Originally published in 1972, half a century after the book that occasioned it, Ulysses on the Liffey upset the conventional wisdom of the timethat there was no new myth to be discovered in Joyce’s masterpiece. Here, just such a myth is proposed.
Richard Ellmann makes clear, for the first time, how Joyce reconstituted the classical Odyssey with medieval elaborateness and modern meaning. Much of the evidence is internal, but he also makes the first use of some important indications by Joyce himself. Readers need no longer be baffled by how modern experience became anatomized, and mocked, and affirmed in the novel; or how Joyce created a new comic perspective. Ellmann also answers such unsolved questions as: Why was Molly Bloom born on Gibraltar? Why does Stephen hold forth about Shakespeare, and what is behind his theory of Hamlet? Why does Bloom order a Gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy for lunch? How can modern man overcome such pitfalls as Circe, the Sirens, and Scylla and Charybdis?
The book also discloses how Ulysses accommodates and discomfits the literary and philosophical tradition. It demonstrates that the presences of Homer, of “Daunty, Gouty, and Shopkeeper,” of Blake, Shelley, and Yeats, of Aristotle, Bruno, Vico, and Hume form a shadowy congeries behind the incidents of Joyce’s novel.
Praise for Ulysses on the Liffey
“A brilliant, exciting, witty, and joyful explosion of disciplined enthusiasm.”
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
“[T]his new book is in the steps of Stephen: supple with speculative intelligence and sure intelligences, inquisitive about aesthetics, alert to correspondences, delighted by the rewards of words.”
Seamus Heaney, The Listener
“Ellman has gone once more into Joyce’s maze and has emerged with a map of it he is excellent on Joyce’s intellectual processes.”
V. S. Pritchett, New Statesman
“A very considerable literary event.”
About the Author
Richard Ellmann (1918-1987) was the Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature at Oxford University from 1970 to 1984. He also taught at Yale, Northwestern, and Harvard. Renowned for his contributions to James Joyce scholarship (his 1959 biography of Joyce won the National Book Award; the revised edition won James Tait Black Memorial Prize), Ellmann is also the author of Yeats: The Man and The Masks, Oscar Wilde, and Eminent Domain.