Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce, first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature, it has been called "a demonstration and summation of the entire movement".
Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, 16 June 1904 (the day of Joyce's first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle). The title alludes to Odysseus (Latinised into Ulysses), the hero of Homer's Odyssey, and establishes a series of parallels between characters and events in Homer's poem and Joyce's novel (e.g., the correspondence of Leopold Bloom to Odysseus, Molly Bloom to Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus to Telemachus). Joyce fans worldwide now celebrate 16 June as Bloomsday.
Ulysses contains approximately 265,000 words from a lexicon of 30,030 words (including proper names, plurals and various verb tenses), divided into eighteen episodes. Since publication, the book attracted controversy and scrutiny, ranging from early obscenity trials to protracted textual "Joyce Wars." Ulysses' stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose-full of puns, parodies, and allusions, as well as its rich characterisations and broad humour, made the book a highly regarded novel in the Modernist pantheon. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Joyce first encountered Odysseus in Charles Lamb's Adventures of Ulysses-an adaptation of the Odyssey for children, which seemed to establish the Roman name in Joyce's mind. At school he wrote an essay on Ulysses entitled "My Favourite Hero".
Joyce told Frank Budgen that he considered Ulysses the only all-round character in literature.
He thought about calling Dubliners by the name Ulysses in Dublin, but the idea grew from a story in Dubliners in 1906, to a "short book" in 1907, to the vast novel that he began in 1914.
Joyce divided Ulysses into eighteen chapters or "episodes". At first glance much of the book may appear unstructured and chaotic; Joyce once said that he had "put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant", which would earn the novel "immortality". The two schemata which Stuart Gilbert and Herbert Gorman released after publication to defend Joyce from the obscenity accusations made the links to the Odyssey clear, and also explained the work's internal structure.
Every episode of Ulysses has a theme, technique, and correspondences between its characters and those of the Odyssey. The original text did not include these episode titles and the correspondences; instead, they originate from the Linati and Gilbert schema. Joyce referred to the episodes by their Homeric titles in his letters. He took the idiosyncratic rendering of some of the titles--'Nausikaa', the 'Telemachia'--from Victor Bérard's two-volume Les Phéniciens et l'Odyssée which he consulted in 1918 in the Zentralbibliothek Zürich.
Part I: The Telemachiad:
Episode 1, Telemachus:
It is 8 a.m. Buck Mulligan, a boisterous medical student, calls Stephen Dedalus (a young writer first encountered in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) up to the roof of the Sandycove Martello tower where they both live. There is tension between Stephen and Mulligan, stemming from a cruel remark Stephen has overheard Mulligan making about his recently deceased mother and from the fact that Mulligan has invited an English student, Haines, to stay with them. The three men eat breakfast and walk to the shore, where Mulligan demands from Stephen the key to the tower and a loan. Departing, Stephen declares that he will not return to the tower tonight, as Mulligan, the "usurper", has taken it over.
Episode 2, Nestor:
Stephen is teaching a history class on the victories of Pyrrhus of Epirus. After class, one student, Sargent, stays behind so that Stephen can show him how to do a set of arithmetic exercises. Stephen looks at the aesthetically unappealing Sargent and tries to imagine Sargent's mother's love for him. Stephen then visits school headmaster, Mr. Deasy, from whom he collects his pay and a letter to take to a newspaper office for printing. The two discuss Irish history and the role of Jews in the economy. As Stephen leaves, Deasy makes a final derogatory remark against the Jews, stating that Ireland has never extensively persecuted the Jews because they were never let in to the country. This episode is the source of some of the novel's most famous lines, such as Dedalus's claim that "history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake" and that God is "a shout in the street."
Episode 3, Proteus:
Stephen finds his way to Sandymount Strand and mopes around for some time, mulling various philosophical concepts, his family, his life as a student in Paris, and his mother's death. As Stephen reminisces and ponders, he lies down among some rocks, watches a couple and a dog, scribbles some ideas for poetry, picks his nose, and urinates behind a rock. This chapter is characterised by a stream of consciousness narrative style that changes focus wildly. Stephen's education is reflected in the many obscure references and foreign phrases employed in this episode.
Part II: The Odyssey:
Episode 4, Calypso:
The narrative shifts abruptly. The time is again 8 a.m., but the action has moved across the city and to the second protagonist of the book, Leopold Bloom, a part-Jewish advertising canvasser. Bloom, after starting to prepare breakfast, decides to walk to a butcher to buy a pork kidney. Returning home, he prepares breakfast and brings it with the mail to his wife Molly as she lounges in bed. One of the letters is from her concert manager Blazes Boylan. Bloom is aware that Molly will welcome Boylan into her bed later that day, and is tormented by the thought. Bloom reads a letter from their daughter. The chapter closes with Bloom defecating in the outhouse.
