Writing & Publishing Ulysses
Joyce began writing Ulysses in Trieste in 1914, although ideas for the novel had taken root much earlier. As a boy Joyce was inspired by Homers Odyssey, and he retained that fascination into adulthood. The gestation of Ulysses—from first recorded conception in 1906, to early outlines in 1915, to published book in 1922—would see Joyce through a period of tremendous struggle. During this period he lived in four different countries, suffered the hardships of the First World War, financial volatility, and multiple eye operations, and saw his books banned in America and elsewhere. The great marvel of Joyces achievement was his ability to create one of the twentieth centurys greatest novels in the face of such turmoil.
By the time Joyce began writing Ulysses in earnest, he had come to understand that his rough drafts had financial value. As a result, more draft versions of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake survive than of Joyces earlier works. Joyce employed distinctive composition methods. When struck by an idea or phrase, he would reach for the nearest scrap of paper, napkin, or envelope. He would collect these scraps and transfer his ideas into notebooks, shaping them into a cohesive text along the way. Joyces typists despaired of his handwriting, so Joyce was obliged to recopy his notebooks to provide a legible copy, and to present a saleable artifact to John Quinn, the collector who had contracted to purchase the Ulysses manuscript. Printed page and galley proofs underwent further heavy revisions. Joyces illegible handwriting, his habit of continual revision, the survival of multiple drafts, along with the hundreds of printers errors that riddled the first edition, would later combine to provoke passionate scholarly arguments about which version of Ulysses is the most authentic. While these textual questions may never find definitive answers, Joyces manuscripts nonetheless allow us to see the authors hand at work, as he shaped, reshaped, and polished the novel that would, more than any of his other writings, mark his destiny and make his reputation.
While Homers Odyssey provides the framework for Ulysses, the raw material for the book comes from Joyces own history and from the landmarks of his remembered Ireland. He combined the structure of the Greek epic with the common language of everyday life, and forged the internal lives of his characters from his memories of life in Dublin. Shocking at the time, the novels sexual candor and coarse dialogue created tremendous controversy. From its first appearance, Ulysses lived under the threat of confiscation and prosecution. In producing the book, publisher and printer risked their reputations, a fine, or a jail sentence. Harriet Shaw Weaver tried but failed to find an English printer prepared to take the risk, although she was bravely willing to do so herself. The United States Post Office confiscated and burned four episodes of the novel when they appeared in The Little Review. The eventual prosecution of the Reviews editors for violation of obscenity laws dashed Joyces hopes for the books publication in America. By 1921, Joyce had little hope for his book. Finally a friend, Sylvia Beach, came to the novels rescue, offering to publish Ulysses from her Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Company.
Items Exhibited in the Writing & Publishing Ulysses Section
James Joyce. Manuscript Draft of Ulysses, Nausicaa episode. Autumn, 1919.
James Joyce. Typescript Draft of Ulysses, Nausicaa episode. Late 1919.
James Joyce. Manuscript Fragment of Ulysses, Oxen of the Sun episode. [n.d.]
James Joyce. Postcard to Nora Barnacle. June 15, 1904.
Nora Joyce, ca. 1920.
James Joyce and Sylvia Beach Outside Shakespeare & Co. Paris, ca. 1920. [view]
The Little Review. Chicago: Little Review, 1914-1929. Vol. 4, no. 12, April 1918.
Ezra Pound. Letter to James Joyce. June 7, 1918.
James Joyce and Sylvia Beach inside Shakespeare & Co. Paris, 1922.
Shakespeare & Co. Ulysses. Subscription Order Form. Paris, 1921.
James Joyce. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare & Co., 1922. [view]
Shakespeare & Co. Ulysses is Ready. Paris, 1921.
James Joyce inside Shakespeare & Co. Paris, ca. 1923.
James Joyce. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare & Co., 1925. [view]
Two Worlds Monthly. New York: Two Worlds Publishing Company. Vol. I, no. 1, 1926.
James Joyce. Typescript List of Names Protesting Unauthorized Printing of Ulysses. January 24, 1927.
James Joyce. Ulysses. New York: Random House, 1934. [view]
View a photo of this exhibition case (second)