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Ulysses Annotated

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Here substantially revised and expanded, Don Gifford's annotations to Joyce's great modern classic comprise a specialized encyclopedia that will inform any reading of Ulysses. Annotations in this edition are keyed both to the reading text of the new critical edition of Ulysses published in 1984 and to the standard 1961 Random House edition and the current Modern Library and Vintage texts.

Gifford has incorporated over 1,000 additions and corrections to the first edition. The introduction and headnotes to sections provide general geographical, biographical and historical background. The annotations gloss place names, define slang terms, give capsule histories of institutions and political and cultural movements and figures, supply bits of local and Irish legend and lore, explain religious nomenclature and practices, trace literary allusions and references to other cultures.

The suggestive potential of minor details was enormously fascinating to Joyce, and the precision of his use of detail is a most important aspect of his literary method. The annotations in this volume illuminate details which are not in the public realm for most of us.

698 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1974

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About the author

James Joyce

1,626 books7,784 followers
A profound influence of literary innovations of Irish writer James Augustine Aloysius Joyce on modern fiction includes his works, Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939).

People note this novelist for his experimental use of language in these works. Technical innovations of Joyce in the art of the novel include an extensive use of interior monologue; he used a complex network of symbolic parallels, drawn from the mythology, history, and literature, and he created a unique language of invented words, puns, and allusions.

John Stanislaus Joyce, an impoverished gentleman and father of James Joyce, nine younger surviving siblings, and two other siblings who died of typhoid, failed in a distillery business and tried all kinds of other professions, including politics and tax collecting. The Roman Catholic Church dominated life of Mary Jane Murray, an accomplished pianist and his mother. In spite of poverty, the family struggled to maintain a solid middle-class façade.

Jesuits at Clongowes Wood college, Clane, and then Belvedere college in Dublin educated Joyce from the age of six years; he graduated in 1897. In 1898, he entered the University College, Dublin. Joyce published first an essay on When We Dead Awaken , play of Heinrich Ibsen, in the Fortnightly Review in 1900. At this time, he also began writing lyric poems.

After graduation in 1902, the twenty-year-old Joyce went to Paris, where he worked as a journalist, as a teacher, and in other occupations under difficult financial conditions. He spent a year in France, and when a telegram about his dying mother arrived, he returned. Not long after her death, Joyce traveled again. He left Dublin in 1904 with Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid, whom he married in 1931.

Joyce published Dubliners in 1914, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916, a play Exiles in 1918 and Ulysses in 1922. In 1907, Joyce published a collection of poems, Chamber Music .

At the outset of the Great War, Joyce moved with his family to Zürich. In Zürich, Joyce started to develop the early chapters of Ulysses, first published in France because of censorship troubles in the Great Britain and the United States, where the book became legally available only in 1933.

In March 1923, Joyce in Paris started Finnegans Wake, his second major work; glaucoma caused chronic eye troubles that he suffered at the same time. Transatlantic review of Ford Madox Ford in April 1924 carried the first segment of the novel, called part of Work in Progress. He published the final version in 1939.

Some critics considered the work a masterpiece, though many readers found it incomprehensible. After the fall of France in World War II, Joyce returned to Zürich, where he died, still disappointed with the reception of Finnegans Wake.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 169 reviews
Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,446 followers
September 16, 2012
I've just finished my first read of Ulysses, and it was a transcendent experience. I took two months, took my time, looked forward to my weekly (sometimes biweekly) visits in Joyce's Dublin.

I am not yet ready to write a review of Ulysses - I want to let the experience wash over me a bit longer before I try to capture it in words. But I do want to say a few words about the reference texts I used: Ulysses Annotated and The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses (which I will discuss in a separate review).

Gifford's Ulysses Annotated is a breathtakingly comprehensive, encyclopedic approach to referencing Ulysses, often word by word and line by line. Gifford covers historical, mythological, and religious references and context; discusses cultural movements in Ireland; provides definitions for slang and lyrics from popular songs; and even combs through directories, maps, and other archival records to explain when Joyce was drawing directly from actual people, places, and events in Dublin.

As a historian, I loved having access to this volume as I was reading Ulysses. It helped me to resurrect my knowledge of Irish history. I had fun brushing up on early-20th-century Irish slang (you never know when it could come in handy). And I even had an (unanticipated) opportunity to learn more about Theosophism.

That being said, I was wary of having Gifford's exhaustive research displace my attention from Joyce's incandescent, humorous, exuberant use of language. To avoid this, I did not read the annotations side by side Ulysses's text. Instead, I would read an episode of Ulysses, sometimes re-read it, and then page through the relevant annotations for that episode. The process was reminiscent of reading encyclopedias, or paging happily through the OED. (I know, very geeky....)

So, if you are a first-time reader, I don't think you should feel it necessary to read Gifford too. You will understand and appreciate Ulysses more on your own terms, with some guidance from The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses. If you need to understand the significance of every word you read, try to let go of that when you read Ulysses, and let the language wash over you.

