GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES - Issue 9 (Spring 2009)


Joyce’s incorporation of literary sources in ‘Oxen of the Sun’


Sarah Davison


‘Oxen of the Sun’ epitomizes and pillories English literary history in a sustained parody—at least so it seems. Genetic analysis reveals Joyce’s practice in this episode to be less consistent than hitherto thought. Many scholars have expressed an uneasy feeling that our understanding of ‘Oxen’ is far from complete. Fritz Senn writes ‘In general we have succeeded least of all [in understanding…] the semblance of some period point of view, though none of the periods evoked could possibly have conducted its storytelling in that specific way’.[1] My analysis seeks to support readers unsatisfied by previous accounts of the literary texture of this episode. The aims of this article are fourfold. (1) To display as complete a sourcing as is possible of ‘“Oxen of the Sun” Notesheet 3’. (2) To indicate how Joyce incorporates material from his literary sources in ‘Oxen of the Sun’, both at draft stages and in the ‘final’ text of Ulysses (which I take—for the present at least—to be the Gabler edition). (3) To consider how knowledge of Joyce’s working practice might enhance critical appreciation of ‘Oxen of the Sun’. (4) To elucidate methodology and set an agenda for future genetic study of Joyce’s practice.


The Critical Heritage


Scholarship to date has been guided by Joyce’s summary in a letter to Frank Budgen on 20 March 1920:


Am working hard at Oxen of the Sun, the idea being the crime committed against fecundity by sterilizing the act of coition. Scene, lying-in hospital. Technique: a nineparted episode without divisions introduced by a Sallustian-Tacitean prelude (the unfertilized ovum), then by way of earliest English alliterative and monosyllabic and Anglo-Saxon (‘Before born the babe had bliss. Within the womb he won worship.’ ‘Bloom dull dreamy heard: in held hat stony staring’) then by way of Mandeville (‘there came forth a scholar of medicine that men clepen etc’) then Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (‘but that franklin Lenehan was prompt ever to pour them so that at the least way mirth should not lack’), then the Elizabethan chronicle style (‘about that present time young Stephen filled all cups’), then a passage solemn, as of Milton, Taylor, Hooker, followed by a choppy Latin-gossipy bit, style of Burton-Browne,  then  a  passage  Bunyanesque  (‘the reason was that in the way he fell in with a certain whore whose name she said is Bird in the hand’) after a diarystyle bit Pepys-Evelyn (‘Bloom sitting snug with a party of wags, among them Dixon jun., Ja. Lynch, Doc. Madden and Stephen D. for a languor he had before and was now better, he having dreamed tonight a strange fancy and Mistress Purefoy there to be delivered, poor body, two days past her time and the midwives hard put to it, God send her quick issue’) and so on through Defoe-Swift and Steele-Addison-Sterne and Landor-Pater-Newman until it ends in a frightful jumble of Pidgin English, nigger English, Cockney, Irish, Bowery slang and broken doggerel. This progression is also linked back at each part subtly with some foregoing episode of the day and, besides this, with the natural stages of development in the embryo and the periods of faunal evolution in general. The double-thudding Anglo-Saxon motive recurs from time to time (‘Loth to move from Horne’s house’) to give the sense of the hoofs of oxen. Bloom is the spermatozoon, the hospital the womb, the nurse the ovum, Stephen the embryo. 

                        How’s that for high?[2]


This dizzying stylistic progression is complemented by developmental parallels between language, embryo and faunal evolution, whereby the parodies of English prose illustrate the principle of embryonic growth. The letter promises that ‘Oxen’ will reveal the ‘progression’ of English prose, or in other words, that Joyce will ‘do’ Anglo-Saxon, then Mandeville, then Malory and so on.

            Herring warns that the letter ‘is “high” enough to impress Budgen and us besides with Joyce’s ingenuity, but the letter was not intended to be a study guide to the episode’.[3] However, for the most part, critics have been incautious in applying the insights of this letter to their appreciation of ‘Oxen’. In Notes for Joyce; an Annotation of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (1974), Don Gifford observes that ‘the episode is a series of imitations of prose styles presented in chronological sequence from Latin prose to fragments of modern slang’.[4] Likewise in The Sources and Structures of James Joyce’s ‘Oxen’ (1983)—the fullest study of the episode to date—Robert Janusko offers ‘A Working Outline of the “Oxen”’ in which he tabulates Joyce’s sources against the narrative events, and the months of human gestation, for the most part, confidently allocating single authors to each paragraph of the episode.[5] Though Janusko identifies many departures from the chronological scheme set out in Budgen’s letter, he nevertheless maintains that ‘For the most part, however, Joyce did use his borrowed vocabulary in the proper parodies, or at least in the proper periods, so that the various styles can be identified’.[6]

            Jeri Johnson cautions readers to use Joyce’s letter to Budgen ‘with care’,[7] noting that Joyce himself referred to ‘Oxen’ as ‘the most difficult episode in an odyssey […] both to interpret and execute’.[8] Yet—understandably—in her commitment to giving students of the book an overview of the critical field, she draws on Janusko and Gifford’s work in her edition of the 1922 text of Ulysses, identifying 34 clearly differentiated styles in her ‘Notes’ to ‘Oxen’. Most recently Terence Killeen has presented a simplified version of Gifford’s annotations in his lucid readers’ guide ‘Ulysses’ Unbound (2005), where he distils the episode into a series of 31 distinct parodies.[9] It is interesting that each critic uses different terminology to describe how Joyce leans on literary tradition: Janusko favouring ‘Source’, Johnson ‘Style’ and Killeen ‘parody’. Though there are local disagreements as to where imitations begin and end, all critics agree that ‘Oxen’ traces the historical ‘progression’ of English prose, author by author and style by style.

             However, the quotations in parenthesis in the letter to Budgen only partially correspond to the text of Ulysses:[10]


Letter to Budgen

Gabler Edition

Before born the babe had bliss. Within the womb he won worship.

Before born babe bliss had. Within womb won he worship (U 14.60)

Bloom dull dreamy heard: in held hat stony staring.

He heard her sad words, in held hat sad staring (U 14.104-105)

there came forth a scholar of medicine that men clepen etc

There was a sort of scholars along either side the board, that is to wit, Dixon yclept junior of saint Mary Merciable’s with other his fellows Lynch and Madden, scholars of medicine, and the franklin that hight Lenehan and one from Alba Longa, one Crotthers, and

young Stephen that had mien of a frere that was at head of the board and Costello that men clepen scholars of medicine (U 14.188-193)

but that franklin Lenehan was prompt ever to pour them so that at the least way mirth should not lack

but the franklin Lenehan was prompt each when to pour them ale so that at the least way mirth might not lack (U 14.217-218)

about that present time young Stephen filled all cups

About that present time young Stephen filled all cups (U 14.277)

the reason was that in the way he fell in with a certain whore whose name she said is Bird in the hand

the reason was that in the way he fell in with a certain whore of an eyepleasing exterior whose name, she

said, is Bird-in-the-Hand (U 14.448-450)

Loth to move from Horne’s house

(…) Horne’s house. 

