Joyce's Ulysses

Course No. 237
Professor James A. W. Heffernan, Ph.D.
Dartmouth College
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Course Overview

James Joyce's great novel Ulysses is a big, richly imagined, and intricately organized book with a huge reputation. T. S. Eliot, bowled over by Joyce's brilliant manipulation of a continuous parallel between ancient myth and modern life, called it "the most important expression which the present age has found ... [one] to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape."

Ulysses depicts a world that is as fully conceived and vibrant as anything in Homer or Shakespeare. It has been delighting and puzzling readers since it was first published on Joyce's 40th birthday, February 2, 1922.

Dartmouth's Professor James A. W. Heffernan maps the brilliance, passion, humanity, and humor of Joyce's modern Odyssey in this 24-lecture series.

Enigmas, Puzzles, and Epic Pleasures

It is, perhaps, a book whose pleasures you've always wanted to learn to savor but never quite worked yourself up to reading. And who can blame you? After all, Joyce himself famously boasted that "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant!"

This is where Professor Heffernan's lectures help. Whether or not you have read this book, you'll find that his lectures, the fruit of decades of distinguished teaching, make an excellent guide to the many-layered pleasures of this modern epic.

Illuminating the dramatic and artistic integrity behind the novel's most notoriously challenging passages, he explains why this frank, pathbreaking novel was praised as a landmark and damned as obscene—even banned—as soon as it first appeared.

Professor Heffernan argues that Joyce, for all his waggish gamester's love of masks, mimicry, and literary red herrings, is behind them all the passionate teller of a vitally human tale, "a priest of the eternal imagination" yearning to transmute "the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life."

A Book of Many Turns

Ulysses is many books at once:

  • An inspired modern reweaving of the fabric of Homer's mighty Odyssey
  • A supreme synthesis of realism and symbolism
  • A grandly comic and at times bawdy work—a seriocomic parable about art and experience
  • A symphonic, kaleidoscopic portrayal of the sights, sounds, and voices of Dublin and every city
  • A dazzling work of masterfully handled prose styles and narrative devices.

It is an unsentimental but deeply felt story that uses concrete facts of mundane life in a particular time and place to say something truly extraordinary and universal that speaks to all that is human in us.

Although he discusses selected points from the enormous body of critical scholarship on Ulysses, Professor Heffernan presupposes no special knowledge of literature or of James Joyce. These lectures are meant to be useful and enlightening for anyone who is interested.

You should also be aware that the lectures are frankly worded at times. The language is sometimes profane and sexually explicit. Frankness belongs to the nature of Joyce's art—a point that not all readers have grasped, but it is essential to understanding this novel, according to Professor Heffernan.

Bloom, Stephen, and Molly: Modern-Day Homeric Heroes

Professor Heffernan's lectures follow the novel's structure. Through the many turns of Joyce's prose, you trace the travels around Dublin of Leopold Bloom, a married, 38-year-old, Jewish newspaper-ad salesman, on June 16, 1904, a date now famous around the world as "Bloomsday."

While learning how Bloom's wanderings creatively retrace the return from the Trojan War of Homer's Ulysses, a "man of many turns," you also join Professor Heffernan in observing and analyzing Bloom's involvement with the two other main characters, who like him are both vividly imagined individuals and universal archetypes:

  • Stephen Dedalus is a would-be writer who stands in for Joyce's younger self. He evokes Homer's Telemachus, Bloom's dead son, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and sons everywhere and always.
  • Molly Bloom is the wife of our latter-day Ulysses. Evoking Homer's Penelope (with Joycean twists), she waits in bed for Bloom to join her at the end of his long day, when she disgorges her interior monologue—written in eight enormous, unpunctuated paragraphs—which gestures toward Finnegans Wake and is one of the most famous passages in literature.
By learning what these characters—and the many other Dubliners they meet—think, do, say, and feel on a single day, you see how Joyce uses each of his 18 chapters to recall and rewrite a particular episode of the Odyssey.

