“What did you do in the Great War, Mr. Joyce?”
“I wrote Ulysses. What did you do?”
—Tom Stoppard, Travesties (1974)
James Joyce wrote Ulysses (1922) over a seven-year period that spanned a world war and a global pandemic. While many of his contemporaries responded to the apocalyptic violence of the early twentieth century by investing in the isolationist tendencies of extreme nationalism and fascism’s false promises of universal order, Joyce set out to write a comic epic. What Joyce found in comedy was not an escape from the nightmare of history but rather, in the words of his compatriot Samuel Beckett, “a form to accommodate the mess.” Throughout our time together, we will try to understand what is to be gained by refusing a “tragic” perspective in times of great disaster. We will, in other words, try to take the comedy of Joyce’s Ulysses seriously.
This group has reached capacity. To be added to a waitlist, please email email@example.com with ULYSSES as the subject line.
The Athenæum is deeply grateful to our wonderful volunteer leaders. Please note library reading groups are not classes or courses, but rather a way for individuals to discuss readings together, guided by both expert and amateur enthusiasts. Participants should expect discussion-based, not lecture-style meetings.