   Loth to irk in Horne’s hall (U 14. 85)

Bloom sitting snug with a party of wags, among them Dixon jun., Ja. Lynch, Doc. Madden and Stephen D. for a languor he had before and was now better, he having dreamed tonight a strange fancy and Mistress Purefoy there to be delivered, poor body, two days past her time and the midwives hard put to it, God send her quick issue

There Leop. Bloom of Crawford’s journal sitting snug with a covey of wags, likely brangling fellows, Dixon jun., scholar of my lady of Mercy’s, Vin. Lynch, a Scots fellow, Will. Madden, T. Lenehan, very sad about a race he fancied and Stephen D. Leop. Bloom there for a languor he had but was now better, be having dreamed tonight a strange fancy of his dame Mrs Moll with red slippers on in a pair of Turkey trunks which is thought by those in ken to be for a change and Mistress Purefoy there, that got in through pleading her belly, and now
on the stools, poor body, two days past her term, the midwives sore put
to it and can’t deliver, she queasy for a bowl of riceslop that is a shrewd drier up of the insides and her breath very heavy more than good and should be a bullyboy from the knocks, they say, but God give her soon issue (U 14.504-515)


With one exception, the examples quoted in the letter to Budgen appear, in a revised form, in the same order as in the final text. (The snippet evocative of ‘double-thudding Anglo-Saxon’, which was initially conceived as an intermittent motif, ultimately finds a home in its ‘proper period’ between the two other lines redolent of Old English alliterative verse.) The process of ‘accumulative revision’ that Litz identifies as integral to Joyce’s practice is evident here. Several of the initial quotations are substantially extended, but minor adjustments to vocabulary and syntax aside, they remain readily recognisable.[11] These details would seem to lend weight to the prevailing critical consensus that ‘Oxen’ stages a historical progression of style. However, it should be noted that the letter showcases nothing later than seventeenth-century prose, and that the material quoted to Budgen is embryonic. It is therefore dangerous to view Joyce’s letter to Budgen—and the outline articulated therein—as anything other than a promotional statement of work in progress.

            The relation of the schema set out in the letter to Budgen to the final text depends on the nature of the text’s genesis. In preparation for writing ‘Oxen’, Joyce made several sets of preparatory notes concerning period vocabulary, embryology and the stages of human gestation. In 1938 a number of sheets of notes were sent by Paul Léon, then acting as Joyce’s secretary, to Harriet Shaw Weaver, and ultimately deposited in the British Museum. These sheets were transcribed by Phillip Herring in James Joyce’s Notesheets in the British Museum (1972). They comprise nearly 3000 notes, of which approximately 2000 entries contain examples of period diction, and the remainder relate to embryology, the history of the English language or detail from previous episodes. Joyce then used the information he amassed to write ‘Oxen’, striking through entries on the notesheets as he incorporated them in successive drafts.

            Using records of the books in Joyce’s library, four critics, Janusko, Herring, J.S. Atherton, and, most recently, Gregory Downing, have managed to trace the origin of around 1100 of the 2000 or so stylistic entries on the notesheets. Identifying where the diction entered onto the notesheets appears in the final text of ‘Oxen’, scholars have been able to pinpoint Joyce’s sources for individual words and phrases with reasonable certainty. Joyce riffled through the books in his library systematically, entering apt words or phrases as he went in author or period clusters, and so, as Downing explains, scholars know when they have located ‘the true thread to a particular area of the notesheets’ as ‘all or nearly all the nearby entries that are drawn from the same source tend to unravel quite readily’.[12] Joyce often adapted the material he harvested from his sources as he entered it on the notesheets, for instance ‘changing the wording to conform to the orthographic rules he had settled on for “Oxen” specifically and for Ulysses generally’ or translating ‘his source’s first-person verbiage to third-person in notesheet entries because he knew “Oxen” would be a third-person rather than a first-person narrative’.[13] However, since he was principally interested in period diction, he was careful to preserve the distinctive vocabulary or syntax that initially drew him to a word or phrase.

            Janusko was the first critic to use evidence from the British Museum notesheets to identify Joyce’s sources and has made the greatest contribution to the field. His achievement is extraordinary, especially considering that the greater part of this labour was conducted in an age before computers. Pursuing the hint Joyce’s brother Stanislaus gave to Richard Ellmann in a 1954 interview that Joyce had studied George Saintsbury’s A History of English Prose Rhythm (1912) as he wrote ‘Oxen’, Janusko was able to identify that over 75 of the dictional entries on the ‘Oxen’ notesheets were taken from this same volume. His 1967 doctoral thesis identified nearly 400 sources. Sources and Structures, the 1983 book of that thesis, listed almost 800. Saintsbury was only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to editions of primary material, we now know that Joyce also raided several other prose anthologies to construct his parodies, including: William Peacock’s English Prose from Mandeville to Ruskin (1903); A.F. Murison’s Selections from the Best English Authors (Beowulf to the Present Time) (1901); and Annie Barnett and Lucy Dale’s An Anthology of English Prose (1332 to 1740) (1912).

            To date just over 1000 sources have been discovered. In 2002 Downing published the first instalment of ‘a consolidated and supplemented sourcing of the stylistic entries in the “Oxen” notesheets’ for Genetic Joyce Studies, offering scrupulous annotations for the entries on the first one and a half notesheets.[14] What I have done follows on from Janusko’s and Downing’s work: collating all known sourcings, including sources I have identified myself, and locating them on the notesheets and in the text. I have tagged each fragment inspired by the notesheets visually to give a clear picture of how Joyce incorporates literary diction. This system makes it easier to see how patterns develop through the episode than tabulating entries by author, source and position in the final text.[15]


The ‘Oxen of the Sun’ Notesheets


The British Museum ‘Oxen’ notesheets consist of 6 double (that is folded) sheets.[16] When Herring transcribed these sheets he followed the sequence Litz imposed on the sequence, giving each side of the notesheet a number and resulting in 20 individual notesheets overall.[17] The notesheet numbers do not therefore indicate the sequence of composition. To date literary entries have been securely sourced on 13 of the ‘Oxen’ notesheets. The remainder (notesheets 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 17 and 18) contain candidates for literary entries, but, for the most part, contain notes pertaining to embryology, plot and character development, and detail from previous episodes. As our knowledge of the notesheets improves, doubtless new sources will emerge.

            With reference to the British Museum notesheet collection as a whole, Herring notes that ‘Clusters of ideas, phrases, or words for a particular scene appear occasionally, but generally the sequence is a random one’.[18] While the positioning of literary entries on the ‘Oxen’ notesheets may appear chaotic, it is by no means casual. Broadly speaking, Joyce grouped runs of literary entries on the ‘Oxen’ notesheets according to period, with an eye to staging the historical progression of English style. Notesheet 3 provides a clear example of how the entries on the notesheets are organized, and the rationale governing Joyce’s thinking at the notesheet stage in the chapter’s genesis. In the following transcription entries are colour-coded according to their source. The majority of the sources here collated were discovered by Janusko.[19] Retracing Janusko’s steps, I have been able to add to the number of sourcings from Peacock and Barnett and Dale. I have also identified a new source for a run of entries on this notesheet, Richard Chevenix Trench’s The Study of Words (1892), a posthumously revised edition of On the Study of Words: Lectures Addressed (Originally) to the Pupils of the Diocesan Training-School Winchester (1851). In ‘Richard Chenevix Trench and Joyce’s Historical Study of Words’, Downing suggests that ‘Joyce absorbed the idea of analyzing language as an organic medium of culture from Trench’[20] and that ‘Oxen’ subsumes lots of linguistic phenomena discussed in his four major works: On the Study of Words; On the Lessons in Proverbs; English Past and Present; and A Select Glossary. He noticed a proliferation of ‘Trench-words’ in the final text of ‘Oxen’, but had been unable to identify any ‘canvassing clusters or sequences’ on the notesheets.[21] We can now say with confidence that Joyce had access to The Study of Words as he was writing ‘Oxen’.[22] Where new sources are identified relevant bibliographical information is given in parenthesis, including quotation from the original text.



Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub, The Battle of the Books and other Satires, Everyman’s Library

           347, London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1916.          

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Barnett and Dale

Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation (Temple Scott, ed., The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift. D.D. (London 1907), vol. 11. pp.195-301)).

Raphael Holinshed (1515(?)-1573), ‘Witchcraft’, Peacock, pp. 28-30.

Richard Chevenix Trench, The Study of Words, 27th ed (New York, 1904).

Lord Berners (1467(?)-1532), ‘Insurrection of Wat Tyler’, Peacock, pp. 14-18.

Lord Berners, Barnett and Dale (Janusko, ‘Another Anthology’).

Lord Berners, Saintsbury.

Sir Thomas Elyot (1490(?)-1546), Peacock

Sir Thomas Elyot, Barnett and Dale

Sir Philip Sidney, (1554-1586), Peacock

Sir Philip Sidney, Barnett and Dale

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), Peacock

Sir Walter Raleigh, Barnett and Dale

John Florio (1553(?)-1625), Peacock

Fulk Greville (1554-1628), Barnett and Dale

Richard Hakluyt (1553(?)-1616), Peacock

Richard Hakluyt, Barnett and Dale

Saint John Fisher (1469-1535), Saintsbury

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), Peacock

Sir Thomas North (1515(?)-1601), Peacock







                put in his word                                                                     


5              Jacob & Esau struggle in womb

                Joseph’s dream

                loaves & fishes

                Doctor Diet

                -               Quiet

10            not to do so by any means

                did nothing fail                                                                      [‘did nothing fail’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]

                want the effect                                                                       [‘want the effect’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]

                for that                                                                                   [‘for that’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]

                unneth                                                                                    [‘unneth’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]

15            When he was once come about that present time                 [‘the year was once come, which of itself should

                                                                                                                help thereunto… But about that present time’, Holinshed,

              Peacock, p. 28]

witty,                                       dissembling,                          [‘witty’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28; ‘dissembling’,

Holinshed, Peacock, p. 29]

                so as there remained                                                              [‘so as there remained’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]

                soldiers which                                                                        [‘soldiers which’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 29]

                a sort of                                                                                  [‘a sort of’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]

20            other her friends                                                                    [‘other her companions’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 29]

                that… did anything abound                                                 [‘that either choler, melancholy, phlegm, or any other                      

vicious humour did anything abound’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]

                not so grievous as strange                                                    [‘not so grievous as strange’,. Holinshed, Peacock, p. 28]


                challenge to be


25            pregnant remark                                                                   

                Yea, nay, ay, yes, no,                                                              [‘Thus the fine distinction between “yea” and “yes,” “nay”

and “no,” that once existed in English, has quite

disappeared. “Yay” and “Nay”, in Wiclif’s time, and a good

deal later, were answers to questions framed in the

affirmative’, Trench, The Study of Words, p. 258]


                household word                                                                    [‘household words’, Trench, The Study of Words, p. 160]

                word changed as to pronunciation aright                            [‘changes not in the pronunciation only, but in the word

itself’, Trench, The Study of Words, p. 200; ‘aright’, p. 83, p.


30            longest wanderings                                                               [‘longest wanderings’, Trench, The Study of Words, p. 179]

                shall we through such discovery obtain                               [‘shall we through such  discoveries obtain’, Trench, The

                                                                                                                Study of Words, p. 203]

                at twain, at one                                                                      [‘tell them that “atonement” means “at-one-ment”—the

setting at one of those who were at twain before’, Trench,

                                                                                                                The Study of Words, p. 219]

                he would witness

                catch pole                                                                                [‘catchpole’, Trench, The Study of Words,  p. 78]

35            fall in with                                                                              [‘fall in with’, Trench, The Study of Words, p. 204]





                Berners, Elyot, More, Latimer        :as well as other;      of this


                because, they said…. and in the beginning, they said … where-

                  fore they maintained … and they said farther…

40            the mean people

                nor shall not do till … camlet furred with grise … to the

                  intent to be

                Such as intended to no goodness said how he said truth.

                affirming how John Ball said truth       a 2 or 3 months

45            had conscience to let him die,               right evil governed


                a 100, 200, by 20 and 30 entered               never durst tarry

                a 100 mile off, 60 m, 50 m, 40 m and 20 m off

                demanded ever for the king,      was in great doubt

50               lest

                but the king nor his council did provide no remedy

                desired him to smthg           & so little & little

                Sir… but sir…sir, now…            Now let us speak


55            3 heads in 1 hood         as it was informed me

                He saw such as… he saw them        orgulous,        doublet words

                this was scant done but         and when… whereby they

                they all cried with one voice          let

                and the best word he could have of him was

60            and then Sir John of K said to Roger Stanforth

                gested,       farther,      plentitude

                    plenary indulgence

                I promised to have gone, sith,             she is trespassed

                  out of the world

65            dishonest a woman,              a wariness of mind

                                he would make

                translators,        1st Euphuists

                that is to wit.          these lords so sitting, be.       quarrel


70            It was never other,                 the self night next before his


                Flower for his cognisance,         reserved         except

                    they judge,

                Had to the prince these words following            at least

75                way

                Showed all the whole affair.          as touching

                An ancient and sad matron          the merger to do the same[24]

                eyepleasing       dam,       shut up in sorrow,                                       [‘shut up in sorrow’, Sidney, Barnett and Dale, p. 57]

                    his cuisses

80            blaze army        without a blemish                                                       [‘blaze their Arms’, Sidney, Barnett and Dale, p. 57]

                accompagnable solitariness & civil wildness,     ; forepassed


                of his enemies embraided         parcel of our house

                natural of those rivers: supposing to be better guarded   

85            other some      ocean sea,      so over hard,      abaft.

                     by course

                real parts,      accompted him,      jealous,       barren

                neither am I so much a lover of life nor believe so little

                Chamber delights,     prevent him,     leaves to (be) do (ne)

90            the time’s haste,     the wind’s advertisement

                Cast about,     sprang their luff,       strowed,    in such sort              [‘strow’, Sidney, Barnett and Dale, p. 57]

                beclamed,     past ten of the clock,      licensed to –

                reclaimed him,       used him       scholar of my lord of –

                shorten the honour,       in the mean seasons,       as the

95                night increased

                This agreeth also with,       never so wounded as that, a-dressing

                deliverly escaped,        countervail the same,    study,


                the ?capt. certain days, who coasting …. be ….

100          it  so fortuned,        wishly,       blandishments,


                tasted storms,        terror causing roaring                                            [‘terror-causing roaring’, Florio, Peacock, p. 52]

                so seldom seen an accident,          advertised.

                the one half part,         recovered England                                          

105          were these as followeth,        shrouded their approach,

                to be wrecked of injuries            to pleasure thee,

                honourablest manner,     they feasted him for that time,

                which now he did begin                                                                       [‘which now I do begin’, North, Peacock, p. 33]

                to prove fortune once more

110          hearing, he was a marvellous glad man

                passion:        turmoiled with

                now that he was even in that taking it appeared right


                brought him

115          was pricked forward with,         insomuch as :

                malice and envy him        : presently

                bewray,      this only surname,       hurt,                                               [‘hurt’, North, Peacock, p. 33]

                suitor, take the chimney’s hearth

                to make away,       leman,       straight examen,

120          about the midst of the night         I vow

                still basted it very busily

                clean consumed         to work the feat                                  [‘to work the feat’, Holinshed, Peacock, p. 30]

                straight ways              – – – ?oracle

                delivered of his languor.

