The Hilarity of James Joyce

I was introduced to James Joyce’s Ulysses by my uncle who loved it simply because he was a Dubliner.  He was not an educated man, didn’t understand a lot of it, but used to read the book with glee.  I’d like to introduce you to a piece that I first came across because of him, and that a few of my acting colleagues and I used to read on the Boston Common on Bloomsday.  We read lots of sections over the years but this is one of the most outrageously funny.  You have to understand, of course, that this is not your typical book.  Joyce is like a prodigious child at play, doing things that are not normally acceptable in storytelling.  But if you stick with him for a moment, there is a great fun to be had. The section I want to introduce you to is section twelve.  Now, it’s not marked this way in the various editions, so here’s how to find it.  There is always some way that the book is divided into sections.  In the new Bodley Head edition, there are lines to make the break.  So count twelve lines.  In this edition it’s page 376.  This is called the Cyclops section.  Joyce gave notes to a friend of his, Stuart Gilbert, who published a helpful book, giving the title and technique, among other things, of each section.  The Cyclops in this section is the Citizen, who is a bigoted nationalist.  And the technique is ‘gigantism’ which means that at any p0int the text is wont to shift suddenly into an high-flown, over-elaborate continuation of the story.  So, without belaboring the point: the new Bodley Head edition, section 12 (Cyclops), page 376.  Or, if you like you could just read the list of Irish heroes starting at the bottom of page 382.  The whole section can be read here  Enjoy.  (And try to ignore the ads.)


About Aidan

Husband. Father. Teacher. Dramatist. Essayist. Novelist. Professional Actor. Fundraiser. Organic farmer. Student of Yoga, popular science, politics, philosophy. View all posts by Aidan

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