Episode 5, Lotus Eaters:
Bloom makes his way to Westland Row post office where he receives a love letter from one 'Martha Clifford' addressed to his pseudonym, 'Henry Flower'. He meets an acquaintance, and while they chat, Bloom attempts to ogle a woman wearing stockings, but is prevented by a passing tram. Next, he reads the letter and tears up the envelope in an alley. He wanders into a Catholic church service and muses on theology. He goes to a chemist where he buys a bar of lemon soap. He then meets another acquaintance, to whom he unintentionally gives a racing tip for the horse Throwaway. Finally, Bloom heads towards the baths.
Episode 6, Hades:
The episode begins with Bloom entering a funeral carriage with three others, including Stephen's father. They drive to Paddy Dignam's funeral, making small talk on the way. The carriage passes both Stephen and Blazes Boylan. There is discussion of various forms of death and burial, and Bloom is preoccupied by thoughts of his dead son, Rudy, and the suicide of his father. They enter the chapel into the service and subsequently leave with the coffin cart. Bloom sees a mysterious man wearing a macintosh during the burial. Bloom continues to reflect upon death, but at the end of the episode rejects morbid thoughts to embrace 'warm fullblooded life'.
Episode 7, Aeolus:
At the office of the Freeman's Journal, Bloom attempts to place an ad. Although initially encouraged by the editor, he is unsuccessful. Stephen arrives bringing Deasy's letter about 'foot and mouth' disease, but Stephen and Bloom do not meet. Stephen leads the editor and others to a pub, telling an anecdote on the way about 'two Dublin vestals'. The episode is broken up into short sections by newspaper-style headlines, and is characterised by an abundance of rhetorical figures and devices.
Episode 8, Lestrygonians:
Bloom's thoughts are peppered with references to food as lunchtime approaches. He meets an old flame and hears news of Mina Purefoy's labour. He enters the restaurant of the Burton Hotel where he is revolted by the sight of men eating like animals. He goes instead to another restaurant, where he consumes a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of burgundy, and muses upon the early days of his relationship with Molly and how the marriage has declined: 'Me. And me now.' Bloom heads towards the National Museum to look at the statues of Greek goddesses, and, in particular, their bottoms. Bloom suddenly spots Boylan across the street and, panicking, rushes into the museum.
Episode 9, Scylla and Charybdis:
At the National Library, Stephen explains to various scholars his biographical theory of the works of Shakespeare, especially Hamlet, which he claims are based largely on the posited adultery of Shakespeare's wife. Bloom enters the National Library to look up an old copy of the ad he has been trying to place. He encounters Stephen briefly and unknowingly at the end of the episode.
Episode 10, Wandering Rocks:
In this episode, nineteen short vignettes depict the wanderings of various characters, major and minor, through the streets of Dublin. The episode ends with an account of the cavalcade of the Lord Lieutenant, William Humble, Earl of Dudley, through the streets, which is encountered by various characters from the novel.
Episode 11, Sirens:
In this episode, dominated by motifs of music, Bloom has dinner with Stephen's uncle at a hotel, while Molly's lover, Blazes Boylan, proceeds to his rendezvous with her. While dining, Bloom watches the seductive barmaids and listens to the singing of Stephen's father and others.
Episode 12, Cyclops:
This chapter is narrated by an unnamed denizen of Dublin. The narrator goes to a pub where he meets a character referred to only as the 'Citizen'. When Leopold Bloom enters the pub, he is berated by the Citizen, who is a fierce Fenian and anti-Semite. The episode ends with Bloom reminding the Citizen that his Saviour was a Jew. As Bloom leaves the pub, the Citizen, in anger, throws a biscuit tin at Bloom's head, but misses. The chapter is marked by extended tangents made outside the voice of the unnamed narrator: hyperboles of legal jargon, Biblical passages, Irish mythology, etc.
Episode 13, Nausicaa:
Gerty McDowell, a young woman on Sandymount strand, contemplates love, marriage and femininity as night falls. The reader is gradually made aware that Bloom is watching her from a distance, and as she exposes her legs and underwear to him it is unclear how much of the narrative is actually Bloom's sexual fantasy. Bloom's masturbatory climax is echoed by the fireworks at the nearby bazaar. As Gerty leaves, Bloom realizes that Gerty has a lame leg. Bloom, after several digressions of thought, decides to visit Mina Purefoy at the hospital. The style of the first half of the episode borrows from (and parodies) romance magazines and novelettes.
