From Homer To Howth Head; James Joyce And The Voyage Of ‘Ulysses’


Dr Joseph Brooker, Reader in Modern Literature, Birkbeck, University of London and Director of the Centre for Contemporary Literature

20 March 2017


The following text is taken in outline from notes made at Dr Brooker’s talk by the BRLSI Convenor for Literature and Humanities, Dr Robert Blackburn, with much additional material added by him

By way of introduction, James Joyce, born in Dublin in 1882 to John and Mary Joyce, was placed at the centre of English language modernism. Virginia Woolf and Wyndham Lewis were also born in 1882, with Ezra Pound following in 1885 and TS Eliot in 1888. The last two were of course Americans who settled in Europe and made their impact there. Together, these figures were the main standard-bearers of literary modernism. Indeed, it was TS Eliot who spoke of Joyce in 1922 as the man who ‘had killed off the nineteenth century.’ The young James Joyce was educated in Dublin by the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College, then at Belvedere College, before going on to University College, Dublin. He stayed there for four years, graduating in 1902 in Modern Languages. Joyce showed acute literary perceptiveness from an early age, made translations of the plays of the German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann, and wrote a notable early essay on Ibsen’s last play, When We Dead Awaken (1899). Joyce even wrote to Ibsen about this play, at the age of nineteen. Ibsen’s plays and Ibsen’s problematic view of the artist in society remained a dominant influence on Joyce throughout his creative career.

The collection of stories, Dubliners, was written and assembled in 1904-1907, but not published until 1914 because of censorship problems. Ulysses began as one of these short stories, but was later vastly expanded into the account of an immigrant Hungarian Jew, Leopold Bloom, and his ‘Odyssey’ through Dublin and its environs on a single day, 16 June 1904. Joyce chose this date because it was the first day he walked out with Nora Barnacle, the Galway chambermaid who became the mother of his children, and his lifelong companion, though they did not legally marry until 1931.  Between completing Dubliners and beginning the long novel Ulysses, in 1914, Joyce wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, essentially a part- picture of himself as Stephen Dedalus (drawn from the mythical Daedalus, who built the labyrinth in Crete, then escaped the maze, and swept up to the heavens borne by his wings). Stephen as portrayed in A Portrait is from the outset an egoist, and lacks the qualities of good humour and affability, which led to the real, James Joyce being called ‘Sunny Jim’ in his youth. Stephen Dedalus also figures prominently in the novel Ulysses as a younger counterpart to Bloom himself, Telemachus to Bloom’s ironic Odysseus, as it were, in a quasi father-and-son relationship. A Portrait of the Artist, which explores many different stylistic modes, appeared in book form in 1916. Earlier on, Joyce had produced an unfinished draft of the work, known now as Stephen Hero. This was partly destroyed, though the third section survived, and was published only in 1944, some years after Joyce’s death.  Stephen Hero ’s accidental part - survival is very fortunate, since we can see how much more fully autobiographical it is than A Portrait, with his brother Stanislaus figuring prominently, and many references to Ibsen (as against a single one in A Portrait). A typical extract from Stephen Hero follows, showing clearly how Joyce’s education among the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College, and later at Belvedere College, had turned him against the Catholic Church and religion in general. Yet this was a man who at one stage had imagined his name in illuminated letters as: ‘The Rev. James A Joyce SJ’  It also shows the young Joyce’s endless appetite for the details and appearances of everyday city life:

‘The summer was dull and warm. Nearly every day Stephen wandered through the slums watching the sordid lives of the inhabitants. He read all the street ballads which were stuck in the dusty windows of the Liberties. He read the racing names and prices scrawled in blue pencil outside the dingy tobacco shops, the windows of which were adorned with scarlet police journals. He examined all the bookstalls which offered old directories and volumes of sermons and unheard - of treatises at the rate of a penny each or three for twopence. He often posted himself opposite one of the factories in old Dublin at two o’clock to watch the hands coming out to dinner - principally young boys and girls with colourless, expressionless faces, who seized the opportunity to be gallant in their way…These wanderings filled him with deep-seated anger and whenever he encountered a burly black-vested priest taking a stroll of pleasant inspection through these warrens of swarming and cringing believers he cursed the farce of Irish Catholicism: an island the inhabitants of which entrust their wills and minds to others that they may ensure for themselves a life of spiritual paralysis, and island in which all the power and riches are in the keeping of those whose kingdom is not of this world…’ (Stephen Hero, revised 1956 edition, pp.148-149).

Ulysses was intended as a localised Dublin story, covering 24 hours of a summer’s day in the Irish capital. Its eighteen sections were deliberately based on the succeeding sections of Homer’s Odyssey. Homer traces the great hero Odysseus from his departure from Ithaca, his home, through his various foreign adventures, many of them fantastical, to his return home to his wife Penelope; she has waited for him patiently over two decades, beset by suitors, whom she always turns away.

Penelope figures in Ulysses as Bloom’s adulterous wife Marion, or Molly. She is there at the beginning, and she is there alone, at the end, even though Bloom is in the house with her. Molly’s interior monologue, an unbroken stream of unpunctuated language and reflection, ends the novel, and is one of its most celebrated sections.  Molly, who has had many lovers and admirers, is the great ‘earth mother’, around which the itinerant Bloom, father of her mature daughter, and her very short-lived second child Rudy, has returned to come to rest. Unlike the hero Odysseus, in Book 23 of The Odyssey, Bloom does not have to make his identity clear to his wife after twenty years’ absence. He is never far from her on a day-to day basis. In Homer’s epic, Penelope is asleep upstairs, unaware of the mayhem downstairs as Odysseus slaughters all the suitors who have appeared in his absence. Odysseus resumes marital relations with Penelope, but there is no such prospect for Leopold Bloom. He and Molly have slept in the same bed, but head to toe, ever since little Rudy died.

Joyce is very well aware that Bloom is the complete opposite of Odysseus in character, being anything but bold or physically powerful. He is a quiet, conventional, unoriginal man, normal in his appetites, socially shy, and the opposite of confrontational. Although an immigrant of Hungarian origin, and also Jewish, Leopold Bloom feels himself, at the age of 38, to be as much a Dubliner as the next man, whatever others might think of him. He is the outsider who sees himself as an insider, needing urgently to belong to the city of his adoption. This is the whole point of Ulysses. The copious detail of the work, its obsession with the minutiae of daily life in Dublin, and the various perceptions of Bloom (and Stephen) at every moment, are an extended retelling of the story of Homer’s hero, form the localised perspective of a man who is anything but a hero, and could never have aspirations to being one. Yet Bloom is seen to be a good man in all essentials, shrewd in his instincts, and genuinely interested in the world about him. One Dublin character, Lenehan, even says the Bloom has ‘a touch of the artist’ about him.

