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Written by James Joyce

Joyces reinterpretation of Homers epic,The Odyssey, in his novel.

Name of the student: MOISE BIANCA-ROXANA

Coordinator: Prof. univ. dr. ADINA CIUGUREANU
Year: 2
Second Semester
English and German group

I've put in
so many enigmas and puzzles
that it will keep the professors busy for
centuries arguing over what I meant, and
the only way of insuring
one's immortality.1

Introduction to modernism
The eighteenth century is also illustrated as The Age of Reason or The Modern Century, because of
the industrial and technological development and the inventions. Transport (i.e. trains, ships) was greatly
improved in that time, along with the electricity which is , unquestionably, the most significant invention. Also,
1 Ellmann, Richard (1982). James Joyce. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 50204.ISBN 019-503103-2.

the discovery of the spinning jenny and the modern(mechanical) loom determined the development of the
knitwear.Nevertheless, the paper became cheaper and so, more and more newspapers were published, leading the
people to be more informed and enlightened . That may be the reason why this century is also cleverly called
The Age of Enlightment.
The term modernism symbolizes, nowadays, a philosophical, cultural and literary movement. The word
modern(latin modernus) was used for the first time in the fifth Century A.D. and it denoted something new.
Later, the Roman statesman and historian Cassiodorus, associating this word with the invasion of the German
tribes which were seen as something modern, reevaluates its meaning and finally defines this specific term as
something new in the way which disrupts the old tradition, something in the present.Nonetheless, Pope
Gelasius reexamines this word too and sees it in a new light, based on the precious, new inventions specific to
those times. He draws a conclusion, as opposed to Cassiodorus, that the word modern actually conveys
continuity, something new that comes, just as the inventions.
During the entire century and mostly between the years 1910(when the movement arose)and 1960
(especially in the20, this lapse of time also being called the peak of modernism) there have been abundant
speculations and hypothesises about the categorical significance of the term modern. The theorists were overall
struggling to decide wheter it reffers to disruption or continuity.
Ultimately, as far as I am concerned and as well how I personally consider it to be, it was decided that the
term expresses both continuity(the modernists continue with the point of view of the eighteenth literary and
artistic view) and disruption(although modernists preserve the traditional way of writing for example poetry and
fiction, they also disrupt it with new, totally modern elements and writing techniques). 2
Thus far, the modernism as a literary movement deals with invention of new, modern strategies of
writing based on new techniques and meant to address to a smaller, elected audience( the intellectuals, the
educated people). On this account, modernism was, as a matter of course, labelled as highly elitist.
The fact that the works of art were all written as a reaction to the increasing industrialization and
globalization, to the new technology , to the petrifying circumstances of both World Wars (but specifically World
War I) and as a breakthrough in creating new, modern ,revolutionary techniques of writing made the modernist
movement a weighty one.
The major requiremes of an artwork to appertain to the modernism are breaking the rules and criticizing
the predecesors. The modernist principles infer no description, rather a presentation, no narration, no superfluous,
exorbitant, needless words and a combination between intelect and feelings(a demonstration of a complex made
both of intelectual and emotional illustrations in an instance of time).The modernists repudiated the romantics
point of view which was optimistic, focusing on nature. Modernist fiction expressed the inner counsciousness of
each being and in terms of Weltanschaung, instead of progress, they observed only a decline of the civilization,
instead of effective, helpful technology, they saw cold machinery.Therefore, regarding the writing technique, the
first person was predominant in the writing in order to express these convictions easier and more straightforward.
The stream of consciousness technique
The most significant, noteworthy feature and, to me, the essence of the modernist fiction is the stream of
consciousness technique. That is, the text is not organised as it was in earlier literature using in the beggining an
introduction, in the middle the conflict and at the end of the text the resolution. This primordial technique was
explained by W. James in his quote Thought can never be disconnected3 , that is why it is called a stream of
consciousness or a river of thought.
To conclude with this technique, stream is a term used to describe the mental process of the characters in
modernist fiction which allows them to describe absolutely all their thoughts exactly as they come into their
minds and is considered a writing strategy specific to modernism.
Introduction to James Joyces work
Some of the most known modernist writers are the poets T.S Elliot, Marianne Moore, William Carlos
Williams, Ezra Pound, F. S. Flint, Amy Lowell and the novelists James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence.One of the
most praiseworthy modernist writer who works with all these imposing , modernist writing techniques and
strategies is James Joyce. He managed to be remembered until this day as one of the best representative of the
modernism with his remarkable, genuine novel Ulysses.This novel changed people's ideas about what a novel
is and what it can do.
2 Adina Ciugureanu, lecture on "Modernism and James Joyces Ullyses, Ovidius University,
Constanta , 8 May 2015.
3 Idem

