In the heart

In the heart

In Brief

Figure of speech: many of my notes for Aeolus will start with this heading. Joyce's chapter parodies the format of a newspaper, with all-caps headlines introducing short, punchy chunks of text. But in both of his schemas he identified its "art" as rhetoric, the ancient study of linguistic craft by which orators could catch their listeners' attention, manipulate their emotions, and persuade them to the rightness of a cause. In addition to three complete speeches exemplifying Aristotle's three types of oratory, Joyce filled his text with smaller-scale figures of speech: words and phrases ordered by recognizable patterns of artful design. Of the seemingly countless figures identified by ancient theorists, most of them bearing Greek names, probably the most familiar is metaphor, so it is fitting that Aeolus should begin with one: "IN THE HEART" of a big city.

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A metaphor (MET-uh-for or MET-uh-fuhr, from Greek meta- = beyond, over + pherein = to bear, carry) means "carrying over" the sense of one thing via another. The sense being carried is sometimes called the "tenor" (meaning what is held), and the thing holding it the "vehicle." Joyce's vehicle, "heart," suggests the commercial center of Dublin where the action of Aeolus is set. The tram hub at Nelson's pillar in the opening section, the General Post Office in the second section, the barrels of ale seen rolling out of Prince's Stores in the third, and the offices of the Freeman's Journal and the Evening Telegraph in later sections, all are on or near lower Sackville Street––the CBD, in today's parlance.

After the opening headline Joyce breathes life into his metaphor by emphasizing the throbbing hum of activity in all these places and suggesting that trams, newspapers, postal services, and beer barrels all involve types of circulation. On first hearing, though, the comparison seems old and tired, a cliché. And this too probably figured in the artist's intentions: "In the heart of the Hibernian metropolis" is exactly the kind of stale, familiar metaphor that modern men and women expect to encounter in newspaper headlines.

Stuart Gilbert was the first to comment (in James Joyce's Ulysses) on the abundance of rhetorical figures in Aeolus, no doubt alerted to them by Joyce himself. He notes the resemblance to William Shakespeare: "The thirty-two pages of this episode comprise a veritable thesaurus of rhetorical devices and might, indeed, be adopted as a text-book for students of the art of rhetoric. Professor Bain has remarked that in the course of the plays 'Shakespeare exemplifies nearly every rhetorical artifice known'" (172). In support of his claim, Gilbert appends to the end of his chapter on Aeolus a list of examples ("far from being exhaustive") of many dozens of ancient rhetorical devices in Joyce's text.

Professor Bain was right, and the reason that Shakespeare wrote in rhetorical figures is not mysterious. In his day rhetoric, one of the three arts comprising the medieval trivium, was regarded as supremely useful in the conduct of everyday life, so the humanist educators of early modern grammar schools instructed boys in the use of such figures, and adult writers like George Puttenham and John Lyly made careers out of them. Where Joyce may have learned them is less obvious, but the Jesuit ideal of a Christian eloquentia perfecta sprang from humanist roots and was taught in Jesuit schools from the 16th century to the 20th, so it seems likely that Joyce gained his introduction to rhetorical tropes in the same way that Shakespeare did—in school.

In an appendix to the second edition of Gifford's Ulysses Annotated Robert Seidman updated Gilbert's appendix, adding still more figures of speech. "The earlier manuscript drafts of Aeolus in The Little Review," he notes, "suggest that Joyce added a great number of rhetorical figures in his revisions, deliberately larding the chapter with as many devices as possible." Identifying the figures in Aeolus is a worthy task, then, but the work is by no means straightforward. Rhetorical theorists often differed from one another on the precise meaning of a term or used different ones to describe the same linguistic effect, so many of their terms overlap. Multiple and competing terms may apply to a single sentence. And a writer of Joyce's caliber wants to make his own kinds of effects, regardless of what some theorists may say. Describing the rhetorical figures in Aeolus is probably more art than science, then, but it does reveal a lot of what is happening in Joyce's prose.