Ulysses was written by Joyce in exile in Paris, Rome, Trieste and then Zürich, between 1914 and 1921; it was finally published by the American patron of writers, Sylvia Beach (1887-1962) of Shakespeare and Company in Paris, in 1922. Earlier, the English heiress Harriet Weaver (1876-1961) another great admirer of Joyce’s work from the start, had financed certain early publications, including chapters of Ulysses in The Little Review and The Egoist.  Serious notoriety began for Joyce following its publication by Beach. First edition copies were seized and burned by the New York Post Office authorities, and the Folkestone Customs authorities seized the second edition in 1923, all on the grounds of its alleged obscene content. In 1933, the U.S District Court found Ulysses not obscene, and the first English edition appeared in 1936. The first unlimited edition appeared in the USA in 1937. Joyce adopts a different literary technique for each section of Ulysses, relying on parody and allusion, but introducing ‘stream of consciousness’ - that is, internal, fragmented monologue for the first time, when other writers, such as Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Richardson, were becoming aware of its possibilities in their own work.

After Ulysses, Joyce, living in Paris with Nora and his son and daughter until his death from peritonitis in January 1941, wrote an extended Work in Progress, eventually published as Finnegans Wake. This, as Dr Brooker rightly said, ‘took his writing outside the English language altogether.’ It is in fact written in English, but alludes constantly and parenthetically to several other languages, mainly Italian, French and German, as well as Latin, punning in several of them, often simultaneously. One critic (JIM Stewart) said that it is not a readable book, and is ‘in the main a closed book even to most persons of substantial literary cultivation’. When it was finally published in 1939, it was, unsurprisingly, met with bafflement and incomprehension. Joyce knew very well that this would happen, though that never deterred him during its long, slow gestation.

In one way, Finnegans Wake is a natural follow-up to the experimentation of Ulysses, though on a still greater scale. The central character, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE or Here Comes Everybody, or Haveth Childers Everywhere) is a Dublin publican, whose hostelry is at Chapelizod, outside the city, and also the home of Mr Duffy in ‘A Painful Case’ (from Dubliners). HCE is presented through his nocturnal dream sequences, the workings of his unconscious mind. HCE’s wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle, embodies the female stream and pulse of life, through Dublin’s River Liffey, hence the ‘Livia ‘ in her name. As Sydney Bolt pointed out in his Preface to James Joyce (1981), the motto of the city of Dublin is ‘Obedientia civium urbis felicitas (The obedience of the citizens constitutes the happiness of the city), a motto which turns up repeatedly in various transformations in Finnegans Wake. Also in Finnegans Wake Joyce points out that both U and I are present in the city’s name.

Together HCE and Anna are Adam and Eve, universal and archetypal man and woman. Their twin sons Shem and Shaun (Shem the Penman, a Bohemian artist, and Shaun the Post, a successful man of the world) and their daughter Isabel inevitably feature. Isabel is Joyce’s way of writing about his real life daughter Lucia (1907-1982), who was diagnosed as schizophrenic, at a time when very little was known about this condition. Lucia was a professional dancer, and never fully recovered from her love for Samuel Beckett, which was not fully reciprocated. She was placed into a care home in Northampton in 1936, though she did recover partly towards the end of her life. Joyce and the young Lucia were very close, and Joyce’s intense feelings of guilt about her circumstances, never really assuaged, emerged in Finnegans Wake, and were spotted and commented on as a hidden main theme (correctly) by at least one reviewer (Edmund Wilson, no less) when the book was finally published in 1939. Joyce was always a strong family man, at all stages of his life, and his later work reflects this simple fact.


At one point, Joyce puns and parodies part of the Lord’s Prayer in a profane tribute to the River Liffey: ‘haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven.’ Few readers have ever managed to complete Finnegans Wake without a mighty struggle, and most never get there. The level of inventiveness is staggering, but always runs the risk of being wearing in the extreme. Yet the book is really a disguised autobiography, as has always been recognised.  It is a confession, similar to those of St Augustine and J-J Rousseau, in which to quote Matthew Hodgart, writing in 1978, ‘ the author accuses himself of various crimes or shortcomings - in Joyce’s case mainly sexual malpractices, which are more probably fantasised than real.’ Anthony Burgess produced a valuable A Shorter Finnegans Wake in 1986, a selection of important passages linked by Burgess’s commentary and explanations. Among Burgess’s many interests was linguistics (see his still remarkable and wittily profound Language made Plain) and his Shorter Finnegans Wake is strongly recommended as an introduction to the daunting full text.

Joyce wrote two volumes of poetry (Chamber Music, 1907, and Pomes Penyeach, 1927), a play (Exiles, from 1918) and also lectures, essays and reviews, especially in his earlier career. He lived in Paris continuously after 1920, but in one sense never left Dublin: the city of his birth permeated all his work, and indeed was his work. Joyce lived through the age of militant Irish nationalism; the great rebellion of 1916 in Dublin, and the premature proclamation of the Republic, took place while Joyce was in exile. His great political hero was Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891). Parnell’s sense of aloofness, his intelligence and aura of mystery appealed strongly to Joyce; after all, these were among his own personal characteristics. WB Yeats (1865-1939), the greatest Irish poet of his time, said that: ‘the modern literature of Ireland began when Parnell fell from power in 1891. A disillusioned and embittered Ireland turned from parliamentary politics.’ The loss of Parnell reverberated for a great many years, and is demonstrated by Joyce with dry irony in ‘Ivy Day in the Committee Room’, one of the stories in Dubliners, when the characters, realising the emptiness of their lives, all look back in yearning to their long-deceased hero, and celebrate him in song.

In 1922, the south of Ireland at last won a measure of independence, and became the Irish Free State. Literary modernism is forever associated with the year 1922, when both Ulysses and Eliot’s The Waste Land were both published. Dr Brooker identified three factors in looking at and assessing Joyce’s work as a whole.  They were:

1.     A fascination with history and politics. Joyce was a formalist, who loved the sound of words.

2.     Joyce was also a realist writer, obsessed with facts, and also a ‘fantastical’ writer, as shown famously in the long Circe section of Ulysses, cast in dramatic form in a Dublin brothel in the very late evening, around midnight.

3.     Joyce was interested in the workings of the modern mind, and in the minutiae of living in a contemporary metropolis.  He relished and loved the details of modern urban life, however small.

Dubliners consists of fifteen stories, and was described by Joyce as ‘a chapter of the moral history of my country’ (letter of Joyce in 1906). Dublin, he said, seemed to him the centre of paralysis. He wrote these stories in ‘a style of scrupulous meanness,’ his own description. The sequence follows the order of childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life. New movements of the time, socialism, feminism, and vegetarianism, are explicitly referred to. Each of the stories conveys a value-laden message of some kind, invariably reflecting what Joyce sees as the instability of Dubliners of all kinds, male and female, young and old, and their failure to act firmly and decisively, even in their own best interests. Drinking and talking are the main pastimes of male Dubliners, at any rate. Colm Toibin has pointed out that most of the pubs in which the characters in Dubliners drank are still there in 2017, more than a century later - O’Neill’s in Suffolk Street, Davy Byrne’s in Duke Street, The Oval in Middle Abbey Street, Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street and Kehoe’s in South Anne Street, where, says Toibin, the commercial traveller Mr Kernan (at the beginning of the story ‘Grace’) fell down, injuring himself, and the men’s lavatory is still at the bottom of a steep flight of stone steps. Toibin, who lived in Dublin himself in a damp room in Upper Hatch Street in the mid- 1970s, and knew what grubby, straitened conditions could be like, observes: ‘That idea of shabby solitary and secretive live - men moving alone, their lives half fuelled by alcohol, men trapped in their work, living in a mean boarding house, or in bare rooms, men with some education but scant hope - made its way into the core of the stories at the centre of Dubliners.’