"This extraordinarily ambitious project raises challenging questions," says Professor Heffernan. "How can the exploits of an ancient warrior king and heroic voyager be re-enacted by a pacifist who has scarcely ever been to sea and who tolerates his wife's adultery, taking no revenge on her lover? How can Telemachus be reborn in Stephen, who has absolutely no wish to see his father at all? And how can the role of a supremely faithful wife be played by an adulteress?"

By reconstructing the story while analyzing numerous quotes and passages, Professor Heffernan answers these questions—and more.

Wanderers Who Long to Return

At the same time he is drawing parallels between the Odyssey and Ulysses, Professor Heffernan explains how Joyce replays Homer's ancient song in an unmistakably modern rhythm and key.

You learn that Ulysses is the work of a man steeped in Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and all of Western literature, but at the same time totally aware of his place in time and determined to catch all its many turnings in every possible way his art can master.

You explore how radically Ulysses departs from earlier models, how Joyce fundamentally reconstructs the relation between time and place in narrative, and how he explodes the assumption that a work of fiction must be dominated by a consistent point of view.

The tale of Leopold Bloom, modern-day wanderer and homecomer, is a timeless story illustrating the age-old theme of wanderers who long to return. Joyce himself, in his maturity blind like Homer but with mind's eye undimmed, would return to the major themes and characters of Ulysses by recycling them in the ever-circling book of dreams, Finnegans Wake.

A Great Teacher

Since 1989 Dr. Heffernan has taught a senior seminar on Ulysses that is regularly oversubscribed.

Michael Groden, Professor of English at the University of Western Ontario, says of Professor Heffernan's lectures: "With calmness, patience, and awareness of the challenge Ulysses presents, he will guide you chapter-by-chapter through the book, showing you both the big picture and many of the text's fascinating details. Let him help you understand Ulysses but, just as important, also show you the book's humanity and the sheer joy of experiencing Joyce's masterpiece."

This course is an excellent introductory guide to the many layers of James Joyce's landmark novel Ulysses.

After considering the controversies it provoked when it first appeared and why it is considered a major contribution to 20th-century literature, the lectures show how Joyce's novel reconstructs the adventures of Ulysses, the protagonist of Homer's Odyssey.

At the same time, the author is totally aware of his place in time and is determined to catch in every possible way the world of the early 20th century.

