The Challenge of Ulysses

Declan Kiberd continues to offer insight into why everyone is entitled to Ulysses and why ordinary readers should wrest it back from the academics and make it their own:

from Ulysses and Us
Declan Kiberd

Any teacher knows that many students today sprinkle their essays with quotations from the lyrics of rock music and from popular films. This suggests that they still yearn for instruction from artists on how to live. It may well be that rock artists provide the only common culture which most of those students know. The need now is for readers who will challenge the bloodless, technocratic explication of texts: amateur readers who will come up with what may appear to be naive, even innocent, interpretations. Today's students have been prevented by a knowing sophisticated cricitism from seeking such wisdom in modern literature. In it they seek mainly tricks of style, rhetorical devices, formal experiment, historical insight, but seldom if ever lived wisdom. The contemporary gulf betweent technique and feeling cries out to be bridged in the classroom, through the work of teaching and learning.
 Kiberd goes on to make another salient point about reading Ulysses.

from Ulysses and Us
Declan Kiberd

Reading Ulysses is undeniably challenging, yet many of the jobs which are done by ordinary people are as complex and exacting as any analysis of that book. Walter Benjamin observed that it would become increasingly difficult for children in a mass culture to find their way back to the exacting silence of a text. . . . Yet Ulysses was designed to produce readers capable of reading Ulysses. . .

To which I might add, that if one can read and make even a sort of sense of Ulysses, then no book would be beyond one's reach.

I first saw this book on Dublin bookshelves, and almost picked it up to bring it home.  I regret not having done so, because I want to mark all over this book and ask multitudinous questions, particularly in this introductory matter.  Perhaps if I am blessed with a return trip I shall do so.  There's something about buying a book about Ulysses in the town Ulysses so famously loves and memorializes.

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