The story ‘Eveline’, shows a young Dublin woman who is courted by Frank, a sailor, and though she cares for him, finds that she is unable to follow him on the boat to America, seized by fear of the unknow - a perfect example of Dublin paralysis affecting a very young adult, in the final analysis unwilling to step outside her small, circumscribed world. In the first person story ‘Araby’, we never learn the name of the very young narrator, who is smitten with a precocious passion for ‘Mangan’s sister’, the girl next door, older than he is himself. The boy is thwarted in his plan to visit the local ‘fair’ in Dublin, because his uncle forgets about it. Worse still, the boy’s chagrin is doubled because he is unable to bring back the gift from the fair which he had promised Mangan’s sister, in one of their very few actual conversations. She is almost certainly unaware of the extent of his daily adoration. Clearly, this young boy will recover from this traumatic disappointment, but the memory of it will linger on for many years to come. In ‘Two Gallants’, there is an endless circulation by two young unemployed and penniless men, Corless and Lenehan, street by street, bar by bar, of the city of Dublin, demonstrating the ‘cyclicality’ which is also a main feature of Finnegans Wake. There is a reference to ‘strangers’, a code word for Englishmen or Britishers, in the nationalist language of the time. The drift of this story is that of young men in search of willing young women, usually ‘slaveys’ or domestic servants, some of whom who are content to be street-walkers in their spare time, and to extract small sums of money from them. Thus they are the very opposite of ‘gallants’, and show cunning and insincere youthful manhood in Dublin at its worst.

One of the masterpieces of Dubliners is ‘A Painful Case’, told in a very objective and searching third person about the routine-driven and socially isolated Mr Duffy and his friendship with a married woman, Mrs Sinico, who is profoundly lonely because of her husband’s long, regular absences. Mr Duffy is named James in the first line, but his Christian name never reappears. Duffy, who lives alone in Chapelizod, and has a regular office job in the centre of Dublin, is a creature of habit, isolated from choice. Utterly inert and conventional in his attitudes, he is incapable of the emotional engagement Mrs Sinico clearly yearns for, and after an unwise but entirely understandable move on her part, ends their regular meetings. These had consisted entirely of evening walks and conversations about books and the world in general, which had come to mean everything to her. Four years on, he reads by chance in an evening newspaper of her accidental death, probably suicide, in front of a slow-moving local train.

Stricken with guilt, Mr Duffy recall his time with Mrs Sinico, knowing well that he cannot bring her back, and attempting some form of self-justification for his behaviour, amidst his growing understanding of the woman’s desperate loneliness, something he was well aware of at the time, but chose not to acknowledge. ‘The night was cold and gloomy’, observes the narrator,  ‘He entered the park by the first gate, and walked along under the gaunt trees. He walked through the bleak alleys where they had walked four years before. She seemed to be near him in the darkness. At moments, he seemed to feel her voice touch his ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen. Why had he withheld life from her? Why had he sentenced her to death? He felt his moral nature falling to pieces.’

Mr Duffy looks down the hillside and sees human figures, male and female, lying together in the shadow of the wall. They fill him with despair. ‘He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt he had been outcast from life’s feast.  One human being has seemed to love him, and he had denied her life and happiness: he had sentenced her to ignominy, a death of shame. He knew that the prostrate creatures down by the wall were watching him and wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcast from life’s feast.’

‘The Dead’ is the final story of Dubliners, and one of the greatest English-language short stories. There is not just one narrator, but several. Following a family gathering in Dublin, a big singing party at the Misses Morkan featuring a tenor, Bartell d’Arcy, the complacent Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta find themselves at odds. Gretta is suddenly overwhelmed by the memory of a young and mortally ill man, Michael Furey, in Galway long ago, a man, little more than a boy, who had declared his love for her, but was to be unfulfilled in his hopes. He died of cold, and Gretta cannot forget the circumstances, or forgive herself for not responding or showing more understanding at the time. As she speaks about this episode, her husband Gabriel realises he is completely out of his emotional depth. This whole episode derives from something Joyce’s wife Nora told him, that a boy in Galway had ‘died of love for her’; Joyce was deeply shocked, and wove this true event into his story, though he is not (as many have observed) identical with Gabriel Conroy.

Gabriel, lying next to Gretta in bed in Dublin after the party at the Misses Morkan, suddenly visualises the dead Michael Furey, and sees the young man standing under a dripping tree. ‘Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world in which these dead had at one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.’ As snow falls in Dublin, and indeed all over Ireland, Gabriel knows he is about to set out on his journey westward. Snow permeates the final paragraph of ‘The Dead,’ especially around Michael Furey’s grave in the lonely Galway churchyard. Gabriel’s soul ‘swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe, and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.’

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was first published serially in 1915, by The Egoist Ltd. Joyce had destroyed most of Stephen Hero on finishing Dubliners; he intended A Portrait to be a rather different, more self-conscious and polished piece of work, as indeed it became. Joyce creates a picture of the life of young Stephen Dedalus, from infancy into childhood, adolescence and young manhood, autobiographical in respect of one part of his own personality (his egotism) though by no means all of it. So, to a great extent, was D.H.Lawrence’s almost contemporary novel Sons and Lovers. A Portrait is probably, with Dubliners, Joyce’s most-read book. It anticipates so many of the references and topics of Ulysses, including the eventual presence of Stephen Dedalus in the longer work, and the obsession with literature itself, as well as the physical world. Bullying and corporal punishment at school, and in particular the intense Jesuitical pressure on impressionable boys of the threat of hell fire and the presence of sin in Father Arnall’s famous sermons) all played their part.  Early sexual precocity, in which Stephen visits a prostitute, leads on to Stephen’s student days and his wider intellectual awakening, his life as ‘poet, patriot and unbeliever’, who has to leave Ireland ‘to forge on the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race’, a reference to the young Siegfried in Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, and Siegfried’s forging of the sword Nothung (Needful) from broken fragments. A Portrait deals throughout with Stephen’s emerging and by no means always likeable personality, and is preoccupied by the idea of the artist in the world - whether to become one or not. Joyce asserts famously that ‘the artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.’

It is the first novel in which one senses the distance between the narrator and ‘the other’, in terms of language, as Stephen observes, talking to his Dean of Studies, an English convert (p189):

His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech. I have not made or accepted its words. My voice holds them at bay. My soul frets in the shadow of his language.

