- The RTÉ dramatization. It's essentially unabridged: The entire novel as a well-produced, well-acted radio play. Just amazing.
- Frank Delaney's Re: Joyce podcast. Sadly interrupted halfway through "Wandering Rocks" by Frank's death 4 years ago, it's a delightful unpacking of the novel in paragraph-to-page-sized chunks, depending on the density.
Regardless of any background material you bring along, the best advice for reading Ulysses is just to read it: Plow through the verbiage and don't take too much heed of the references or exactly who's saying what or what in the world they're talking about. Before too long you'll get to some much more straightforward but painstakingly crafted prose, and in the meantime, the flow and rhythm of Joyce's words can be appreciated on their own.
The linked site is a fantastic resource. This is the kind of thing the WWW was invented for (OK, not literally). Click on the notes to satisfy your curiosity, but not because you think you need to know all these details to enjoy the book.
From the site:
“Must one walk the streets of Dublin to find order in the protagonists’ meanderings?”
The last time I read the whole thing I did just this, but on a contemporaneous map, marking the paths of the two main characters in different colors, following a suggestion of Nabokov’s in his lecture on Ulysses (probably one of the few pieces of criticism of this book worth reading). I recommend it!
One small bit of extra advice, albeit poorly timed (with covid) and also quite an extreme luxury when compared to radio/podcast listening is: visit & walk Dublin. The novel is firmly rooted in geography, so as you "read it, plowing through verbiage without taking too much heed of references", you may at least get some better hints at the sense of place permeating some of said references.
As another commenter suggests, digital maps may help here (seriously). One can also try and solve Bloom's famous puzzle...
Admitting that I may be self-consciously afraid that I lack the education to “get” Ulysses, I also wonder whether works of art should be considered greater on account of the complexity of their allusions.
Not taking anything away from Joyce’s talent. Dubliners is amazing without requiring a source codex.
I’ve read Ulysses twice - painstakingly, once on my own, and once in a course in college from a well known Joyce scholar. It was tremendous having help from an expert. In the end I don’t know if I enjoyed the book so much because of the amount of effort it took, or because of the merits of the artist behind it, but I’ve definitely concluded that Finnegans Wake just isn’t worth it.
Either way, I hadn’t seen this website and I’ve been thinking about reading it again, so maybe I will with this as my guide.
I first read the Wake with Joseph Campbell's "A Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake" as a companion, and I've used other texts, too.
Maybe I should revisit Ulysses.
I thought it's still not deciphered to the same extent that you would expect to grok ‘Ulysses’?
The worst is when these notes give out the story that is yet to come, sometimes even the ending straight away. I do wish bad luck to certain producers of audiobooks.
But it's widely known that Ulysses has parallels throughout to both Odyssey and the Bible, so I guess that knowledge might work as the first key.
> whether works of art should be considered greater on account of the complexity of their allusions
Not much sense in self-flagellation for not having knowledge that an author is alluding to—unless you feel that this knowledge is a general requirement. For example, English-language authors throughout the ages and to the modernity considered their readers to be familiar with the Bible, and freely used numerous motives and quotations—that I, of more-or-less atheistic upbringing, never could quite get on the fly, except for obvious ones. Finally decided to bite the bullet and get through the Bible just for this, which I've done in my language and will still have to do in English (frustratingly, the texts' authors didn't have much care for readers' aesthetic sense). However, when Marvel makes another movie that relies on the foreknowledge of the universe and comics conventions, I'll give it a miss.
The thing with the allusions, however, is that getting them is an enjoyment of its own, and a good enough reason for reading centuries-old classics before returning to modern stuff. Not everyone's cup of tea, obviously: as one critic wrote, you should only read books for enjoyment, not because you feel you owe something to your teacher. But if ‘Ulysses’ manages to weave its own narrative from what at that time was considered requisite knowledge for an educated man, combined with political themes, while showing off the author's command of the language and style—sure, I'll agree that it's cool. (Just like Sorokin is currently the best author in Russian simply because he can do what he wants with the language.) OTOH when ‘Family Guy’'s plot is a barrage of almost random citations from pop culture—eh, meh, doesn't look smart.
Here's a nice reminder of the context, that just recently appeared on HN (https://newcriterion.com/issues/2021/4/on-getting-poetry):
> With modernism and postmodernism, each of the arts turned against what had long been considered its defining technique. Just as composers rejected tonality and painters rejected representation, poets stopped writing in verse—the regular patterns of rhythm and rhyme that had been the essence of poetry in every culture since ancient times. In each genre, this rejection was initially experienced as a liberation that made new kinds of beauty possible. The first generation of modernists, and their audiences, knew the conventions that were being dispensed with, so they could appreciate the extent and purpose of the transgression.
> But once modernism itself became the canon, artists and audiences gradually lost the ability to extend or even fully appreciate its achievements, because they never mastered the conventions that modernism overthrew. This great deskilling, combined with the rise of mass media and the democratization of culture, resulted in a fracturing of the arts after World War II. In different ways, music, painting, and poetry each split into two: a cerebral, avant-garde version devoted to extending the modernist experiment; and a popular version that appealed to mass audiences without knowledge of the art’s traditions and conventions. The “serious” artists made a Tantalean bargain with the academy, which gave them a secure living and a measure of prestige while cutting them off from what any artist wants most—an actual audience.
She has spent the past 10 years collecting old documents, photos, and artifacts mentioned in Ulysses. For example, there are some really obscure people mentioned in it who she's found pictures of. It's a fun game for her, and if you're reading along it can help you picture what's going on!
The goal is to eventually cover every line of the book.
If you go straight to the root of the domain you’ll get a modern website that links to a completely different about page.
I understand that there are a number of version of Ulysses. I wonder if it would be possible to compare these versions.
There is a wealth of information on this website, but I am afraid that there is no other way to access it then through the given interface.