Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Ulysses Project Gives Cause For Re-Joyce

Story posted January 25, 2011

The 90th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses on February 2, 2012, is likely to set off worldwide celebration and tribute.

Bowdoin Professor of English Marilyn Reizbaum has got the jump on the Joyceana jubilee. During spring 2011, she is mounting The Ulysses Project, a semester-long series of events, classes, and exhibitions celebrating Ulysses, the famously fascinating—and difficult—novel that is widely acknowledged as one of the great works of Modernist literature. [See full calendar of events.]

"Although people often say that the 20th century is the Joyce century, we're still learning his lessons," notes Reizbaum, who is a Joyce scholar and author of several books, including James Joyce's Judaic Other (Stanford University Press). "The question is, how do we move into a new century with this extraordinary work?"

Reizbaum has enlisted a rich array of scholars, artists and community members to help meet the challenge, with public programs that include film screenings, lectures, exhibitions and reading groups.

Ulysses Project Events

James Joyce, Positive Light, 2007, Gislee print, 594 x 840 mm.

The Ulysses Project includes a full semester of activities, courses, and exhibitions celebrating James Joyce's great work. Highlights include:
Bowdoin Book Lecture Series, Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m., Main Lounge, Moulton Union, featuring Marilyn Reizbaum discussing film adaptations drawn from Joyce's life and works.
Secret Joyceans : A Ulysses reading group for community members, Sundays, 3-5 p.m., McKeen Study: January 30, February 27, March 27.
Exhibition of prints and etchings of Ulysses by Norah Maki '09, April 1-15, Visual Arts Center.
Symposium: The Next Joyce Century: Still Fearing and Loving Ulysses, April 14-15, 2011.
See full schedule of events.

The Ulysses Project will culminate in a public symposium, "The Next Joyce Century: Still Fearing and Loving Ulysses," taking place at Bowdoin April 14-15, 2011. Among the participants is pre-eminent Joyce scholar Karen R. Lawrence, president of Sarah Lawrence College. A longtime past president of the International James Joyce Foundation, Lawrence is author of several books on Joyce, including Who’s Afraid of James Joyce? (University Press of Florida. 2010).

Students in Reizbaum's spring 2011 Joycean Revolutionaries senior seminar will read and consider Ulysses from multiple perspectives, with input from Bowdoin faculty across disciplines.

Art professor Mark Wethli will be leading the class in a visual response to the book, using as a departure point Joyce's use of the sense of sight—particularly in the 13th chapter, "Nausicaa,"— as well as the role public and private spaces play in the unfolding of the novel.

Senor dance lecturer Paul Sarvis is leading Reizbaum's students through a physical exploration of Joyce's use of parallel narrative characters. "We will create individual movement scores and place them side-by-side as duets to look for similarity or dissimilarity on varying terms," says Sarvis. "That, to me, relates to the way that Joyce establishes Dedalus and Bloom as unrelated characters."

Part of Joycean Revolutionaries is taking place in the Library, where archivist Daniel Hope is delving into the labyrinth of drafts and editions of Joyce's most celebrated work. In total, there are approximately 16 editions of Ulysses; Bowdoin's Special Collections includes several rare examples of these, including a first-edition second printing copy. That book, as well as several other unusual editions, will be included in a Library exhibition of Joyceana from Special Collections on display on the first floor Feb. 2-9 and April 8-15, 2011.

Professor of English Marilyn Reizbaum

Hope says he read Ulysses for the first time in preparation for his involvement, and describes the experience as transformational: " You are in the hands of this possessed madman and you have to submit to him: Sometimes that's enjoyable, sometimes you want to throw the book against the wall."

Sarvis describes the work as "kind of like the Torah: I keep going back and suddenly everything relates to Ulysses, I keep having these epiphanies. But the only way I could have read that book was with Marilyn's expert guidance."

Such reactions to Ulysses are typical, notes Reizbaum, and part of what makes Joyce such a "mythic, cultish figure."

"People take the Joyce class because they feel he's a mountain they want to climb," she says. "It's not everybody's cup of tea; it is difficult. Difficulty is an essential tenet of Modernism, and this novel brings it center stage."

Reizbaum says she hopes The Ulysses Project will encourage more people to climb that mountain. Sounds like a bloomin' good idea.

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