Richard Ellmann called it “the most difficult of entertaining novels and the most entertaining of difficult ones.” There are many book lovers who openly brag about not having read it, but also many amateurs in the literary field who can’t seem to put it down. It’s reputation, – that of the 20th-century modernist masterpiece which changed the face of the novel – though accurate, has frightened a lot of first-time readers off. Some believe they lack the background knowledge in order to understand it, others are intimidated by its style and length. This, unfortunately, leads to some readers never truly enjoying a book that is, above all, an incredibly fun read. Nevertheless, Ulysses is still (re)read and loved by readers everywhere and is known to be a book you either never open or never really close. This course will surely persuade you to join the second group.
If you have missed our 9-month Extensive Introduction to Ulysses, this short summer course is an opportunity to get acquainted with the novel and prepare you for the reading. During our five intensive sessions, we will look closely at the Homeric parallels evident in the text, historical and biographical notes that feature in the chapter and the numerous references to other works of art. We will also discuss plot, settings and characters in order to help you understand what is going on and avoid the feeling of being dazed and confused in 1904 Dublin. Apart from these basic ingredients, we will spend time analyzing the language and style of each chapter as well as its place and function in the book as a whole. No previous knowledge or reading of Ulysses is necessary to take this course: all you have to do is sit back and let your teacher do the hard work so that you can go home and dive into the text with confidence and pleasure.
1// MEETING STEPHEN
- A short look at James Joyce’s life and previous works;
- the publication of the first Ulysses and the subsequent (revised) editions;
- the schematic and narrative structure of Ulysses;
- Stephen Dedalus – origin story (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man);
- Stephen’s social, public and private persona: Chapters I – III.
2// MEETING MR. BLOOM
- Calypso: Leopold Bloom, The Modern Odysseus (Chapter IV);
- Lotuseaters: Faith and Mr. Flower: Bloom’s Paralysis (Chapter V);
- Hades: A Visit to the Other Wor(l)d (Chapter VI);
- Aeolus: The Rhetoric of Void (Chapter VII).
3// MEN and THE MAN
- Lestrygonians: The Gluttonous Body of Dublin (Chapter VIII);
- Scylla and Charybdis: Authorship and Shakespeare’s Ghost(s) (Chapter IX);
- Wandering Rocks: A City’s Consciousness (Chapter X);
- Sirens: Fuga per canone (Chapter XI).
4// DUBLIN MONSTERS
- Cyclops: The One Eye of Nationalism (Chapter XII);
- Nausicaa: Of Gentlemen and Masturbation (Chapter XIII);
- Oxen of the Sun: A Literary Evolution (Chapter XIV);
- Circe: Playing the Part (Chapter XV).
5// MEETING MOLLY – A RETURN TO LIFE
- Eumaeus: Who is Who? (Chapter XVI);
- Ithaca: The Catechism of Homecoming (Chapter XVII);
- Penelope: From ‘mn’ to ‘yes’ (Chapter XVIII);
- Ulysses – a look back;
- Leaving Ithaca for the Wake.
Frequently Asked Questions
What level of English do I need in order to attend?
Preferably, your English level should be above B2 in order to fully enjoy the course. This doesn’t mean you have to show us any certificates in order to enrol, simply that you feel comfortable with spoken English and have no trouble following natural speech. It is perfectly acceptable to ask your teacher to repeat or write something down if you are not sure about it. You are also encouraged to ask questions, but this is not mandatory and nobody will make you speak unless you want to!
I have never read Joyce. Can I still attend?
Of course. No previous knowledge of Joyce or his books is necessary to follow the seminar. The teacher will start ‘from scratch’ and the classes will provide you with everything you need in order to read, understand and enjoy Ulysses.
Do I have to read ‘Ulysses’ before the course?
No. If this is your first time reading the novel, it is advisable to take the course first and use the knowledge and the tools you gain there for your subsequent reading. This doesn’t mean you are forbidden from reading it beforehand.
Will I have to read the book in English?
No. Although the class will be taught in English and the teacher will be quoting from the original text, you are more than welcome to read the novel in any language you are most comfortable with, Spanish and Catalan included. The list of recommended translations in available below. Having said that, do consider getting a copy in English for reference purposes.
I want to read the book in English. Which edition should I get?
The original text was full of mistakes and typos and was continually revised, including by Joyce himself. Therefore, we have witnessed many scholarly disputes over which edition has most respect for both Joyce’s text and his own corrections. In 1984 the famous “Gabler’s edition” (Vintage) was published, with numerous alterations based on extensive research, yet it was met with a lot of controversy. Nevertheless, it is the edition that students and academics mostly refer to and is a standard in Joycean studies.
Some publishers, however, have returned to the 1961 text, such as Modern Library, Penguin and Random House, and you’re welcome to use it as well. However, don’t lose sleep over this: what is important about Ulysses is present in both editions and the many details that scholars are fighting over will not impede your reading.
If you’re a fan of audio books, we recommend Jim Norton’s beautiful reading from 2008 with Marcella Riordan, directed by Roger Marsh and available through Audible.
Do I have to read other books as well?
You don’t have to read any of the books in Suggested bibliography. In fact, given the amount of books that have been written about Ulysses, it might be a bit confusing for first-time Joyceans to deal with all that information at once. The sessions will provide you with all the info needed to follow the novel, drawing from many different sources. You are, of course, welcome to consult any of the suggested reading titles if you still find yourself hungry for Ulysses after the seminar.
Catalan: the Mallafrè translation (1981)
Spanish: you can read a detailed comparison between the Salas Subirats translation (1945), the Valverde translation (1976) and the Venegas/Tortosa translation (1999) here.
French: the Morel translation (1929) or the Aubert translation (2004). You can read about the differences and close comparisons here.
Italian: the Terrinoni translation (2012).
German: the Goyert translation (1927) or the Wollschläger translation (1975, though we recommend the republished 2004 edition).
- Attridge, Derek, ed. James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Casebook. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2004
- Benstock, Bernard. Critical Essays on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989.
- Birmingham, Kevin. The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses. London: Head of Zeus Ltd., 2014.
- Burgess, Anthony. Here Comes Everybody: An Introduction to James Joyce for the Ordinary Reader (1965); also published as Re Joyce.
- Budgen, Frank. James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, (1960).
- Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford University Press, revised edition (1983).
- Ellmann, Richard, ed. Selected Letters of James Joyce. The Viking Press (1975).
- Ellmann, Richard. Ulysses on the Liffey. New York: Oxford UP, 1972.
- Gilbert, Stuart. James Joyce’s Ulysses: A study, Faber and Faber (1930).
- Weldon, Thornton. Allusions in Ulysses: An Annotated List. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968 and 1973.