Recently I met Nancy Straus at a Cliff Dwellers event and the conversation between us turned to Ulysses by James Joyce. I was astounded when Nancy mentioned to me that she owned a rare copy of the book that was signed both by Joyce and the French artist Henri Matisse and contained illustrations from etchings done by Matisse, including the front cover with its gold-embossed Nausicaa design.
In 1935, the Limited Editions Club (LEC) published a limited illustration edition of Ulysses after Matisse had been paid $5,000 by George Macy, the founder of the Limited Editions Club, to do the Ulysses-themed artwork. It turned out that Matisse had not read Joyce’s Ulysses in the French translation. Nor did he intend to after he had been commissioned to do the illustrations.
Instead, Matisse proposed to create the artwork based on Homer’s Odyssey, which after all inspired Joyce to craft his modernistic take on the ancient Greek legend. And as it turned out, Joyce had no problem going along with Matisse on his proposal. In fact, Joyce enjoyed this illustrated edition so much that he bought several copies and presented one of them as a Christmas gift to his son and daughter-in-law in 1935.
There were only 250 copies of the LEC Ulysses signed by both Joyce and Matisse. The numbering is not in consecutive order. Nancy’s copy is #353. She was kind enough to send me photos of the cover and signature page of her copy.
We will be celebrating Bloomsday on the evening of Friday, June 16, from 6:30 to 8:00 at the Euro Echo Cafe in Skokie, located at 7919 Lincoln Avenue. A number of us will be reading some of our favorite passages from Ulysses, and we encourage others to read with us. There will be a display of Ulysses-related art by Leonid Osseny. Euro Echo Cafe is a comfortable and cozy place with a nice selection of sandwiches, salads and desserts. It is located across the street from the Skokie Theater. Please confirm your attendance and let me know if you would like to read by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Scottish born evangelist John Alexander Dowie is mentioned in four chapters of Ulysses. Dowie believed he was the third incarnation of the prophet Elijah, following Elijah himself and John the Baptist. He was fond of wearing Elijah-like clothing quite often, especially when he was touring the world from “Frisco beach to Vladivostok” to raise funds for his holy city of Zion, situated thirty miles or so north of Chicago. The “throwaway” of a paper flyer announcing Dowie’s upcoming evangelical meeting in Dublin plays a major role in the book’s narrative.
I was very saddened by the passing of Frank Delaney this past Tuesday. Irish born and bred, he had nicely settled in Connecticut for many years. Mr. Delaney was truly a Renaissance Man: an author, broadcaster and producer with interest and knowledge on a myriad of topics. He interviewed 1400 authors for his Bookshelf program that he produced and hosted on BBC Radio Four. I met him once, at a book event at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, and found him to be extremely gracious during the few minutes that we chatted.
Mr. Delaney’s true literary passion was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Since 2010, he produced 368 readings on his podcast Re: Joyce. And he indeed rejoiced on each and every reading. Speaking with his lilting Irish brogue, he savored each line that he read and commented on from Ulysses. Most readings were about five minutes, some a dash longer. They were basically oral mini-essays, read with both gusto and a discerning analytic eye.
It was Mr. Delaney’s intent to cover the entire book, from beginning to end through these mini-essays. From June 16, 2010 through last week, he read up to Chapter 10, page 192 of the Gabler edition. If he continued at that pace, it would have taken another twenty years to complete the book. Still, in less than seven years there were 2,500,000 downloads of Re: Joyce.
I was a frequent listener of Re: Joyce for both when I prepared for the Ulysses classes I taught, or just for the pleasure of listening to one great Irishman reading the words of another great Irishman. Mr. Delaney, you truly will be missed.
I will be teaching two courses on the writings of James Joyce during the fall semester at the Oakton Community College Emeritus Program. The first focuses on The Dubliners, a collection of short stories, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a novel of self-discovery. This course runs six weeks on Tuesday mornings; beginning on October 18 and ending November 22, and starting at 10 and ending at 11:30.
My Ulysses course is Tuesday afternoon; also beginning on October 18 and goes for ten weeks through December 20, starting at 12:00 and ending at 2:00. Ulysses is arguably the greatest novel ever written in the English language.
Please consider enrolling and be sure to share this with friends who might be interested. You can register online by visiting http://www.oakton.edu/conted.
The past few years I had been mulling over whether I should teach a course on James Joyce’s Ulysses. During the last four years, I have been a humanities instructor at the Oakton Community College Emeritus program, which offers non-credit continuing education courses to, as the promotional brochures say, “students who weren’t born yesterday.”
I have taught courses on the short stories of Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud and Joseph Epstein, as well the newspaper columns of Ben Hecht and Mike Royko. I expanded my literary boundaries a bit by offering on what turned out to be a highly successful class on the Man Booker Literary Prize winning novels. But Joyce’s Ulysses would definitely pose my greatest teaching challenge.
I never doubted my expertise to teach the book. I had read it three times prior to my taking a course on the book with Steve Diedrich at the Newberry Library in 2007 which for me was a major breakthrough in my understanding of the text. Steve also emceed the Bloomsday readings at the Cliff Dwellers, and I soon became an annual attendee at that event. In 2009 I spent an intensive and highly educational Bloomsday in Dublin.
So last May the powers-to-be in the Emeritus program approved my proposal to teach Joyce’s Ulysses this fall. I would offer ten weekly sessions; each session being ninety minutes. I needed a minimum of ten students to enroll in the course. I truly worried that the perceived difficulty of the book would scare potential students away.
But to my pleasant surprise seventeen students enrolled. Then after the first class I was concerned that some students might drop out. One did, after the second class. The other sixteen remained, and fourteen had perfect attendance and two just missed one session.
It was a remarkable group of students. They were thoroughly engaged in the process of trying to understand the complicated structure and the textured cascading narrative of the book. My approach to teaching the course was similar to Steve’s, which meant that roughly 80% of the time in class was reading and explicating the text on my part, with the rest of the time answering the questions and the concerns of the students.
As I read out loud the final emphatic “Yes” of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy to conclude the book and course, the class spontaneously applauded. We had collectively finished a challenging literary voyage, the tide of words a bit choppy at times, but in the end we all felt the kind of joy and satisfaction that great literature can elicit in our hearts and minds.
James Joyce’s Ulysses is arguably the greatest novel ever written in the English language. On the surface, it is a story of Leopold Bloom, as he travels and travails through Dublin and its environs during the day of June 16, 1904. The reader soon recognizes the genius of Joyce through the book’s fantastic dialogue and cascading narrative. The marvelous cast of characters leaps forward out of Joyce’s unbridled imagination and into the reader’s mind and soul. This Fall semester, at the Oakton Community College Emeritus Program, I will be teaching a course on this often daunting, but transformative, literary masterpiece. There will be ten sessions, Tuesday mornings from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, at the Skokie campus of Oakton. The first class is September 29; the last class is December 1. Registration for the course begins in mid-July. I hope some of you decide to join us on this literary voyage. Please share this with interested friends.