Episode 14, Oxen of the Sun:
Bloom visits the maternity hospital where Mina Purefoy is giving birth, and finally meets Stephen, who is drinking with Buck Mulligan and his medical student friends. They continue on to a pub to continue drinking, following the successful birth of the baby. This chapter is remarkable for Joyce's wordplay, which seems to recapitulate the entire history of the English language. After a short incantation, the episode starts with latinate prose, Anglo-Saxon alliteration, and moves on through parodies of, among others, Malory, the King James Bible, Bunyan, Defoe, Sterne, Gibbon, Dickens, and Carlyle, before concluding in a haze of nearly incomprehensible slang.
Episode 15, Circe:
Episode Fifteen is written as a play script, complete with stage directions. The plot is frequently interrupted by 'hallucinations' experienced by Stephen and Bloom--fantastic manifestations of the fears and passions of the two characters.
Stephen and Lynch walk into Nighttown, Dublin's red-light district. Bloom pursues them and eventually finds them at Bella Cohen's brothel. When Bloom witnesses Stephen overpaying for services received, Bloom decides to hold onto the rest of Stephen's money for safekeeping. Stephen hallucinates that the rotting cadaver of his mother has risen up from the floor to confront him. Terrified, Stephen uses his walking stick to smash a chandelier and then runs out. Bloom quickly pays Bella for the damage, then runs after Stephen. Bloom finds Stephen engaged in a heated argument with an English soldier who, after a perceived insult to the King, punches Stephen. The police arrive and the crowd disperses. As Bloom is tending to Stephen, Bloom has a hallucination of Rudy, his deceased child.
Part III: The Nostos:
Episode 16, Eumaeus:
Bloom and Stephen go to the cabman's shelter to restore the latter to his senses. At the cabman's shelter, they encounter a drunken sailor, D. B. Murphy. Riding in the cab, Stephen sings a spirited song by the Baroque composer Johannes Jeep, and he and Bloom bond over its misogyny. The episode is dominated by the motif of confusion and mistaken identity, with Bloom, Stephen and Murphy's identities being repeatedly called into question. The rambling and laboured style of the narrative in this episode reflects the nervous exhaustion and confusion of the two protagonists.
Episode 17, Ithaca:
Bloom returns home with Stephen, who refuses Bloom's offer of a place to stay for the night. The two men urinate in the backyard, Stephen departs and wanders off into the night, and Bloom goes to bed. The episode is written in the form of a rigidly organised catechism, and was reportedly Joyce's favourite episode in the novel. The style is that of a scientific inquiry, with questions furthering the narrative. The deep descriptions range from questions of astronomy to the trajectory of urination.
Episode 18, Penelope:
The final episode, which also uses the stream of consciousness technique seen in Episode 3, consists of Molly Bloom's Soliloquy: eight great run-on sentences (without punctuation) describe the thoughts of Molly, Bloom's wife, as she lies in bed next to her husband.
Molly guesses that Bloom had an orgasm that day, and is reminded of his past possible infidelity with other women. She considers the differences between Boylan and Bloom, in terms of virility and masculinity. Molly feels that she and Bloom are lucky, despite their current marital difficulties. Molly recalls her many admirers, previous and current. She wishes she had more money to buy stylish clothes, and believes that Bloom should quit his advertising job and get better paid work elsewhere. Molly thinks about how beautiful female breasts are, particularly compared to male genitalia. She thinks of the time Bloom suggested she pose naked in exchange for money. Her thoughts return to Boylan and of her orgasm earlier.
A train whistle blows outside, and Molly thinks of her childhood in Gibraltar. Out of boredom and loneliness, she had resorted to writing herself letters. Molly thinks about how her daughter sent her a card this morning, whereas her husband received a whole letter. She imagines that she may receive another love letter from Boylan. Molly recalls her first love letter from Lieutenant Mulvey, whom she kissed under the bridge in Gibraltar. She later lost contact with him and wonders what he would be like now. Her thoughts turn to her singing career, and Molly wonders what path her career could have taken had she not married Bloom.
Molly senses the start of her period, confirmation that her tryst with Boylan has not caused a pregnancy. She gets up to use the chamberpot. Events of the day spent with Boylan run through her mind.