After considering the amazing variety of styles and multiplicity of viewpoints in Ulysses, the course reviews the novel as a whole and shows how radically Ulysses departs from the novels that came before it.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Story of a Modern Masterpiece
    What is the special place that Ulysses occupies in 20th-century fiction? Why has the book provoked such strong reactions? How can the challenges it poses for first-time readers be met? Why did Joyce choose to take Homer's Odyssey as the inspiration for his "day in the life" story of Dublin on June 16, 1904? x
  • 2
    Telemachus at the Martello Tower
    Chapter 1 presents one of the three principal characters. He is Stephen Dedalus, the fictional portrait of the artist Joyce as a young man. A 22-year-old schoolteacher of Jesuit education, lofty intellect, and brooding, brilliant wit, he is haunted by his mother's death and his own gnawing sense of being beset, Telemachus-like, by usurpers. x
  • 3
    Nestor at School
    The centerpiece of the second chapter is Stephen's confrontation with the nightmare of history as he teaches his class at Dalkey and collects his pay from headmaster Deasy. Why does Stephen think of history as a bad dream? And how, as man and budding artist, can he learn to awaken from it? x
  • 4
    Proteus on Sandymount Strand
    This chapter, though literally no more than a walk on the beach, can be a sand trap for the unwary reader. But if you know what to look for, Stephen's dense, polysyllabic inner monologue can show you how the imagination of the artist—the imagination of James Joyce—works to grasp and express the unity behind the manifold, mutable world that touches our senses. x
  • 5
    Breakfast with Calypso
    Serving Molly breakfast in bed beneath a picture of a nymph, is Bloom as enthralled as Ulysses was by Calypso? How does Joyce use Bloom's thoughts—and his brief journey out to buy his breakfast—to help us imagine the novel's crucial themes? x
  • 6
    Leopold Bloom and the Lotus Eaters
    Bloom's devotion to his wife and home is tested as he faces an array of temptations to forget both and savor the pleasures of narco-eroticized indolence and plantlike turpitude. But can he—should he—seek escape from the pain that comes from remembering his dead father, or anticipating his wife's adulterous liaison with Blazes Boylan? x
  • 7
    Hades
    How does Joyce use Bloom's trip northwest to Glasnevin Cemetery for the burial of Paddy Dignam to restage Ulysses's visit to the underworld and demonstrate the Bloomian (Joycean?) conviction that "in the midst of death, we are in life"? x
  • 8
    A Bag of Winds
    Inspired by Ulysses's visit to Aeolus, the god of winds, Chapter 7 blows Bloom and Stephen together briefly. Examples of conventional public rhetoric huff and puff beneath mock headlines in a Joycean counterblast to the novel's inner monologues. And at chapter's end, Stephen breathes life into an unconventional story about two Dublin spinsters, some plums, and a statue of Lord Nelson. x
  • 9
    Lestrygonians at Lunchtime
    Re-enacting Ulysses's brush with a race of cannibals, Chapter 8 invites you to join Bloom at his midday meal. By listening to the thoughts of our modern Ulysses as he steers a moderate course through this mundane but highly meaningful activity, you'll learn about his character, his conflicts, and the artistry of James Joyce. When you're done you may be hungry, but it won't be for knowledge. x
  • 10
    Scylla and Charybdis, I
    In moving from Chapter 8 to Chapter 9, you move from the body to the mind, from the lunchroom to the library, from Bloom's concern with physical processes to Stephen's with mental speculations. Why does Stephen feel he must explain his theory of how Shakespeare came to write Hamlet to a gathering of Dublin's literati, even though he has no wish to join them? x
  • 11
    Scylla and Charybdis, II
    What is Stephen's theory of Hamlet? Does he himself believe it? If not, why does he present it? What does it tell you about Stephen's needs as an artist? How does Stephen unwittingly identify Shakespeare with both Ulysses and Leopold Bloom? And why does Stephen (Joyce?) prefer Aristotle to Plato? x
  • 12
    Wandering Rocks
    In the Dublin of Ulysses, Homer's "wandering rocks" (reefs so tricky they seem to move) become characters who bump into each other as Bloom and Stephen make their ways through the afternoon streets. Collectively, these motions move the city that defines both men. In Chapter 10, Joyce has made the city he called "Dyoubelong?" a character in his novel. x
  • 13
    The Sirens of the Ormond Hotel
