Discussing Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses read by Ben in LostOur Philosophical Fiction Group began reading Ulysses in December, continued through January, then February, and at the beginning of March only a few had made it through James Joyce's epic. The novel is large, but what's stunning- to me as a non-finisher- is the richness and depth of Joyce's expanding story of the phenomena of a single day.

There are Irish folk songs, stunning prose, a style weaving between the inner-thoughts of characters, and content considered blasphemous and obscene in its day.

"Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a beldam's hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death. They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass? Weave, weaver of the wind." 

You can listen to me, Laura, Philip and Daniel in our conversation here, if you've signed up to be a PEL citizen.

We are currently reading Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard and plan to have our conversation in late March, which you can join in the Philosophical Fiction Group.

-Nathan Shaine


  1. Profile photo of Duncan Pugh says

    Very interesting thanks … I think the key is to know who is narrating at any given point and to get some of the cultural references that are sometimes out of date. I found ‘The Bloomsday Book’ by Harry Blamires very useful for this. Also, one of Derrida’s most accessible essays/lectures ‘Ulysses Gramophone’ gives an interesting perspective.

  2. Byron D-B says

    I’m listening (slowly) to Frank Delaney’s podcast “re:Joyce”. He reads something between a couple of sentences up to a page of “Ulysses” and then spends ten minutes explaining it. I’m on episode 72 (there are 197 so far), and we’re on page 29. Really. He talks about upcoming topics and says “when we talk about this in about three years…” It’s glorious.

    • says

      Delaney’s podcast is absolutely delightful. I moved Ulysses into the “one day” pile to the “better get started now” pile of books as soon as I discovered it.

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