Stephen Dedalus may seem an “absurd name” from the perspective of normal Irish experience, but from a literary perspective it is easily one of the most meaningful, over-determined signifiers ever attached to a fictive person. Mulligan is probably referring to his unheard-of family name; but both Stephen and Dedalus are “ancient Greek,” and both reflect the ancient Greek practice of using names to indicate functions or attributes.

JH 2011

Dedalus and Icarus in the workshop, after a Roman relief in the Villa Albani, Rome. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Charles Paul Landon, Daedalus and Icarus (1799), oil painting displayed in the Musee des Beaux Art et de la Dentelle, Alencon, France. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Virgil Solis, woodcut of Dedalus watching Icarus fall in Ovid: Metamorphoses (Frankfurt, 1569), held in the special collections of the University of Glasgow. Source: www.lib.gla.ac.uk.

The Cretan Labyrinth, in an Italian engraving by the school of Finiguerra. Source: www.sacred-texts.com.

Oil painting by Giulio Romano, ca. 1530, showing Pasiphae stepping into Dedalus' contraption.

Europa and Jupiter, oil painting by Noel-Nicolas Coypel, ca. 1726. Source: ancienthistory.about.com.

Roman marble relief sculpture of a bull garlanded for sacrifice, from the 1st century AD. Displayed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Source: www.vroma.org.