    In Chapter 11, Homer's seductive songstresses become a pair of barmaids at the hotel where Bloom takes a meal and the air is full of song. Like Ulysses, Bloom is tempted by music's charms, especially when it evokes romantic or national feeling, but he keeps his distance. At the end of this chapter of musical effects (amazingly handled in Joyce's extraordinary prose), Bloom pipes his own fundamental comment on Irish nationalism. x
  • 14
    Citizen Cyclops, I
    The gigantic one-eyed savage of Chapter 12 is a myopic, chauvinistic, anti-Semitic drunk known simply as "the citizen." Caught in Barney Kiernan's pub with him, Bloom (whose thoughts you do not hear) must assert himself and then escape with a Ulyssean mixture of boldness and prudence. This first lecture on "Cyclops" treats just the portions "spoken" by the unnamed narrator, also hostile to Bloom, who recounts the episode as a barroom anecdote. x
  • 15
    Citizen Cyclops, II
    Interspersed with the colloquial narrator's voice in Chapter 12 are 32 passages in which Joyce parodies—brilliantly and often hilariously—a dazzling number of writing styles from pseudo-epic romance to modern legal briefs and political reportage. Why does Joyce include the writings of the "parodist"—who often undercuts Bloom—in this section where Bloom is perhaps at his most heroic? x
  • 16
    Nausicaa at the Beach
    Homer's young princess appears as Gerty MacDowell, a sentimental young woman who constructs a romantic fantasy around Bloom when she sees him at Sandymount Strand. Storm-tossed and tired after his long harsh day, Bloom seeks relief in Gerty's gaze. But his thoughts and feelings turn again toward Molly and home. x
  • 17
    Oxen of the Sun
    Chapter 14, which places Bloom and Stephen in the waiting room of the National Maternity Hospital at 10 p.m., shows Joyce at his most masterful. Patterned on the nine months of pregnancy, it recapitulates in nine successive, pitch-perfect prose styles the gestation and development of the English language, from Anglo-Saxon diction through Victorian eloquence. x
  • 18
    Circe of Nighttown, I
    Written in playscript form, this longest chapter features the transformations, hallucinations, and displays that occur when Bloom protectively follows Stephen to Bella Cohen's brothel in Dublin's bawdy-house district, and unlike Ulysses in the palace of Circe, gives up the magic plant that wards off the enchantress's power. x
  • 19
    Circe of Nighttown, II
    Stripped of his talismanic potato and thus unable to resist, Bloom must endure a hallucinatory series of humiliations and shape-shifts at the hands of Bella Cohen. How will Bloom face these down, regain his self-command, and continue with his mission of safeguarding Stephen and returning home? x
  • 20
    Eumaeus
    In Chapter 16, Homer's kindly old swineherd Eumaeus appears as the keeper of a cabman's shelter where Bloom and Stephen go to talk and rest after the older man guides the younger out of Nighttown. The chapter's cliché-ridden, newspapery language of exhaustion gives way to something more human when Bloom, preparing to return home, urges Stephen to "lean on me." x
  • 21
    Return to Ithaca, I
    In the penultimate chapter, written as a catechetical or scientific series of questions and answers that highlights both the characters' humanity and their universal significance, Stephen and Bloom enter Bloom's house "by a stratagem" and then sit and talk. Stephen politely declines an invitation to stay, but not before they have shared a generous moment of communion over the "massproduct" of hot cocoa. x
  • 22
    Return to Ithaca, II
    After Stephen leaves, Bloom's thoughts turn to Molly upstairs. While Stephen becomes the "centrifugal departer," Bloom is "the centripetal remainer," seeking his center in Molly. But his journey to their marriage bed is an ordeal which demands that he try and restore order to both his disarranged house and his own troubled spirit. x
  • 23
    Molly Bloom Speaks
    Lying in bed, Mrs. Marion Bloom thinks of everything she's ever done or felt and every man she's ever known. Yet her uninhibited and sometimes self-contradictory monologue finally shows her thoughts returning home. Her husband remains the only man who understands her, and the memory of their first ecstatic lovemaking leads to Molly's great and final "Yes." x
  • 24
    Joyce and the Modern Novel
    Why does Joyce reject the rules of conventional plotting and leave major questions unresolved? How does Ulysses fit in with the history of English-language fiction? How does Ulysses point to Finnegans Wake? Why does Joyce bind his universalizing, polytropic vision to the richly particularized streets of Dublin on a quite specific day? And how does he succeed so brilliantly at this? x