125                at all                     obvious to the generality

                to tell the voices

                jocundly,                      evil hap      a divine

                able to do any manner of thing that lay in man to do

                I heartily wish the ?brood were at an end


Centre Column Horizontal is one of many runs of literary entries in the ‘Oxen’ notesheets that group together fragments cribbed from near contemporary texts, the bulk of which can be broadly identified with what Joyce terms ‘the Elizabethan chronicle style’. Centre Column Horizontal is unique in that it contains the only run of literary notes to be tagged with the names of authors Joyce intended to canvass: ‘Berners, Elyot, More, Latimer’ (N 3.36). I say ‘intended’ because I have not been able to trace any of the entries on this sheet back to the works of Hugh Latimer (c.1485-1555).[25] The likely omission of Latimer suggests that the entries were guided as much by serendipitous browsing as careful planning. While Joyce worked through relevant anthologies author by author, he also used anthologies to suggest new directions for note-taking: for instance he consults selections from Berners in Peacock, Barnett and Dale, and Saintsbury, before turning to consider Saintsbury’s excerpts from Fisher (N 3.36-66). The dictional entries on the ‘Oxen’ notesheets are thus—to a great extent—conditioned by the tastes of turn-of-the-century prose anthologists, as well as then leading philologists such as Saintsbury and Trench.

            Left Margin Horizontal is a mixed bag. It was most likely completed after Centre Column Horizontal (as Herring notes, the ‘left margin was nearly always among the last areas to be filled in’).[26] A series of entries culled from works by Swift are integrated with several as yet unidentified notes, some gleanings from the Holinshed excerpts in Peacock, and a string of notes from The Study of Words (1892) on the theme of language change. (Many of the ‘Trench-words’ Joyce incorporated in ‘Oxen’ are used in their archaic sense.[27])      

            The majority of hitherto identified literary entries on the ‘Oxen’ notesheets are organized according to the associative and periodizing approach seen in Centre Column Horizontal, notwithstanding Joyce’s habit of transcribing material he found suggestive as it struck his fancy and wherever space allowed, as Left Margin Horizontal demonstrates. There are, however, interesting correspondences between the two columns. The Holinshed entries could be said to partake of the ‘Elizabethan chronicle style’, while the Centre Column Horizontal concludes anachronistically with further entries drawn from Swift. Further clusters of notes deriving from works by Swift have also been found on ‘Oxen’ notesheets 1, 8, 14 and 15, evidence that though Joyce made some effort to group diction by period, clusters of entries from texts by the same author or contemporary authors are widely dispersed.

            Joyce’s powers of memory were prodigious. According to Sylvia Beach he possessed ‘a memory that retained everything he had heard.’[28] As the diction Joyce selected was, for him at least, suggestive, and for the most part, grouped with entries from the same period, he would have been able to date with reasonable accuracy most of the vocabulary even if the original source eluded him. (The anthologies Joyce uses date excerpts to the author’s lifespan as opposed to the date of initial publication.) Nonetheless one is given to wonder whether Joyce would have been able to keep track of the precise origins of the 2000 or so literary entries on the ‘Oxen’ notesheets given the degree of localized chaos. Indeed Joyce’s manner of note-taking shows a grand disregard for the author as a functional principle, despite the intentions expressed in his letter to Budgen where select authors’ names stand metonymically for their styles. (Joyce canvassed many more authors than those named in the letter to Budgen.) Not only is he heavily reliant on anthologies, but few of the notes are markedly characteristic of their authors’ distinctive idioms. Indeed the notes are remarkable for the brevity and blandness of the phrases Joyce transcribed. In their raw state they look strikingly unpromising and it is extraordinary what Joyce ultimately makes of them.


The incorporation of literary sources in the final text of ‘Oxen of the Sun’


As Downing notes, ‘a considerable portion of the episode’s special diction is unaccountable from the twenty notesheets’.[29] Nonetheless the British Museum Notesheets remain a rich source of information about the writing of ‘Oxen’. Examining where literary notesheet entries are finally incorporated in ‘Oxen’ poses challenges to long established readings of the chapter whereby the episode is modelled as a series of consecutive parodies. Starting with one of the many interesting lines of enquiry invited by Notesheet 3—the fate of the Swift entries—the following discussion aims to address issues relevant to the incorporation of literary sources across ‘Oxen’.

            In James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, written under Joyce’s aegis, Stuart Gilbert comments that Dixon’s ‘bovine fantasia’ is in the manner of Swift’s discourse on bulls in A Tale of a Tub.[30] However, so far as we know, very little of the diction that Joyce sourced from Swift is actually incorporated into the passage Gilbert identifies (U 14.565-650). In fact entries securely derived from Swift are dispersed widely through the final text of ‘Oxen’:[31]


Swift in ‘Oxen’:


Janusko, Sources and Structures (1983):

U 14.505: ‘brangling fellows’ (‘brangling disputers’, N 8.24)

U 14.580: ‘Irish by name and irish by nature’ (‘nice by name &   by nature’, N 8.104)

U 14.666: ‘’Tis as cheap sitting as standing’ (‘as cheap sitting as standing’, N 8.26)

U 14.775: ‘tomorrow will be a new day’ (‘tomorrow’s a new day’, N 8.31)

U 14.995: ‘the elegant Latin poet’ (cf. ‘Horace a Roman poet’, N 8.20)

U 14.1402: ‘Doctor Diet and Doctor Quiet’ (‘Doctor Diet’, N3.8; ‘Quiet’, N 3.9)

U 14.1477: ‘If you fall don’t wait to get up’ (‘if you fall don’t wait to’, N 8.106)


Janusko, ‘Further Oxcavations’ (2002):

U 14.505: ‘a covey of wags’ (‘a covey of’, N 15.64) 

U 14.540: ‘sackpossets’ (‘sackposset’, N 15.61) 

U 14.593: ‘slapped his posteriors’ (‘slap his posteriors’, N 1.52)

U 14.640: ‘ungrate women’ (‘ungrates’, N 1.53)

U 14.771: ‘sublunary’ (‘sublunary’, N 15.60)

U 14.1433: ‘displodes’ (‘displode’, N 3.1)

U 14.1482: ‘Back fro Lapland’ (‘Laplanders’, N 3.04)

U.14.1566: ‘Ware hawks for the chap puking’ (‘hawking’, N 15.63)


Janusko, Letter to Downing (2001/2002), quoted in Downing, ‘A Transcription and Sourcing’ (2002):

U 14.594: ‘stood him friend’ (‘stood his friend’, N 1.60)



U 14.599 ‘put in his word’ (‘put in his word’, N 3.3)


Only five fragments hitherto identified as deriving from Swift appear in the designated passage. It is indicative of Joyce’s working practice that, so far as is known, no fragments appear much earlier than one might expect if following conventional readings of the chapter. Indeed, across the chapter as a whole comparatively few entries appear substantially before one might expect. Intriguingly, the majority of Swiftian diction appears after line U 14.650, with at least five entries in the final 200 lines.

