The book consists of 18 chapters, each covering roughly one hour of the day, beginning around 8 a.m. and ending sometime after 2 a.m. the following morning. Each chapter employs its own literary style, and parodies a specific episode in Homer's Odyssey. Furthermore, each chapter is associated with a specific colour, art or science, and bodily organ. This combination of kaleidoscopic writing with an extreme formal schematic structure renders the book a major contribution to the development of 20th-century modernist literature. The use of classical mythology as an organising framework, the near-obsessive focus on external detail, and the occurrence of significant action within the minds of characters have also contributed to the development of literary modernism. Nevertheless, Joyce complained that, "I may have oversystematised Ulysses," and played down the mythic correspondences by eliminating the chapter titles that had been taken from Homer.
As he was completing work on Dubliners in 1906, Joyce considered adding another story featuring a Jewish advertising canvasser called Leopold Bloom under the title Ulysses. Although he did not pursue the idea further at the time, he eventually commenced work on a novel using both the title and basic premise in 1914. The writing was completed in October 1921. Three more months were devoted to working on the proofs of the book before Joyce halted work shortly before his self-imposed deadline, his 40th birthday (2 February 1922).
this publication encountered censorship problems in the United States; serialisation was halted in 1920 when the editors were convicted of publishing obscenity. Although the conviction was based on the “Nausicaä” episode of Ulysses, The Little Review had fuelled the fires of controversy with dada poet Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s defence of Ulysses in an essay “The Modest Woman.” Joyce's novel was not published in the United States until 1933.
With the appearance of both Ulysses and T. S. Eliot's poem, The Waste Land, 1922 was a key year in the history of English-language literary modernism.
In Ulysses, Joyce employs stream of consciousness, parody, jokes, and virtually every other established literary technique to present his characters. The action of the novel, which takes place in a single day, 16 June 1904, sets the characters and incidents of the Odyssey of Homer in modern Dublin and represents Odysseus (Ulysses), Penelope and Telemachus in the characters of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, parodically contrasted with their lofty models.
The book explores various areas of Dublin life, dwelling on its squalor and monotony. Nevertheless, the book is also an affectionately detailed study of the city, and Joyce claimed that if Dublin were to be destroyed in some catastrophe it could be rebuilt, brick by brick, using his work as a model. To achieve this level of accuracy, Joyce used the 1904 edition of Thom's Directory—a work that listed the owners and/or tenants of every residential and commercial property in the city. He also bombarded friends still living there with requests for information and clarification.