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  • 152-page printed course guidebook
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  • Homer and Joyce: comparative outlines
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Your professor

James A. W. Heffernan

About Your Professor

James A. W. Heffernan, Ph.D.
Dartmouth College
Dr. James A. W. Heffernan is Professor of English, Emeritus at Dartmouth College, where he was also Frederick Sessions Beebe '35 Professor in the Art of Writing. He earned his A.B. cum laude from Georgetown University and his Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. Professor Heffernan taught a range of courses at Dartmouth, including European Romanticism, English Romantic poetry, methods of literary criticism, and the...
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Reviews

Joyce's Ulysses is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 77.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Phyllis Stein The Professor talked too quickly for me to keep up comfortably. His Irish accent is on a par with the Cockney accent in Mary Poppins: weird. It was interesting to get information about Joyce's convoluted method of writing. However I have never liked the method or the bad language in the book. If Joyce had modelled his book on Dante's Inferno instead of Homer's Odyssey I think I would have liked it as in my opinion the Inferno could do with it; but that's another story.
Date published: 2013-11-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from painful I always felt I should read Joyce's Ulysses as it is known as such a significant work of literature, but I never could get into it as I had the sensation that Joyce was playing with me and having a great laugh. After listening to Dr. Heffernan's lectures, and I did force myself to listen to them all, I came to the conclusion that I was right. Joyce must be laughing hysterically at all of those who pontificate on his amazing ramblings as great literature. I enjoy a good story that reveals fascinating characters with interesting dilemmas, but Dr. Heffernan is so enraptured by his own plays on words and his belief in his acting skills with the Irish accent, which frequently missed the mark, that I was so happy to get the course finished. I decided I did not need any further enlightenment by professors who create meaning in absurdity for their own edification. From this I have learned something about myself, so I guess I have made a life journey as well.
Date published: 2013-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Clear! I had read Ulysses and a couple of commentaries before taking this course and thought I had a reasonable handle on the book. Dr. Heffernan presents very engaging lectures that were so good, I actually read through the book twice over the 6 months spent taking the course. 6 months? Yes! I like to enjoy a lecture or two, repeat them until the material really sticks and then go to the text itself. That means the lectures had better be very good or I cannot stand to repeat them. This set is extraordinary. We can be grateful this course was recorded. As fewer people are willing to tackle "hard books", demand for this level of study diminishes outside of the classroom. We are lucky this is available. If you have tried Ulysses and struggled, I recommend the course. If you love the book, and haven't struggled, I still recommend the course. I'll ramble if I go on. Just let me say that I highly recommend this course. You will not be disappointed. Chris Reich PS---I'm grinding my way through Finnegans Wake. Where's the course Dr. Heffernan? (He would be the ideal instructor!)
Date published: 2013-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant ~ superb explanations & history ! Wonderful to view/listen to these excellent lectures which comprise a fascinating explanation and understanding of Joyce's classic. This is something I ~ and undoubtedly so many others ~ have been waiting for over decades! The lecturer has a perfect style for imparting knowledge and clearly has great passion for the novel as well as a seriously strong academic background. Congratulations Great Courses: this lecture series in itself is a classic! Highest recommendation.
Date published: 2012-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from High on Heffernan How often could one say that the review of a major work of literature is as good as the work itself ? I say it now for the first time. Professor Heffernan is masterful, his analysis precise and superb. I now understand Joyce so much better than before these lectures. I shall now cease gushing so you may go and get the course.
Date published: 2012-10-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very disappointing For some reason my previous attempts at posting this (only heretofore negative) review have not been successful. I imagine it was due to some error on my part. I bought this course after reading the overwhelming positive remarks by so many people. As one of the "greatest novels" I figured I was obligated to read it at some point. I had high hopes. If I had known the amount of flippant and seemingly encouraging discussion on illicit sexuality that this course contains, I would not have purchased it. If this doesn't offend you, you may enjoy this course. If it does, then you may want to steer clear. It wasn't just a single passing comment, but a running theme over many of the lectures I listened to. I can't comment on the rest of the content since I only made it through about 3-4 lectures. I credit the "Great Courses" for honoring their return policy without any complaint.