If you are about to re-read Ulysses, or if you share my love of historical references and context, then I recommend Gifford very highly - just don't let your perusal of it direct your attention away from what is really important - Joyce's writing itself.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,455 followers
November 24, 2012
This book is bulkier than Ulysses itself and I didn't like it one bit. I think the authors knew I wouldn't. In their preface they say

The notes may appear to labor an abundance of the obvious in order to render a few grains of the subtle and suggestive


This book is designed to be laid open beside the novel and to be read in tandem with it. Tandem reading, however, has its disadvantages.

I'll say. Especially when the front rider on the tandem is pedalling manically into the dangerous transcendent extreme edge of language itself and the back rider is steering towards a bricabrac shop he just spotted.

They suggest a plan : an "interrupted" reading of a chapter (i.e. checking every annotation) followed by an uninterrupted reading. Or even better :

Skim a sequence of notes, then read the annotated sequence in the novel with interruptions for consideration of those notes that seem crucial, then follow with an uninterrupted reading.

Yes, I think that's the best way. If you have no family, no pets and a private income.

The annotators are crushingly aware that they are actually wrecking a major part of JJ's work, which was to show the significance of the trivial (Bloom finally meets Stephen, but they part and don't become friends, that's it, no big drama folks, nothing to see). But by hammering every triviality with a big note this book changes the trivial into the significant by the very act of annotation.

But still, it's a useful book since it tries to explain everything in Ulysses which is no longer common knowledge.

And what is this thing called common knowledge now, anyway? I was speaking with an elderly female relative the other day (no names please) and in the conversation it became clear that she'd never in her long life heard of the idea that there might have been a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Meanwhile I work in an office with a bunch of kids just out of university and I'd bet a crisp tenner that half of them wouldn't know who JFK was. So that means that almost everything in Ulysses isn't common knowledge anymore.

But my main objection to this probably inevitable and essential book, why I don't like it at all, is that it gives you, the reader of Ulysses (at least I hope you are) the idea that you ought to understand every bit of Ulysses, every damned reference to bits of Italian opera and Irish slang and Fenian history and the Latin mass and how much a Dublin hooker paid in rent and so on and so forth and really – big breath – you don't need to, you just don't, at all. JJ shoves all that glorious detail in as the woof and weft and particoloured pantaloons of his gartersnappingly real picture of dear dirty Dublin, so, you know, just breathe it all in, and as in your own real life, accept that there are about a thousand bits and bobs of conversations and half heard remarks and things that go by too quick on the tv and all of the onrush of frantic netsplurge and soundblurt of the day-to-day day which you won't quite get. And that's how it is.

But this book thinks you can get everything. It's just wrong.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.6k followers
Want to read
December 5, 2015
Another mysterious message from Goodreads:
Based on your Mentions Twilight shelf, a few recommendations:

... and this is #3.
Very subtle, Goodreads! Twilight fans, take note!
Profile Image for Todd.
11 reviews1 follower
February 13, 2008
anyone who says they understood ulysses without using this book is lying. kick them in the balls for me.
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,382 followers
August 17, 2009
I remember so much more of Ulysses Annotated than I do of Ulysses that it's actually ridiculous (not that this is saying much, since I have a serious case of book amnesia when it comes to Ulysses, possibly because I was distracted the whole time by the annotations). For example: "French letter" was Irish slang at the time for condoms. "Pole-ax" is some kind of important verb that comes from Hamlet. I think. A "pard" -- contrary to my then-dictionary's definition, which had it as an abbreviated form of leopard -- is a mythical, fabulously colored animal of medieval lore, further details of which escape me but which had some delightful characteristics that fascinated me as a young woman. Um, yeah.... Okay, maybe I don't remember this stuff as well as I thought. But still: pretty much everything I ever knew about Parnell, Oliver Cromwell, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Catholic Church was thanks to this book; everything I ever learned for a reasonable price about Classicism also came from this book. I really enjoyed it. Maybe it's not so essential anymore, now that we've got Wikipedia, but in those old-timey days it really was necessary. You can probably get a Ulysses Annotated application for your iphone by now. This book is likely obsolete in the form that I knew it, which is maybe good because as noted on here by other reviewers, flipping back and forth between these two big motherfuckers did get pretty annoying.

Anyway, I haven't read this in a long time, but I still do recommend it. I don't think I've ever read any other annotations, so I guess I can't responsibly compare it to anything else. This is one of the few books I borrowed and then bought for myself later on, because I just wanted to own it forever, just in case. I'm not a huge book buyer, so that's significant praise.

Oh, and please don't feel like you could only enjoy this book if you happen to be reading Ulysses. I'm sure there is something here for everyone, so don't let that deter you. You can leave it in the bathroom or car, to flip through at dull moments! Good source for trivia questions, and makes you look literate.
Profile Image for Matt.
1,017 reviews663 followers
March 13, 2013

Excellent guide to Mister Joyce's big book of the daytime...Only quarrel is the page references are for an edition that isn't mine own, my beloved Vintage version, but ah whatever. It's not hard to look stuff up when you need to.

