Ulysses

Literary significance and critical reception

In a review in The Dial, T. S. Eliot said of Ulysses: "I hold this book to be the most important expression which the present age has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape." He went on to assert that Joyce was not at fault if people after him did not understand it: "The next generation is responsible for its own soul; a man of genius is responsible to his peers, not to a studio full of uneducated and undisciplined coxcombs."[23] The book has its critics; Virginia Woolf stated that "Ulysses was a memorable catastrophe—immense in daring, terrific in disaster."[24]

"What is so staggering about Ulysses is the fact that behind a thousand veils nothing lies hidden; that it turns neither toward the mind nor toward the world, but, as cold as the moon looking on from cosmic space, allows the drama of growth, being, and decay to pursue its course."
—Carl Jung [25]

Ulysses has been called "the most prominent landmark in modernist literature", a work where life's complexities are depicted with "unprecedented, and unequalled, linguistic and stylistic virtuosity".[26] 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.[27] This technique has been praised for its faithful representation of the flow of thought, feeling, mental reflection, and shifts of mood.[28] Critic Edmund Wilson noted that Ulysses attempts to render "as precisely and as directly as it is possible in words to do, what our participation in life is like—or rather, what it seems to us like as from moment to moment we live."[29] Stuart Gilbert said that the "personages of Ulysses are not fictitious",[30] but that "these people are as they must be; they act, we see, according to some lex eterna, an ineluctable condition of their very existence".[31] Through these characters Joyce "achieves a coherent and integral interpretation of life".[31]

Joyce uses metaphors, symbols, ambiguities, and overtones which gradually link themselves together so as to form a network of connections binding the whole work.[28] This system of connections gives the novel a wide, more universal significance, as "Leopold Bloom becomes a modern Ulysses, an Everyman in a Dublin which becomes a microcosm of the world."[32] Eliot described this system as the "mythic method": "a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history".[33]

In April 2013 the Central Bank of Ireland issued a silver €10 commemorative coin in honour of Joyce that misquoted a famous line from the novel,[34] despite being warned on at least two occasions by the Department of Finance over difficulties with copyright and design.[35]


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