Starting ‘Ulysses’

So here I am, sitting at home (when I should be at uni) after having my second pneumothorax of this year. The only thing that could possibly be good about this is that I’m physically incapable of doing anything other than sitting around and reading…and writing this blog (which I have neglected over the past couple of weeks as I’ve just had too much to do!).


One of my modules for this year is titled ‘Modernisms’ and we spend a good few weeks studying the literary monument ‘Ulysses’. So far, I’m up to chapter 7, which, I feel, for approximately a week and a half’s worth of reading is reasonable. Ulysses is difficult!

In our first lecture the module leader assured us all that once we’ve finished the book for the first time we’ll want to pick it up and start again and we’ll probably turn into big literary nerds that want to be a part of Bloomsday every year. I’m not so sure about the re-reading part, I think I’ll just be glad to have reached the other side of 700 and some pages! Although I would actually quite like to be in Dublin for Bloomsday (incidentally it’s the day before my birthday – what a cool birthday present, hint hint!).

First ever Bloomsday 1954
First ever Bloomsday – 1954

Besides this, I am quite enjoying Ulysses. Well, perhaps ‘enjoying’ is a bit of a strong word at the moment, as my progress is very slow and I have to reread passages a couple of times sometimes before  I properly understand what’s going on. I also have a really useful ‘companion to Ulysses’ book which is helping me through – I’m working on a chapter by chapter basis. I’ve come to the conclusion that reading Ulysses is a bit like reading Shakespeare – when you first read a Shakespeare play the old language seems really difficult to understand but after you’ve read a few, everything becomes a bit easier and you begin to understand what’s going on without having to analyse every sentence. Ulysses seems a little like that, and even though I’m not that far through, it does seem to be becoming easier to get through – I don’t find it so difficult to comprehend the changing style  of prose and the difficult passages of free indirect discourse and interior monologue. However I have yet to come to the second section (of the 2 that Ulysses is sometimes divided into) which is generally excepted to be after chapter 10 when Joyce becomes more experimental (!!!!) in style and so I don’t want to start congratulating myself too soon.

Even though I don’t always enjoy the prose style of the text, I am enjoying the challenge of it when compared to some of the very traditional works we cover in other modules. The lectures on ‘modernism’ so far have been interesting and I feel like I have actually learned something new – new literary concepts, new ideas and new technical terms to learn!




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