"The Everyman's Epic": Journalism, Ordinariness and the New "Mass" Epic

In the "Aeolus" chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus tries to express to Professor MacHugh that he has "much, much to learn" about Dublin, but that he also has a "vision" (Joyce 119). Whether his vision pertains to the city or to his artistic aspirations is unclear but also unimportant. Rather, the interruptions by yelling newsboys and the distracting errands Stephen's group is running are critical in their significance to Joyce's conception of the epic form, his fascination with mass media and the influence of external factors on an artist's product.

Joyce struggles to forge a new role for Ulysses in the literary pantheon of great epics and novels while trying to exceed and confound historical standards of greatness. In "Aeolus", Joyce runs into problems defining his work in context of epic legacy. Also, he toys with the sprawl of his ambition and tries to straddle multiple meanings of 'novel' and 'epic'. Joyce's decision to construct "Aeolus" to resemble an assortment of newspaper clippings, with headlines followed by concise blurbs, allows the author to examine Ulysses' position in a constantly shifting canon of epics and...

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