Bloomsday 100: Essays on Ulysses

Bloomsday 100: Essays on Ulysses

Bloomsday 100: Essays on Ulysses

Bloomsday 100: Essays on Ulysses


" Ulysses is always lauded as one of western culture's most important books. This collection of essays re-asserts the worth and vitality of Joyce's monumental text, not because it is challenging but because it speaks so powerfully to significant present-day issues: anti-Semitism, film, melodrama, fashion, photography, silenced women, advertising, and more."--Jennifer Fraser, author of Rite of Passage in the Narratives of Dante and Joyce

June 16, 2004, was the one hundredth anniversary of Bloomsday, the day that James Joyce's novel Ulysses takes place. To celebrate the occasion, thousands took to the streets in Dublin, following in the footsteps of protagonist Leopold Bloom. The event also was marked by the Bloomsday 100 Symposium, where world-renowned scholars discussed Joyce's seminal work. This volume contains the best, most provocative readings of Ulysses presented at the conference.

The contributors to this volume urge a close engagement with the novel. They offer readings that focus variously on the materialist, historical, and political dimensions of Ulysses. The diversity of topics covered include nineteenth-century psychology, military history, Catholic theology, the influence of early film and music hall songs on Joyce, the post- Ulysses evolution of the one-day novel, and the challenge of discussing such a complex work amongst the sea of extant criticism.


Somehow Joyce studies has become associated with excess, despite the scrupulous meanness of Dubliners, the asceticism of Portrait, and the general parsimony of Joyce’s output, the major titles of which can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The commemoration of Bloomsday bears a great deal of the responsibility for this: what other author is given the luxury of a day to celebrate the exploits of a fictional character? And perhaps Joyceans themselves, who tend to be a gregarious lot, have contributed to this perception: the phrase that Gretta bestows upon her husband—“You are a very generous person, Gabriel”—can stand as a motto for all the generous spirits in the Joycean world.

So it is with considerable relief that one finds reflected in this volume not the overabundance of the year-long public extravaganza that was Bloomsday’s centenary year, but the more lasting benefits of considered meditation on Joycean themes by some of the most thoughtful and provocative critics working on Joyce today. We find in these pages a set of fresh and engaged readings with everything from Schopenhauer to rubbish, all written in the state of heightened alertness that marks the true Joycean reader. To be brought to a standstill by a text or an object is the Joycean state par excellence: Bloom, Molly, and Stephen have all been there before us, staring at the label on a bottle of Bass, listening to a distant train, or identifying the three masts of a passing ship. John Gordon is riveted by the additional r’s in the cat’s meow in “Calypso,” reading them not as evidence of increased hunger on the part of the cat but rather as the result of an increased awareness on the part of the auditor, who is hearing the sound more precisely with each cry. David Spurr takes a line as apparently innocuous as the “archipelago of corks” amid which the throwaway bobs in “Wandering Rocks” and connects it to everything from the Aegean Sea (the original archipelago) to the missing corkscrews of “Ivy Day” and “Clay.” It is this strange ability to make something wonderful out of nothing that has led to Joyceans earning their richly deserved reputation for plenary abundance.

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