Date published: 2012-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation Let me start with a confession--Ulysses is my favorite novel. I have read it perhaps eight times, I've listened to an unabridged reading of it, I went to Dublin to be there on Bloomsday. I've read it unaided, and I've read it with a copy of Ulysses Annotated at my side. Still, I'm always finding new material in it and I continue to be moved to laughter, tears, amazement, and frustration by it. Professor Heffernan is obviously completely taken by the book as well and conveys his enthusiasm to the listener. He does a masterful job of introducing each chapter, setting the Homerian scene, and helping the reader to anticipate and appreciate the writing, the plot (such as it is) and the ultimate humanity of the characters. Particularly impressive is how much of the language of the novel he has at his fingertips. If you are new to Ulysses, I might make two recommendations--(1) don't feel obliged to understand everything the first time around (that is the very definition of a fool's errand)--feel free to skip around and if you find yourself getting stuck before the fourth chapter, skip to the beginning of it and meet Mr. Leopold Bloom, the uncommon common man; and (2) use these lectures as an introduction as you read each chapter. And to those who are coming to Ulysses again, Professor Heffernan's lectures are a pleasure and may help you make connections that haven't fully developed on your own.
Date published: 2012-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bloom's Day, My Day I find that professor Heffernan's comment that you never read Ulysses, you only re-read it applies just as well to these outstanding lectures on that abstruse and delightful tome. While I have, indeed, listened to these lectures--7 times and counting--I find that each time I re-listen I gain new and deeply-pleasing insights into this great 20th Century novel.
Date published: 2012-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enriching! Some people are intimidated by the density and opaqueness of Joycean prose and I'm not sure this course in the antidote to that. Joyce is Joyce, with or without a guide or a crib. But these lectures are a delightful textual examination of Ulysses. Listening to the lectures without reading the novel would be pointless. So buying the lecture set is a commitment to reading the book. But if you enjoy wallowing in the novel and aren't hung up on understanding what you are reading as you read it, the lectures are a wonderful adjunct to the novel. One caution--this offering focuses very much on Ulysses. The biographical information about Joyce, as well as the positioning of the novel in the broader currents of the culture of the era, are incidental to an examination of the text. The title of the lecture series is apt.
Date published: 2012-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally I tried 30 or 40 years ago to read 'Ulysses' at least twice and tossed it aside (back on the bookshelf to gather dust). A good friend suggested trying again. I bought this course and waited a couple of months, building courage to jump in. Very glad I did. For each chapter, I read the guidebook first, then the chapter, then watched the lecture(s). What a joy. I finally got something, a lot, actually, out of it. Thanks to Prof. Heffernan for such a passionate, erudite presentation. He really made the characters come alive. His comments on the history of Ireland and the various cultural aspects were very helpful. I was sad to come to the end of it, after spending three weeks reading and listening and rereading. Digging so deep into it, I also came to appreciate Joyce's humor, which was everywhere. I'll let it all soak in for a few months, then read it again. I also made notes in the guidebook during the lectures, which is the first time I've done that with one of these courses (have gone through about a dozen). Thanks for a gem of a course.
Date published: 2012-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Indispensable Don't attempt Ulysses without these lectures, there's a much higher chance you'll give up by the 3rd chapter if you start completely unprepared. I suggest reading each chapter using the following 3 aides - 1) the TC lectures for overall context and "the big picture", 2) "The Annotated Ulysses" for details on all the myriad references 3)The audiobook version to soak it all in. Thanks to Prof. Heffernan, I've enjoyed Ulysses far more than I thought I would, and have become an even bigger Joyce fan.
Date published: 2011-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely terrific in all ways! Professor Heffernan brings this incredibly challenging novel to life. I took the course because my father has been reading, studying, and loving Ulysses since 1982, and I thought it was high time I tried to relate to his passion. I nervously approached the course, wary because I had never read Joyce and only knew how difficult his works are to fully comprehend. Within minutes I was hooked. Professor Heffernan's style is superb, his command of the topic is outstanding, and his overall approach is close to perfect. I loved every lecture and left with a wonderful appreciation and understanding of the book. Best of all, I was able to surprise my dad by being bale to converse fluently about the book. Thank you, Professor Heffernan and Teaching Company!