It's a Rosetta Stone, skeleton key, church key, Key to All Mythologies, Concordance, Atlas, Microscope, Unmoved Mover, Getaway Driver and textual spaceship. By having it around, it enhances your reading experience of Ulysses and, by extension, your experience of reading.
Profile Image for Glen Engel-Cox.
Author 4 books51 followers
July 18, 2018
Every once and awhile I get it into my head that I’ve neglected my education, wasting time I should have spent on studies with games and fun. When I start to feel this way, I create elaborate scenarios in which I pull myself up by the bookstraps. The modification of the phrase is intentional because my self-help regime is nearly always predicated on going back to the basics and reading all those great books that I never read in high school or my time as an undergraduate. This lasts until I start with one of those “great books” and recall why I never read them in the first place (they fail to capture my attention, they are too “hard,” etc.). I try to justify to myself that such an education is unimportant or that teaching oneself through great books is flawed pedagogically.

I don’t believe myself, though. I feel there is a reason for the canon, and that I am short-shrifting my development as a writer if I am unaware of these books. When Modern Library released their list of the 100 great books of this century last year, I felt my guilt once again, for now I had a list of books for which I had never read past the cover. I resolved to read them, realizing that I might not make it through the entire list, but might be able to get myself through at least the top ten, or, if failing that, at least the top one. I could at least start there, right?

But therein lies the rub–the number one slot was held by that most modern of modernists, the man who made mainstream, that detailer of endless incunabula: James Joyce. Joyce’s writing was not so praised during his life as it is now, yet he knew that he was writing for the ages. One quote that is attributed to him that puts this into perspective went something like “I will put in enough minutia to keep the university professors busy” (my paraphrase).

My opinion of Joyce began to change when Michael Dirda, a Washington Post book columnist, responding to the Modern Library list, published his eccentric list of the best 100 novels of comedy and humor in this century, including Ulysses as both a nod to the Modern Library list and a backhand to the kibitzers who felt that Ulysses didn’t deserve the top slot. Okay, I thought, so I really need to read this book, kind of like I really needed to see Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind before I started feeling comfortable with my comments on some movies.

However, I did not feel very confident of my ability as a reader to comprehend this mountain of a novel, so I found a companion volume that had annotations, written by a university professor, of course. Then I had to wait for an opportunity to present itself to read the two books. I needed more than a simple weekend for this book. When I knew that I would be joining Jill for two-and-a-half weeks in Germany, including a lot of time to myself while she was working. Thus, the reading material to take was decided automatically.

Even isolated, with the impetus of my own guilt, even with aid, this is not an easy novel to read. The first thing I discovered about Ulysses is that it is a sequel to Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners. SF and fantasy writers are often accused of being unimaginative when they create a world for one book, then continue to use this world for additional stories. I was surprised to find Joyce, the epitome of literary values, the antithesis of most “genre,” to have a shared world that he continued to visit. Not only that, but the world is the very one in which he lived–Dublin at the turn of the century. Rather than create something new (like William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County), he simply wrote about what he knew.

If I stopped describing the novel there, Ulysses wouldn’t be much of an achievement. But from these humble beginnings, Joyce had some major plans. The idea: describe one day in absolute detail, missing nothing. But, more than that, concentrate on one man, a stand-in for the classical hero Ulysses from Homer’s Odyssey, and correlate action, events and characters to that story. Within each section, change the writing style from the realism of Thomas Hardy and D. H. Lawrence to increasing experimental modernist techniques (such as stream of consciousness), including diversions like a history of literature through writing styles, a section that tries to recreate music in prose, and a dream-like section that uses the format of a play to present a phantasmal sequence. Basically, Joyce devised a novel in which he was able to throw in everything, including the kitchen sink and toilet.

Initially I was lost, trying to follow Stephen Dedalus, trying to figure out where his story fit in with that of Leopold Bloom, whom I knew from commentary was the actual protagonist. I found myself undergoing a crash course in Irish history and Roman Catholic theology, as presented through the annotations, which also presented a problem in understanding the basic story, as I lost myself with diversions. Then things started to settle down. Once Bloom entered the stage, I began to enjoy some of the story and its setting. The endless notations about whether so-and-so was actually a fishmonger at the corner of such-and-such street in the annotations I found less than useless, however (for scholars, such information might prove necessary; for the casual reader, it is superfluous). Ulysses demands of its reader the trivial knowledge (at least from the standpoint of today) of every notable figure in Dublin at the time, along with the somewhat complex differentiation between the Catholics and the Protestants (I hesitate to call this information trivial, as it can help someone understand the current situation in Ireland). This is not a book that will survive 500 years, though, I feel–at least, not without the annotations–for it relies so much on things that are fading so quickly. Whereas Shakespeare had the ability to put something in his plays for everyone, scholar and groundling, Joyce may have forgotten the little people.

Am I glad to have read this book? Certainly, if only to be able to say that I have read it, and to understand when someone makes an allusion to it. But it is a flawed masterpiece.
Profile Image for Nate.
522 reviews
July 10, 2019
essential companion to ulysses, in order to really get a handle on the plot you'd need a good handle on latin, biblical hebrew, irish, french and italian, turn of the century dublin slang, and 19th century irish political and social history. some complaints that the annotations are too detailed seem a little odd as i find its better to have too much than too littue
Profile Image for J..
455 reviews184 followers
December 18, 2014
Very usable, an encyclopedic approach to the arcana of Ulysses.

An important facet of this volume is that it is not a summary, nor is it a condensation or analysis of what happens in the novel. If you want something that explains, "here Bloom's question reveals more than he is saying and indicates ..." then you want another book.

This book is all about translating the Latin, the Greek, the Dublinisms, the limericks, the popular song and riddle--- and the millions of strange little phrases and words with which Joyce loves to baffle the reader.

Only two quibbles here. The first, minor quibble is that not all the questions prompted by the miscellanea of the text are answered here. That might require a book twice as thick, but it's surely not impossible.

The second, and overwhelmingly Major Quibble-- this should really be fixed -- is the reluctance of Gifford's volume to ever repeat itself, even in brief, even for clarity's sake, even for the convenience of the user. When something peculiar is mentioned once, even briefly, Mr. Gifford's dutiful fact checkers note, transcribe, post and define that something, along with its peculiarities, right away. After which, each and every mention thereof is re-directed backwards in this fat volume to that first mention with a very annoying "See pp.21-22" or "See Also pp.22-23" or "Cf pp.23-24".

So perhaps Mr Gifford can picture the reader, utilizing his Annotated guide, coming across a reference to, say, "red tape", late in the book. Perhaps being some tens of thousands of words away from its first occurrence, he will be forgiven for forgetting the meaning, and permitted to check the guide. So he saves his place in Ulysses, puts aside that volume and picks up the Annotated guide. After finding his current position correlated by Mr Gifford, he is relieved to find that the expression is indeed noted at that mark. But he will find that if what he wants-- and he does-- is to find out what meaning "red tape" may have, he is to be re-directed by the helpful Mr Gifford by the entry that reads "Red Tape, see pp.21-22". At which point he can reverse backwards into the early part of the guide and find the very first appearance of that term.

Once he is reminded of the meaning of the term, he may put down the Annotated and go back to where he left his bookmark in Ulysses. I would suggest that the novel itself is enough labyrinthine red tape to be navigating, and that a brief re-statement of terms, a reminder at the point where it occurs in the current chapter --would best serve the reader engaged in this endeavor.

Beyond that little glitch, a usefully comprehensive guide {see also: paragraph 1, sentence 1, above}.
Profile Image for Hamish.
501 reviews149 followers
October 20, 2021
Extremely useful, but can be dangerous. Don't be tempted to sit it side by side with your copy of Ulysses and read them in tandem (as it suggests in the foreward). You really don't need to know every annotation here. Look, I love minutia. But some of this is beyond minutia and will contribute nothing to your appreciation, and constantly switching back and forth between the two books will ruin the flow of the work and your enjoyment of it. Instead, keep it nearby and if something in particular confuses you in Ulysses, look it up here. In that capacity, it's great. It has all the facts you wanted to know but didn't, as well as some other useful stuff like maps and the original schema (though Nabokov claimed that was a joke on Joyce's part and should be ignored).

I can't even imagine the research that went into making this. This is some grade A OCPD scholarship right here.
Profile Image for Heather.
4 reviews10 followers
July 18, 2007
This book is wonderful, and I don't think I could make it through Ulysses without it. The (admittedly unfair) reason I give it only three stars is because of my dislike for having to read two heavy, bulky books at once. I loved the introduction to the annotations with the thoughtful suggestions on how to manage the task of simultaneous reading and the concise, engaging summary of events in Irish history that surround the day Ulysses takes place. I had never read a thing before about anti-semitism in Ireland and appreciated the valuable glimpse into its origins, as well as the key players in the struggle for Home Rule.
Profile Image for hypothermya.
30 reviews12 followers
October 4, 2008
This supplementary book of annotation and background info is indispensable if you are giving Ulysses a go. Keep in mind that the annotations themselves are somewhat intimidating -- averaging a page of notes per page of Joyce's writing. Including the background and plan for each section (for example, Joyce has a character from the Odyssey, a set of colors, an organ, a theme, a time of day, etc. for each of his sections, and this is included before each section of notes), this book is actually larger than Ulysses itself. However, it enriches the text tenfold and is well worth investing in.
Profile Image for Geoff.
444 reviews1,188 followers
June 3, 2010
Essential to anyone who cares about this book. Ulysses has been creeping back into my life in weird ways recently. Perhaps an epic rereading in the near future??
Profile Image for Thomas.
486 reviews85 followers
March 26, 2015
Indispensable for a close reading of Ulysses; a hindrance for its enjoyment. It is a trustworthy and useful reference, but don't make it your constant companion.
Profile Image for ambreen.
119 reviews5 followers
January 28, 2019
Adding this to my read list with no rating so the app will stop recommending I read it.
39 reviews
July 11, 2021
For me, this was essential, but it took me a bit to learn how often to utilize it (as sparingly as possible)
Profile Image for Anthony.
80 reviews7 followers
January 7, 2019
Excellent piece of scholarly work with episode/line references for Gabler edition and page/line references for the 1961 Random House edition (which also match Vintage and Modern Library editions, I read the latter), although ML doesn't have line numbers so you have to search on the page to locate the passage. Covers just about everything and even indicates the Gabler changes.

This book is best used as an encyclopedic reference guide, I couldn't imagine reading it cover to cover, at least on a first reading of Ulysses. If I had to recommend only one guide for Ulysses, it would probably be this one, but for a first-time reader, I would also recommend Ulysses Unbound: A Reader's Companion to James Joyce's Ulysses by Terence Killeen, which is what I mostly used. My review here.
Profile Image for William Mego.
Author 1 book40 followers
July 16, 2013
This book provides amazing support for the reader (esp. first time reader) of Ulysses. I don't think I'd recommend this as a SOLE guide for a reader, but instead paired with The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses you will have both the macro level guide you need combined with this, the micro guide to each and EVERY reference. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Connie.
87 reviews1 follower
May 14, 2007
If you're going to read Joyce's Ulysses, then ignore all those who will ask you why. It's funny, beautiful, desperate, and well worth the effort - but not without this guide. This encyclopedic volume takes you line by line through every allusion, symbol, and reference in Joyce's book and really will heighten your experience of Ulysses. This Herculean work must have taken years and years of research, but thank God for it!
Profile Image for Roland.
Author 3 books14 followers
April 11, 2008
This book was a shock to me. It's not just a book of annotations, it's also a history of Ireland, literature, language, and damn near everything else Joyce decided to allude to in his masterpiece. I never would have guessed that just reading the annotations (without the source text) would make good reading, but that is certainly the case here. You do not by any means need this book to enjoy Ulysses, but it does give remarkable insight into the mind behind it.
Profile Image for Mishek.
16 reviews4 followers
June 1, 2015
Doubting the breadth and scope of Ulysses? Peruse this to get your head spinning.
Profile Image for محمود راضي.
Author 5 books216 followers
December 31, 2016
لمن يبتغي المزيد من الشروحات المفصلة حول رواية (عوليس) مع الوقوف عند الكلمات والعبارات مع كل خطوة داخل النص، سيجد هنا ضالته المنشودة.
14 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2016
Joyce was 40 yrs old when Ulysses was published, it is a day in the life of a husband and father of Joyce's age (at publication). Joyce loved Dublin and Ireland and though the book was written on the European continent - he wanted to memorialize his birth home (Ireland). The framework of Ulysses is Homer's Odyssey - The Roman Ulysses: 1 Telemachus, 2 Nestor, 3 Proteus, 4 Calypso, 5 Lotus Eaters, 6 Hades, 7 Aeolus, 8 Lestrygonians, 9 Scylla And Charybdis, 10 Wandering Rocks, 11 Sirens, 12 Cyclops, 13 Nausicca, 14 Oxen Of The Sun, 15 Circe, 16 Eumaeus, 17 Ithaca, and 18 Penelope.

Ulysses is the tale of a Modern-day Odysseus, Leopold Bloom in his personal existential/sexual quest. The conclusion of this quest is the quintessential affirmation of humanity, the fundamental family unit - the father, mother, son, and daughter. Like Odysseus, absent from Penelope, traveling the world, for many long years, Leopold Bloom is also absent from his Penelope (in Dublin). Like a traveler (Odysseus), Bloom is sexually absent (abstinent) from Molly “10 years, 5 months and 18 days” (736). Unlike Odysseus, the obstacles Bloom faces are psychological (modern) - internal travails instead of Odysseus' external travails. Bloom's only son’s death has become a psychological barrier; as Molly reflects: “we were never the same since” (778). Yet Bloom is optimistic throughout the work - in regard to the possibility of another child, again Molly: ”Ill give him one more chance” (780). Affirmatively (as we grow to know Molly) we find she has given and is willing to continue to give Bloom “one more chance”. Through the course of the (Dublin) day, Bloom experiences “deep frustration, humiliation, fear, punishment and catharsis” (Herring, p.74). Bloom needs to lead himself back, out of self-deception, fantasy, and frustration to Molly’s (and his marriage) bed.

Bloom’s travails come in the Circe chapter and it is imperative (for Joyce) that as readers, we recognize Joyce’s change from Homer's Odyssey - this is Joyce's major rework, deviating from his Greek predecessor. For Odysseus: insight, understanding, enlightenment, and all importantly direction come to Odysseus in his journey to the (ancient Greek) Underworld. For Bloom, the Hades chapter or “the other world” represents an “emptiness of mind”; Joyce was a man grounded (and devoted) to the present world of man's consciousness and unconsciousness. In Ulysses enlightenment comes in the Circe chapter: described though the Joycean technique of hallucination or the discoveries of the "unconscious mind”. Joyce's Circe chapter (a surrealistic one-act Ibsen-like play) is where Bloom finds self-possession - (Joyce makes) Bloom encounter his own psycho-sexual existential questions, rather than finding life's answers in the dead ghosts of his life (the ancient Greek Hades chapter of the dead past).