Molly climbs quietly back into bed and thinks of the times she and Bloom have had to relocate. Her mind then turns to Stephen, whom she met during his childhood. She conjectures that Stephen is probably not stuck-up, and is most likely clean. She fantasizes about having sexual encounters with him. Molly resolves to study before meeting him so he will not look down upon her. Molly thinks of her husband's strange sexual habits. Molly speculates that the world would be much improved if it consisted of Matriarchal Societies. She thinks again of Stephen, and of his mother's death, and that of Rudy's death, she then ends this line of thought as it is making her depressed. Molly thinks about arousing Bloom in the morning, then revealing the details of her affair with Boylan to make him realise his culpability. Molly then decides to procure some flowers, in case Stephen Dedalus decides to come around. Thinking of flowers, Molly thinks of the day she and Bloom spent at Howth, his marriage proposal, and her response of "yes".
Written over a seven-year period from 1914 to 1921, the novel was serialised in the American journal The Little Review from 1918 until the publication of the Nausicaä episode led to a prosecution for obscenity. In 1919, sections of the novel also appeared in the London literary journal The Egoist, but the novel itself was banned in the United Kingdom until the 1930s. In 1920 after the US magazine The Little Review serialised a passage of the book dealing with the main character masturbating, a group called the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, who objected to the book's content, took action to attempt to keep the book out of the United States. At a trial in 1921 the magazine was declared obscene and, as a result, Ulysses was banned in the United States. In 1933, the publisher Random House arranged to import the French edition and have a copy seized by customs when the ship was unloaded, which it then contested. In United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey ruled on 6 December 1933 that the book was not pornographic and therefore could not be obscene, a decision that has been called "epoch-making" by Stuart Gilbert. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in 1934. Contrary to popular belief, Ulysses was never banned in Ireland.
Attempts at error correction:
The publication history of Ulysses is disputed and obscure. There have been at least eighteen editions, and variations in different impressions of each edition. Notable editions include the first edition published in Paris on 2 February 1922 by Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare and Company (only 1000 copies printed), the pirated Roth edition, published in New York in 1929, the Odyssey Press edition of 1932 (including some revisions generally attributed to Stuart Gilbert, and therefore sometimes considered the most accurate edition); the 1934 Random House US edition, the first English edition of the Bodley Head in 1936, the revised Bodley Head Edition of 1960, the revised Random House edition of 1961 (reset from the Bodley Head 1960 edition), and the Gabler critical and synoptic edition of 1984.
According to Joyce scholar Jack Dalton, the first edition of Ulysses contained over two thousand errors but was still the most accurate edition published. As each subsequent edition attempted to correct these mistakes, it incorporated more of its own. Hans Walter Gabler's 1984 edition was the most sustained attempt to produce a corrected text, but it received much criticism, most notably from John Kidd. Kidd's main theoretical criticism is of Gabler's choice of a patchwork of manuscripts as his copy-text (the base edition with which the editor compares each variant), but this fault stems from an assumption of the Anglo-American tradition of scholarly editing rather than the blend of French and German editorial theories that actually lay behind Gabler's reasoning. The choice of a multiple copy-text is seen to be problematic in the eyes of some American editors, who generally favor the first edition of any particular work as copy-text. Less subject to differing national editorial theories, however, is the claim that for hundreds of pages-about half the episodes of Ulysses-the extant manuscript is purported to be a 'fair copy' which Joyce made for sale to a potential patron. (As it turned out, John Quinn, the Irish-American lawyer and collector, purchased the manuscript.) Diluting this charge somewhat, is the fact that the theory of (now lost) final working drafts is Gabler's own. For the suspect episodes, the existing typescript is the last witness. Gabler attempted to reconstruct what he called 'the continuous manuscript text', which had never physically existed, by adding together all of Joyce's accretions from the various sources. This allowed Gabler to produce a 'synoptic text' indicating the stage at which each addition was inserted. Kidd and even some of Gabler's own advisers believe this method meant losing Joyce's final changes in about two thousand places. Far from being 'continuous', the manuscripts seem to be opposite. Jerome McGann describes in detail the editorial principles of Gabler in his article for the journal Criticism, issue 27, 1985. In the wake of the controversy, still other commentators charged that Gabler's changes were motivated by a desire to secure a fresh copyright and another seventy-five years of royalties beyond a looming expiration date.
In June 1988 John Kidd published 'The Scandal of Ulysses' in the New York Review of Books, charging that not only did Gabler's changes overturn Joyce's last revisions, but in another four hundred places Gabler failed to follow any manuscript whatever, making nonsense of his own premises. Kidd accused Gabler of unnecessarily changing Joyce's spelling, punctuation, use of accents, and all the small details he claimed to have been restoring. Instead, Gabler was actually following printed editions such as that of 1932, not the manuscripts. More sensationally, Gabler was found to have made genuine blunders, the most famous being his changing the name of Dubliner Harry Thrift to 'Shrift' and cricketer Captain Buller to 'Culler' on the basis of handwriting irregularities in the extant manuscript. (These 'corrections' were undone by Gabler in 1986.)
