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Returning to Ulysses

I’ve tried to read James Joyce’s Ulysses several times. The last time I managed to get halfway through. But I don’t think I understood much of it. Now I have another, better opportunity to read the book. My friend, Sean Kennedy, who is a professor of Irish Studies at St. Mary’s University, is teaching a class on Ulysses at the Halifax Main Library. It’s for students at the University, and the public can join for the first hour. I went this past Thursday.

The class itself was fascinating. Sean always puts literature in its historical context as well as delving into possible theories of the meaning of the text.  He talked about how so many levels of perception and experience happen simultaneously in this book, as in life, and he described his own reaction to how he was speaking, how he was criticizing his own sentences as he was speaking. I listened to him, to my own thoughts, while the woman sitting next to me was, vocally, giving a running commentary of many of the thoughts going through her mind. The last comment she made was “and he is the perfect person to teach Ulysses“, making the experience of studying Ulysses perfect.

Sean is a brilliant lecturer and I must say, I actually almost understand what I am reading now. So far, I’ve even enjoyed reading it. But as Sean says, it’s an experience in relativity: my understanding will be different from yours or the person next to you. Next week, I will go early enough so I don’t sit next to the woman who vocalized most of her reality while Sean was talking.  I’ll make my own!


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