United States v. One Book Called Ulysses
Did Censorship Help ?
James Joyce's Ulysses, is far more than an obscenity case. The tale of a single day in the life of Dublin, Ireland, it is modelled after Homer's Odyssey; only in Joyce's version, Odysseus or Ulysses is reborn as Leopold Bloom, a mild-mannered Jewish advertising salesman whose wife regularly cheats on him with younger men.
It was chiefly the parts involving Molly, Leopold's wife--passages involving references to sexual acts--which raised the censors' hackles. But considering the densely layered texture of Joyce's book, which is not so much a story as a celebration of various literary techniques in symbols, it is hard to imagine how anyone other than a serious reader ever got to the questionable portions.
Ulysses was never the sort of book likely to be read by the general public: so difficult is the narrative that Joyce scholars recommend the use of a guidebook.
How did the book acquire such a reputation that it was banned in America for many years? Simply through the attentions of censors--who have added immeasurably to the notoriety of a book that would otherwise be largely unknown in non-literary circles.
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