Flicka Small
University College Cork

Creative Commons 4.0 by Flicka Small. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.

Some people have one copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses which they’ve never read, and some people have five or six different copies, all of which they have read. The latter surprising occurrence being because over the course of time that Joyce spent writing, editing, and publishing Ulysses, there were many changes and corrections to the text, not to mention misinterpretations, edits, serializations, and therefore several editions. Catherine Flynn and Ronan Crowley expand on this in the “Errata” where they describe the unique challenge for the printers that Sylvia Beach engaged for her publication of the first full edition of Ulysses, which Joyce was adding to up to two days before final publication, which he insisted should be on his fortieth birthday, 2 February 1922. Hence the Cambridge Centenary edition, edited by Catherine Flynn.

Catherine Flynn’s Centenary Ulysses addresses many of these textual changes in a most accessible and attractive way. This book is literally a tome, running to 963 pages and weighing in at three kilos, but at €36.00 it must be one of the most accessible and informative Ulysses readers on the market. Eighteen authors have been commissioned to write original essays to intersperse the eighteen episodes of Ulysses. In addition, there are illustrations, maps, a chronology of Joyce’s life, and an index of characters. The layout is composed of facsimile pages from the original Shakespeare and Co. edition at the centre of each page, with page numbers and lines in the margins and footnotes at the bottom, and more detailed information in the glossaries at the back of the book. The footnotes are to assist but not to overwhelm, says Flynn, and indeed they are easy to navigate and read, incorporating Hans Gabler’s line numbers and his 1986 interventions.

The essays, explaining the parallels to Homer’s Odyssey, augmented by the Linati and Gilbert Schema that Joyce himself provided for future readers, add an extra dimension, and are written by scholars drawing on their own particular fields of interest. The essays also describe the location and geography of Dublin in each episode, referencing the historical and literary symbolism. User-friendly maps for each episode have been prepared by David Cox, based on the 1912 Ordnance Survey Map. The essays also act as a history lesson of Dublin in 1904 and include black and white photos of the time. Although the essays stand alone, each one of them helps to link the episodes of Ulysses and explain where one can look forward and backward to understand allusions to apparently insignificant details – not that anything is ever insignificant for Joyce.

Karen Lawrence, Robert Spoo, and Sam Slote cover the first three episodes or the Telemachia. For many, this section is the stumbling block to reading Ulysses, but as Maud Ellmann points out in another essay, it is the most casual details that provide serendipitous associations, and similarly we need this section on history, colonialism, and character, to give us a preparatory lesson on how to read Ulysses.

From the fourth chapter things can only get easier, as Margaret Norris introduces us to Bloom, and his gut, in “Calypso”. We meet Molly too, but the first oral word is from the cat, “Mkgnao!”. Settling into the language of Bloom, reading his thoughts and discovering his idiosyncrasies we move onto “Lotus Eaters” where Maud Ellmann leads us into drugged euphoria and abstraction. It is sometimes overlooked that this episode is happening at the same time as “Nestor”, says Ellmann, due to its insouciant mood, but it is in parallel to Stephen, who is also trying to forget, forget the nightmare of history.

In “Hades” Barry Devine draws attention to the significance of popular culture in Ulysses. He identifies the songs and literature that had become part of the social fabric of Dublin life. Devine gives us details to notice, particularly when they are the ghosts that haunt Bloom. This theme is expanded on in the next episode, in which Terence Killeen, journalist and Joyce scholar, contributes an essay on “Aeolus” – set in a Newspaper office – and paints a picture of the wider Dublin male social world in which Bloom and Stephen are embedded, pointing out that Dublin is itself a character, perhaps the most important one, and how its vices and textures are conveyed with rhetorical force throughout the episode.

Whilst explaining the function of food language in “Lestrygonians,” Matthew Hayward himself gets caught up in the mood: “Joyce has other characters ladle on the food expression,” he quips. He also points out that Bloom’s interior monologue requires a certain kind of reader, one who willingly invests in previous scenes which inform Bloom’s present thoughts. Joyce’s extended use of food imagery, Hayward explains, binds the chapter’s various elements:  plot, theme, setting, characterization, and Homeric correspondence – which in some way all focus on food.

