01 October 2008

Happening Upon James Joyce (and his project)

No virtue was involved in my choice to study James Joyce in college. I was eighteen years old, beginning my sophomore year in college, and I simply signed up for an upper level class that had for its texts just two books: James Joyce's Ulysses and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. I didn't know James Joyce from Henry James from Joyce Carol Oates, but I thought that I could handle two books, even if they were big.

So, when I make an assignment that asks you to blog on the topic of James Joyce's project, it's not like I haven't learned a lot in the past decades. It's clear that he had many projects, and I thought that you students would alight upon whichever interested you most.

For myself, as I said in class, I begin with the belief that Dubliners is a pretty perfect work of fiction. But I quickly move to Ulysses, my first Joyce, and to the first notion I grasped: that the novel Ulysses, the story of one hapless Jewish cuckold wandering Dublin, hangs quite neatly on the Homeric epic The Odyssey. I was thrilled by the modernist interest in bringing the myths to bear in personal lives and works of art. No doubt I'd always felt that I was mythic. Perhaps Joyce did too. Or maybe he was just having a good time with all of us.

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