The Cybernetic Plot of Ulysses

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 11th gradeA+, November 1996

download word file, 11 pages 3.4

Downloaded 91 times

Good afternoon.

To quote the opening of Norbert Wiener's address on Cybernetics to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in March

of 1950, The word cybernetics has been taken from the Greek word kubernitiz (ky-ber-NEE-tis) meaning steersman. It has

been invented because there is not in the literature any adequate term describing the general study of communication and the

related study of control in both machines and in living beings.

In this paper, I mean by cybernetics those activities and ideas that have to do with the sending, carrying, and receiving of

information. My thesis is that there is a cybernetic plot to ULYSSES -- a constellation or meaningful pattern to the novel's

many images of people sending, carrying, and receiving -- or distorting, or losing -- signals of varying import and value. This

plot -- the plot of signals that are launched on perilous Odyssean journeys, and that reach home, if they do, only through

devious paths -- parallels and augments the novel's more central journeys, its dangers encountered, and its successful returns.

ULYSSES works rather neatly as a cybernetic allegory, in fact, not only in its represented action, but also in its history as a

text. The book itself, that is, has reached us only by a devious path around Cyclopean censors and the Scylla and Charybdis of

pirates and obtuse editors and publishers. ULYSSES both retells and re-enacts, that is, the Odyssean journey of information

that, once sent, is threatened and nearly thwarted before it is finally received.

We are talking, of course, of cybernetics avant la lettre -- before Norbert Wiener and others had coined the term. But like

Moliere's Monsieur Jourdain discovering that all along he's been speaking prose, so Leopold Bloom might delight in learning

that he is actually quite a proficient...