6 Reading Guides for James Joyce’s Ulysses

*To hear a discussion of some Ulysses reading guides, check out my interview with Tom O’Leary here.


I love Ulysses, but it can be a beast to get through. It’s a rewarding beast, but it’s nice to have a companion by your side while facing such a beast. It’s not necessary to have a reading guide if you’re reading Ulysses for the first time, but it’s very likely you will encounter references or full passages that are completely inscrutable. I created Blooms and Barnacles in part because I hope it can be a resource for people who need some help making sense of Ulysses’ tough bits.  Googling “Ulysses reading guide” will provide you with a plethora of options, in online, audio and dead-tree formats. If you’re shopping around for just the right guide, I have some suggestions.

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James Joyce Ulysses Buck Mulligan

Ep. 3 – Joyce v. Gogarty

Orpen_OSJGogarty
Oliver St John Gogarty

In this episode we tackle the falling out between James Joyce and Oliver St John Gogarty, the origins of the character Buck Mulligan, what really happened in the Martello tower, blasphemous poetry and how Joyce found his sense of humor.

Stream here:
https://embed.simplecast.com/af8957f2?color=f5f5f5

On the Blog:

Say ‘Hello’ to Martello Towers
Who was the Real Buck Mulligan?

Poetry in Ulysses: The Ballad of Joking Jesus

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Further Reading:

Ellmann, R. (1959). James Joyce. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gogarty, O. (1948). Mourning became Mrs. Spendlove and other portraits grave and gay. New York: Creative Age Press.

Lyons, J. (1984). Oliver St. John Gogarty. Dublin Historical Record,38(1), 2-13. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30100748

Riley, M. (1984). Joyce, Gogarty, and the Irish Hero. The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies,10(2), 45-54. doi:10.2307/25512607. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/25512607?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Aafd1aaaa4471f11ab4207fabb5556216&seq=9#metadata_info_tab_contents

Trieste Notebook:

http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/JoyceColl/JoyceColl-idx?type=div&did=JOYCECOLL.SCHOLESWORKSHOP.I0013&isize=text

Turner, J., & Mamigonian, M. (2004). Solar Patriot: Oliver St. John Gogarty in “Ulysses”. James Joyce Quarterly,41(4), 633-652. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25478099

Music

Noir – S Strong & Boogie Belgique

Homer The Odyssey Ulysses James Joyce Stephen Dedalus

Ep. 2 – Ulysses & the Odyssey: Telemachus!

Telemachus_and_Mentor1
Telemachus and Mentor, Pablo E. Fabisch, 1699

Dermot and Kelly discuss the connections between Ulysses and The Odyssey. We take on the Gilbert schema, how to market a book like Ulysses, what exactly happens in the opening chapters of The Odyssey, and how it corresponds to the “Telemachus” episode of Ulysses.

Stream here:

https://embed.simplecast.com/784891db?color=f5f5f5
Continue reading “Ep. 2 – Ulysses & the Odyssey: Telemachus!”

Ep. 1 – Tom O’Leary

T.C. O'Leary's, Portland, pubs, PDX, James Joyce, Ulysses, Bloomsday
Tom and Kelly on Bloomsday 2018

Tom O’Leary is an Irish-born actor and pub owner living in Portland, OR. He and Blooms and Barnacles host Kelly started the Ulysses Support Group (aka Book Club) together in 2017, and it is still going strong today! Kelly and Tom talk about why they love Ulysses, how to start your own Ulysses book club, Ulysses reading guides and why Ulysses helps Tom “go home” every time he reads it.

Stream here:

https://embed.simplecast.com/65fb6f3c?color=f5f5f5

IMG-5644 (1)

T.C O’Leary’s online:

websiteFacebook|Twitter |Instagram

Recommended Reading and Listening

  • The Bloomsday Book, by Harry Blamires
  • Ulysses Annotated, by Don Gifford
  • Ulysses audiobook, read by Jim Norton

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Music

Noir – S Strong & Boogie Belgique

Decoding Dedalus: A Dedalus Never Pays His Debts

—I will tell you, he said solemnly, what is his proudest boast. I paid my way. … I never borrowed a shilling in my life. Can you feel that? I owe nothing. Can you?

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a paragraph of Ulysses and  break it down line by line. 

The passage below comes from “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses. It appears on pages 30-31 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).


A guide to pre-decimal currency can be found here.

Mr. Deasy’s quote above is meant to be the pride of the English – being so sensible (or just wealthy, let’s be real) that you live your whole life without debts. It’s worth recalling that in “Telemachus,”  Haines the Englishman said to Buck Mulligan, “Have you your bill? We had better pay her, Mulligan, hadn’t we?” just moments before Mulligan underpays the milkwoman for her milk, an underpayment on owed money. Stephen, most unEnglishly, also has his fair share of debts, of which he takes mental stock after Mr. Deasy extolls the virtues of lacking debt. Stephen’s debt mirrors the financial realities of James Joyce himself at a similar age.

Much like Stephen, Joyce had returned from medical school in Paris, his family in disarray following his mother’s death. His father, John Joyce, was selling off their household items to patch holes in the family’s dire financial situation while coping with the strain through alcohol. Though James could have hypothetically worked to support his family, he was dead set on making his mark as an Artist. This sometimes took the form of all-day writing sessions and other times sleeping until four in the afternoon following an all-night drinking session. In Joyce’s mind, one justified the other.

Continue reading “Decoding Dedalus: A Dedalus Never Pays His Debts”

James Joyce, Ulysses, literature, Stephen Dedalus, riddle, Ireland, Dublin

Stephen’s Riddle

I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality. – James Joyce

At the close of his lesson in “Nestor,” Stephen’s students ask for a ghost story, so naturally he provides them an unsolvable riddle. Classic Dedalus. The riddle, however, is not only unsolvable for the students of Mr. Deasy’s school, but also for most adult readers of Ulysses. It goes as follows:

The cock crew
The sky was blue:
The bells in heaven
Were striking eleven.
Tis time for this poor soul
to go to heaven.

Answer: The fox burying his grandmother under a holly bush.

Yep.

So, what does it mean?

Continue reading “Stephen’s Riddle”

Mr Deasy Dalkey James Joyce Ulysses Nestor

Who was the Real Mr. Deasy?

“You will see at the next outbreak they will put an embargo on Irish cattle. And it can be cured. It is cured. My cousin, Blackwood Price, writes to me it is regularly treated and cured by cattledoctors there.”

Discussing the real-life counterpart of Mr. Deasy, the headmaster of the school where Stephen Dedalus works, is a bit more complicated than characters like Buck Mulligan or Haines for the simple fact that he has no one-to-one correspondent in James Joyce’s life. Rather, Mr. Deasy is a mélange of two people from Joyce’s life.

Much like Stephen, Joyce did briefly teach at Clifton School in Dalkey, an affluent suburb to the south of Dublin near Sandycove, home to Joyce’s Martello tower. Clifton School was originally housed in Summerfield Lodge on Dalkey Ave. and later moved to a house called Cintra on Vico Road on the far side of Dalkey. Joyce’s tower roommate Oliver St. John Gogarty (the real-life Buck Mulligan) wrote that Joyce took the job at Clifton School to finance their bohemian experiment in the Martello tower. Joyce being Joyce, however, originally had a more grandiose scheme. Thus spake Gogarty:

He had, at first, thought of forming himself into a company, the shareholders in which were to receive all the proceeds from his future writings. The idea was novel. The shareholders would have to keep and humor him…. There were worse investments than in James Joyce, Inc.

Continue reading “Who was the Real Mr. Deasy?”