In the Circe chapter, Bloom confronts and overcomes every major obstacle in his existential/sexual quest: the Molly he serves in Calypso reappears as Bello the whoremistress, Molly’s letter from Boylan and his from Martha are reworked into a series of seductive letters ending in a trial, his sexual infidelities beginning with Lotty Clarke and ending with Gerty McDowell are relived (importantly balanced by Molly’s infidelities) and reconciled, and lastly, Bloom triumphs over whore, Virgin-Goddess, and most importantly himself. Joyce equanimously gives both Molly and Bloom extramarital sexual infidelities - infidelities known by each of the other (as early as the Calypso chapter) Bloom was conscious of what was to come. Of course there will be resolution in marriage, for Molly only needs to feel that Bloom is willing. As we read, Bloom has undergone the travails of his own mind and has emerged Victorious. He has succeeded in his psycho-sexual existential quest. He has arrived at Molly’s bed. Self-possessed. Victorious. Eager.

Molly "I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him...then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down in to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. (END)".

After publishing Ulysses, Joyce began FINNEGANS WAKE (FW) - Joyce largely stepped out of one work into his next (and last work). The change Joyce made in FW was instead of using Homer's Ulysses as a framework - FW's framework is Giambattista Vico's "La Scienza Nuova's" 4 cyclic stages of history.

Joyce realized that he ended Ulysses wrongly (not in accordance with the Universe) in Molly's bed - Joyce corrects his mistake in FINNEGANS WAKE by incorporating Vico's revelation of restart / recirculation. "HCE day" similar to Bloomsday (roughly 24 hrs): Chronologically FW starts with memories in "book I:3" of HCE arrested in front of his tavern/home, like Bloom unable to enter his front door (but HCE does not enter his home through the back door) - instead HCE is arrested for disturbances in hours before dawn. Then memories "book I:4" HCE's conscious/musings or unconscious/dream psychological travails of past guilts (underworld coffin, Ulysses ch Hades) while incarcerated in early hours of morning. Followed by memories "book I:2" HCE walks home through Phoenix Park accosted for the time of day (12 noon) which threatens (real/unreal memories, Ulysses ch Nausicaa) his innocent well-being. These 3 chapters in FW are Joyce's major rework to incorporate Vico's revelation of restart / recirculation into FW - Joyce rewrites 3 chapters of Ulysses: When He is denied Her front door, He is in Hell (on earth), when released (from Hell) His odyssey to Her begins again (with His ever-present accompanying internal travails) for She always knows when He is worthy of Her acceptance (their Paradise).

Then "book I:1" Finnegan's afternoon wake at HCE's tavern and retelling memories (books I:2-4). Inside HCE's tavern (his ship) his patrons talk about his family (Norwegian Captain and the Tailor's Daughter), truthful letters (ALP) and fabricated stories (books I:5-8 & II:3); while the children (Shaun, Shem and Iseult) are in and out of the family tavern/home all day taking their lessons (book II:2) and playing about with their friends (Shem's closing dream, book II:1); HCE, as proprietor, defends himself with a self-deprecating apologia before his intoxicated collapse late night (book II:3). HCE dreams on his tavern floor (book II:4); then dreams in his bed (books III:1-3); before intercourse with his wife ALP (book III:4). HCE & ALP's lovemaking dissolution dream (book IV) to awaken to a new day, Joycean Nirvana is attained by ALP's (& HCE's) unification with the Unmanifest (Creation, Incarnate conception) and Reincarnation (the baton has been passed on again), awaiting Joyce's God "thunderclap" at the beginning of FW's "book I".