The leading influence in Joyces writing were Parnells ,Dante Alighieris, Homers and even
Shakespeares writings and the entire mythology. The Irish writer rewrites ancient myths and adapts Dantes
Divine Comedy (there are episodes that allude to the infernal and the purgatory).In terms of lexical and
semnatic cohesion, he uses juxtaposition, time and space ( subjective and objective times) and shifts between
James Joyce played a fairly crucial role in defining the art and the process of generating it. In one his
works , A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he defines art using , for the first time ever, the phrase
aestethic arrest and tries to identify its traits by distinguishing between proper and improper art. He considered
that proper, real art manages to arrest your mind, it is a sublime, perfect beauty that pleases the mind and the
soul. In contrast, improper art moves the viewer or reader only with desire(arousing the peoples wish to buy it,
to posses it) or with fear(it is kinetic). 4
There is a weighty progression in Joyce's work, beginning in A portrait of the Artist as a Young
Man to play with a large amount of the techniques that he would reevaluate and master in Ulysses.Thus , this
Irish writer is, nowadays , extremly appreciated in world literature for his statements on art and also, not less
important, for his ground-breaking style of writing which became reamarkable and remembarable both for its
complexity and for the explicit content (which, as well, caused Joyce a lot of difficulties in publishing his books,
most of them being forbidden in those times). The publication history of Ulysses is very disputed. There have
been around 18 editions and variations in different impressions of each edition. Joyce's handwritten manuscripts
were typed by a number of amateur typists (one of whom was Robert McAlmon).
The masterpiece which assured Joyces reputation as a distinct, eccentric writer is the one that was
defined asa demonstration and summation of the entire movement"5 , the novel Ulysses, one of the most
important modernist works too. It fulfilled in raising a lot of eyebrows not only back then,but nowadays too, and
it aroused a large amount of ideas and judgements in the minds of the great thinkers, some of them being
For example, Declan Kiberd declared : "Before Joyce, no writer of fiction had so foregrounded the
process of thinking.", gloryfing his strategies , techinques and way of thinking. In spite of that, Anthony Burgess
described the novel as "inimitable, and also possibly mad", this representing an attitude which is characteristic to
most of the readers from current times, whom are confused by Joyces modernist specific stream of
consciousness technique.
My initial reaction to this book was negative as well, but after I started to see it as a challenge and trying
to read it between the lines, I began to actually like it, especially for its unique, bizzare style and the impression
of a replica of the real-life feelings and passion, created by using the stream of conciousness technique. Joyce
literarlly forces the readers to get extremly close to the characters thoughts and emotions, even though they are
quite disordered and fragmentary. Thats also a characteristic of the real-life experience. Sometimes we can
hardly figure out what is happening in our lives or minds and our thoughts and emotions are clearly disoriented as
we get more and more confused.
What makes Joyces Ulysses so great and unforgettable is the way in which he tackles various
contemporary topics and the complex disposal of the layers on which the novel is built on. Because of these, the
novel can be read from various points of view. For instance there is firstly the individual level(the characters: the
intellectual-Stephen Dedalus, the ordinary, the woman seen as a divinity), then the racial level (based on ethnic
classification: the Irish, the English), the social level( the social classes of the characters, their occupations, for
example there is poverty), the political level ,the religious level (Joyce has an open mind and mocks the
religion:for instance the history teacher, Stephen, refused to pray with his mother on her deathbed and all the
other religious people jugded him as a murderer ), the education level( for example the books that Molly Bloom
read wer considered counter-culture, being far from fine, educational masterpieces in literature, probably most
of them being just popular, full of detailed pornographic, unremarkable books) and the anti-traditional level.
Joyce takes the traditional strategies of writing novels and tranforms them into bizarre, unusual techniques( for
example there is an entire page written as a song, there is sometimes no punctuation and so on).
Homers ancient myth as a reinterpretation in Joyces Ulysses
In the course of analysing Joyces novel Ulysses, I feel like addressing the provocative question: Where
does the title come from? Why is it called Ulysses? The answer can be found out easily just by rereading the
4 Pericles Lewis. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (PDF). Cambridge Introduction to
5 Beebe , Maurice.(1971) "Ulysses and the Age of Modernism".