My notes on rhetorical figures are longer than Gilbert's and Seidman's brief comments, but I generally follow paths laid down by those two men. Sometimes, however, I disagree with one or both, or add to their findings, or ignore claims that seem weak, and I dispense with many terms (e.g., archaism, epigram, neologism, Hibernicism, hapax legomenon) that have little to do with the rhetorical tradition. No doubt many stones will be left unturned here. In addition to the fact that there are hundreds of terms to consider, Joyce sometimes uses a device more than once. For example, in the present case Seidman does not identify "in the heart of the Hibernian metropolis" as a metaphor, but he does flag a later word, "Weathercocks," observing that "to Bloom, journalists are like the cocks that top weathervanes." Gilbert neglects "heart" but mentions "steered by an umbrella." Neither man mentions "The father of scare journalism," which is still another metaphor.

Aristotle's Rhetoric, written in Greek, is available in good English translations, as are Quintilian's twelve-volume Latin Institutes of Oratory and the earlier, anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, whose fourth book describes many figures of speech. These works were prized by humanist scholars of the early modern period and inspired English handbooks like Henry Peacham's The Garden of Eloquence and George Puttenham's The Arte of English Poesie, both published in the late 1580s just as Shakespeare was starting to write. Another important study of the English Renaissance, published in 1657, was The Mystery of Rhetoric Unveiled by John Smith, a pseudonym used by John Sergeant. Many studies of rhetoric have been published in the centuries since, and today countless websites offer lists and discussions of figures of speech. In addition to the published works mentioned above, my notes often cite two websites that I find particularly useful: Gideon Burton's Silva Rhetoricae ( and Richard Nordquist's pages on ThoughtCo. ( For sheer volume of terms, definitions, and examples, the list compiled and openly edited at is also worth looking at.

This site offers notes on many figures of speech. Some of the Greek terms below appear to have been coined by rhetoricians writing in Latin, while others already existed in Greek vocabulary. Most acquired Latin and English equivalents. To minimize confusion I avoid Latin synonyms most of the time, and English ones entirely. But I do often mention Greek synonyms and near-synonyms, as can be seen on some of the lines:

    Aporia, Latin dubitatio
    Antithesis, antitheton
    Catachresis, Latin abusio
    Chiasmus, antimetabole
    Ecphonesis, Latin exclamatio
    Epanorthosis, metanoia, Latin correctio
    Epimone, Latin perseverantia
    Epistrophe, epiphora, antistrophe
    Epizeuxis, palilogia, Latin geminatio
    Erotesis, erotema
    Exergasia, Latin expolitio
    Hyperbaton, hysteron proteron, anastrophe
    Hypotyposis, enargia
    Metaplasm (antisthecon, Latin littera pro littera)
    Metaplasm (apocope, syncope, aphaeresis)
    Metaplasm (diaeresis)
    Metaplasm (metathesis)
    Paralepsis, apophasis
    Polyptoton, paregmenon
    Synchoresis, paromologia, procatalepsis
    Tautologia, pleonasm
    Zeugma, syllepsis

Joyce uses some of these artificial devices in strikingly creative ways, but most sound so ordinary as to easily pass by unnoticed. No reader of Aeolus should expect to find Ciceronian or Shakespearean eloquence on every page. The chapter is mostly compounded of commonplace speech, jagged fragments of thought, catchy newspaper idioms, clownish wordplay, and bursts of noise. It feels less coherently shaped, more linguistically chaotic, than most chapters in Ulysses, maybe any. And yet Joyce chose to shape the language of this rough beast, to a very great degree, with tools of a sophisticated art of public speaking.

Readers who confront this paradox may have different ways of accounting for it. Did Joyce mean to suggest that even the most common and banal forms of human communication unconsciously employ rhetorical strategies of description and persuasion? Or was he self-consciously showing off his own learning and ingenuity? Did he admire speakers' ability to shape words for emotional effect, even when their artistry is tawdry? (While Dan Dawson's speech is being ridiculed Bloom thinks, "All very fine to jeer at it now in cold print but it goes down like hot cake that stuff.") Did he instead entertain suspicions like those of Plato, who viewed the original professional orators, the Sophists, as golden-tongued misleaders? (Professor MacHugh warns, "We mustn't be led away by words, by sounds of words.")

John Hunt 2023
All-caps headlines in The Irish Independent, 1 September 1913.