10 Tips for Reading James Joyce’s Ulysses


The author of your doom.

1. Tackle it in chunks. I know you read the last Harry Potter book in a day but so did I. This is not the kind of book you can read in a day. I know the first chapter is relatively easy but they’re not all like that. Realistically your limit for reading and understanding the book is going to be about 100 pages a day.

2. Don’t expect to understand everything. If you’re reading this for an assignment, you are probably familiar with a few texts and the way they use allusion. But no matter how well read you are you are not going to ‘get’ everything. Many scholars believe there isn’t even any one thing to get, so don’t worry too much about the meaning, just keep reading.

3. Annotate your copy. Otherwise I doubt you’ll be able to find all the quotes you like again.

4. Don’t expect to get the same reading as everyone else. Dependent on how much you know going into your reading, how much you research as you read, you will get a different reading of the text, but again, there is no ‘right’ one.

5. Read aloud as much as possible. A lot of the meaning in Ulysses is in the sense, the feel of the words and how they interact. You’ll also no doubt enjoy it a lot more this way as much of the beauty and humour is lost if you read in your head.

6. If you can’t read aloud, listen to others reading it. Joyce created some of the best and funniest dialogue between everyday people in Ulysses. It helps to hear the relation between these words in conversations. There are many audio-book versions out there, if you find the right one you can’t help but enjoy the book.

7. Have a dictionary ready. Ulysses is full of words you probably won’t know the meaning of but haven’t seen before. Having a dictionary ready could help you feel less lost as well as giving you the chance to learn some cool new words along the way.

8. Use online study guides. It’s better to get help for a bit you’re stuck on and move on than to abandon the book altogether. Also, these guides are only going to give you a few interpretations of the text if they give you any, so as long as it makes you think about the text, it’s not cheating.

9. Read as much around it as you want to. If you want to read The Odyssey or Hamlet or Ovid, go ahead. That’s just as good a way of reading it as any. If it helps you understand or enjoy the book, if it makes you want to keep reading, it’s doing its job.

10. Enjoy it. You’re not going to get to read many books like this in your lifetime. Look forward to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy but don’t miss all the other great bits along the way.

 Sarah K.



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