major influences in Joyces writings,which are mentioned above and finding out that Homer is one of the artists
from where Joyce got inspired. Instantly, the answer clearly stands out and points to Homers epic Odyssey,
because of the striking similarity between the names.
He is, by far ,besides the association with Ireland as a stereotipical symbol of the entire Irish nation, the
one and only who attempted to get inspiration from Homers masterpiece. All that Joyce does is parallel the
episodes from Homers Odyssey in his book and rewrite them in well-known , contemporary aspects.
Therefore, the episodes and some of the characters are modern, twentieeth century adaptations of Homers epic.
The most relevant example for me is the opposing correlation between Penelope, the faithful, devoted, loving
wife in Homers book and Molly Bloom, the exact opposite of Penelope, in Joyces book, an
unfaithful,cheating,disinterested wife.
To get a clearer view of the parallel between Homers ancient myth and Joyces novel and in order to
discover the ways in which the Irish writers novel is a reinterpretation of the myth, a short sketch of the events
and characters that got Joyce inspired needs to be done.The protagonist of the Odyssey is Odysseus , the one
who created the Trojan Horse.His home was in Ithaca and he had a very loyal wife, Penelope and a son,
Telemachus. Odysseus left home to fight in a war. After the war ended, he headed towards his home in Ithaca.
Thus, he never reached home. During all this time,his faithful wife, Penelope kept waiting for him to come back
and never accepted to get married. That is the moral of a very united family.
But then, Joyce reinterpretates and rewrites Homers storyline in a contemporary, kind of mocking aspect
of the civilization and the families of the twentieeth century.All of the three principal characters in Homers epic
have correspondents in Joyces novel. They are exactly the opposite of them. The strong warrior Odysseus is
Leopold Bloom, a jew born in Ireland( the irony should be noticed; literarilly, his life is doomed to inferiority
and mocking),not handsome, nor clever. He is also lonely, isolated, calm and, totally opossed to Homers heroic
fighter: he would not even kill a bug.
Young Telemachus, Odysseuss son, is contoured in Joyces novel as a young intelectual haunted by the
death of his mother( a difference : Telemachus is haunted by the disappearance and maybe death of his father, not
mother) , that is Stephen Dedalus.
And, last but not least, the feminine presence among them, Penelope from Homers epic is ,in the
modern world created by Joyce, Molly Bloom, Leopolds wife. She is portrayed completely antithetical to the
faithful Penelope, being unfaithful,deceiving and cheating on her husband(their daughter died and that was the
moment of the rupture between them, although they were very much in love when they first met).
Joyces novel, Ullyses is composed of 18 episodes( although in Homers Odyssey there were 24) .
Each 3 episodes take place at the same time with the next 3 episodes( for example 1-4,2-5,3-6). There are three
parts in which the novel Ullyses is divided. The first one is all about Stephen Dedalus(contains three episodes),
the second one introduces Leopold Bloom(contains 12 episodes) and the third one focuses on Molly
Bloom(contains three episodes).The whole story of the novel starts at 8 oclock in the morning and ends at 4
A.M. in the morning, i.e. 20 hours. There is a precise date as well : the 16th of June, 1904.
Each episode is written in a different syle but most parts reach the stream of consciusness technique. For
example there is the lack of punctuation, that being the purest stream of consciousness demonstration, since it
imitates the flow of thoughts.
One of the most relevant episodes, and Joyces personal favourite, where the association with Homers
Odyssey is pictured is the seventieeth one named Ithaca. "Ithaca" is about the most remarkable episode in
the book, being written in the form of a rigidly organized Catholic catechism, that is, as a series of 309 questions
and responses.6 It starts at 2 a.m., Bloom returns home with Stephen. As they approach the house, Bloom thinks
that the more developed, experienced you become as an individual, the less developed and experienced you
become in interpersonal relations. (what I understand from this is that the more time you spend inside the house,
reading books and learning about the world,the less time you spend in the actual world.) Leopold then asks
Stephen to sing an Irish song called Child's Ballad. The narrator produces , in a modernist startegy, the exact
lyrics and even the music. The song is anti-Semitic. They both urinate in the backyard and during this, they
discuss about the massiveness of the universe and a lot of other problems and ideas . (Bloom points out
constellations to Stephen and thinks of many things that he knows about astronomy).
Bloom offers the young man a place to stay for the night. Stephen refuses his offer("Promptly,
inexplicably, with amicability, gratefully it was declined"),goes away and wanders off into the night and Bloom
goes to bed, where Molly is sleeping. She wakes up and starts to question him about what he has done that day,
then they go to sleep, as always, head to foot. In bed,Bloom lists the 25 suitors of Molly (corresponding to the
6 McCarthy, Patrick A., "Joyce's Unreliable Catechist: Mathematics and the Narrative of
'Ithaca'. (Autumn 1984), pages 605-606.

