Ulysses (2008) is a modernist novel that documentsthe travels and the encounters of its protagonist Leopold Bloom in Dublin on 16thJune 1904.
The book on the whole and what it represents was somewhat of arevolutionary concept with regards to the modernist period, this was becauseart and literature of the time was something that was tailored to those of anupper-class background, due to the complexity and its sheer difficulty to readand understand. Furthermore, in the time period in which the novel was written,between 1914 and 1921, it was only the upper class who could afford aneducation thus had the ability to read. Ulyssesled to the revolutionising of the modernist period as it was a novel that wasabout a day in the life of working class people but was only read by those of awealthier background, by doing this, Joyce was able to successfully cater forboth audiences.The novel gets its title from the “Latinisedname of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, and as Joyce’sprogresses, it manifestly establishes a series of parallels between the poemand the novel, with structural correspondences between the characters and experiences ofLeopold Bloom and Odysseus, Molly Bloom and Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus andTelemachus, in addition to events and themes of the early 20th century contextof modernism, Dublin, and Ireland’s relationship to Britain. In JamesJoyce and the Making of Ulysses, he tells Frank Bugden, “I believe I toldyou,” said Joyce, “that my book is a modern Odyssey. Every episode in itcorresponds to an adventure of Ulysses…”.
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The novel is highly allusive and alsoimitates the styles of different periods of English literature. Whilst it isconsidered as being a key text in the works of modernist literature, it hasbeen described as “a demonstration and summation of the entire movement”something which Declan Kiberd claims “no writer of fiction had so foregroundedthe process of thinking before.” In one of his very first critical commentarieson Finnegan’s Wake, Samuel Beckett suggested about Joyce’s Ulysses that it is apiece of work that “is not about something. It is something itself. Thatsomething is the body: in the Wake, words do the things that bodies do,performing rather than describing bodily experience.” Taking this into account,I aim to explore the idea that James Joyce’s Ulysses is a modernist text thatis