James Joyce's masterpiece, published in 1922. Chosen by a bunch of literary types in 1998 as the best book of the twentieth century. Set in Dublin during the course of one day, 16th June 1904.

The 16th June is celebrated in Dublin and elsewhere as Bloomsday, after Leopold Bloom, the book's central character, rather than after Harold Bloom, an elitist literary critic who likes Joyce very much, and said so in his appalling book, The Western Canon


Alfred Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known---cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all---
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, my own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle---
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me---
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tennyson's well known short work is based upon the Inferno by Dante. It was very remarkable to hear it read out loud in part by Bruce Boxleitner in the Babylon 5 episode The Long Night. Upon his return home from the Trojan War Ulysses became restless and set about on new voyages. Tennyson's friend Arthur Hallam had just passed away when he wrote this poem and he was looking for some kind of closure, a way to move forward in his own life and to come to an understanding about his own mortality.

The line where Ulysses explains that his son, Telemachus, will "pay meet adoration to my household gods" when Ulysses departs seemed like an admonishment to me. I thought the teacher was up to some kind of trick when she assigned us to study this poem in English class and I moved away before I could really get a handle on it so it was a mystery to me. Years later now as a parent whose job is dissipating as my sons become more and more responsible, the meaning is as straightforward as it appears and really a coming of age tale. One of saying goodbye to times and friends who have passed on, finding his place in the world, and Ulysses encourages (rather than what I thought was an admonishment as a teen) as a parent, for his child to carry on and do a good job.

I have since discovered that the old Romans celebrated the Feast of Mars on March 6th honoring the household gods, Penates and Lares, who were figures of importance in the Roman ways of their religious life. Since every householder was a priest this is simply what Ulysses is telling his son that he will take over as head of the household and oversee his duties while he travels onward. Hallam is Ulysses gone off to face unknown and new horizons leaving his legacy behind for Tennyson where He works his work, I mine.

Basically James Joyce's book follows Homer's (Homerus) famous poem/book, except for several parts. For example, the Wandering Rocks is added by Joyce itself, and basically gives a birdsview/summary of the book. As you may recall, in the real Homer, Ulysses was given two choices by Circe to route: Scylla and Charibdis or the Wandering Rocks.
Every chapter also symbolizes an organ in the human body or a symbol(or more, Irish/Greek/Jewish related).
For example, the Aolus chapter (who was the god of Winds in Greek mythology) is symbolized with the Lungs.
That's not all: Every chapter is symbolized with its own colours, every chapter symbolizes the growth of 'language' (with the climax in Oxen of the Sun.
Note that the '3 books' also mark 'the Holy trinity':
Stephen (son), Bloom (father) and Molly(the 'glue'/holy spirit).

Joyce's Ulysses can be organized in the following 'books' and chapters:

Telemachiad ('the search')


The Odyssey

The Lotus eaters
The Lestrygonians
Scylla and Charybdis
The Wandering Rocks
Oxen of the Sun



/msg me for any questions or remarks
Freewheeling 1967 film of the unfilmable book.

Shot on location in Dublin by American director Joseph Strick, budget constraints meant that he could not remain true to the period in which Joyce set his novel. Therefore motorcars, buildings and garb the like of which Leopold never saw on June 16, 1904 are all frankly displayed. Even now as I write, in these heady times of strong economic development, Dublin is a relatively slow changing city, and much fun can be had by those familiar with the city observing differences and similarities between then and now. Indeed, there is something both amusing and refreshing about the complete disregard for period, dealing as we are with such a revered tome.

This, then, paradoxically becomes one of the film's successes: a feeling for this small city, its life and its atmosphere, of which the characters' chance intersections and near misses are an inevitable consequence. A great help in this is the cinematography. It has the gorgeous clarity and richness of a certain mid-sixties b/w film stock; that high-contrast black-and-white reminiscent for me of films as diverse as Before The Revolution, The Servant and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. (This whole point seems to me a litmus test for fans of the book seeking to enjoy this attempt to film it: inevitably, liberties are often taken with the source material, and so some sensibilities could regard with contempt.)

Another success is Milo O'Shea as Leopold Bloom, who skillfully reveals the unassuming cuckold's great compassion and, ultimately, his unconscious heroism. I think it is this one actor who does most to help the film adequately impart the book's great message, that eloquent plea for a pluralist, tolerant and multivocal Dublin(Ireland/Europe/world) summed up by Molly's final orgasmic affirmation.