Date published: 2011-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from TRAVEL DUBLIN WITH BLOOM This review refers to the CD's. One of the things in this life I've missed is the long-planned trip to Ireland to participate in the annual Bloom's Day walk through Dublin. It's a trek through the city by Joyce lovers tracing the journey Bloom made on his famous day. If readers of this review have the opportunity, they are urged to attempt it. Although Joyce bragged his book would keep academics busy for decades untangling his clues and allusions, the power of his imagery captivates many outside of academia. Whether it's buying kidney at the butchers, going to the jakes (outhouse) to relieve himself, thinking about the actions of the dog in the bar, brooding over the possibility of Molly having an affair or all the other thoughts crowding Bloom's mind, Joyce's skill puts you right there in Bloom's skull. There is an immediacy in Joyce's writing that makes this novel one of the most interesting and compelling in English literature. Dr Helleman's lectures do an extraordinary job of taking one into Joyce's creation. He describes how Joyce captures the emotions as Bloom handles his perceived challenges during his day as he goes about Dublin to sell ads. Dr Helleman also provides interesting information on Joyce the person and comments about this novel's impact. I've shared this set of CD's with writing friends who have found it as enjoyable and compelling as I do. It's a marvelous addition to TGC inventory. It's recommended to anyone who is interested in Joyce's work. For Joyce lovers, as I obviously am, it is a gem that should not be missed.
Date published: 2011-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from magnificent James Joyce's "Ulysses" is not a book to be read, but re-read, so quotes Professor James Heffernan. I first came across this book when working a busy night shift in an emergency department, and one of the patients being treated was an English Literature teacher. I only managed to ask what book would you recommend for me to read, and the answer was Joyce's "Ulysses". Since then I have now read this book three times. The first time was a voyage that like of the mythical Ulysses, being buffeted by all sorts of storms and obstacles. The lyricism of his words, dare I say the poesy and rhapsody, lured me on. A second read again under my own resources helped me to take stock of the richness of the setting which was a single day in the life of our hero, in Dublin. However the third read has been in the company of a wonderful companion, Prof James Heffernan, who on our raft has some pieces of maps and a spyglass to see things more clearly, and to keep track of our journey via the stars, "the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit". Prof Heffernan is himself descended from Irish refugees who escaped the Irish potatoe famine, was educated by Jesuits and so has a special affinity for the world portrayed by Joyce. Prof Heffernan also delights in dramatic portrayal of prose, and I found myself quite moved by his renditions of this work, both the comic and the dramatic sections. He has a real twinkle in his eye when discussing the novel, and his insights are quite remarkable. For someone who has taken the voyage twice on his own, I am now starting to see the vista for the first time, and what a view. Bravo Professor Heffernan and the Teaching Company.
Date published: 2010-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must - audio CDs Ulysses was designed to be complex and necessitating multiple reads, which makes this course necessary. Enjoyable to hear the story told by someone who has already analyzed and digested the material. Most of us won't be able to make it through the hefty book, so this is the next best thing.
Date published: 2010-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Printed book + audiobook + lectures I tackled 'Ulysses' with great success by reading the Vintage Books edition one chapter at a time while listening along to a recorded version of the exact same edition (narrated by Irish actors Donal Donnelly and Miriam Healy-Louie (as Molly)) and then immediately viewing the Heffernan lecture of that chapter. This technique assured me of good pacing, proper pronunciation, and thorough analysis of the important aspects of each chapter, without rushing through the book or sloughing over the incomprehensible parts. Buying both the audiobook and the Teaching Company lecture series may be a big investment for most people, but I believe that it is well worth the investment in order to achieve as full an understanding of this great work as can be gotten outside of a college course.
Date published: 2009-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful companion Before purchasing this course, wading through world of Steven, Leopold and Molly was an arduous journey. About to give up, I purchased this course as a last attempt to find some joy in exploring Ulysses. This course not only helped me to enjoy the novel, but also enlightened me with new insights into Irish history and Greek literature. This course is a wonderful companion to a very difficult novel.
Date published: 2009-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes a Difficult Literary Work Accessible Many well educated people attempt to take on Joyce's Ulysses but generally concede defeat within the first few chapters. Certainly Joyce has constructed treacherous waters that even most knowledgeable reader will find difficult, if not impossible, to navigate. For those of us who find ourselves up this unfamiliar creek, Heffernan provides a paddle, compass and much encouragement. The result is a fulfilling literary experience. Listening to the lectures, plus purchasing some of the materials Heffernan recommended to accompany the readings of Ulysses, helped me undertake one of the more enjoyable reading excursions of my life. I listened to these lectures several times before taking a graduate course on Joyce at Trinity College. Heffernan's lecturers allowed me to contribute a great deal to the discussions that took place in class and inspired a well received research paper on Joyce's use of music in the "Sirens" chapter. For those intimidated by this great work, it's wonderful to understand how Joyce seeks to express common everyday experiences and emotions in a way never before done that truly helps the reader fully empathize with the characters. Now if Heffernan could only do the same for Finnegan's Wake, but it would probably be easier for anyone to walk on water than to tackle that formidable hydra.
