The Trotskyite Joyce!


James Joyce’s Ulysses – A Study by Stuart Gilbert

Stuart Gilbert

1. Faber and Faber, Revised 1952, Original 1932, Out of print.

2. Vintage Books, 1958, ISBN 0-394-70013-9; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

One of the definitive works on Ulysses, the Gilbert stands out primarily for the distinction of having been virtually “ghost-written” by Joyce himself. (So much for paring your nails, Jim.) The first real commentary on Ulysses, it has acted as a template for almost all the other guides which have followed in its footsteps. It breaks the text down chapter by chapter, and outlines, for the first time, the now-classic themes, motifs, colors, and associations that correspond to each chapter. It also analyses the overall structure of the novel, as well as providing annotations on some of the more obscure references and allusions. And while it has deservedly earned an historical place on every serious “Joyce shelf,” if you are going to buy one guide to Ulysses, I nevertheless recommend the Gifford Ulysses Annotated – it draws heavily upon the Gilbert and then copiously adds too it.

The New Bloomsday Book (3rd Edition)

Harry Blamires

1. Routledge Press, 1996, ISBN 0-415-13857-4; Hardcover $100.00. [Browse/Purchase]

2. Routledge Press, 1996, ISBN 0-415-13858-2; Paperback $24.95. [Browse/Purchase]

A revision of a classic 1966 guide, this is one of the more handy companions to Ulysses. Pleasantly compact, it’s easy to carry around for that unexpected reference fix, fitting snugly against a copy of Ulysses in any book bag. Essentially a “walk-through” of the text, the The New Bloomsday Book is logically organized in 18 chapters, each one summarizing and clarifying an episode of the novel. Blamires makes helpful correlations throughout, and alerts the reader to various recurring elements and themes. One of my favorite aspects about the book is its tone – unlike some beginner’s guids to Ulysses, Blamire’s guide never condescends to the reader, nor does it come across as lecturing or pedantic. It’s also one of the less anal-retentive guides, making sense of the text without beating it to death for every little bit of symbolism the author can find (or invent). If you are looking for a simple and useful guide rather than a biblical opus of annotations, the Blamires will serve you well.

Ulysses on the Liffey

Richard Ellman
Oxford University Press, 1973, ISBN 0195016637; Paperback $19.95. [

By Bob Williams:
Richard Ellmann is the Michelangelo of writers on Joyce. This book is the crest of the wave for the many excellent books written about this time. The idea of Bloom as father of Stephen and of Stephen as seeker of a father is more firmly entrenched in this book about Ulysses than it is in Ulysses itself, but Ellmann otherwise has something pertinent to say about the major aspects of the book. His concerns are vertical as well as horizontal and he brings out relationships and structural patterns often lost in a more linear commentary.
Like his monumental life of Joyce, this book in style and breadth of mind is well worth reading for its own sake.

James Joyce’s Ulysses: Critical Essays

Clive Hart & David Hayman, Editors
University of California Press, 1974, ISBN 0-520-03275-6; Paperback $21.95. [

This collection includes essays by Clive Hart, David Hayman, Bernard Benstock, Adaline Glasheen, Hugh Kenner, Fritz Senn, and twelve other contributors. Additional commentary or reviews are welcome. From the publisher:

This book contains eighteen original essays by leading Joyce scholars on the eighteen separate chapters of Ulysses. It attempts to explore the richness of Joyce’s extraordinary novel more fully than could be done by any single scholar. Joyce’s habit of using, when writing each chapter in Ulysses, a particular style, tone, point of view, and narrative structure gives each contributor a special set of problems with which to engage, problems that coincide in every case with certain of his special interests. The essays in this volume complement and illuminate one another to provide the most comprehensive account yet published of Joyce’s many-sided masterpiece.

Cliff Notes on Joyce’s Ulysses

Edward D. Kopper Jr.
Cliff Notes, 1981, ISBN 0-8220-1315-0; Paperback $4.95. [

Yes, the Cliff Notes. Why not? Small, cheap, readily available, and often the last refuge of the panick-striken student, every literature instructor can recognize one of those bright yellow covers coming from a mile away. The trouble is, the Cliff Notes on Ulysses are not terribly useful. On the positive side, it lists all the characters at the beginning and provides some pithy character analysis at the end; but I find the chapter-by-chapter commentary rather annoying. In my opinion, too much attention is given to arcane little details, and the overall effect is deathly dry and irritatingly condescending. Several times I found myself thinking that the analysis was out to lunch, the author being so intent on constructing a clever web of interconnections that he missed out on the point of the novel as a whole. Missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. If you can get your hands on the more expensive Blamires, it’s well worth the extra money.


Hugh Kenner
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-8018-3384-1; Paperback $17.95. [

A very interesting book, this work is less a guide to Ulysses than to the man who wrote it. Kenner puts Joyce squarely in the Modernist period, and traces the development of the novel from Joyce’s formative ideas to its conclusion. Kenner also focuses on the book’s Modernist structure, elaborating the Homeric parallels and detailing the intentions of the many stylistic variations. I recommend this book especially to those who want to understand Ulysses as an organic creation, the product of a unique author and epoch.