            Janusko suggests that Joyce ‘was perhaps well steeped enough in Swift’s style and vocabulary to construct his parody without the benefit of notes’ and that the Swift entries Joyce used elsewhere ‘are treated as blocks of building material, without regard to source’.[32] To speak of ‘Swift’s style’ is to speak of the overall impression made by his (various) works. This is, of course, true of any author. Swift was a master of many styles, as his habit of using the pseudonyms Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M.B. Drapier suggests. A Tale of a Tub is, like ‘Oxen’, narrated through multiple parodies and so is exemplary of Swift’s style insofar as Swift is an exemplary parodist. While it may be fair to say that the subject of lines U 14.565-650 is reminiscent of A Tale of a Tub, evidence from the notesheets suggests that the passage is not a specific parody of Swift per se, but that it is composed from fragmentary echoes of multiple authors, including Richard Steele, Sir Walter Ralegh, John Earle, John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Sir Thomas Overbury and John Evelyn:


Authors in ‘Swift’:


Janusko, Sources and Structures (1983):

U 14.566: ‘was earnest to know’ (‘was earnest to know’, N 1.27, from Defoe)

U 14.572-73: ‘question with you’ (‘question with him’, N 4.10, from Bunyan)

U 14.578: ‘Come, come, says Mr Vincent, plain dealing’ (‘come, come, plain dealing’, N 1.36, from Defoe)

U 14.580: ‘Irish by name and irish by nature’ (‘nice by name &   by nature’, N 8.104, from Swift)

U 14.606: ‘cozening’ (‘cozening’, N 4.109, from Earle)

U 14.643: ‘sprang their luff’ (‘sprang their luff’, N 3.91, from Raleigh)

U 14.646: ‘recover the main of America’ (‘in the main of America’, N 15.130, from Steele)


Janusko, Murison’s Selections (1990):

U 14.567: ‘this day morning’ (‘this day morning’, N 11.85, from Shakespeare)

U 14.601: ‘spermacetic ointment’ (‘spermacetic ointment’, N.1182, from Shakespeare, ‘parmaceti’, and Murison’s accompanying note ‘Parmeceti, spermaceti, a fatty matter chiefly obtained from the head of a certain species of whale’)

U 14.644: ‘jolly’ (‘jolly’, N 11.75, from Spenser)


Janusko, Barnett and Dale (1999):

U 14.569: ‘Brood beasts’ (‘to brood (breed)’, N 4.25, from Overbury)


Janusko, Letter to Downing (2001/2002), quoted in ‘A Transcription and Sourcing’:

U 14.594: ‘stood him friend’ (‘stood his friend’, N 1.60, from Swift)


Downing, ‘A Transcription and Sourcing’ (2002):

U 14.566: ‘with his hands across’ (‘with their hands across’, N 2.30, from Evelyn)


Janusko, ‘Further Oxcavations’ (2002):

U 14.593: ‘slapped his posteriors’ (‘slap his posteriors’, N 1.52, from Swift)

U 14.640: ‘ungrate women’ (‘ungrates’, N 1.53 from Swift)


At present, lines U 14.565-650 are thinly sourced. However over 80 as yet unsourced notesheet entries have been incorporated into this passage and so, as further sourcing work is undertaken, a more complete picture of the passage is likely to emerge in the future. However, it is highly unlikely that Swift predominates, not least because the unsourced entries are spread across 11 notesheets, each of which, on the information we do have, collect diverse diction. I’d like to suggest that Janusko’s observation that Joyce treated the Swift entries as ‘blocks of building material, without regard to source’ might apply to a far larger proportion of the literary diction Joyce amassed on the notesheets than hitherto realized and that the historical pageant of English prose style on ‘Oxen’ is in fact pan-historic pastiche-work and not the series of consecutive homogenous parodies as hitherto supposed.

            The following passages, selected for the density of sourced material, seek to convey the literary texture of ‘Oxen’:[33]


(1) Bloom arrives at the maternity hospital (U 14.123-140)


And whiles they spake the door of the castle was opened and there nighed [N 7.125, SS] them a mickle noise as of many that sat there at meat. And there came against [N 7.111, SS] the place as they stood a young learningknight yclept Dixon [N 7.102, SS]. And the traveller Leopold was couth to him sithen it had happed [N 7.36, SS] that they had had ado each with other [N 7.48, SS] in the house of misericord where this learningknight lay by cause the traveller Leopold came there to be healed for he was sore wounded in his breast by a spear wherewith a horrible and dreadful dragon was smitten him [N 2.66, SS] for which he did do make [N 2.58, SS] a salve of volatile salt and chrism as much as he might suffice. And he said now that he should go in to that castle for to [N 7.97, SS] make merry with them that were there. And the traveller Leopold said that he should go otherwhither for he was a man of cautels and a subtile [N 7.99, SS]. Also the lady was of his avis [N 7.48, BD] and repreved [N 7.145, SS] the learningknight though she trowed well that the traveller had said [N 7.110, SS] thing that was false [N 7.117, BD] for his subtility. But the learningknight would not hear say nay nor do her mandement[34] ne have him in aught contrarious to his list [N 7.96, SS] and he said how it was a marvellous castle. And the traveller Leopold went into the castle for to [N 7.97, SS] rest him for a space being sore of limb [N 7.29, SS] after many marches environing [N 77.109, SS] in divers lands and sometime venery.                          


Key: John Wyclif      Sir John Mandeville      Sir Thomas Malory     Geoffrey Chaucer


Janusko, Killeen and Johnson agree that lines U 14.123-66 are written after the manner of Mandeville.[35] While a good detail of the diction composing the foregoing passage (the first paragraph of ‘Mandeville’) can be traced back to John Mandeville, other near contemporary voices intrude, pre-eminently Sir Thomas Malory. Furthermore—as is the case with Swift—entries inspired by Mandeville spill beyond expected parameters, enlivening ‘Oxen’ from line U 14.94, hitherto supposed to be ‘Anglo-Saxon’, to line U 14.180, hitherto supposed to be Malory. Genetic examination reveals such spillage to be commonplace. For instance, the passage typically identified with Malory (U 14.167-88) blends Morte D’Arthur, Mandeville, North, Wyclif and Berners. If the narrative travels by way of Mandeville and then Malory then it passes by several other authors en route.

            On the evidence available, it would seem that each paragraph of ‘Oxen’ echoes many authors, very often spanning different periods in English literary history, as the following transcription of the passage that Janusko tentatively identified as ‘Wyclif’ in his 1983 ‘Working Outline’ shows:[36]


(2) Bloom mourns Rudy and views Stephen as a son (U 14.264-276)


                But sir Leopold was passing [N 11.22, M] grave maugre[37] his word by cause [N 7.27, SS] he still had pity of the terrorcausing shrieking of shrill women in their labour and as he was minded of his good lady Marion that had borne him an only manchild which on his eleventh day on live had died and no man of art could save so dark is destiny [N 4.153, BD]. And she was wondrous stricken of heart for that evil hap [N 3.127, SS] and for his burial did him on a fair corselet of lamb’s wool, the flower of the flock, lest he might perish utterly and lie akeled (for it was then about the midst of the winter [N 3.120, SS]) and now sir Leopold that had of his body no manchild for an heir looked upon him his friend’s son [N 7.113, SS] and was shut up in sorrow [N 3.78, BD] for his forepassed happiness [N 3.81-82, BD] and as sad as he was that him failed a son of such gentle courage[38] (for all accounted him [N 3.87, BD] of real parts [N 3.87, BD]) so grieved he also in no less measure for young Stephen for that he lived riotously with those wastrels and murdered his goods with whores [N 7.114, SS]. 


                Key: John Wyclif     Sir Thomas Malory     Raphael Holinshed     Sir Thomas North     Sir Henry Wotton    Sir         Philip Sidney     Sir Walter Ralegh    Fulke Greville    Sir Thomas Elyot


Thus far, only two snippets have been securely traced to Wyclif. With the benefit of Janusko’s 1999 sourcings, we can see that the passage reverberates with fragmentary echoes of at least ten writers, spanning four centuries. Joyce could hardly have been unaware of the anachronism as the diction from this passage was drawn from at least four different notesheets, each apparently concerning different periods in literary history. (So far as is known, Notesheet 4 chiefly concerns Caroline literature, Notesheet 7 (N7.11-129) Middle English, and Notesheet 11 Elizabethan. For Notesheet 3 see above.)

