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 5

Summary (continued)

Stephen stands there with Lynch and then they leave together. Stephen tells Lynch of his aesthetic theory. First he defines terror and pity. Both are feelings which arrest the mind. He illustrates with a story of a girl who was killed in a carriage on her way to visit her mother. The reporter called it tragic. Stephen says it is not tragic in his aesthetic sense of the word. He emphasizes that in his definition the tragic emotion is static. Only improper art inspires kinetic feelings, exciting the spectator. Lynch tells of a time when he wrote his name on the back side of a statue of the Venus of Praxiteles in the museum. Stephen dismisses Lynch’s exception as arising out of an abnormal nature. Stephen reminds Lynch that as a child, he ate pieces of dried cow dung. Lynch laughs delightedly at the memory. As he does, Stephen looks at him closely and thinks he looks something like a reptile.

Stephen returns Lynch to the subject at hand. He says that desire and loathing are unaesthetic emotions because they are merely physical like the blink of an eye to keep a fly away. He says that true art doesn’t awaken desire in the spectator, but instead inspires an aesthetic stasis in the rhythm of beauty. Lynch asks for a definition of the rhythm of beauty and Stephen tells him it is the first relation of part to part in an aesthetic whole. Stephen adds that art is the striving to understand and then to try "slowly and humbly and constantly to express" what is seen in the "gross earth." Stephen reminds Lynch of his definition of art, the "human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end." Then he quotes Aquinas’s definition of beauty as the sight of what pleases. Stephen makes fine distinctions in the meaning of Aquinas’s word choices, but emphasizes first of all the importance of stasis. He adds Plato’s idea that "beauty is the splendour of truth."

Lynch is dissatisfied with Stephen’s theory that beauty is something we see and like. Stephen compares the question to the different cultural values of feminine beauty. One way of defining the appreciation of women’s beauty, Stephen notes, is by its biological function to propagate the species, something MacCann would argue. The second reason different cultures have different ideals of beauty is explained by an hypothesis that people find in beautiful objects relations which satisfy and coincide with the stages of aesthetic apprehension. Lynch is amused that Stephen continuously quotes Aquinas, whom he calls a friar. Stephen notes that Aquinas was also a poet and quotes one of Aquinas’s stanzas. Lynch chants it and is very pleased with it.


As they get to Lower Mount Street, they come upon another student of the university, Griffin, who tells them the results of the exams and the celebrations which followed. Stephen jokes with him about his excursions into the countryside with his study group, telling him to bring back some turnips. Griffin recommends that Stephen read Goethe and Lissing on aesthetics. Finally, he leaves, telling them his sister is making pancakes for the family that evening. Lynch is disgusted to think that someone like Griffin can get a good job while he cannot. Stephen continues his disquisition on beauty. He believes that to find the necessary phases of artistic apprehension would be to find the qualities of universal beauty. Then he describes the first phase of apprehension. It is the bounding line around the object of art. Whether it is apprehended in space or time, it is first apprehended as whole and unified. Lynch exclaims, "Bullseye!" Next, Stephen describes the second stage of apprehension as the analysis of the parts to the whole. Then he explains the complex meaning of Aquinas’s use of the word claritas. It is the recognition of what the thing is. He remembers that Shelley likened the mind in that instant to a fading coal and the Italian physiologist Galvani described as "the enchantment of the heart."

Stephen next goes into a number of questions which ask the question what is art. He thinks Lessing erred when he used a series of statues to express his theory of art. For Stephen, literature is the highest and most spiritual form of art, and yet even there, the forms are often confused. For Stephen, the personality of the artist should be refined out of existence and become completely impersonal. He compares it to the material creation

"The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." Lynch jokes, "Trying to refine them also out of existence."

It begins to rain and the two men cross the lawn to the national library to escape it. Inside, there are many students taking shelter in the foyer. Lynch points out to Stephen "Your beloved is here." Stephen stands on a lower step turning to look at her every once in a while. She stood with her friends as they talked. Stephen hears the students talk about two men who had just passed the examinations. They were discussing which practice was more lucrative, one in Liverpool or one in the countryside. The rain stops and he sees that she is about to leave. He wonders if he had judged her too harshly when he thought she was flirting with a priest.

The next morning he wakes up hearing the sweet music of a poem in his head. He feels the spirit of inspiration. It is an "enchantment of the heart." He feels as if he had been visited by an angel. He feels as if the word had been made flesh in him. He thinks of a stanza of poetry which begins with the line "Are you not weary of ardent ways."

He feels the rhythm of the villanelle as he repeats the lines over and over to himself. He thinks of another stanza. Suddenly the rhythm dies out and stops. He hears the sounds of the morning, a bird twittering, a bell ringing. He becomes afraid that he will lose the poem so he sits up quickly and reaches for a pencil. After he writes out the lines, he lies back and thinks of being in her parlor the night before. She had asked him to play something on the piano. He had played some light Elizabethan songs. He had watched her closely, but she remained elusive all evening. Once, during a group dance, she had come to him and told him he was a great stranger now. He told her he had been born to be a monk. She answered that he must be a heretic and he asked her if she was afraid. She didn’t respond, but passed away from him in the dance. He had regretted describing himself as a monk.

He thought bitterly of the last time he saw her when she was standing with a young priest. He felt angry. The anger blotted out her image. He saw "distorted reflections of her image" in the memory of the flower seller, the dish washer, a girl who had laughed at him one day when he had stumbled on the street, and a girl he had been caught staring at one day. He had left the classroom that day in disdain, but he wonders how sincere he had been. As he had walked away, he had told himself that she was a figure of womanhood of Ireland. She had only tarried with him, her "mild lover" and then left him. He had whispered his "innocent transgressions in the latticed ear of a priest" in the confessional. He shifts his anger to the priest with whom she was speaking. He was a peasant priest. Instead of coming to him, Stephen, "a priest of eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life," she had gone to a priest who merely discharged formal rites.

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