Stephen’s intellectual self confidence, even arrogance, permits him to quote St Thomas Aquinas to the Dean of Studies twice; the first time with the words ‘Pulcra sunt quae visa placent’ (Those things are beautiful which it pleases us to look at) and then ‘Bonum est in quod tendit appetitus’  (whatever the appetite leads us towards is good) both of which are both profound, and are also truisms suiting Joyce’s temperament and outlook. He reflects on the three qualities needed for beauty which he has taken from Aquinas: integritas (wholeness) consonantia (harmony) and claritas (radiance). He then says to the Dean: ‘Insofar as it satisfies the animal craving for warmth, fire is a good. In hell, however, it is an evil.’ The precocious Stephen observes to himself that ‘the language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale, master, on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit…’

That observant critic Hugh Kenner, writing in 1983, glosses these as follows:

Home - An Englishman’s was his castle, an Irishman’s the shelter from which he might momentarily be evicted.

Christ - When he cuts his thumb on a bottle, an Irishman does not cry ‘Chroist!’ but ‘Jaysus!’

Ale - Metonymy for wholesome English custom, scattered throughout the language as in bridal (bride-ale); but in Ireland they prefer a porter allegedly discovered in the 18th century by a man named Guinness, who had burned the hops by mistake.

Master - In England your teacher, your Saviour, in Ireland the owner of a pack of hounds, or the racker of a pack of tenants. (Kenner, Hugh: A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers, 1983, p71)

Stephen’s acute sensitivity to atmosphere appears in an earlier passage (p59):

‘The air was soft and grey and mild and evening was coming. There was the smell of evening in the air, the smell of the fields in the country where they digged up turnips to peel and eat them when they went out for a walk to Major Barton’s, the smell there was in the little wood beyond the pavilion where the gallnuts were.’

The stylised language in another passage (p65) is very evident, under the spell of the girl Mercedes in The Count of Monte Cristo. The object of Stephen’s love here, in real life, is the Dublin girl Emma Clery. As was shown in many of the stories in Dubliners, but especially in the final part of ‘A Painful Case’, Joyce was unafraid of repetition in A Portrait when this was needed for expressive purposes:

‘They would meet quietly as if they had known each other and had made their tryst, perhaps at one of the gates or in some more secret place. They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured. He would fade into something impalpable under her eyes and then in a moment he would be transfigured. Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him in that magic moment.’

In another passage (p90) there is more repetition, this time of the phrase ‘monstrous reveries’ then ‘monstrous images’ in successive sentences.



1.     TELEMACHUS: Narrative of three young men in the early morning light at the Martello Tower on the shoreline at Sandycove, south of Dublin

NESTOR: Stephen Dedalus as a history teacher in a school, Summerfield in Dalkey, south of Dublin

PROTEUS:  Stephen on the beach at Sandymount; interior monologue

2.     CALYPSO:  Leopold Bloom, a not very successful advertising canvasser, at home in 7 Eccles Street, near the centre of Dublin, making breakfast, for himself and for his wife Molly, who is still in bed upstairs. The routine start to the day.

THE LOTUS EATERS: Bloom, an advertising canvasser, goes on his first assignment of the day, to Westland Row Post Office. Evocation of the five senses of sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell. Scene moves to Sweny’s shop in Lincoln Place.

HADES: Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam, a well-known figure among his associates, at Glasnevin Cemetery, but someone Bloom himself hardly knew. The social aspect of death and burial. Starts at Dignam’s house, in Sandymount, before moving to Glasnevin Cemetery.

AEOLUS: Bloom is at the office of the Freeman’s Journal and National Press, then in the printing works, then the Evening Telegraph office.

THE LESTRYGONIANS: Begins at Graham Lemon’s sweetshop in O’Connell Street  (the heart of the city). Bloom has a sandwich and a glass of burgundy at Davy Byrne’s pub, 21 Duke Street.

SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS: Discussions in the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, centred mainly on Shakespeare. Hamlet is the principal topic, its various possible meanings set out - Stephen Dedalus linked his argument about Hamlet to the father/son relationship, more about him than Shakespeare. Stephen insists that in Shakespeare’s plays, aspects of the playwright’s personal and family life are everywhere to be found.  Bloom wanders through, but does not encounter Stephen properly yet. Aristotle and Plato respectively become Scylla and Charybdis. Speaking to his Zürich friend Frank Budgen at the time, Joyce said: ‘The brain is the organ presiding over Scylla and Charybdis. The Aristotelian and Platonic philosophies are the monsters that lie in wait in the narrows for the thinker.’

THE WANDERING ROCKS:  The whole of Dublin is constantly on the move; Joyce represents time and space. The Jesuit house in Gardiner Street; Father Conmee. Journey to Malahide Road, to the north of Dublin.  Then the journey to the Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park. The Viceroy’s cavalcade goes to the RDS showground at Ballsbridge.

THE SIRENS:  Music is presented as the central art-form---tempo, rhythm, volume, orchestral colour. Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy, barmaids and singers at the Ormond Hotel on Ormond Quay. Evocation of sounds; this section is cast in the texture of a fugue.

THE CYCLOPS: a satire on national (Irish) violence against the British Empire /English suzerainty. The one-eyed Cyclops-Citizen stands for all that is worst in Ireland. Bloom listens reluctantly to this man’s loud, aggressive rant in Barney Kiernan’s pub in Little Britain Street. But Bloom fails to buy a round of drinks, and is verbally attacked by the regulars, at which point the Citizen hurls a Jacob’s biscuit tin at him.

NAUSICAA: Bloom rests on Sandymount Strand, where Stephen had been in the earlier Proteus. Sees Gerty Macdowell, a young woman, in the distance, and fantasises sexually about her. Gerty is thinking about romance, and notices this much older man  (unidentified by her, but known to the reader as Bloom) gazing at her across the beach as dusk falls. Her mind is full of the language of the trite magazines she reads.  Eventually she rises to leave, and Bloom sees and realises for the first time that Gerty is lame.

OXEN OF THE SUN:  The National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street. This is the crucial section in which Bloom (38) and Stephen (22) at last meet one another properly.  The difficult birth of Mrs Purefoy’s baby.  Ribald and unprofessional comments among the medical students. Written in different English ‘period’ literary styles (unlabelled and unannounced, of course), in chronological order, to reflect the process of gestation in the womb. An elaborate parody.

CIRCE: Stephen Dedalus , Lynch and Bloom in the brothel quarter of Dublin, Bella Cohen’s establishment at 82, Lower Tyrone Street ( Railway Street).   Nighttown.  Very late evening, across midnight. A long section, unique in Ulysses in being cast in dramatic form. Bloom’s vision of himself as an abject cuckold; Stephen has a vision of his dead mother, returned from the grave to implore him to pray for her soul. Bloom has a vision of little Rudy as he might have turned out had he lived, ‘learned, cultivated, sensitive, refined’. Many of Joyce’s sexual and personal obsessions rise to the surface. A spectacular culmination to Part Two. Circe is widely regarded as one of the high spots of Ulysses.

3.     EUMAEUS: Narrative of old men - the hour after midnight. General exhaustion.  Centred on the cabman’s shelter in the city centre, at Butt Bridge. The whole section written quite deliberately in clichés, brilliantly strung together as if there were no other ways of using language. Very tedious indeed, or brilliantly done, depending on the reader’s point of view.