FW is aural (oral) history like Homer's Odessey and Celtic folktales - when one pronounces (phonology) FW's words (aloud) there are more languages than just English; also, when one reads (morphology) FW's words almost all the words are "portmanteaus / neologisms" which gives each of FW's "poly-syncretic" words many meanings (universal impermanence, Heisenberg uncertainty/obscurity), each FW syncretic sentence dozens of possible messages, each FW syncretic paragraph hundreds of possible readings, Joyce's rendering of a more expansive English language and multiplicating universal book with coalescing syncretic themes/stories (that responds/opens to each reader's inquiries). Joyce schooled in Christian Jesuit metaphysics (pushed down into the mindfulness of human consciousness) breathes in the spirit of expansive Celtic (Irish) democratic community tavern life where man's stories of life are told. Tavern life teaches the evolution of Joyce's ten God "thunderclaps" (one hundred lettered words) pushing man's evolution forward from cave man's tales to modern tv media tales. Inside the tavern man learns of the purely human (animal) fall, taken down by another human(s) - like animal taken down on the African savanna. A granular reading of FW can render FW as an updated John Milton's Paradise Lost (regurgitated knowledge from the tree, to affirm man's damnation); however, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859 and Joyce in FW book II clearly walks Shaun, Shem and Iseult through their earthly evolutionary lifetime travails, our mortality is a consequence of Life's evolution. Every page of FW speaks to man's evolution (unconscious biological, conscious social, aspirational personal) and to Life recirculating (West meets Dzogchen East a "meeting of metaphysical minds") that binds humanity together into the future. Dzogchen (beyond all dualistic polarities) the heart of human consciousness - Joyce's underlying (subcutaneous) arguments refute the "Western curse of metaphysical/mythological damnation", the curse does not exist in the Eastern mind. Like "counting the number of angels on the head of a pin" (Aquinas 1270) Joyce provides a granular/expansive reading of FW as a "defense against all Western adversity" for our conscious and unconscious Western travails. HCE's angst is caused by his community that imposes a Western curse (damnation) upon him that man is not guilty of...to experience Joycean Nirvana, a defense against this man-made guilt is required - for as Zoroaster revealed cosmogonic dualism, evil is mixed with good in man's universal everyday travails (even the Dalai Lama must defend Nirvana rigorously from the most populous authoritarian state in human history).

Joyce's FW celebrates the Joys of Christian/Buddhist diversity of humanity (expansive human consciousness: Gnostic Norwegian Captain, Shem, Archdruid), Brahma (Finnegan, HCE, Shaun), Divine Women (ALP, Iseult, Nuvoletta), his family - and the Sufferings of the inescapable "evil" of Shiva (Buckley), the debilitating harmful sterile intrusive authoritarian institutionalizing damnation (MaMaLuJo, St. Patrick) by Augustine, the manufactured clerical corruption identified by Luther (since 367 AD) and the burdens of "survival of the fittest" anxiety (modern commerce) met with a Dzogchen Buddhist stance. The (innocent infant) Norwegian Captain (Krishna, HCE), occasionally defensive (Shiva, HCE), though concretized (Brahma, HCE) by community family life (MaMaLuJo) - through spirits (drink) HCE can access his spirituality (dreams) and through spiritual (cutting through) love-making with ALP (direct approach) can access (their Krishnas) unification with the Unmanifest. Joyce was a Prophet who consumed Man's conscious and spiritual "thoughts and dreams, history and gossip, efforts and failings" - to reveal the joys (Nirvana) and sufferings (Saṃsāra) of Mankind.

Joyce's FW message: Christian/Buddhist omniscient compassion (Christ/Krishna) is eternally joyful and recirculating. Affirmative family (HCE/Brahma, ALP/Divine woman & children) existentiality: life's biological evolution (sex), modern survival (money), constraining community (Dharma, social evolution) are constantly assaulted by inescapable "aggressive insidious vile" corrupt soul(less/sucking) ossified demonic antipathetic attacks. Joycean Nirvana is attained via the Christian/Buddhist affirmative middle way, "beyond polar opposites" the path of Christ/Buddha.

79 reviews1 follower
September 25, 2020
I reread Ulysses after many decades, knowing that I didn’t grasp much of it the first time I encountered it, in college. Amazingly, I still had the paperback copy I read then. To help me make more sense of it this time, I used the annotations in this volume, along with “Ulysses Unbound” by Terence Killeen, which provides more literary and critical context, as well as helpfully explaining the plot when it is obscure, which is often. With the help of both, plus a few more years of wisdom and experience, I got a lot more out of the book this time.

The Annotations are identifications and explanations of many of the allusions and references in the text. Joyce’s technique was to write so strongly from the perspective of a character that he never explains what a character already understands. Since the characters are all embedded in the context of local Dublin people and places, Irish history, and the Catholic Church, much is referred to that modern, non-Irish readers will not pick up. The book dutifully identifies all of these things, along with translating the foreign quotations (which are numerous) and providing possible literary and pop-culture allusions. Some of the characters continually have songs running through their heads, and the book picks them out and tells you what the song is, often with its complete lyrics.

The Annotations are physically larger than Ulysses itself. It would be nice to have an e-book in which the annotations are evoked when you click on a particular part of the text. As it is, you have to put one book down, pick the other up, and find the page you were reading to look up whatever it is you want to know. That is unavoidable with traditional technology. The entries are keyed to the page numbers of the most popular editions of Joyce’s novel, so you should be able to find them whichever you are reading.

Overall, the book is extremely helpful, and I think I would have had trouble getting through Ulysses as well without it. That said, it provides explanations of so much material that one wonders just how much of it is necessary. For most readers, does it make any difference what the address of a tobacconist shop was and how long it was in business? Indeed, if a character passes by “McGillicuddy’s,” why would you look it up to discover that it was a pork butcher or whatever? There seems to be an attitude that any item that is identifiable should be referenced in the book. Similarly, knowing that a bit of doggerel is from an 1899 song on the musical stage is ok, but are the entire song lyrics of interest? At first I read all of them, thinking that some deep insight was to be found there. However, there seldom was. The authors could have shown a bit more judgment about what to include, I think.

