James Joyce’s epic novel, published in 1922, celebrates the events of one day in Dublin, June 16, 1904, in the lives of its three central characters: Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus. The book is modeled on episodes in Homer’s Odyssey, with Bloom corresponding to Odysseus, Molly to Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus to Telemachus. The Homeric analogies work not only on the level of characterization but also in the settings and occasionally even in minute details. Ulysses is among the foremost works of twentieth-century literature and represents a watershed in the history of the novel. Next to Finnegans Wake it is Joyce’s most innovative creative achievement.
Joyce began writing Ulysses in late 1914 or early 1915, although his original idea for a story with that title dates back to 1906 and was conceived as another story for Dubliners. It was to feature a Mr. Hunter, a Dubliner who had actually rescued Joyce after he had been knocked down in the street. Joyce believed Hunter to be Jewish, which suited his artistic purpose, because it set him apart from the catholic-nationalist/Anglo-Irish literary debate of the day. However, that story “never got any forrader than the title” Joyce told his brother Stanislaus in a letter of 1907. Yet the idea stayed with Joyce, and by June 1915, it had taken a radically new shape as the outline of the novel and the first completed chapter show. Through the good offices of Ezra Pound,Ulysses began to appear serially in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 through December 1920. It was also thanks to Pound that portions of Ulysses were published in Harriet Shaw Weaver’s London periodical, The Egoist.
If during the eight-year gestation of Ulysses Joyce kept revising and expanding parts, Pound and The Little Review’s editor made unauthorized deletions fearing legal problems. Even so, four issues of The Little Review were seized and burned by the United States Post Office. In February 1921, the co-editors of The Little Review were found guilty of publishing obscenity; they were fined and prohibited from issuing any further episodes of Ulysses.
Joyce had great difficulty finding a publisher and was close to giving up when Sylvia Beach offered to publish Ulysses under the imprint of her Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, in 1921. She financed the project by enlisting subscribers, and Maurice Darrantiere, a printer in Dijon, agreed to print the work as it stood. He provided Joyce with multiple galley proofs which were used for revisions and expansions almost to the day of the novel’s publication.
Ulysses is based on an elaborate framework. For the benefit of some early critics Joyce produced schemas outlining Homeric correspondences and “symbols”