Steve sent me an e-mail, noting that today is Bloomsday, and I asked him to tell us more about it. Here’s his posting about Bloomsday. (I hope you’ll submit a reply.)
Many authors have critiqued Joyce’s Ulysses. There is a decent list here: https://joycefoundation.osu.edu/joyce-copyright/fair-use-and-permissions/bibliography
Personally, I feel that my days as a pedant have waned, so I will suffice it to say that Ulysses offers us a remarkable view into episodic narrative, Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Einstein’s Relativity, Jung’s Synchronicity, and a practical framework for assessing “knowing” and “doing” in letters. Revisionists with obvious social agenda lay claim to Modernism’s foundation, and since I am no longer in the fray, I assert that Ulysses shows ALL of us what we can do with the novel as a medium and an art form; it contorts the aesthetic while tempering it. Finnegan’s Wake confoundingly “broke” the novel, and as we read it, the thunder-words portend an on-coming storm and subsequent death– of the ideal.
Years of formal reflection on Ulysses have led me to the undeniable conclusion that art is alive, despite critics, courts, and schools’ attempts to strangle it into submission, re-state it in the simplest terms, or translate it into something commercial. The opening and closing masturbatory scenes serve as an indictment of Edwardian and Victorian letters, and in an attempt to “make it new,” Ulysses found disparagement among the likes of Virginia Woolf (http://www.openculture.com/2013/09/virginia-woolf-writes-about-joyces-ulysses-never-did-any-book-so-bore-me-and-quits-at-page-200.html) and T.S. Eliot, though both took inspiration from it and worked directly with it. The Honorable John M. Woolsey’s 1933 US District Court, Southern District of New York, decision to lift the ban on the work says it best: “Joyce has attempted– it seems to me, with astonishing success– to show how the screen of consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries, as it were on a plastic palimpsest, not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penubral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by associating from the domain of the subconscious. He shows how each of these impressions affects the life and behavior of the characters he is describing. What he seeks to get is not unlike the result of a double, or, if that is possible, a multiple exposure on a cinema film which would give a clear foreground with a background visible but somewhat blurred and out of focus in varying degrees.”
In our post-post modern era, we have little time or attention for the periphery, unless, of course, it suits our pre-determined or established agenda or leads to commercial reward or recognition. Social construct has co-opted nearly every aspect of our lives– showing us through competition and FOMO how we must defecate, hibernate, masticate, masturbate, procrastinate, ruminate, AND terminate. Ulysses is as much about the fuzzy, amorphous periphery as it is about a day on June 16 when man both ascended and descended and found his way home.