English 225 - Spring, 2022

Topics in Irish Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Dobbins, Gregory
CRN: 62253
Time: M 3:10-6:00
Location: 308 Voorhies
Breadth: Later British
Focus: Genre, Other National, Theory


James Joyce and 100 Years of 'Ulysses'

Roughly two months before Spring Quarter 2022 will begin-- on February 2, 2022-- James Joyce's novel 'Ulysses' turned 100 years old. The importance and influence of the book is difficult to understate given its role within the emergence of High Modernism and the reconceptualization of the formal qualities of the novel-- but 'Ulysses' is probably just as famous for its notorious difficulty.

'Ulysses' presents a fundamental paradox. On the one hand, it has played a crucial role not only in the subsequent trajectory of literary style over the last one hundred years, but also in respect to several developments within the history of critical theory as well (such as the importance of interpretations of 'Ulysses' in the emergence of Post-Structuralism, French Feminist Theory, Psychoanalytic Theory, Queer Theory, Cultural Studies, the reinvention of Irish Studies via its encounter with Postcolonial Theory, the rise of the so-called "New Modernist Studies"-- and so-on). On the other hand, the complexity of the novel provides it with a reputation that suggests many who set out to read it rarely make it all of the way to the end. It may just be possible to track the history of a wide range of theoretical approaches to cultural production over the last hundred years solely by focusing on how they interpret 'Ulysses' (a process which continues; more recent theoretical developments that suggest the ways in which Disability Studies, Ecocriticism, Trans Theory, the Digital Humanities, and Object Oriented Ontology help illuminate 'Ulysses' have all started to appear in recent years). Yet how useful might 'Ulysses' be as a site to explore a number of different interpretative approaches given the degree of complexity and apparent inaccessibility which often stands in the way of reading it in the first place?

This course will seek to address that question by providing an introduction to perhaps the most famous "unread" book in the literary canon. The majority of the quarter will be devoted to a detailed reading of 'Ulysses' that seeks to demystify it by tracking the various innovations it is credited with in regard to the emergence of High Modernism, the form of the novel, and the various theoretical movements which it in part inspires. Since the relationship between 'Ulysses' and critical theory is a potentially vast subject, one goal of the seminar is to prioritize those interpretative approaches which are of particular interest to those students who are enrolled in the class. As those particular interests emerge through the quarter, they will provide the basis for a presentation each student will give in the second half of the quarter that seeks to interpret some facet of the novel. That presentation, in turn, will hopefully provide the basis for the final assignment. At the very least, however, our more immediate goal will be to read 'Ulysses' in order to understand it as best as we can through weekly collective discussion.

Since ten weeks is barely enough time to get through 'Ulysses,' it will be necessary to read a few works in advance so that we may begin our discussion of Joyce on the first day of class. In the tenth week of Winter Quarter, I will publish the course Canvas site early in order to specify some reading assignments for the very first day of class; that assignment will focus on excerpts from Joyce's early short story collection 'Dubliners' that we will discuss on March 28. We will also be reading the novel 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' in the second week of class; it will be helpful if you are already familiar with it or have read it recently so we may move more quickly into 'Ulysses?.

A Note on texts for this course:

Due to various long-running difficulties with the university's Equitable Access program, texts for this course will not be ordered through the textbook store. Moreover-- for reasons that will become apparent as we start reading 'Ulysses'-- it will be necessary for you to obtain a physical copy of a PARTICULAR edition of the novel. You will need to obtain the following required texts:

1. 'Ulysses' (ISBN # 978-0-679-72276-2) published by Vintage/Random House (aka 'the 1961' edition). No other editions of the novel will be permitted.

2. Don Gifford & Robert Seidman, 'Ulysses Annotated' (ISBN # 978-0-520-25397-1) published by University of California Press

You will also need copies of 'Dubliners' and 'Portrait'; I recommend the following widely available, relatively cheap editions published by Penguin due to the usefulness of their annotations:

3. 'Dubliners' (ISBN # 978-0-14-018647-5), with notes by Terence Brown

4. 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (ISBN # 978-0-14-243734-6), with notes by Seamus Deane

All other reading assignments for the class will be made available in PDF form on Canvas.

Further updates about the class will be provided through the course Canvas site at the end of the Winter Quarter; look for that to launch in Week Ten.


Course requirements:

-- Weekly attendance and discussion of the reading assignments; this will also entail some preparatory work in advance of class submitted to Canvas the day before scheduled classes

-- a Presentation (roughly 15-20 minutes in length) on some facet of 'Ulysses' during Weeks 6-10 that presents some initial movement towards the final project

-- Final project: since this course is directed towards both PhD. and CW MFA students in equal measure, there are two possibilities given your possible needs:

a. a critical proto-essay (roughly 15 pages or so) which focuses on some aspect of 'Ulysses' and begins to move in the direction of a possible article, dissertation chapter, etc.


b. a work of creative non-fiction prose (roughly 15 pages or so) that engages with some facet of 'Ulysses'


See note on texts above