ITHACA:  A Catechism. Stephen as Christ and Bloom as Everyman. The two men move gradually from the cabman’s shelter to Bloom’s house, Number 7 Eccles Street, in the small hours of the morning of 17 June 1904. Very dry, and seemingly detached. The Father-Son relationship (Odysseus-Telemachus) runs through it all - a reminder that the son Bloom and Molly had once had, Rudy, died long ago, only eleven days old, effectively ending their marriage as an intimate, sexual relationship. They also have an older daughter, their first child. She is Milly (Millicent), who lives at Mullingar. Though she does not appear in the story, Milly is already well on the way to being as promiscuous as her mother.

PENELOPE: Molly Bloom’s long soliloquy, in one unbroken sentence, with no breaks or pauses, meditating on her womanhood, her life in general, her loss of her son Rudy, her continuing affair with the actor Blazes Boylan, who has visited her bed by arrangement that same day: Bloom, a cuckold, was fully aware of this. Bloom asks for breakfast in bed for himself, to her surprise. Though appreciating Boylan’s visits, Molly is aware of his coarseness and unreliability, and is intrigued by the possibility of Stephen coming to live at 7 Eccles Street. She recalls her experience of being courted by the younger Leopold Bloom on Howth Head, to the north of Dublin (’As well him as another she thought at the time), ending with the word ‘Yes,’ repeated many times, to signify her agreement and surrender. Despite Molly’s promiscuity, Bloom remains her legal husband, and she has no intention of changing that. Carl Gustav Jung said that he learned much about female psychology through reading the Penelope section of Ulysses.

As if all this were not enough, Joyce wove into the texture of Ulysses a range of other elements, which were partly conscious, and partly subconscious, and were described to his friend Carlo Linati in 1920. Later, in his pioneering book of 1930, Stuart Gilbert refined these, and created his own list. By no means all critics of Joyce have applauded these, and some have been distinctly hostile. But for obsessive hunters of detail, they have been irresistible. Each book-chapter, or section had an hour, a colour, personalia, a technic, a science or art, a sense or meaning, a bodily organ, and a symbol. Examples are given here from Linati and Gilbert. The complete list can be found in The Oxford Ulysses, ed. Jeri Johnson, pp736-739.

Two examples from Linati:

Nestor 9-10 / Brown/ Nestor, Telemachus, Pisistratus, Helen/ Dialogue for a narration ; soliloquy/ History/ The Wisdom of the Ancients/ no organ/ Ulster, Woman, practical sense.

Lestrygonians 1-2 / Blood red/ Antiphates, the seductive daughter, Ulysses / peristaltic prose/ architecture/ despondency / oesophagus / bloody sacrifice, food, shame.

Two examples from Gilbert:

Aeolus Scene: The Newpaper / Hour: 12 noon / Organ: Lungs / Art: Rhetoric / Colour: red / Symbol: Editor / Technic: Enthymemic (argument based on probable premises) / Correspondences: Aeolus, Crawford, incest, journalism, floating island, press.

Nausicaa Scene: The Rocks / Hour: 8pm / Organ: Eye, nose / Art: Painting / Colour: grey, blue / Symbol: Virgin / Technic: tumescence, detumescence / Correspondences: Nausicaa, nymph, Phaecia, Star of the Sea.


Joyce and Frank Budgen met by chance in Zürich in 1918, and struck up a most unusual and lasting friendship.  Budgen, an artist who had also been a sailor, was an exceptionally empathetic man (he made friends with people of all ages) and unlike Joyce was self-taught.  Joyce found that he needed a private audience for his work on Ulysses, and Budgen, a consummate listener, turned out to be the ideal person. Clive Hart, who befriended Budgen in London in the 1960s, tells how Frank Budgen had been an active socialist and soapbox orator in his early years, and had worked at a variety of jobs. In all this, says Hart, ‘he was, of course, Joyce’s opposite. Joyce, too, savoured the physical world, but he did so at something of a remove. Sinewy, but hardly tough, Joyce liked to have things done for him rather than to do them himself. Budgen was very much ‘the other’. A man self-taught since the age of twelve provides a sharp contrast to a Jesuit trained artist with a university degree. Temperamentally, too, there were great differences: Joyce disliked water, dogs, lightning; Budgen had been a sailor, loved and had a natural affinity for animals, was awed but not at all frightened by spectacular natural phenomena.’  The eventual result of their numerous long conversations appeared in 1934 under the title James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses.  It has a special, if not totally unique place in the annals of literary criticism. To give its flavour, I quote here from p106-107:

‘Joyce’s first question when I had read a completed episode or when he had read out a passage of an uncompleted one was always ‘How does Bloom strike you?’… ‘Technical considerations, problems of Homeric correspondence, the chemistry of the human body, were secondary matters. If Bloom was first, it was not that the others were unimportant, but that, seen from the outside, they were not a problem.’… ‘At about the time of the publication of the Lestrygonians episode, Joyce said to Budgen: ‘I have just got a letter asking me why I don’t give Bloom a rest. The writer of it wants more Stephen. But Stephen no longer interests me to the same extent. He has a shape that can’t be changed.’  (Later) Joyce said to Budgen that ‘there’s only one kind of critic I do resent - the kind that affects to believe that I am writing with my tongue in my cheek…’  ‘Bloom (says Budgen) should grow upon the reader throughout the day. His reactions to things displayed in his unbroken thoughts should not be brilliant but singular, organic, Bloomesque. Joyce delighted in many of the natural, quick sayings of his Greek friends in Zürich, but all were too imaginative for his Dublin Jew. Typical of Bloom’s character is the thought that occurs to him as he looks at the cat in the kitchen in Eccles Street. He first supposes that to her he looks like a tower, but corrects himself. ‘Height of a tower? No, she can jump me.’

Structured on musical principles, Ulysses has been rightly described a ‘a great comic novel’. Joyce saw it as ‘ an epic of two races - the Jews and the Irish’. Four passages from Ulysses illustrate Joyce’s sensuality and imaginative use of fragmented language. None of these passages is, or should be, problematic for the reader.

-       Clean to use: the gloss of her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes.

-       They lay, were read quickly and quickly slid, disc-by-disc, into the till

-       The ferreteyed porkbutcher folded the sausages he had snipped off with blotchy fingers, sausagepink

-       Perfume of embraces all him assailed. With hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore (in this last passage, Bloom is gazing mutely into the window of a ladies’ lingerie shop)

Episode 11 of Ulysses is SIRENS. The central theme (art) here is music, as it is in The Odyssey, where the Sirens charm the sailors with their voices towards the rocks on which they founder. There it is literal, but in Joyce it is metaphorical, erotic or political. The scene is the Ormond Hotel bar, the young women Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy, singing ballads. Joyce was a (lyric) tenor, his voice described by Ellmann as ‘sweet and mellifluous’, but not at all powerful. He took singing lessons, and even for a time, around 1904, considered a singing career. As Ellmann says (p. 152 of his Joyce biography) ‘ the tedious discipline did not suit him, and to be a second John McCormack was not as attractive as to be a first Joyce.’