Penelopes suitors murdered at Ithaca by Odysseus and Telemachus in The Odyssey- that is a contrasting
correlation between the two pieces of art ) and also reveals his envy on Boylan(Mollys current manager and
lover) for his good reputation. He has a lot , various emotions cause by Mollys affairs but with time he becomes
more and more resigned. Initially, that hurted him but now, he seems unawed, he is dull to the gossip around him
because he also cheats on her, but only with his mind, corresponding with a woman through love-letters). Their
position in bed (again, head to foot) is described in great detail and, as an observation of another modernist
technique, Blooms place of rest is marked with a big dot indicating that he is right there on the page. While
describing the events, this episode is full of errors, many or most of which attached deliberatly by Joyce to
challenge the reader. Suffice it to say, in a sense, this episode ironizes peoples logical search for truth and
exceptional knowledge through an attention to detail.
In Book 17 of the Odyssey, Odysseus and Telemachus go their separate ways to Odysseus's palace.
Odysseus observes what a wreck his home has become and slays all the suitors waiting for Penelope. There are a
lot of minor correlations with Joyces story line that prove that it is a contemporan replica of the myth .
For instance:
in theOdyssey , a suitor throws a stool at Odysseus when he first enters in disguise; in Ulysses,
Bloom runs into a sideboard when he enters his house;
in Homers epic , Zeus re-assures Odysseus with a thunderclap after he strings his bow; in Joyces novel
the wood in Bloom's desk lets out a loud crack as he sits there.
by the largest of Odysseus and Telemachus's killing of the suitors, the aegis of Athena shines over the
palace; in Joyces work , outside, Stephen and Bloom observe a shooting star;
in Homers writing, after the slaughter, Odysseus fumigates his house; in the modern novel , Bloom
burns incense to clear up the smell in the room.
But depsite all these correlations, there is a striking difference and that is that Homers Odysseus is
a hero. Joyces Leopold Bloom is not. The reason for my statement is clear: in the ancient myth, Odysseus comes
home, slaughters all of his wife's suitors and reclaims her in a great glory. Bloom, from the modern, contemporan
reinterpretation of the myth by Joyce, in an exact contrasting effect, returns to find that Molly and Boylan, her
lover, have not even made an effort to disguise their adultery (Boylan left his betting tickets in the kitchen; they
have re-arranged the furniture so as to sit next to each other at the piano; Boylan's impress is still in the bed), the
whole town also being aware of this fact. That is also a symbol for the precise opposite of Penelope in the ancient
myth, who was faithful and didnt even thought about cheating on her husband, who was also away. Anyway,
when Blooms reaction to all of these is considered, the massive difference between him and Odysseus shows up.
Bloom does nothing. He accepts the presence of the suitors, he resigns and, moreover, he forgives her.
Finally, to conclude, James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) is , by far, the single most influential and remarkable
novel of the tweentieh century , also known as The Age of Modernism. Written in a wide variety of styles,full
of allusions and with enough puns to make it entertaining too, the novel which focuses on only one day is a
contemporan, satirical adaptation of Homers ancient myth,the Odyssey , taking the strongest elements from
the ancient story line and picturing them in todays times, making the novel extermely imposing. The
groundbreaking stream-of-consciousness style allows the reader to access and follow the movement of the
characters deepest thoughts and emotions and to feel on their own skin their needs and desires . Besides this
famously modern technique, there are a lot more other bizarre , provocative or simply striking different strategies
of writing which Joyce use, that may create confusion throughout the readers, since they can strain the cohesion
and coherence of the text or, on the contrary, may determine the readers to find it interesting and even designate it
as one of the greatest, mind-blowing literary challenge of all times.
I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for
centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's
(Joyce cited in Richard Ellmann's James Joyce)7
"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
(T.S. Elliot about Ulysses in a review in The Dial magazine)
7 Idem1

"Ulysses was a memorable catastropheimmense in daring, terrific in disaster." 9

(Virginia Woolf, critisising Ulysses)


Joyce, James. Ullyses https://archive.org/details/Ulysses-Audiobook

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manhttp://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4217
Ciugureanu, Adina. Modernism and Modernity. Ex Ponto, 2004, 244 pag.
Harte, Tim (Summer 2003). "Sarah Danius, The Senses of Modernism: Technology, Perception, and
Aesthetics". Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature 4 (1). Retrieved 2001-07-10. (review of
Danius book).
5. Beebe, Maurice (Fall 1972). "Ulysses and the Age of Modernism". James Joyce Quarterly (University
of Tulsa) 10 (1): 17288.
6. Borach, Georges. Conversations with James Joyce, translated by Joseph Prescott, College English,
15 (March 1954)
7. McCarthy, Patrick A., "Joyce's Unreliable Catechist: Mathematics and the Narrative of
'Ithaca'", ELH, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Autumn 1984).
8. Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford University Press, revised edition (1983).
9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_%28novel%29 accesed on the 20th of May, 18:30
10. http://home.wlv.ac.uk/~fa1871/joynote.html : Notes on Ulysses and Joyces Quotes, accesed on
the 21st of May, 15:34
11. http://www.shmoop.com/ulysses-joyce/ accesed on the 21st of May, 19:06

8 http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=thedial , accessed on 22nd of May,

9Sampson G, Churchill RC. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature.