In Ulysses and Us, Declan Kiberd argues that James Joyce's Ulysses offers a humane vision of a more tolerant and decent life under the dreadful pressures of the modern world. As much a guide to contemporary life as it is virtuoso work of literary criticism, Ulysses and Us offers revolutionary insights to the scholar and the first-time reader alike.
Leopold Bloom, the half-Jewish Irishman who is the hero of James Joyce's Ulysses, teaches the young Stephen Dedalus (modelled on Joyce himself) how he can grow and mature as an artist and an adult human being. Bloom has learned to live with contradictions, with anxiety and sexual jealousy, and with the rudeness and racism of the people he encounters in the city streets, and in his apparently banal way sees deeper than any of them. He embodies an intensely ordinary kind of wisdom, Kiberd argues, and in this way offers us a model for living well, in the tradition of the literature upon which Joyce drew in writing Ulysses, such as Homer, Dante and the Bible.
'Declan Kiberd's brilliantly informed and highly entertaining advocacy liberates Joyce's greatest book from the dungeon of unreadable masterpieces.' Joseph O'Connor
Kiberd's take on Ulysses should be on every undergraduate syllabus that includes Joyce's epic work, as it is an ideal introduction for the uninitiated accessible, richly argued, funny and, in a kind of devil's advocacy fashion, begging for rebuttal. The author of the important and controversial Inventing Ireland argues that it is time to "reconnect Ulysses to the everyday lives of people" and fetch it back from "the more snobbish modernists," who have conspired to give the book a reputation of being "unreadable by the ordinary people for whom it was intended." Kiberd places the book in its time "a world which had known for the first time the possibilities of mass literacy, a time when ordinary laborers read Shakespeare, Ruskin and Macaulay." Ulysses, says Kiberd is "an epic of the bourgeoisie," most of the book set in Dublin's public places, where men and women interrelate the library, the cemetery, shops, pubs, a hospital. As Kiberd works his argument through each chapter of Ulysses, readers will be fascinated by the father-son reconciliation that is at the heart of the novel, and will forever appreciate how the pyrotechnics that dominate the second half are there simply to deepen the explorations of a very simple theme: how to live, and how, like Odysseus, to get home.