It is just as well for Mr. Strick that there are these limited successes. There are other flaws less serendipitous than the blasé modernity. The cost of the film's brisk pace is the omission of some chapters, while others are over "faster than you can say 'Gerty MacDowell"'. There is of course a heavy reliance on voice-over that can do no more than hint at complexities in the text. Despite the attempt to wrap the tome up in 132 minutes, the pace sags at times, and certain sections of the book which would seem to lend themselves to cinematic interpretation (such as Nighttown or Bloom's taking leave of The Citizen) are, I feel, missed opportunities.

Ulysses The Film remains a useful bluffer's guide to Ulysses The Novel, but the quandary here is that to enjoy the film (which I did), a knowledge of the book seems necessary. One recalls the richness of the text as one watches. But for many people who admire the book, the film must seem, as Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary of Joyce's masterpiece, "a damp squib...a misfire."

I believe that this has the (surprisingly late) first instance of the use of the word "fuck" in a feature film, though the IMDb gives the same year's I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name as the other possible contender. Although, contrary to popular belief, the book was never officially banned in Ireland, the film certainly was - a shameful state of affairs that was not put to rights until the Irish censor passed it last September!

No attempt has been made to film Ulysses since 1967, though a new effort is in production. An interesting parlour game for those interested in both Joyce and film is to speculate as to who among the current crop could best direct such a venture. Needless to say, many think it an abominable idea in the first place. However, the Quail at The Brazen Head has the intriguing idea of filming an episode at a time! To wit: ‘"Proteus" -- Wim Wenders. I think his best work has a quiet, soul-searching aspect that is well suited for Stephen's philosophical musings. "Cyclops" -- Oliver Stone. Just wait, before you raise a cry of indignation, think about it a second. Who can better merge together a jillion different styles and perspectives, from a fierce polemic to a farcical epic? And hey -- who better to capture the Citizen's raving paranoia? Come on, you know I'm right. . . . "Oxen of the Sun" -- Peter Greenaway. I can't think of anyone even close. Greenaway 's fascination with the relationships between sex, food, and language make him the only director who can meet the challenge of this episode: as Mina Purefoy gives birth, a drunken party rages on as the narrative evolves through the history of the English language! Hell, I'm surprised he hasn't done it already! "Circe" -- Ken Russell. A master at filming surreal experiences and making the viewer feel like they are hallucinating themselves. His skillful use of music will also come in handy!’

The Mosaic Bloom: Parody As A Reflection of Personality in James Joyce's 'Ulysses'

Throughout 'Ulysses', James Joyce reflexivly parodies his own characters and situations, often by parodying the works of others. This is present from the very first episode, where Stephen's actions in the Martello Tower burlesque Hamlet's speechifying. As Joyce describes 'Ulysses' as a 'comic novel', this is hardly surprising. The parodic elements, though, are not just used for humor. Through their constant use and form in the novel, they add and expand to the internal world of the book. Most signficantly, they reflect the multiplicity of discourses that shape and mirror the conciousness of modern man. Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, and the various supporting characters reveal more of themselves through their interactions with the mockery going on around them, and that mockery introduces more layers into the text. This is aptly represented in the 'Eumeus' episode, as glossed by Stuart Gilbert:

The technic of this episode, gigantisim, at first produces the impression of a series of merely parodic effects. At intervals the narration is taken out of the mouth of the nondescript vulgarian and becomes mock-heroic, Gargantuan, pseudo-scientific, or antiquarian in style. This technic often amounts to parody, but it is parody of a special and ppropriate kind. The method here is the inflation of certain themes to bursting-point, or the projection of Cyclopean shadows of human forms on the sides of a cavern. Thus an early allusion to the apperacne of the Citizen is followed by the 'gigantic' description of him, distended to monstrous dimensions.1

The technique of the episodes fit with the schema of the book, the internal thoughts of the characters, and the external realities of their situations. Thus, in Cyclops an argument in a pub is, in some sense, clear: the the positions are clear and who is speaking is clear. Though the Citizen is unnamed, his position is firm: he is the Nationalist, inveighing against the Outsider Bloom. The grotesque parodies, while undermining his words, do not undermine his role: he may be strange as a legendary Irish hero, but he is still an Irish hero. Likewise, Bloom's vision of redemption fits with his own character: Jewish, overblown, slightly rediculous. The parody is concious of itself as parody, and the styles are easily identified. In their length, many of the parodies could be standalone articles for a satirical journal (once again fitting in with the jovial, though slightly sinister, atmosphere of the pub). All through the book characters have been made to look faintly ridculous, faintly exagerrated versions of themselves (indeed, this can be seen as a major theme of the book).