In Sirens, words become like musical notes or motifs, to be repeated and used in various combinations. Phrases of language become like musical phrases. Words such as ‘bronze by gold’ create a rhythm of recurrence throughout Sirens. As in some symphonies ( or operas) characters become associated with sounds, and are given their own motifs, which resound at their appearance. The opening of Sirens:

‘Bronze by gold heard the hoofirons, steadyringing. Imperthnthn. Thnthnthn.’

Narrative discourse begins: ‘She poured in a teacup tea, then back in the teapot tea.’


‘…bronzegold , gold bronze, shrill deep, to laughter after laughter. And she laughed more.’

Bloom’s thoughts in Sirens, a perfect interior monologue, are:

‘ Sea, wind, leaves, thunder, waters, cows lowing, the cattle market, cocks, hen’s don’t crow, snakes hissss. There’s music everywhere. Ruttledge’s door : ee creaking, No, That’s noise…’

EUMAEUS, Episode 16, is Joyce’s attempt to write an entire section consisting of endless clichés, shopsoiled expressions, prefabricated phrases, worn-out language - in other words, garrulous and ponderous bad writing. The main setting is the cabman’s shelter in the city centre. Bloom is looking at an old sailor he has just come across at night:

‘His questioners, perceiving he was not likely to get a great deal of change out of such a wily old customer, fell to woolgathering on the enormous dimensions of water about the globe. Suffice it to say that, as a casual glance at the map revealed, it covered fully three fourths of it, and he fully realised accordingly what it meant, to rule the waves.’


‘Nevertheless without going into the minutiae of the business, the eloquent fact remained that the sea was there in all its glory and in the natural order of things somebody or other had to sail on it and fly in the face of providence though it merely went to show how people usually contrived to load that sort of onus on to the other fellow like the hell idea and the lottery and insurance which were run on the same lines…’ (p585 of the Oxford text)

Early in Eumaeus, we have this typical passage, as Bloom has failed to hail a cab:

‘This was a quandary but, bringing commonsense to bear on it, evidently there was nothing for it but to put a good face on the matter and foot it, which they accordingly did. So, levelling around by Mullet’s and the Signal House, which they shortly reached, they proceeded perforce in the direction of Amiens Street railway station. Mr Bloom being handicapped by the circumstance that one of the back buttons of his trousers had, to vary the timehonoured adage, gone the way of all buttons, though, entering thoroughly in to the spirit of the thing, he heroically made light of the mischance.’ (p570 of the Oxford text)

In the penultimate section of Ulysses, ITHACA, which is in the form of a very dry, pedantic Catechism (question and answer), Bloom has fallen asleep, anticipating the state of the publican Earwicker in Finnegans Wake. One critic (JIM Stewart in 1960) observed of  ‘Ithaca’ that: ‘…there can be no doubt that Joyce became compulsively addicted to letting words fool around, that his brain was the most elaborately equipped playground that has ever left a record of itself in literature.’

It has been widely observed that the distances between streets and squares in Dublin were intimately known to Joyce, simply through his knowledge of them by pavement walking as a boy and young man.  For instance, he knew exactly how long it would have taken for Bloom to reach Westland Row Post Office from his home in Eccles Street, and what the journey time would have been to attend Paddy Dignam’s funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery. He also knew how long Bloom and Stephen would have taken together, in their ‘small hours’ slowed- down state, to return to 7 Eccles Street in ‘Ithaca’, and their precise route:

‘What parallel courses did Bloom and Stephen follow?'

Starting united both at normal walking pace from Beresford Place they followed in the order named Lower and Middle Gardiner streets and Mountjoy square, west: then, at reduced pace, each bearing left, Gardiner’s place by an inadvertence as far as the farther corner of Temple street, north: then, at reduced pace with interruptions of halt, bearing right, Temple street, north, as far as Hardwicke place. Approaching, disparate, at relaxed walking pace they crossed both the circus before George’s church diametrically, the chord in any circle being less than the arc which it subtends.

Of what did the duumvirate deliberate during their itinerary?

‘Music, literature, Ireland, Dublin, Paris, friendship, woman, prostitution, diet, the influence of gaslight or the light of arc and glowlamps on the growth of adjoining paraheliotropic trees, exposed corporation emergency dustbuckets, the Roman Catholic Church, ecclesiastical celibacy, the Irish nation, Jesuit education, careers, the study of medicine, the past day, the maleficent influence of the presabbath, Stephen’s collapse.’ (Oxford 1922 text, ed. Johnson, p619)

I refer here to Hugh Kenner again, in his essay on ‘The Ulysses Years’ in A Colder Eye. Kenner comments on the constant use of numbers throughout Ulysses, and singles out for discussion the number 11. The first sentence, he notes, has 2 x 11 words, the third one, for ‘He’ to ‘dei’ has 11. Kenner notes that 11 is the number for the two primary kinds or events, beginnings and endings. Further examples are as follows: Rudy Bloom died 11 years ago, aged only 11 days: Stephen’s age is 2 x11 (22) ‘Marion Bloom has 11 letters and so has Hugh E. Boylan: the hour of Molly’s and Boylan’s tryst is set in the eleventh episode: 11 paragraphs of entry and 11 of exit precede and follow the forty paragraphs of gestation in ‘Oxen of the Sun’. Joyce wanted the centre of Ulysses to consist of 11 episodes, as late as 1919; and Finnegans Wake returns at its end to the beginning with ‘A way a lone a last a loved a long the….’, which is eleven words.

In his big study The Pound Era (which is, of course, mainly about Ezra Pound, but has valuable shorter sections on Eliot, Lewis and Joyce), Hugh Kenner asks the important question:

‘Is Joyce inside or outside the system he has made?’ Kenner’s answer is that ‘the book’s premise must be that Bloom really is Ulysses, though he knows it no more than that wily wandering Greek foresaw being recreated as a wandering homebody Jew. Yeats very likely never found this out from a book which he found entrancing but did not finish, for Bloom’s readers have no more need to know it than does Bloom.  Who does know it?   Joyce, and the occasional reader whom a commentary, or the title, has guided to insight.’ (Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (1972) p380)

Over forty years before Kenner’s The Pound Era, Edmund Wilson, in Axel’s Castle (1931) felt that as a result of Bloom’s meeting that day with Stephen, there was a possibility of the resumption of marital relations between Molly and Bloom, though others have questioned this. Still more certain is the fact that Stephen, the creative intellectual, will go on to write Ulysses. The young Stephen had told his friend Buck Mulligan that he was ‘going to write something in ten years.’ That had been in 1904, and Ulysses is dated at the end as having been begun in 1914. It was Wilson who observed, less than ten years after Ulysses was first published, that Joyce’s prose works ‘have an artistic intensity, a definitive beauty of surface and of form, which make him comparable to the great poets rather than to most of the great novelists.’ (Axel’s Castle, p.163)

Writing in 1969 in his short but stimulating study of Joyce, John Gross observed that ‘it is one of the great achievements of Ulysses to demonstrate as no previous novel had done the sheer density of the individual’s mental life, the incredibly rapid succession and complexity of thoughts as they swan past…’ (John Gross: Joyce, 1970, p49) In a piece written for the TLS on the occasion of the centenary of the original Bloomsday, 16 June 2004, Declan Kiberd echoed Gross, but went further. He said ‘In Joyce’s Dublin, the place where everyone can talk, but few know how to listen, dialogue is ineffectual and thin, and does little to advance the plot, whereas the interior monologues are usually so gorgeous in detail as to overwhelm the social world entirely.’