Finally, a very annoying aspect of the book, is that as it goes on, more and more of the entries are simply “See [page reference],” that is, telling you to look elsewhere in the book. However, if you come across a name in chapter 10, being told that it is explained in chapter 5, p. 142, line 39, is *really* not helpful. Often, the reader would have been well served by a brief reminder, like “schoolteacher who got into an argument in the bar, chapter 5 [reference].” There are so many minor characters who make one or two appearances that to use the annotation requires constant turning back in the book to find the original citation to gain a tiny sliver of information. That may have saved a little space, but it is at the cost of the reader’s time and convenience, which should not have been sacrificed.

To summarize, I think the book is very useful, and it obviously represents an enormous amount of work. I can’t agree with the quotation on the back, though, that it “teaches more than how to read a particular novel; it teaches us more profoundly *how to read anything,* how to transform the brute fact of our world.” No. The book provides information on a zillion quotes, references, and characters, but there is nothing here about how to interpret the book, what to think about it, how to deal with problematic aspects of it, or what its place is in western literature. So, it is in some ways essential, but readers shouldn’t expect that it will help them understand what Ulysses means in a broader perspective. To get that, one could read “Ulysses Unbound,” which is an introductory aid (as I did) and then a real critical study.
Profile Image for Keith.
807 reviews31 followers
October 3, 2019
To get right to the point, this book is not very helpful in reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. I would not recommend it to the average reader. This is for the person reading Ulysses for the ninth time. (God bless you.)

It’s actually surprising how completely unhelpful a 643-page book, double columned (as long if not longer than the novel) can be. This could not have been easy to do.

So, for example, it will tell you who “colonel Richard Burke” is. (An American member of the Fenian society.) And it will translate “mons fil” for you. Both are fine details to know. But neither are crucial to reading, understanding or enjoying the Proteus chapter.

While this book is larded with these mundane facts for Ulysses fanatics, it offers no assistance to readers trying to figure out this complicated chapter. A simple sentence explaining what Stephen is actually doing in the Circe chapter would be IMMENSELY more helpful than an explanation of who Judas Iacchia is. (Spoiler: It doesn’t really matter.)

After I read the Proteus chapter, I turned to this book for help. It provided none. I later told friends that I needed an annotated version of my annotations because they were no help.

To be fair, this book does contain a bit of helpful guidance/information. But it is drowned in an ocean of dross. This book would be more accurately described as Ulysses Dictionary. It really aims to provide the raw information and data on every single reference in the book. It provides little-to-no literary or narrative interpretation. It’s a reference book.

This book had no material affect on my understanding of Ulysses. It provided no guidance, and it changed no opinion. There was no moment that I read it and thought, “My god, that changes my entire interpretation!” or “Now I understand what’s happening!” Which are things I would think an annotated version should do. This book will help you understand Ulysses like a dictionary will help you understand Hamlet.

It would be nice to have a couple entries on important things to note so that you’ll want to remember later – highlight significant sections. How about helping understand the context in 1902 Dublin?

Again, for the Ulysses completist, this is a must have if you want to understand every obscure literary/historical reference, joke, building, religious phrase, song and character. Sadly, a book just a couple hundred pages long and more strategically focused on helping guide the average reader would be immensely more helpful.

The online Schmoop is a thousand times more useful to the average reader. (I only wish Schmoop could fit more ads on their pages. Hmm.)
Profile Image for Zach.
125 reviews4 followers
July 25, 2019
I don’t want to count this as a book I’ve “read”, but Gifford is so worthy and deserving of the praise that you can’t help but give it.

Unless you know Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and Irish, having a solid foundation on world history in general—and Irish history, in particular—with a near-memorized understanding of the biblical texts, Aquinas, Aristotle, and countless heresiarchs, and can unpack metaphors, allusions, etc., good luck getting through Ulysses without it.

It’s important to note what this book is: This is an encyclopedia, rather than a dictionary. Gifford does a PHENOMENAL job telling you about what Joyce is referencing (seriously—can you imagine!) but he does NOT tell you how Joyce is using these terms, allusions, etc. That is, he tells you what these difficult aspects are, but he refrains from telling you what it means in the novel—a blessing and a curse.

Another reviewer noted that this reference can distract you from the novel, and it can. I certainly felt that way at times. Treat it like a guide, rather than a crutch, knowing you’re not going to understand the whole novel—certainly not on your first-go—and you can, for the most part, avoid that struggle. It’s so comprehensive that you think you can’t understand the novel without it, but you can. (They may seem contradictory to the second paragraph, but I promise it’s not.) Basically: treat it like an encyclopedia rather than a dictionary.

Still, if you’re going to read Ulysses, and it’s a worthy and rewarding journey, make your life easier and get this book as a companion. The Virgil to your Dante.
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