            No paragraphs containing sourced notesheet entries could be described as univocal.

While Defoe is a dominant voice in lines U 14.533-545, the pastiche is peppered with other borrowings as the following short extract illustrates:


(3) Lenehan (U 14.533-544)


He was a kind of sport gentleman that went for a merryandrew [N 1.11, SS] or honest pickle [N 1.12, SS] and what belonged of women [N 1.42, SS], horseflesh or hot scandal he had it pat. To tell the truth he was mean in fortunes [N 4.147, BD] and for the most part hankered about [N 1.25, SS] the coffeehouses and low taverns with crimps [N 1.41, SS], ostlers, bookies, Paul’s men, runners, flatcaps, waistcoateers, ladies of the bagnio and other rogues of the game or with a chanceable [N 11.23, MU] catchpole or a tipstaff often at nights till broad day [N 1.41, SS] of whom he picked up between his sackpossets [N 15.61, FO] much loose gossip. He took his ordinary at a boilingcook’s [N 1.29, SS] and if he had but gotten [N 1.30, SS] into him a mess [N 1.27, SS] of broken victuals [N 1.28, SS] or a platter of tripes with a bare tester [N 1.11, SS] in his purse he could always bring himself off with his tongue [N 1.23, SS], some randy quip he had from a punk [N 1.44, SS] or whatnot that every mother’s son [N 1.15, SS] of them would burst their sides [N 1.14, SS].


                Key: Daniel Defoe     Jonathan Swift    Sir Henry Wotton    Sir Philip Sidney


However Defoe fades from prominence in the following twenty five lines, which incorporate notesheet entries from Florio, Roger Ascham, William Shakespeare, Richard Hakluyt, Oliver Goldsmith, Lawrence Sterne, Sir Richard Steele and John Evelyn, though echoes of his works intermittently appear thereafter.

            The actual distribution of notesheet material is very different from the consecutive watersheds proposed by Janusko’s ‘Working Outline’, where Defoe is billed as the ‘source’ for lines U 14.529-565 and Swift for the next 85 lines thereafter. Joyce’s liberal use of hyphens in the letter to Budgen suggests that he was thinking in terms of composite imitations at an early stage in the writing of the chapter. Joyce’s hybrid terms, such as ‘Defoe-Swift’ and ‘Pepys-Evelyn’, have been picked up by critics, but in no way do justice to the enmeshed richness of the final text of ‘Oxen’.

            Colourful miscellany is characteristic of densely sourced passages throughout the final text of ‘Oxen’, as this passage indicates:


(4) Bloom forbears (U 14.854-870)


But the word of Mr Costello was an unwelcome language for him for he nauseated the wretch that seemed to him a cropeared creature of a misshapen gibbosity [N 14.61, FO] born out of wedlock and thrust like a crookback toothed and feet first into the world [N 11.06-07, MU], which the dint of the surgeon’s pliers in his skull lent indeed a colour to, so as to put him in thought of that missing link of creation’s chain [N 13.50, SS] desiderated by the late ingenious Mr Darwin [N 13.93-94, SS]. It was now for more than the middle span of our allotted years that he had passed through the thousand vicissitudes [N 13.107, SS] of existence and, being wary of ascendancy and self [N 13.51, SS] a man of rare forecast, he had enjoined [N 13.88, SS] his heart to repress all motions of a rising choler [N 13.87, SS] and, by intercepting them [N 13.106, SS] with the readiest precaution [N 13.62, SS], foster within his breast that plentitude of sufferance which base minds [N 14.122-23, SS] jeer at, rash judgers scorn and all [N 14.122-23, SS] find tolerable and but tolerable [N 13.71, SS]. To those who [N 13.62, SS] create themselves wits [N 13.103, SS] at the cost of feminine delicacy (a habit of mind which he never did hold with [N 13.08, SS]) to them he would concede neither to bear the name nor to herit the tradition of a proper breeding: while for such that, having lost all forbearance, can lose no more [N 13.107-108, SS], there remained the sharp antidote of [N 13.95, SS] experience to cause their insolency to beat a precipitate and inglorious retreat [N 13.89, SS].


                Key: Robert South    Philip Dormer Stanhope     Sir Richard Steele     Samuel Johnson     David Hume                     Gilbert White     Charles Lamb     Sir Thomas More     Edmund Burke    


This splendidly turgid passage blends fragments from the long eighteenth century from Notesheet 13 with snippets from Sir Thomas More, Dr Johnson, and Charles Lamb. Mediating Bloom’s reflections on the late Mr Darwin through a style redolent of a previous age punctures the illusion of historical ‘progression’ with surreal effect, questioning the integrity of the pedantic evolutionary parallels between history, language, human gestation and birth.

            Comparatively little is known about the literary sources for lines U 14.941-1309, which at present incorporate under 50 securely sourced notesheet entries, although – given the information we do have, i.e. given our knowledge of the notesheets and how Joyce harvested them – it is likely that hitherto sparsely sourced passages are also of mixed derivation. These lines are perhaps the least securely identified of all the lines in ‘Oxen’ and unfortunately guides to the chapter fail to note this difficulty when they confidently list what they assume to be Joyce’s models.

            According to Janusko’s ‘Working Outline’, the forward progression of English prose styles culminates in consecutive parodies of notable Victorian prose stylists before finally degenerating into ‘Slang, etc’, which he associates, pace Mrs Purefoy’s labour and the embryological development, with the ‘afterbirth’.[39] However, evidence from the notesheets modifies this account. For instance Janusko notes that Carlyle is the model for lines U 14.1391-1439 and argues he is ‘the last clear voice before the chaos’, but the clarity of that voice is again called into question by evidence from the notesheets.[40]


(5) The medical students head to Burkes. Bloom stays and talks to Nurse Callaghan (U 14.1391-1406)


                Burkes! outflings my lord Stephen [N 20.50, MU], giving the cry, and a tag and bobtail of all them after, cockerel, jackanapes, welsher, pillsdoctor, punctual Bloom [N 20.51, MU] at heels with a universal grabbing at headgear, ashplants, bilbos, Panama hats and scabbards, Zermatt alpenstocks and what not. A dedale of lusty youth, noble every [N 20.71, SS] student there. Nurse Callan taken aback in the hallway cannot stay them nor smiling surgeon coming downstairs with news of placentation ended, a full pound if a milligramme. They hark him on [N 19.111, SS]. The door! It is open [N 19.91, SS]? Ha! They are out, tumultuously [N 19.91, SS, N 20.53, MU],[41] off for a minute’s race [N 20.64, SS], all bravely legging it [N 20.68, SS], Burke’s of Denzille and Holles their ulterior goal [N 20.54, MU]. Dixon follows giving them sharp language [N 20.52, MU] but raps out an oath, he too, and on. Bloom stays with nurse a thought to send a kind word to happy mother and nurseling up there. Doctor Diet and Doctor Quiet [N 3.8-9, SS]. Looks she too not other now? Ward of watching in Horne’s house has told its tale in that washedout pallor. Then all being gone [N 20.56, MU] a glance of motherwit [N 19.98, SS] helping, he whispers close in going: Madam, when comes the storkbird for thee?