The narration is not entirely 'taken out of the mouth? of the Citizen, though-- it comes, as does the rest of the book, from his own mind and his self-image. We are witness to the boozy self-confidence and parochial nationalism that makes any beer-hall man an orator. In the process of this gigantism, though, we also see the rhetoric's source. Its like the old computer phrase: Garbage In, Garbage Out. What is being said is an exagerrated parody of the Citizen's own rhetoric which is itself informed by those discourses with inform him. He reads a passage of translated Irish myth; in his drunkness he tries to reflect it through allusion but Joyce spits it out whole for everybody to see.

In a complex narrative world we can reinforce our belief by writing scholarly analyses or fanzine articles that analyze the underlying assumptions of the world, whether they concern Irish history or matter replicators. Encyclopedic writers like James Joyce, Faulkner, Tolkien or Gene Roddenberry Creator of 'Star Trek evoke this kind of response by the encyclopedic detail and intricacy with which they present their fictional creations. Such immersive stories invite our prarticipation by offering us many things to keep track of and by rewarding our attention with a consistency of imagination.2

The parodic elements in 'Ulysses' contribute to the process of magnification/identification. The book is 'deep'-- there is more then the surface action, and 'parody', loosly defined, is part of that. Its also part of the self-reflesivity-- not only is Joyce parodying himself, but he is parodying his own characters and his own influences. This is part of what Umberto Eco describes as a 'closed universe':

In all of these cases, the system of suggestions does not go beyond the book to suggest a possible Absolute, a Verb as it was for Mallarme. The multiple suggestions are systematically linked by internal relationships. It is true that there are many exits, that the same symbol can send us back to the Trinitarian model, to the Homeric paralellel, to the technical structure of the chapters, to the minor key symbols that strategically support the frame of the book without ever interjecting a definate rule as to how to interpret it. Nevertheless, the reader is always compelled to look for his interpretation within the book. The book is a labyrinthic territory where it is possible to move in many directions and to discover an infinite series of choices; but it is at the same time a closed universe, a cosmos beyond which there is nothing.3

Let us take what Eco says as true: that everything in the book is linked to itself, to everything else, to the characters, and to the scehma as the novel of a whole. We will examine this, then, as a coherant work of linked nodes; every choice has a purpose and every choice can be decoded. What does this say for the end of the 'Cyclops' epsisode, quoted below?

You never saw the like of it in all your born puff. Gob, if he got that lottery ticket on the side of his poll he'd remember the gold cup, he would so, but begob the citizen would have been lagged for assault and battery and Joe for aiding and abetting. The jarvey saved his life by furious driving as sure as God made Moses. What? O, Jesus, he did. And he let a volley of oaths after him.

-- Did I kill him, says he, or what?

And he shouting to the bloody dog:

-- After him, Garry! After him, boy!

And the last we saw was the bloody car rounding the corner and old sheepface on it gesticulating and the bloody mongrel after it with his lugs back for all he was bloody well worth to tear him limb from limb. Hundred to five! Jesus, he took the value of it out of him, I promise you.

When, lo, there came about them all a great brightness and they beheld the chariot wherein He stood ascend to heaven. And they beheld Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Him. And there came a voice out of heaven, calling: Elijah! Elijah! And he answered with a main cry: Abba! Adonai! And they beheld Him even Him, ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness at an angle of fortyfive degrees over Donohoe's in Little Green Street like a shot off a shovel.4

To the extent that these passages are reflexsive they are reflexsive of recurring motifs in the book-- Bloom's strange religioius status as the only member of his 'Tribe' in the story-- as the representative Jew-- which leads to many Mosaic paralellels. They also, to some extent, keep seriousness at a distence-- the book is one one level, a comedy, and the parody keeps that tone. If 'Cyclops' was told naturalistically, much of the novel's qualties would be lost. We would have the simple diadicitism of a an anti-Semite harrying a Jew, a situation excerbated by various misunderstandings. Psychological depth would have to come from internal monologue or external sources.

By using parody, though, Joyce does several things simultaneously. He shows us quite graphically the discourses that inform the characters' thoughts and actions. The above scene, for instance, is (in form) like of a Biblical passage and an an Irish comedy. It exagerrates a simple action (Bloom's expulsion from Barney Kiernan's pub) to the point of absurdity, and in doing so links to the rest of the novel.

Its not just the act of exagerration and parody thats important, though: its the way its used in the episode. By being so constant and so long, each parodic scene reinforces the internal world of the characters (though within each scene there are bits that connect to the rest of the novel). To put it bluntly: these men are big talkers. They are drunk, and they're making lots of stuff up. The narrarator reflects that by taking the idea to its insane conclusion (as he does with other characters in other parts of the book).