Ulysses Annotated

Don Gifford & Robert J. Seidman
University of California Press, 1989, ISBN 0-520-06745-2; Paperback $29.95. [

This large book is pretty much the “Ulysses Bible.” Vast and aggressively comprehensive in scope, Gifford and his researchers have created an astonishingly complete glossing of the text. Every episode is introduced with a summary, a detailed map, and a breakdown of Homeric parallels and schemata correspondences. From there, the annotations supply background information for every name, place, event, and historical personage. Poems and songs – even those only briefly mentioned in the text – are often printed in full, and translations are provided for everything from Latin phrases to Anglicized Irish slang. The more tricky episodes are often given more detailed treatment as well. The musical devices of “Sirens” and the rhetorical tropes of “Aeolus” are explicated, while “Oxen of the Sun” is given a full analysis, each paragraph clarified in terms of the author and/or style that Joyce parodies in his evolving prose. Gifford also points out several of Joyce’s errors and miscalculations as well. (Excuse me – “portals of discovery.”) This is not a quick reference book for the faint of heart; but for a full study of Ulysses it is simply invaluable.

Allusions in Ulysses

Weldon Thornton
University of North Carolina Press, 1982, ISBN 0-8078-4089-0; Paperback $31.50. [

Similar in intent to Ulysses Annotated, Thornton's Allusions offers a more compact set of annotations – less comprehensive than Gifford to be sure, but perhaps more friendly to the beginning reader. Unlike Gifford, who attempts to dissect, explicate, and annotate every intertextual reference and narrative device used by Joyce, Thornton remains content to confine his remarks to the direct allusions contained within the text itself. For those looking for a guide somewhere between the walk-through of Blamires’ New Bloomsday Book and the colossus of Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated, Thornton’s Allusions should serve quite nicely.

Ulysses – Modern Critical Interpretations

Harold Bloom & William Goldman, Editors
Chelsea House, 1987, ISBN 1-55546-021-6; Hardcover $34.95. Out of print. [
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According to Amazon, this is a collection of “critical essays published during the last twenty-five years on Joyce’s celebrated novel Ulysses.” If you’d like submit commentary or a review to the Brazen Head, please send us email!

The Scandal of Ulysses: The Sensational Life of a Twentieth-Century Masterpiece

Bruce Arnold
St. Martin’s Press, 1991, ISBN 0-312-09379-9; Paperback $14.95. Out of print. [
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From Publishers Weekly:

A Joyce scholar from Ireland, Arnold here jumps into the controversy surrounding the 1986 publication of Ulysses: The Corrected Text, edited by Hans Walter Gabler. Arnold circuitously traces the history of Joyce’s masterpiece from its original publication in Paris in 1922 by Shakespeare and Co. through the labyrinth of successive versions edited by Joyce and others, partly in an attempt to get the ban (on grounds of indecency) lifted from the work. Today venerated by scholars, Ulysses, Arnold contends, has become a prisoner of Joyce academicians who wrangle over the “correct” version. Arnold argues that Gabler’s 1986 edition, a computer-based merging of all previous editions, is a seriously flawed work whose publication was motivated by the Joyce estate’s desire to maintain the financial benefits of copyright. Although this study will be of interest to scholars, general readers will be hard put to decode the nitpicking.
--Copyright 1992, Reed Business Information, Inc.

The Cast of Characters: A Reading of Ulysses

Paul Schwaber
Yale University Press, 1999, ISBN 0300078056; Hardcover $19.00. [

Written by a professor of literature who is also a psychoanalyst, this new work takes a unique perspective on Ulysses, essentially placing the cast of the novel on his couch and thereby illuminating their rich “inner lives.” Bob Williams has written a feature-length review of The Cast of Characters for the Brazen Head.

The Irish Ulysses

Maria Tymoczko

1. University of California Press, 1994, ISBN 0-520-08027-0; Hardcover $50.00. Out of print. [Browse/Search for a Copy]

2. University of California Press, 1997, ISBN 0-520-20906-0; Paperback $18.95. Out of print. [Browse/Search for a Copy]

If you’d like submit commentary or a review to the Brazen Head, please send us email! The publisher has this to say:

In a radical new reading of Ulysses, Maria Tymoczko argues that previous scholarship has distorted our understanding of Joyce’s epic novel by focusing on its English and continental literary sources alone. Challenging conventional views that Joyce rejected Irish literature, Tymoczko demonstrates how he used Irish imagery, myth, genres, and literary modes. For the first time, Joyce emerges as an author caught between the English and Irish literary traditions, one who, like later postcolonial writers, remakes English language literature with his own country’s rich literary heritage. The author’s exacting scholarship makes this book required reading for Joyce scholars, while its theoretical implications for such issues as canon formation, the role of criticism in literary reception, and the interface of literary cultures make it an important work for literary theorists.

Joyce’s Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses

Andrew Gibson
Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-818495-6; Hardcover $80.00. [

An examination of Ulysses as a very Irish text written by an Irish writer. Bob Williams has written a feature-length review of Joyce’s Revenge for the Brazen Head.

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Go To:

Joyce Criticism Main Page – Back to the main criticism page, where you will find the standard Brazen Head menu.

Notes and Annotations on Dubliners & PortraitGuides and criticism on Joyce’s first two works.

Notes and Annotations on Finnegans WakeGuides and criticism on Finnegans Wake

General Criticism – General literary criticism or commentary on Joyce and his works.

Specific Criticism – Joycean criticism with an angle: Feminist, Marxist, Post-structural, Postquailist, etc.

Biography: Life and Times – Biographies about Joyce, or books about Ireland during his epoch.

The sissymusses and the zossymusses in their robenhauses quailed to hear his tardeynois at all – Send email to the Great Quail – comments, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, submissions . . . all are welcome!

–Allen B. Ruch
30 March 2004