                Key: Thomas Carlyle     Percy Bysshe Shelley     John Gibson Lockhart     William Makepeace Thackeray    Jonathan Swift     John Ruskin


So far as is now known, diction from notesheet entries traced back to Carlyle fades out somewhere around line U 14.1416, from which point onwards the scattering of hitherto identified fragments that have been traced back to the notesheets hail from William Hazlitt, John Milton, Lawrence Sterne, Jonathan Swift, Richard Hakluyt, John Gibson Lockhart, Daniel Defoe and Oliver Goldsmith. (One final fragment derived from Carlyle appears in line U 14.1570.)

            The concluding paragraphs are perhaps the most opaque in ‘Oxen’. In the letter to Budgen Joyce announced that the tailpiece would be ‘a frightful jumble of Pidgin English, nigger English, Cockney, Irish, Bowery slang and broken doggerel’, but evidence from the notesheets indicates that this jumble includes not only dialect words, but draws liberally from the archive of English literary history.

            The final synthesis of historical prose styles in ‘Oxen’ is more complex and less tightly executed than either Joyce’s letter to Budgen would indicate. Scholarship to date has accepted the fundamental premise of Joyce’s letter (and Gilbert’s subsequent commentary), that the chapter affirms the ‘apostolic succession’ of English authors, when in fact the chapter is a pastiche of many voices. The wealth of sources discovered since 1983 help to confirm the degree of local chaos that interferes with the perceived forward ‘progression’ of historical styles. Janusko’s contribution to the field cannot be underestimated, and certainly this article would not have been possible without his scrupulous annotations to the notesheet entries he has identified.  His post 1983 discoveries are unaccompanied by substantial elucidation of their importance to an understanding of ‘Oxen’ as a whole. It is nevertheless surprising how much of the detail known to Janusko in 1983 has to be ignored for the ‘Working Outline’ to work. It is therefore unfortunate that the ‘Outline’ has set the agenda for subsequent criticism of ‘Oxen’, as the foregoing discussion in Sources and Structures is more nuanced, acknowledging contributory sources in addition to identifying dominant voices.


Interpreting ‘Oxen of the Sun’


Joyce’s artful blending of source material has concealed the true range and disorder of his sourcings from critics who have been only too willing to take Joyce at his word that the ‘Oxen of the Sun’’s fantastical stampede through English prose style is successive, sequential and pedantically correct. Michael Groden has suggested that Joyce’s ‘notesheets, drafts, and revisions on the typescripts and proofs reveal a man always searching for a well-defined controlling order, but the episodes after “Oxen of the Sun” often refused to remain within that ordering design he planned for them’.[42] Genetic criticism reveals that ‘Oxen’ also refused to remain within its ordering design, at least as articulated to Budgen.

            Critics of ‘Oxen’ have been susceptible to the lure of ‘a well-defined controlling order’, and are certainly encouraged in this expectation by Gilbert’s account of the chapter, written with Joyce’s assistance and approval. Genetic criticism presents impediments to such orderly narratives. To affirm the order for ‘Oxen’ Joyce endorsed in his critical interventions, be they private or public, anticipatory or retrograde, critics must ignore the finer detail uncovered by genetic analysis. For instance in Sources and Structures Janusko observes that ‘embryological references seem to be misplaced throughout this chapter and it is doubtful whether a completely reliable nine-month progression can be constructed using only the characteristics of fetal growth as guidelines’.[43] Only by taking an ‘admittedly exclusive’ approach to the evidence available was Janusko able ‘to find in the British Museum notesheets characteristics of human embryonic growth which correspond to the proper month of the text’ and then correlate this with the literary styles in his ‘Working Outline’.[44]

            To describe ‘Oxen’ as a series of ad hominem parodies, is to diminish the complexities of Joyce’s practice. Joyce creates the semblance of period points of view through skilfully constructed pastiche. Joyce’s skill is to have woven together diverse snippets of diction into convincing, and compelling, imitations that feel redolent of particular periods or authors. Style is not simply a matter of vocabulary and many of the items noted in the notesheets traceable to books in Joyce’s library are certainly not specific to a single author’s usage or even his period. What the incorporation of the literary entries on the notesheets demonstrate is the vital importance of sentence structure to style. To discern a definite forward historical ‘progression’ in Joyce’s pastiche is to respond not only to the diction that Joyce has selected, but also his wonderfully inventive play of syntax.

            ‘Oxen’ is studded with tantalizing hints that anachronistic miscellany guides the exploitation of English prose style: Bloom’s sad reverie is introduced by the words ‘The voices blend and fuse’, suggestive of the fusion of literary voices in the episode (U 14.1078); the narrative pauses to reflect that ‘The high hall of Horne’s house had never beheld an assembly so representative and so varied nor had the old rafters of that establishment ever listened to a language so encyclopedic’ (U 14.1201-1203, my italics). The whole episode declares itself to be a ‘chaffering allincluding most farraginous chronicle’ (U 14.1412), a contradiction in terms. The term ‘chronicle’—meaning a detailed and continuous register of events in order of time; a historical record, especially one in which the facts are narrated without philosophical treatment or any attempt at literary style—imposes a structure on this most overtly styled narrative, while ‘farraginous’ concedes it to be a hotchpotch nonetheless.

            When critics declare that a paragraph is in the style of Mandeville or Malory, they do so in the belief that such a classification has interpretative value, but the profusion and fragmentation of texts in ‘Oxen’ interferes with their capacity to be suggestive. Many critics have performed excited expositions of the allusive significance of Joyce’s incorporation of literary source material. Janusko, for instance, cites Joyce’s use of ‘Of the Devil’s head in Valley Perilous’, incorporated into the ‘Mandeville’ passage, and remarks:


Like the tale of Gatholonabes, it concerns the penetration of a marvelous and dangerous place, one of the entries of hell. The corresponding section of the “Oxen” depicts Bloom entering a “castle” described in marvellous terms. On the embryological level, the zygote is here entering the womb, certainly a marvellous place.[45]


The reading is impressive for its ingenuity and the breadth of scholarship supporting it, but while snippets of texts busily evoke the linguistic and social manners of a particular period in ‘Oxen’, unless they derive from much cited quotations they can scarcely function as allusions with precise, recoverable literary referents. A consequence of the disorder and density of Joyce’s practice is the death of nuanced allusion.

            Joyce’s imitations lack literary insight and precision because this was not what he was after. He is only interested in the historical progression of English literature in so far as it serves the purposes of his own art. The diction Joyce selects is neither characteristic nor expressive of its original author and the notesheet entries were not taken in order that Joyce might express what Malory, Bunyan or Newman might have had to say about the scene in the lying-in hospital in Holles Street, but to stimulate Joyce’s talent.

            Joyce was neither preparing a literary history nor a critique of the authors integrated into his pastiche. He was creating art, his art, which was not to be constrained by chronology or significant ad hominem parody. ‘History’ is, after all, ‘the nightmare’ from which Stephen, the budding artist, is trying to awake. In his 1907 essay on ‘James Clarence Mangan’, Joyce wrote that ‘Poetry takes little account of the many of the idols of the market-place—the succession of the ages, the spirit of the age, the mission of the race’, arguing that ‘the essential effort of the poet is to liberate himself from the unpropitious influences of such idols which corrupt him from the inside and out’.[46] Weaving together diction from the sweep of literary history liberates ‘Oxen’ from false idols like ‘the succession of the ages’ and the ‘spirit of the age’, gesturing both to the past and the future, militating against a straightforward teleological progression by delaying if not derailing the forward historical movement of the episode.