Date published: 2009-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A complex book simplified I finally managed to wade through Ulysses after listening to this wonderfully illuminating course. I had previously found myself having to read numerous footnotes or refer to Gifford's Ulysses Annotated in order to understand many of the chapters. I recommend this course as either a prelude or an adjunct to reading James Joyce's masterwork. I hope professor Heffernan is working on a similar guide to Finnegans Wake in the same style.
Date published: 2009-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding Joyce Good course to understand a wonderful, albeit challenging novel
Date published: 2009-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Indispensable This is possibly the only Teaching Company course I have audited which I would deem a REQUIRED resource for the understanding (let alone appreciation!) of the covered subject matter. Joyce's Ullyses is a complicated puzzle that is not likley to reveal its solution to anyone not already possessing the code. Professor Heffernan's breadth of literary sholarship and his depth in all things Joyce/Irish was up to this task. His effective lecture style closed the deal.
Date published: 2009-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Yes, worth taking even without reading the book! I'll admit it - I took this course and have not (yet) read Ulysses. To answer the unasked question, yes, the course is very worth taking even without reading the book. Think of it as a very detailed, extremely informative, fascinating and well-done book review. I came away feeling I have a reasonably good notion of what the book is about and what Joyce was trying to accomplish. Did it make me more (or less) likely to actually read the book? No - probably because I have always intended to read it someday in any case. But I greatly enjoyed the course and the excellent presentation; recommended for anyone with an interest in Ulysses.
Date published: 2009-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from JOYCE'S HIGHEST MOUNTAIN! Admit it! Reading this novel is a tough climb! Between the dialect used plus the stream of consciousness and the allusions to other literary works--well, it's a piece of work!!! I much prefer Joyce's short stories. As a literature major many years ago, I attempted this book a few times and just gave up. I wish I would have had this course THEN! Prof. Heffernan is not only a superb teacher--he is a superb actor! He recreates this book with great humor and doesn't Bowdlerize! If this is a book you always wanted to read but never did--here's your chance to go through it with a terrific scholar!
Date published: 2009-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Helpful companion I listened to this lecture both during an after a reading of Ulysses, and I found it to be consistently helpful and interesting. I would certainly recommend it as one of several supplementary materials to someone reading the book for the first time.
Date published: 2009-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An accomplishment For some years I was embarrassed that I'd never been able to make it more than a few pages into Ulysses before giving it up. With this course I finally made it through. I found I needed three resources. They were, in order of accessibility: this course, a good audiobook version of Ulysses, and a print copy of the book. For each chapter, if I was feeling ambitious, I read the paper version first, then listened to the chapter, then the applicable lecture, and then read the chapter again. At my least energetic, I listened to the lecture first, and then listened to the chapter. Ulysses is not the kind of book I enjoy a great deal, and I can't say that the course changed that. The satisfaction I feel now flows more from checking another cultural necessity off my list than from finding a new favorite author. But I understand more, now, about what other people are talking about.
Date published: 2008-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is superb; I don't see how choice of professor & work could have been better intersected. This is the gold standard.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The novel is really exasperating. I had to resort to the cliff notes, Stuart Gilbert's - J.Joyces Ulysses, ect. This course really explains what's going on. I'll go back to reading Ulysses with all this in mind.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was the best course I've had from the Teaching Company. It was as good or better than my college lectures course I've taken andbetter by far then my college course on Joyce's Ulysses.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from this course about the novel will send me back to the novels, where I can re-read with broader and deeper understanding.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I had found it impossible to read the books in spite of many attempts. Dr Heefernan takes by the hand and leads one chapter by chapter through Dublin on Bloom's day, and the maening of the book becomes clear.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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