Fiction Genres: Focused Literature Study: Ulysses
Instructor: Ted Morrissey
Class Type: Literature
James the Great: Reading Joyce’s Ulysses
Many consider Irish writer James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses the greatest novel of the twentieth century, a modernist text that changed the course of narrative technique forever. Whether a fan or not of the sort of experimentation that Joyce pioneered, anyone who takes writing seriously would benefit from having at least a working knowledge of the book whose publication history is as dramatic as Joyce’s revolutionary narrative techniques themselves. However, the book can be daunting for even accomplished readers. It is so rich in allusions many readers become bogged down in the layered labyrinths of meaning. Therefore, we will approach the novel one section at a time, focusing mainly on plot progression and Joyce’s varied narrative techniques—only touching upon the copious allusions as needed to get some sense of their richness, without becoming overwhelmed by them. Readers who successfully navigate the dense prose discover a story that is at turns comic and touching, and fully drawn characters who are as worthy of sympathy as any in modern literature.
Note on the text: There are numerous editions of Ulysses available, and they can vary in content significantly. Joyce scholars tend to think of three main editions—the original 1922 edition, the “corrected” edition of 1960/61 (Bodley Head/Modern Library), and Gabler’s “synoptic” edition of 1984. Each has its triumphs and its flaws, but only the original edition was authorized by Joyce himself, thus many scholars consider it the most pure edition. As such, we will be reading the original 1922 text as republished by Oxford University Press, which offers abundant supplemental material for students who may be inclined to make use of it (Joyce, James. Ulysses: The 1922 Text. Ed. Jeri Johnson. Oxford UP, 2011. ISBN: 9780199535675).
Author: James Joyce, Jeri Johnson
Publication Date: 09/01/2011
Publisher: Oxford University Press