One of humanity's great masterpieces, James Joyce's Ulysses explores the patterns of human thought, fosters an appreciation for differences between people, challenges the conventions and limits of language, and celebrates the strength of spirit required to endure the trials of everyday life.
Famously, not much happens in this book, yet all of life is contained in its pages. In terms of plot, the novel depicts the events of one day (June 16th, 1904) in one smallish European city (Dublin, Ireland) through, mostly, the consciousness of two men (Stephen Dedalus, 22, and Leopold Bloom, 38). Eighteen hours pass.
Stephen has breakfast with his roommates, teaches a class, goes for a walk, engages in scholarly conversation with other intellectuals, gets drunk, goes to a brothel, and gets knocked out for speaking loosely to a belligerent British soldier (Ireland is under English rule). Oh, and Stephen is haunted by the recent death of his mother, for whom he refused to pray on account of his rejection of religion.
Mr. Bloom makes breakfast for himself and his wife, Molly, runs some errands in town, attends a funeral, does some business (he works in advertising), has lunch, gets into a political argument with an Irish Nationalist in a pub, "relaxes" on the beach for an hour at sunset, visits a maternity hospital where a friend is in labor, crosses paths with drunk Stephen and decides that he should look after him. Oh, and Bloom's wife has sex with another man in the afternoon. And Bloom knows about it.
By experiencing these events through the inner-monologue of these characters, we access Stephen and Bloom's unfiltered thoughts on the people and places they encounter, their memories of past joys and pains, and their concerns about the future. Even the most unremarkable moments (taking a sip of wine or eavesdropping on a passing bicyclist) can trigger a remarkable passage of literary expression.
While reading (and, ultimately, finishing) this novel requires some measure of dedication, the rewards are well worth the effort. This website aims to mitigate some of the challenges posed by this book by supporting and informing the reader. This site is by no means an exhaustive study of the novel, yet I hope to offer a few ideas that devoted Joyceans might find engaging while orienting the majority of the content toward the first time reader of Ulysses.
Stephen, the now 22 year old protagonist from Joyce's earlier novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, begins his day at the Martello Tower in Sandycove, a southern suburb of Dublin.
Mr. Bloom, a 38 year old Jewish husband, father, and advertising agent, launches his day of wandering from his home at 7 Eccles Street in North Dublin.