Finnegans Wake took Joyce eighteen years to complete to his satisfaction. He said of it that ‘it is about Finn dying by the River Liffey, with the history of Ireland and the world cycling through his mind.’ Joyce actually drafted it in comparatively plain, comprehensible language, then elaborated and altered in detail to the point at which he felt the creative job was done. As a whole, it represents ‘a cycloramic view of world history’, yet its focus is even more local than Ulysses, while aiming to be universal. The result was, despite everything, an echo of spoken, colloquial English. The final passage of Finnegans Wake was quoted:

‘So. Avelaval. My leaves have drifted from me. All.  But one clings still. ‘I’ll bear it on me. To remind me of. Lff!! So soft this morning, ours. Yes. Carry me along, taddy, like you done through the toy fair! If I seen him bearing down on me now under white spread wings like he’d come from Arkangels, I sink I’d die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to wasup. Yes, tid. There’s where. First. We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A Gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoft lhee, mememoree! Till thousandsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the’

Which then reverts to the novel’s famous opening passage in a triumph of endless circularity:

‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side of the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war…’

One critic (JIM Stewart) has observed that ‘ideally, the text (of Finnegans Wake) should be disposed not in a bound volume, but in a single line of type round an enormous wheel.’ It has always been realised that for Joyce’s his writing was his life, in the fullest sense. Any biographer needed to recognise this, and Joyce was lucky in his eventual major biographer, the American Richard Ellmann (1918-1987), whose work over a lifetime has proved so magisterial, and of permanent value. Ellmann was also the biographer of Yeats and Wilde. A recent critic, the novelist Adam Mars Jones, commented in 2011 that ‘Joyce’s life displayed not so much the celebrated trinity of tactics asserted by his creation Stephen Dedalus (silence, exile and cunning) as unpredictable volubility, reluctant nomadism, and the frantic exploitation of benefactors.’


On January 1, 2012, the works of James Joyce came out of copyright, under the seventy-year rule. The major works are all in print, in various editions, and are never likely to disappear.  Short extracts from the published writings (of any writer) do not require permission, yet some literary estates, jealously guarding the stronghold of unpublished material, are reluctant or even unwilling to admit this. The holder of a large amount of unpublished material relating to Joyce is the Zürich James Joyce Foundation, which is constantly visited by scholars from all around the world. The Joyce Estate and its executor, Joyce’s grandson, Stephen Joyce (aged 85 in 2017) keeps a very close eye on use of material from the Foundation. Sadly, in 1988, Stephen Joyce announced to a gathering of scholars and delegates at a Joyce conference in Venice that he had destroyed about a thousand letters written by Joyce’s daughter Lucia to her father, from her incarceration in Northampton.

In 2004, Stephen Joyce, then aged 72, tried to stop an exhibition of his grandfather’s manuscripts in Dublin for a celebration of the centenary of Bloomsday, 16 June 1904. The Irish Parliament had to modify Ireland’s Copyright Law to permit the exhibition to go ahead. However, in 2005, when he refused an American scholar, Carol Loeb Schloss, permission to quote any of Joyce’s works in her biography of James Joyce’s daughter: Lucia: To Dance in the Wake. She sued the trustees, and won the legal battle. An out-of-court settlement followed in 2007, and in 2009, Carol Schloss was awarded costs. The Joyce Estate was ordered to pay $240,000 towards her legal expenses. Brenda Maddox’s life of Joyce’s wife Nora Barnacle, was also asked to delete material about the Joyces’ daughter Lucia. It has to be said in mitigation that the whole topic of Lucia was a very difficult and sensitive one; as already shown, Lucia Joyce spent most of her life in a home for the mentally disturbed. There are arguments on both sides.


Several questions were raised by members of the audience. It was not easy to give definitive answers to any of them.

Q1. If Joyce were alive today, in a Creative Writing class, how would he be received?

A1. With difficulty, though the circumstances of 2017 would be entirely different from those of the early twentieth century, and Joyce himself would be a different person. People found his works difficult because they were indeed difficult, but at the same time fascinating in their brilliance and novelty. Joyce was uncompromising. He always did have a strong sense of humour, but meant what he said with his famous comment: ‘ the demand I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works.’ It is doubtful that he was being merely ironic when he said this. Very few, if any, writers could get away with such egotism, but Joyce was one of them. Dr Brooker pointed out that our sense of fiction today, in 2017, has been partly shaped by what Joyce did before us. He suggested that a time-travel paradox exists here, in which the imaginary Joyce who turned up to a Creative Writing class in 2017 would face norms and possibilities which are in part the legacy of what the real Joyce did around 1917.

Q.2 Did Joyce’s poor eyesight affect his writing and world –view?

A.2 Yes. We have to think of TS Eliot’s essay on Milton, and on Milton himself in ‘On His Blindness’, ‘Samson Agonistes’, etc.  It might help to account for the acute presence of all the other senses in Joyce’s work, though his awareness of the visual is still remarkable. He had, in the words of one critic, ‘the mind of a grocer’s assistant’.

Q.3 What about Joyce’s relationship to Catholicism?

A.3 This a very complex subject. Joyce was taught by the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College, (as well as, for a time, by the less prestigious Christian Brothers) and was marked for life by it. Joyce rejected the Catholic Church on his final departure from Dublin, and his writings are full of this rejection. Yet he never wholly rid himself of its influence. How could he?

Q.4 Was Ulysses written for performance?

A.4 A good question, since it works so well when read aloud by professional Irish actors and readers. It certainly works best when you can hear Joyce’s words with a clear Dublin accent. But it was not how Joyce conceived it. Ulysses is decisively a work on the page, meant to be read, and re-read. We are fortunate in having recordings of Joyce himself reading extracts from Ulysses (from  ‘Aeolus’, 1924, made at HMV’s studios in Paris) and from Finnegans Wake (Anna Livia Plurabelle) from 1929. These are available on the Global Journey Voices of Yesteryear label, 2013, Famous Irish Writers. This  CD which also contains Sylvia Beach’s reflections, from  1960, on her involvement with the two Joyce recordings made decades earlier, and her days in the studio with him. For contrast, the disc also includes WB Yeats reading, in a quite different, intoning, bardic manner, his own ‘The Song of the Old Mother’, and ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree.’ These were made in 1934 and 1937 respectively. Sadly, no recordings exist of Joyce in everyday conversation, but we can imagine what this might have been like from these recordings. Joyce’s light, lilting middle-register tenorish timbre is very distinctive.