“Scylla and Charybdis,” the episode that takes place in the National Library, and where Stephen is expounding his theory on Shakespeare, is deciphered by Matthew Creasy. This is the ninth and middle episode of Ulysses and set right in the centre of Dublin. Creasy points out how the preceding chapters have focused on the experiences of the individual but from now on begin to open up a broader social spectrum of expression.

But perhaps “Wandering Rocks” is the half-way chapter, writes Scarlett Baron, metaphorically alluding to which route the reader should take to avoid the “hostile milieu,” as listed in the Linati schema. The streets set the scene, and a large cast of Dubliners people the pages, whilst their activities and progress through the city are meticulously charted, and Stephen and Bloom make only brief appearances. This is the episode where Dublin is celebrated and minutely mapped out and traversed. However, it is a colonial city, which according to Len Platt, Baron tells us, is marked by a history of seizure, repression, and rebellion. Indeed, the vice-regal cavalcade snakes its way through the sections linking the cast of multitudinous characters therein and bookended by the church and the state. The use of the interpolation or interruption, which is the insertion in each fragment of one or more excerpts from other fragments, is a method evocative of montage. But, Barron warns us, do not take anything for granted; a good memory for repetitions and parallels is crucial, alongside puzzle-solving abilities. However, she reassures us, the leitmotifs of the next episode, “Sirens,” are listed ahead in the “Overture.” Indeed, “Sirens” is assiduously annotated by Katherine O’Callaghan, an authority on music in Ulysses. She shows us how so many incidents in this book are heard and not seen, and reminds us that in the schema, the organ of this chapter is the ear. She also draws our attention to where these sounds might have been heard in previous episodes.

Vincent J. Cheng, in his essay on “Cyclops,” suggests that not a lot has changed since the one-eyed, antisemitic Citizen held forth from his perch at the counter of Barney Kiernan’s public house, castigating Bloom as a foreigner even though he was born in Ireland. Cheng argues that the details of Robert Emmet’s hanging are “an exploration of the dynamics of patriotic martyrdom,” before turning his attention to the “post-colonial turn” of the mid-1990s, when Joyce scholarship shifted towards a debate on colonial and Irish nationalist politics and history. There is an additional amuse-bouche regarding a heated exchange of words between Terry Eagleton and himself at the 1993 Bloomsday Symposium at the University of California at Irvine.

Vicki Mahaffey, interpreting the triptych of Virgin, Mother, and Whore in “Nausicaa,” places her emphasis on a contemporary novel called The Lamplighter by Maria Cummins, a book referenced by Gerty MacDowell in the chapter, but also, more crucially, the symbol of illumination that pervades the episode, linking it to the schematic organ of the eye. Mahaffey finishes her essay by concluding that the two views of each of its characters in “Nausicaa,” give a “twi-light” that the reader is asked to accommodate.

In “Oxen of the Sun,” which Sarah Davison considers one of the most “dastardly” of the episodes, she carefully guides us through what Joyce described as “a parody of English  prose styles, from past to present, linking it to nine months of human gestation.” Thereafter, Ronan Crowley navigates the “madcap pile up” that is the hallmark of “Circe”’ by dividing it into six broad sections; Tim Conley describes the sleepy prose of “Eumaeus”; while Fritz Senn laments that “Ithaca” is disappointingly not a climax but a catalogue, filling gaps and maintaining order; before we finally come to “Penelope.” Catherine Flynn engagingly and succinctly takes us through the “eight long almost entirely unpunctuated sentences” that have become known as Molly’s Soliloquy.

This is a massive copy of Ulysses – impossible to fit in your shoulder bag or even take on a weekend break. However, the essays, with their historical and geographical context, expanding into erudite discussion of the relevant chapter, are not to be missed. If I were asked whether I recommend buying this edition of Ulysses, I would definitely say: Yes