James Joyce

Dublin, Ireland, June 16, 1904, 8:00 AM: An advertising salesman named Leopold Bloom walks to the corner butcher shop, buys a pork kidney for his breakfast, looks appreciatively at the woman walking ahead of him as he walks back home, cooks breakfast for himself and his wife, and then leaves for work.


Dublin, Ireland, June 16, 1904, 8:00 AM: In an obsolete fort on the beach south of the city, Stephen Dedalus, back in Ireland after emigrating to France at the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, prepares to leave for his part-time job of teaching and his full-time job of drinking. His two roommates have an early-morning swim, but Stephen hasn’t taken a bath in the last eight months.


And the next thing we know, we’re reliving the ancient, fundamental story of The Odyssey and the even more ancient, more fundamental history of language. About this, two quotes:


“In using the myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce [has discovered] a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” (T. S. Eliot)


“I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.” (James Joyce)


If all this sounds serious, that’s because it is. But Joyce’s work is also one of the world’s supreme comedies. It changed the way English prose is written, forever, but you’re going to have fun as you relive the change.


Course requirements

  • Attendance and participation
  • Four five-page papers, 15% each
  • Midterm, 20%
  • Final, 20%


Required texts (at the university bookstore)

  • James Joyce, Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,and Ulysses
  • Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald
  • Don Gifford, “Ulysses” Annotated