Ulysses is usually deemed to be Joyce’s greatest achievement, and it is the zenith of modernist writing in the novel form but is barely recognizable as a novel or as any other kind of writing. It brings together anecdotes, journalistic writing, drama, questionnaire, bawdy episodes, stream of consciousness writing, arachaisms, neologisms and - surprisingly - more. It was serialized first in the Little Review in 1918 and published first in Paris in 1922, although its censorship for obscenity in America and England were not lifted until the mid-1930s. In terms of its story it defies abridgement or explanation except that it all takes place on one day, 16 June 1904, or ‘Bloomsday’, which was the anniversary of Joyce’s first walk with his beloved Nora Barnacle. It (very) loosely follows the episodes of Ulysses from the Odyssey of Homer though in a reordered form, with Stephen Dedalus representing Telemachus, Leopold Bloom Ulysses and Molly Bloom Penelope. The central characters explore various sites and happenings around Dublin such as a newspaper office, a brothel, a funeral, and public houses. It is an immense achievement of innovation or a confusing mess depending on one’s opinion, but regardless it is an extraordinary reading experience. To read it without the many books of annotation that have been drawn up as guides is to miss the inordinate number of literary allusions, Irish in-jokes, subtleties and so on. It is, however, the only way actually to enjoy the novel. Acknowledging that you are not the perfect reader (i.e. in possession of all of human knowledge) will allow you to find yourself in Bloom and his companions rather than a century’s worth of critics and scholars. If you truly love it or are an English student read it with notes the second time through.

Table of contents
Lotus Eaters
Scylla and Charybdis
Wandering Rocks
Oxen of the Sun

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