Q.5 Joyce did not speak Irish…. Did this affect his writing at all?

A.5 By 1880/1890, Dublin was an English-speaking capital - but the English spoken there was not London, Whitehall or Westminster English. The Irish language was being renewed during this time, as part of the developing pattern of Irish nationalism. Several writers were actively interested in reviving it, notably JM Synge and Lady Gregory. Yeats himself made much of his interest in Gaelic, but never came near to learning it seriously. But although Irish (Erse or Gaelic) was the majority language of Ireland in the Middle Ages, except around Dublin, it declined rapidly after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Joyce himself was not seriously interested in the Irish language, any more than he was interested in Irish nationalism. He never learned to read the Old or Middle Irish classics, but did incorporate Gaelic words into the texture of Finnegans Wake. However, these tend to be merged into the general impact of words from other European languages also present in the great epic composed during the years from 1919 to 1939. There is no doubt that if Joyce had learned Irish, he would have been a different writer altogether. Incidentally, it is fascinating to see the question of the Irish language being raised strongly yet again in 2017 by Sinn Fein, in the context of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, following the collapse of the power-sharing Stormont government of recent years.

Although the topic of Joyce and the law was not raised, it is opportune here to mention it, insofar as two newly published  (2017) books on Joyce take this as their subject matter. The study by Adrian Hardiman, Joyce in Court, covers many things, and I mention three. One was the Childs murder case, in which Samuel Childs was convicted for the brutal murder of his brother. Joyce, aged 17, attended this three-day trial in October 1899. A second was the historical trial of Robert Emmet, executed in 1803, and discussed in the Cyclops chapter of Ulysses. The third is the trial of the Invincibles in 1882 (the year of Joyce’s birth) for the fatal stabbing of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Irish Office’s Permanent Secretary in Phoenix Park, Dublin.                              



The volume of writing on Joyce has increased steadily over the years, and an international Joyce industry has long been established, particularly in America. The quality of critical work on him has always, and necessarily, been very high, and just as important, readable. Though there have been one or two lives of Joyce since the second edition of Richard Ellmann’s great biography, they cannot compete with it in any respect, and it is most unlikely that Ellmann will be superseded for a very long time. Other key primary works on Joyce are those by his brother Stanislaus, and by his close friend in Zürich, Frank Budgen.

Joyce, James - Stephen Hero: Part of the First Draft of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. with an introduction by Theodore Spencer Cape 1944, Revised edition 1956, with additional material and a Foreword by John J Slocum and Herbert Cahoon, reissued by the New English Library 1966

Joyce, James - Dubliners (fifteen stories); First published 1914.  Corrected text, with explanatory note by Robert Scholes, Cape, 1967

Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; First published serially in The Egoist 1915, then in book form by Ben Huebsch 1916, and by Cape in 1924. Penguin edition 1960

Joyce, James - Ulysses: the 1922 text, ed. with introduction and notes by Jeri Johnson; Oxford U.P 1993

Joyce, James - Finnegans Wake; Faber 1939, 3/1960, p/b 1975

Joyce, James, ed. Anthony Burgess - A Shorter Finnegans Wak; Faber 1986

Joyce, James, ed. Ellsworth Mason and Richard Ellmann - The Critical Writings of James Joyce; Faber 1959

Joyce, James, ed. Richard Ellmann - Selected Letters of James Joyce; Faber 1975


Ellmann, Richard - James Joyce; Oxford U.P. 1959, 2/1982

Joyce, Stanislaus, edited, with an introduction by Richard Ellmann, and a Preface by TS Eliot - My Brother’s Keeper: James Joyce’s Early Year; Faber 1958, Da Capo Press 2003. This important book was left unfinished at Stanislaus Joyce’s death in 1955, and takes the story of his brother up to 1903, the year of their mother’s death.      

Budgen, Frank (1882-1971) - James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, and other writings Grayson and Grayson 1934, 2/ Indiana U.P 1960, Oxford U.P. 1972 (intro. by Clive Hart) In his Introduction (October 1971) to a reissue of Budgen’s book, Clive Hart says  ‘Budgen retells the story of Ulysses just as Ulysses retells that of the Odyssey: it was written by a similarly accretive method, with last-minute changes; and the two characters who figure most prominently in it, Joyce and Budgen, are often shown leaving aside their real many-sidedness to play the roles of Stephen and Bloom. Budgen was more than the ideal commentator. He was the successful embodiment of that desired fusion which never occurs in Ulysses the spiritual marriage of Stephen and Bloom.’ (Hart’s Introduction, p.xix)

Wilson, Edmund - Axel’s Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930    Charles Scribner’s Sons 1931/ Fontana 1961 and later reissues

Gilbert, Stuart - James Joyce’s Ulysses; Faber 1930, 2/1952

Litz, A Walton - The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake; Oxford U.P. 1964

Blamires, Harry - The Bloomsday Book: A Guide through Joyce’s Ulysses; Methuen 1966

Gross, John – Joyce; Viking, NY 1970 / Fontana Modern Masters 1971

Hart, Clive and Hayman, David (eds) James Joyce’s Ulysses: Critical Essays   California U.P. 1974   There are eighteen essays in this collection, each on one of the eighteen Homeric chapters in Ulysses, and each by a different author. They range from Bernard Benstock on Telemachus to Father Robert Boyle, S.J. on Penelope.  As editors, Clive Hart’s contribution is on The Wandering Rocks, and David Hayman’s is on Cyclops.

Peake, C.H. - James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist; Edward Arnold 1977

Hodgart, Matthew - James Joyce; A Student’s Guide; Routledge 1978

Groden, Michael - Ulysses in Progress; Princeton UP 1978

Bolt, Sydney - A Preface to James Joyce; Longman 1981

Kenner, Hugh - The Pound Era; The Age of Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, James Joyce and Wyndham Lewis; Faber 1972

Kenner, Hugh - A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers; Allen Lane 1983

Lawrence, Karen R. - The Odyssey of Style in Ulysses; Princeton UP 1981    

Lawrence, Karen R. - Who’s Afraid of James Joyce?; Florida U.P. 2011

Brooker, Joe - Joyce’s Critics: Transitions in Reading and Culture; Wisconsin U.P.,Madison, 2004

Kiberd, Declan - Bloom in bourgeois Bohemia: A moment of perpetual possibility for Joyce - and for Dublin’; Times Literary Supplement, 4 June 2001, p14-15

Groden, Michael - Ulysses in Focus: Genetic, Textual and Personal Views; Florida U.P. 2011

Hardiman, Adrian - Joyce in Court; Head of Zeus 2017

Hassett, Joseph M - The Ulysses Trials: Beauty and Truth Meet the Law; Lilliput 2017

Delaney, Frank, photographs by Jorge Lewinski - James Joyce’s Odyssey: A Guide through Joyce’s Ulysses; Granada Paladin 1978

The James Joyce Quarterly (JJQ) University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA


©      Dr Joseph Brooker and Dr Robert Blackburn 2017