The Future


Our understanding of Joyce’s writing practice in ‘Oxen’ is far from complete. Nearly 900 candidates for literary entries on the British Museum Notesheets remain unidentified and a priority will be sourcing these. Several further pages of ‘Oxen’ notes appear on manuscripts acquired by the National Library of Ireland in 2002. These will also need to be sourced. In addition to canvassing the books we know Joyce read or owned, sequential notesheet entries featuring usual diction will provide search terms to rifle the expanding archive of digitized texts available online. Locating where these entries appear in the final text will shed further light on Joyce’s working practice.

            ‘Oxen’ is one of the most richly documented episodes of Ulysses. Between the five ‘Oxen’ copybooks acquired by the National Library of Ireland in 2002 and Buffalo MSS V.A.11-12 and Buffalo MSS V.A.13-18, published in the James Joyce Archive, we now have complete records of two stages in the drafting process, as well as a wealth of material pertaining to the genesis of the text at typescript, placard and proof stages. The great labour will be to document how Joyce progressively thickened his prose with literary sources by comparing how entries from the notesheets are incorporated in successive draft stages.


[1] Fritz Senn, Joyce’s Dislocutions: Essays on Reading as Translation (Baltimore, 1984), pp. 66-7.

[2] James Joyce to Frank Budgen, 20 March 1920, Letters of James Joyce, vol. 1, ed. Stuart Gilbert (New York, 1966), pp. 139-40.

[3] Phillip Herring, James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ Notesheets in the British Museum (Charlottesville, 1972), p. 31. References to ‘Oxen’ notesheets, which are hereafter indicated by N, are by notesheet and line number.

[4] Don Gifford, Notes for Joyce: An Annotation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (New York, 1974), p. 336, fn. 1.

[5] Robert Janusko, The Sources and Structures of James Joyce’s ‘Oxen’ (Epping, 1983), pp. 79-82.

[6] Ibid., p. 58.

[7] James Joyce, Ulysses: The 1922 Text, ed. Jeri Johnson, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford, 1998), p. 905.  

[8] James Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 25 February 1920, Letters of James Joyce, vol. 1, p. 137.

[9] Terence Killeen, ‘Ulysses Unbound: A Reader’s Companion to James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (Bray, 2005), pp. 164-66.

[10] All references to the text of Ulysses are to James Joyce, Ulysses, ed. Hans Walter Gabler with Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior (New York, 1986), which is hereafter abbreviated as U and referred to by episode and line number.

[11] A. Walton Litz, The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegans Wake’ (London, 1961), p. 62.

[12] Gregory Downing, ‘Joyce’s “Oxen of the Sun” Notesheets: A Transcription and Sourcing of the Stylistic Entries

A Compilation of the Existing Transcriptions and Sourcings, Supplemented by New Sourcing Work’, Genetic Joyce Studies 2 (2002).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid. ‘Oxen’ notesheet entries are referred to by ‘Oxen’ notesheet number and line number, according to Herring’s transcription.

[15] Janusko used the 1961 edition of Ulysses in The Sources and Structures of James Joyce’s ‘Oxen’, in which line numbers are renewed on every page. The Gabler edition, in which lines are numbered consecutively, makes it easier to see how literary entries are dispersed.

[16] Herring, Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ Notesheets, p. 3.

[17] Ibid., p. 3.

[18] Ibid., p. 3.

[19] For established entries derived from Saintsbury see Janusko, Sources and Structures. For Barnett and Dale, see Janusko, ‘Another Anthology for “Oxen”: Barnett and Dale.’ James Joyce Quarterley 27.2 (1990), 257-81. For A Tale of a Tub see Janusko, ‘Further Oxcavations: Joyce’s “Oxen” Notes from Swift, Steele, Goldsmith, Landor and De Quincey’, Genetic Joyce Studies 2 (2002).

[20] Gregory Downing, ‘Richard Chenevix Trench and Joyce’s Historical Study of Words’, Joyce Studies Annual 9 (1998) p. 42.

[21] Ibid., p. 41.

[22] I intend to address the full implications of this discovery in a separate article.

[23] Herring, Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ Notesheets, pp. 173-177 (text only).

[24] Where Herring reads ‘merger’, Janusko finds ‘nurses’. See Janusko, ‘Another Anthology for “Oxen”: Barnett and Dale’, p. 275.

[25] Janusko has traced N 11.10 back to Latimer. See Robert Janusko, ‘Yet Another Anthology for the “Oxen”: Murison’s Selections’, Joyce Studies Annual 1 (1990), p.125.

[26] Herring, James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ Notesheets in the British Museum, p.78.

[27] For further discussion see Downing, ‘Richard Chevenix Trench’, especially p. 48.

[28] Sylvia Beach and James Laughlin, Shakespeare and Company, 2nd ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991), p. 71.

[29] Downing, ‘Richard Chenevix Trench’, p. 66.

[30] Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (New York, 1955), p. 304.

[31] I have only listed material that appears in ‘Oxen’. Several fragments derived from Swift, Polite Conversation: at least five appear in ‘Circe’ and one in ‘Eumaeus’. For the sake of brevity, in instances where previous critics have quoted long tranches of text to clinch their point, I have only quoted short excerpts from the text so as to give only the diction that is directly lifted from the one context to the next. I have confined myself to sourcings that I believe to be secure. In the rare instances where sourcings in Sources and Structures have been superseded by later finds, I have only given up-to-date details.

[32] Janusko, Sources and Structures, p. 68.

[33] Sourcings are credited using the following abbreviations: Janusko, Sources and Structures (SS); Janusko, ‘Another Anthology for “Oxen”: Barnett and Dale’ (BD); Janusko, ‘Further Oxcavations’ (FO), Janusko, ‘Yet Another Anthology for the “Oxen”: Murison’s Selections’ (MU).

[34]‘Mandement’ does not appear on the notesheets, but, as Janusko notes, it appears in a passage from Saintsbury’s selections from Wycliff’s Sermons that provides inspiration for 6 notesheet entries. See Sources and Structures, p. 103.

[35] See: Janusko, Sources and Structures, p.79; Johnson ed. Ulysses, p.909; Killeen, ‘Ulysses’ Unbound, p. 164.

[36] Janusko, Sources and Structures, p. 64.

[37] ‘Maugre thy head’ appears in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur (New York, 1961), p. 440, on the same page as other examples of Malorian diction that were entered onto the notesheets. See Janusko, Sources and Structures, p. 131.

[38] No notesheet entry, but as Janusko points out it closely echoes Elyot, ‘children of gentle courage’, in Barnett and Dale (p.53).

[39] Janusko, Sources and Structures, p. 81.

[40] Ibid., p. 76.

[41] Janusko also detects an echo of ‘Go out’ (N 20.48), derived from Ruskin ‘Go out, in the spring time’, as quoted in Murison’s Selections.

[42] Michael Groden, ‘Ulysses’ in Progress (Princeton, 1977), p. 52.

[43] Janusko, Sources and Structures, p. 43.

[44] Ibid., p. 45. Janusko worked from the embryological chart catalogued as British Museum Additional Manuscript 49975. Janusko’s division of the episode into nine months conforms to the divisions described by Peter Spielberg in his account of the ‘Oxen’ manuscript in James Joyce’s Manuscripts and Letters at the University of Buffalo: A Catalogue (Buffalo, 1962).

[45] Janusko, Sources and Structures, p. 61.

[46] James Joyce, ‘James Clarence Mangan (1907)’, Occasional, Critical, and Political Writing, ed. Kevin Barry and Trans. Conor Deane (Oxford, 2001), p. 135.