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Welcome to the English Department’s “Ulysses Reading Group 2019”

Posted by: Joseph Kelly | August 22, 2018 | No Comment |

What is Ulysses?

Ulysses tells the story of three characters–Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and Molly Bloom–as they muddle through their Dublin lives on the 16th of June in the year 1904 (known throughout the literary world as “Bloomsday”).  It begins and ends in stream of consciousness–that technique of Modern narrative pioneered by James Joyce and borrowed by Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, among others.  The story is a poignant domestic drama, but it also parallels Homer’s Odyssey.  Joyce’s “mythical method” inspired T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.  

Notoriously hard to read, a copy of Ulysses under one’s arm has been something of a badge of honor on college campuses ever since American critics first started championing the book back in the 1930s.  What most people don’t know is that it’s also one of the funniest books you’ll ever read . . . and reread.

What is the Reading Group?

Every other year, I lead an informal group of readers on an extra-curricular journey through the 20th century’s most important novel:  James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Though it’s hard to read on your own, it’s a lot of fun to do it in a group.  No quizzes.  No papers.  Just great gab.  That’s how I first read this modern Irish epic back at the University of Texas, and that’s how many people first tackle this novel.  We’ll follow the usual formula of Ulysses Reading Groups across the country: read and discuss one chapter each week till we get to the end–probably in January or February.

If I join, do I have to show up?

No!  The Reading Group is informal.  No obligations at all.  As the semester progresses and as people have various deadlines, it expands and contracts like a lung.  Skip a few weeks and come back to the group when you can.  You might miss some continuity, but you’ll still have fun.

Can I get college credit for being in the Reading Group?

Yes.  If you want to get one credit hour, you have that option.  That does put you under some obligation:  you have to attend regularly, and you have to keep a “reading journal” that records your responses to each chapter.  To get signed up for credit, we’ll do a tutorial form and get you registered by the Drop/Add deadline, which is Tuesday, 27 August.  So contact me RIGHT AWAY if you want to do the Reading Group for credit.

Where and When?

We’ll start meeting in my office, 72 George, Room 201.  Depending on our numbers, we might shift to a coffee house, such as Kudu.  The Group will meet weekly on Thursdays from 5-6pm.  First organizational meeting:  next Thursday, 30 August.

If I join the group, what do I need?

A copy of Ulysses.  Nothing else.  And you can get an electronic copy if want at Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive or the Literature Network or WikiSource, etc.  But I highly recommend getting a book version, because you’ll personalize it with your own marginalia, which will continue to accumulate your whole life.  Any edition will do.  If you’re looking for advice about buying a copy, I’ll be using the Modern Library edition you see pictured above.


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