Monday, July 26, 2010

Word of the day: artificer

I woke up this morning from a dream of teaching the first three episodes of James Joyce’s Ulysses to a room of utterly unprepared English majors. Things were pretty bad. At one point I had to run from the room to bring back a student who herself had fled when a peer mocked her poor grammar. Yes, pretty bad: so bad that I never got to mention the name of Stephen Dedalus. But that was okay: I too was unprepared.

I want to say that I wouldn’t dream of attempting to teach three episodes of Ulysses in one class meeting, but of course I just did.

And now the word-of-the-day from Anu Garg’s A.Word.A.Day is artificer. That word means James Joyce. Stephen Dedalus’s friends are calling to him, spinning Greek variations on his name:

— Stephanos Dedalos! Bous Stephanoumenos! Bous Stephaneforos! —

Their banter was not new to him and now it flattered his mild proud sovereignty. Now, as never before, his strange name seemed to him a prophecy. So timeless seemed the grey warm air, so fluid and impersonal his own mood, that all ages were as one to him. A moment before the ghost of the ancient kingdom of the Danes had looked forth through the vesture of the hazewrapped city. Now, at the name of the fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
A related post
Bandbox (More words and works of literature)

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