Ulysses and the Lie of Technological Progress

Joyce picked June 16 as the time of the novel partly to commemorate his first date with his future wife

.. it’s easy to render James Joyce a staid and honorable figure of cultural uprightness. But nothing could be less the case. Ulysses bathes in low-culture vulgarity

.. We chose Twitter, still a relatively esoteric “microblogging” platform in 2007, because it offered a perfect format for our interpretation. For one part, the invitation to post messages, in public, unfiltered, whatever thought or idea came out of one’s head perfectly paralleled Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness writing.

.. We registered 54 Twitter accounts in the names of Ulysses characters—from@BuckMulligan to @WifeOfSheehyMP, and converted the passages we’d selected and time-coded into 140-character tweets, adding @-mention cross-references where appropriate.

.. Twitter had published an application programming interface (API) for its service. Using the API, I wrote some software to automate the posting, such that everything would be timed correctly.

.. Adrienne LaFrance explained how a Pulitzer-nominated, 34-part investigative journalism series vanished entirely from the web. One reason: it was built on a technology platform, Flash

.. Works produced for HyperCard, Apple’s once-popular programming tool, have long since ceased to be viewable on modern computers.

..  One of the features that allowed Ulysses to become canon—hardly the only one, but one nevertheless—was its ability to be read by human eyeballs in 2016 as much as in 1986, 1956, or 1926.

.. The Twitter public timeline had been retired

.. The ultimate lesson of Ulyssesis that everything that seems permanent decays and returns to earth. But in so doing, it doesn’t vanish. It facilitates new growth, both native and invasive.

.. Bloomsday is the most contemporary of holidays, because it puts the lie to the conceit of contemporary life: that we move ever-forward through progress, amassing knowledge and innovation and adeptness. How quickly forgotten is the fundamental lesson of modernism—that entropy rules

.. It celebrates the ultimate technological advancement no matter the period: not discovery or innovation, but the warm, drunk rumble of the conversation between progress and decay.

Ulysses (novel)

the judge stated that literature should serve the need of the people for “a moral standard”, be “noble and lasting”, and “cheer, console, purify, or enoble the life of people”.[37]

.. That style has been stated to be the finest example of the use of stream-of-consciousness in modern fiction, with the author going deeper and farther than any other novelist in handling interior monologue.[39]This technique has been praised for its faithful representation of the flow of thought, feeling, mental reflection, and shifts of mood

.. Joyce uses metaphors, symbols, ambiguities, and overtones which gradually link themselves together so as to form a network of connections binding the whole work

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses

Joyce’s novel employed the largest range of styles—a series of rapid innovations—ever seen in a single novel. Its first impression on the startled reader was a kind of intellectual blur. Most notorious was Joyce’s lavish use of the technique that became known, following Larbaud’s lecture, as interior monologue.

.. All the usual demarcations—between dialogue and thought and description—were now jumbled.

.. And this manic variation culminated in a final chapter where Bloom’s wife Molly, lying in bed, thinks to herself, with almost no punctuation, in a free flow of domestic, dirty associations: “I know every turn in him Ill tighten my bottom well and let out a few smutty words smellrump or lick my shit….” This was the extra problem with Ulysses. Joyce’s stylistic one-man band included a linguistic obscenity that had not been used before so casually or comprehensively in literature. This not only upset the critics; it upset the lawyers, too.

..  In fact, the government’s reaction to Ulysses reveals how much nineteenth- century ideas about obscenity shaped twentieth-century ideas about radicalism.

.. This is Birmingham’s central insight. The anxiety about language was both sexual and political: it reflected a general fear of obscene, revolutionary subversives.

.. “Demon pantechnicon driver, busy with removal of old world into new quarters”—this was how Wyndham Lewis described Pound: a removal company for modernism.

.. Representing The Little Review was John Quinn—a powerful lawyer who was also a modernist patron. His central defense was that since Ulysses was “cubism in literature” its obscenity could be excused by its obscurity: since who could be corrupted by something he or she didn’t understand?

.. Also, the trial had madeUlysses famous—and Beach wanted her own fame, too. Her publicity campaign proudly exploited the glamour of the banned:

..  Ernst’s defense was that literature, by definition, could never be obscene. And Joyce’s novel was pure literature—its single loyalty was to depicting the vast infinity of human consciousness: its giant associations and lapses of attention. It was a courageous argument, and a persuasive one. Joyce’s subject, wrote Woolsey in his summing up, was “the screen of consciousness,” onto which were projected not just impressions of the present moment, but also a whole frieze of memories and associations. It was some of the most accurate literary criticism Ulysses had so far received.

..  “The supreme question about a work of art,” a character comments, “is out of how deep a life does it spring.

.. equally happy not just with obscenity but also with puns in Latin and French

.. For something is missing in Ulysses—which could be called romanticism, or the ideal, or the metaphysical; and its absence is the deep reason why Joyce’s early readers were so alarmed, and why it can still disturb

.. “What makes most people’s lives unhappy is some disappointed romanticism,”

.. In fact you may say that idealism is the ruin of man, and if we lived down to fact, as primitive man had to do, we would be better off…. In Ulysses I tried to keep close to fact.”

..  But Bloom is a much larger creation even than Ulysses, and he remains the most thoroughly imagined character in literature—an achievement perhaps only possible because of the multiple styles of Joyce’s novel, which allowed him not just to describe Bloom’s fantasies, including some that are obscene, but also his height and the precise layout of his ideal home.

.. At this point, it seems that Joyce discovered that everything could be said. There was nothing that could not be transformed into language.

.. “His writing is not aboutsomething,” Samuel Beckett would famously write, “it is that something itself.” Joyce tried to make language become what it describes. He wanted to make it as literal as possible.

..  For what could be more realistic, after all, than a sentence where the word becomes the thing it described?

.. What seems to have happened, as the novel progressed, was that Joyce realized that if he could transform any phenomenon into language, it was also true that the literalism could be flipped the other way. Language itself could be treated as a thing, a phenomenon to be included in his epic.