In December 1988, Charles Rossman's 'The New Ulysses: The Hidden Controversy' for the New York Review revealed that Gabler's own advisers felt too many changes were being made, but that the publishers were pushing for as many alterations as possible. Then Kidd produced a 174-page critique that filled an entire issue of the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, dated the same month. This 'Inquiry into Ulysses: The Corrected Text' was the next year published in book format and on floppy disk by Kidd's James Joyce Research Center at Boston University. Gabler and others rejected Kidd's critique, and the scholarly community remains divided. To this day, many European critics teach the Gabler edition while their counterparts in the U.S. tend to shy away from it.
In 1990 Gabler's American publisher Random House quietly replaced the Gabler edition with its 1961 version, and in the United Kingdom the Bodley Head press revived its 1960 version. In both the UK and USA, Everyman's Library, too, republished the 1960 Ulysses. In 1992 Penguin dropped Gabler and reprinted the 1960 text. The Gabler version is at present available from Vintage International. Reprints of the imperfect 1922 first edition are now widely available, largely due to the expiration of the copyright for that edition in the United States.
While much ink has been spilt over the faults and theoretical underpinnings of the Gabler edition, the much vaunted Kidd edition has yet to be published. In 1992 W.W. Norton announced that a Kidd edition of Ulysses was about to be published as part of a series called "The Dublin Edition of the Works of James Joyce." This book had to be withdrawn, however, when the Joyce estate objected. The estate has refused to authorise any further editions of Joyce's work for the present but has recently signed a deal with Wordsworth Editions to bring out a bargain version of the novel in January 2010, ahead of copyright expiration in 2012.
In 1958, a stage adaptation of the novel, named Ulysses in Nighttown, was produced, starring Zero Mostel. The play incorporated many of the dialogue-heavy parts of the novel, and much like it began at the tower in Sandycove and ended with Molly's soliloquy. It was revived in the 1970s.
In 1974, chapter 15 was staged in the Polish Teatr Ateneum under the name of New Bloomusalem. It was staged again in 1999 in Teatr Narodowy (National Theater). Both plays were directed by Jerzy Grzegorzewski.
On Bloomsday 1980, the Abbey Theatre launched a celebrated one-man show Joycemen by Irish actor Eamon Morrissey. The show consisted of extracts from Ulysses ranging from Bloom's breakfast to Molly's soliloquy, and included as a tour de force a celebrated version of the rowdy pub scene in Cyclops where he played all the characters. The show opened to acclaim at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin and was repeated, including global tours, until the late 1980's.
In 1982, author Frank Delaney did a series of one-man performances derived from "Ulysses" at multiple venues in the UK, including several at the Royal National Theatre in London under the title, " ReJoyce."
In 2006, playwright Sheila Callaghan's Dead City, a contemporary stage adaptation of the book set in New York City, and featuring the male figures Bloom and Dedalus re-imagined as female characters Samantha Blossom and Jewel Jupiter, was produced in Manhattan by New Georges.
Each 16 June, Symphony Space in New York City performs as a staged reading, over the entire day, many passages from the book. It culminates with a guest star reading the final chapter, ending roughly at midnight.
In 1967, a film version of the book was directed by Joseph Strick, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
In 2003, a movie version Bloom was released starring Stephen Rea.
On Bloomsday 1982, RTÉ aired a full-cast, unabridged, dramatised radio production of Ulysses, that ran uninterrupted for 29 hours and 45 minutes. It has been commercially released as a boxed set of 32 CDs, and as an MP3 set on three CDs.
BBC Radio broadcast a dramatisation of Ulysses read by Sinéad Cusack, James Greene, Stephen Rea, Norman Rodway, and others in 1993. This performance had a running time of 5 hours and 50 minutes.
The unabridged text of Ulysses has been performed by Jim Norton, with Marcella Riordan. This recording was released by Naxos Records on 22 audio CDs in 2004. It follows an earlier abridged recording with the same actors.
The 2006 song Air War by the band Crystal Castles samples a reading by Cathy Berberian of Chapter 11: Sirens, starting "Bronze by gold heard the hoofirons..."
On Bloomsday 2010, author Frank Delaney launched a series of short weekly podcasts called "Re:Joyce" that take listeners through "Ulysses" page by page discussing its allusions, historical context and references.