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Ironic Contradictions

I'm a long time reader - since way back when I was seven. That makes it over three quarters of my life that I will be a reader for. But it is worth it. When I'm not reading or wasting my time online on here or Goodreads I'll be off playing video games, studying teaching and messing around with friends and pop culture. Or reading some more.
Ulysses - James Joyce, Declan Kiberd
"I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move."

Ulysses - by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Tennyson's words may not have been the inspiration behind James Joyce's work, however, as all powerful poems do, they highlight an important theme of Joyce's novel. This theme being the idea that an individual is the sum of all his experiences - and yet those experiences are the way in which the individual can observe the 'untravell'd world'. In the same way Joyce reveals in his Ulysses the tale of a man travelling the streets of Dublin across a single day, observing, as he travels, the various experiences of everyday normality. This man, Leopold Bloom, is the Everyman, the ordinary man, and therefore Joyce subverts the idea of the 'Hero', inserting Bloom into the role given to the Heroic 'super-man' Ulysses.

“We should not now combine a Norse saga with an excerpt from a novel by George Meredith. Que voulez-vous? Moore would say. He puts Bohemia on the seacoast and makes Ulysses quote Aristotle.”

It is this quote from Joyce, buried within the text, which stands as a form of self commentary on the novel itself, making Ulysses a metafictional, metalinguistic and metaphysical novel in various regards. For, as mentioned earlier, Bloom is inserted into the role of Ulysses (Odysseus) from [b:The Odyssey|1381|The Odyssey|Homer|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349112871s/1381.jpg|3356006]. At the same time there is plenty of other examples within the text of this self criticism and metalinguistic enterprise. What is most fascinating is how this metalanguage permeates into linguistic jokes, particularly puns, which give the novel a sense of ridiculousness and humour which is far reaching.

The techniques Joyce uses are the work of a genius. Not only does he manipulate various tenses and styles (including a mastery of free indirect style) but he also utilises monologues, hallucination, plays, stream of consciousness and multiple points of view. Ulysses is therefore a fascinating balancing act of technique where individual touches like: using newspaper headlines in a newsroom setting; making multiple jokes and references to Shakespearean lines and plays during a conversation about Shakespeare ; and also moving to a procedural style or interrogatory piece, prove highly appealing reading.

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


The final words of Tennyson's Ulysses also, fascinatingly, finds parallels in Joyce's work. For by the end of the novel, which reaches a conclusion in a long and notable monologue, the sense exists that as the reader and the characters of the novel have turned to home that they are not the same characters of the past. That though they may reflect on the past it is an unobtainable idea and now instead the characters exist to fight against the inevitability of time.

Joyce has written a complicated work with a simple idea at the core, an idea buried beneath the trappings of language and technique. The idea of a single day being an Odyssey, or a journey from when a man sets out from his home until he returns. Yet it is the complicated use of language which makes Joyce's novel one that scholars and ordinary readers dare not approach easily. Therefore it seems as if Joyce purposefully, and in a mocking way, has designed his work to be one which confuses the scholar and the typical reader equally, leaving them to puzzle whether everything within the novel has a hidden meaning. Yet, perhaps Joyce should not be approached in this manner. Perhaps at the core he is as much like Shakespeare as he is a unique voice. For like Shakespeare, Joyce is bawdy and rude, aiming to insult readers in his depictions of the taboo and of life. Yet, regardless of how one reads Joyce's work one fact stands, that it is a masterpiece and doubtless a classic.