This construction, though, is a deconstruction. The Citizen may appear big to himself, but when he is reduced to the sum of all his influences he acquires a humourous character. This humor is mitigated, though, by the many beautiful passages in the parodic sequences. Joyce shows his humanistic side here by allowing a bit of the glory of all of it to shine through. Yes, the Citizen cannot live up to his Irish heroic ideal, but he can be reflected in fragments of that ideal. Bloom, though at first unsuited to the role of Elijah, has his status as hero of the novel reconfirmed by the end of the episode. If his revolt against the Citizen is initially mocked by the narrarator it is, in a sense, vindicated-- he rides out on the chariot.

The main purpose of the parody, though, seems to make this sort of interpretation impossible. The text is slippery, and there are points where it seems obvious that Joyce is simiply having fun with language, making up strange names for tree-brides because he can. This is not to denigrate it-- language is a wonderful thing, and Joyce uses it with extrodinary suppleness. By weighing everything down with meanings, though, he may be freeing himself up for some 'meaningless', Buck Mulligenesque fun (one gets the sense that Gogarty/Mulligan would not have tolerated Joyce had he not a sense of humor). It is impossible to tell because we are acusomted to thinking of everything as having a Vicoian recursivness. The figure of the trees may be a gag based on a newspaper story Joyce read, but it may also be the Wood of Suicides from Dante's Inferno or a prefiguration of Molly Bloom's transformation into Gallus-Tellus, the Earth Goddess.

Another such transformation is explicated in the 'Eumaeus' chapter, where Bloom and Stephen, in meeting a sailor, find themselves confronted by another aspect of Odysseus, the wanderer whose voyages unknowingly underpin their day:

The redbearded sailor, who had his weather eye on the newcomers, boarded Stephen, whom he had singled out for attention in particular, squarely by asking:

-- And what might your name be?

Just in the nick of time Mr Bloom touched his companion's boot but Stephen, apparently disregarding the warm pressure, from an unexpected quarter, answered:

-- Dedalus.

The sailor stared at him heavily from a pair of drowsy baggy eyes, rather bunged up from excessive use of boose, preferably good old Hollands and water.

-- You know Simon Dedalus? he asked at length.

-- I've heard of him, Stephen said.

Mr Bloom was all at sea for a moment, seeing the others evidently eavesdropping too.

-- He's Irish, the seaman bold affirmed, staring still in much the same way and nodding. All Irish.

-- All too Irish, Stephen rejoined.5

Here, once again, we see the multiplication of personage, symbol, and point of view that allows for the encylopedic effect of the novel. Bloom is Bloom, yes, but he is mirrored in the sailor, returning home after a long absence-- and this mirroring becomes self-reflexsive. The readers, with acces to the schema, know that Bloom is Ulysses and that the sailor is yet another aspect of him. Bloom, however, does not know that. Part of the humor of the Eumaeus chapter is seeing Bloom and Stephen, because of their drunkeness, tired state, and status as characters in a book, unaware of the drama in which they play a part.

This is most accuratly represented in the scene with the Italians, where Bloom assumes they are speaking a very romantic speech while they are merely arguing about money. There is a bit of the opposite here-- none of the characters can see the whole picture.

This ties into something which Modernism tried to address: the position of man in a society without the certainties of religion and politics. Bloom and Stephen flounder, trying to position themselves in hiarchies of their own making. Part of the parodic effect is these imperfect mimicings. At the end of the 'Cyclops' episode, for example, Bloom identifies with the prophet Elijah and renames himself approrpiately. In other parts of the novel Bloom is a Mosaic figure (in the ?resembling Moses? sense, though the other meaning applies) or is transmuted into ?Henry Flower? or an anagram of his name. He is seeking some stable identity for himself.

The author/narrator mocks him in his efforts, though, by presenting Bloom with so many models (some he can grasp, such as Moses while some, like the Dantean paralellel escape him) that he is never sure who or what he is. This is accutly rendered in the 'Circe' episode, where Bloom becomes multi-gendered, multi-voiced, and multi-faceted. He is lost, utterly unstable, and in 'Eumaeus' this reaches its end. When conciousness is stripped away in the late hours of the night who were are is often revealed (or so it seems) and in this phantasmagoria semi-dream Bloom is revealed as many things. Trying to grasp his own self is like grasping Stephen's 'fourworded wavespeech'-- it can't be done. There is, simply, too much.

Works Cited: 1. Gilbert, Stuart, ?James Joyce's Ulysses?. Peregrine Books, Bristol: 1963 pg 239 2. Murray, Janet H. ?Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace?. MIT Press: 2000. pg 110-111 3 Eco, Umberto. ?The Middle Ages of James Joyce?.Hutchinson Radius: 198. pg 54 4. Joyce, James. ?Ulysses?. Text from http://www.robotwisdom.com/jaj/ulysses/cyclops2.html (unsure of edition; used this text for ease of citation) 5. ibid

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