Ulysses depicts a world that is as fully conceived and vibrant as anything in Homer or Shakespeare. It has been delighting and puzzling readers since it was first published on Joyce's 40th birthday in 1922. And here, Professor Heffernan maps the brilliance, passion, humanity, and humor of Joyce's modern Odyssey in these 24 lectures that finally make a beguiling literary masterpiece accessible for any reader willing to give it a chance. Although they discuss selected points from the enormous body of critical scholarship on Ulysses, these lectures presuppose no special knowledge of literature or of James Joyce. Whether or not you've read Ulysses, you'll find they make an excellent guide to the many-layered pleasures of this modern epic. Illuminating the dramatic and artistic integrity behind the novel's most notoriously challenging passages, they explain why this frank, path-breaking novel was praised as a landmark and damned as obscene - even banned - as soon as it first appeared. You'll come to see Ulysses as many books at once: an inspired modern reweaving of the fabric of Homer's mighty Odyssey; a supreme synthesis of realism and symbolism; a grandly comic and at times bawdy work - a seriocomic parable about art and experience; a symphonic, kaleidoscopic portrayal of the sights, sounds, and voices of Dublin and every city; and a dazzling work of masterfully handled prose styles and narrative devices.
Above all, you'll learn to read Ulysses as an unsentimental but deeply felt story that uses concrete facts of mundane life in a particular time and place to say something truly extraordinary and universal that speaks to all that is human in us.
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Good to Begin With
The first thing anyone would ask i think, would be if they should try this series of lectures. This is what I would say:
If you really want to understand the way James Joyce writes, how he constructs his Ulysses and how this seemingly meaningless mass of words all fit together to frankly make something extremely beautiful, then you should get this. The energy the professor brings to the lectures is good and helps in keeping the listener on track and interested. He also does quite a good job in connecting the chapters together, which really helps as sometimes the sheer amount of content that can be found in the chapters can make you forget what happened before and not sure how to connect them together.
I have read some of the comments below and while it is true that the lectures focuses very much on the original Odyssey and how Joyce recreates them into something new and modern, I actually think thrashing the path through the Odyssey is quite important. It becomes a guide that makes reading Joyce's Ulysses much more comprehensible. Also, it is very helpful to take note of the chapter headings especially if you want to read or reread Ulysses. Understanding the relationship between the Odyssey and Joyce's Ulysses is very important given the work's title.
Having said this, I do agree that there is less focus on the other themes of the work discussed and to truly appreciate the work these areas must be explored more. However, this is why I titled this review as a good place to begin. I personally prefer these lectures to focus and fully discuss the relationship between Ulysses and the Odyssey so that the listener gets a full picture rather than try to cover everything. It is quite impossible to cover everything about the work in 24 lectures and even with such focus on the Odyssey and Joyce's Ulysses, it still barely scratches the surface of the topic.
If you are serious about understanding Ulysses or simply enjoy Joyce as I do and wish to delve deeper, this is what I would do.
Read the following in the order set out:
Portrait of the Artist
Read Ulysses completely once on your own
Listen to this series of lectures, relisten if possible
Read Ulysses again, this time applying what is learned from the lecture
And for other themes, read "Notes on Joyce's Ulysses" by don Gifford. And also see Stuart Gilbert and Harry blamires. Unless you have a lifetime you need these folks to help.
Read Ulysses again preferably while also reading the above mentioned authors on it.
Hey, Ulysses is meant to be hard to read. For those who are just curious about this often spoken work, this lecture will give you a good start and there is absolutely no need to go deeper unless you want to. It's suppose to be fun an challenging and I think this set of lectures would help anyone gain an appreciation of what Joys attempted and so well succeeded in doing.
Hope this was helpful.
For Inquiring Minds