Category Archives: jamesjoyce

ideal ulysses, part two

it occured to me as i read the comments to yesterday’s post that i left out a key element in the equation -? the ovearching vision that determines what gets included in the ideal Ulysses and how. ideally this vision will be a creative amalgam of the perspective of the great teacher, the enquiring reader and the canny editor/producer.
this trinity may seem obvious but i think the question of how to balance the power between the three is something we don’t really know much about. to put differently, if in the print world the hierarchy of AUTHOR/reader has been fiercely protected by those whom it favors, the promise of the networked book to upset these relations is just that, a promise. that will be the case until we come up with new schema powerful enough to be the foundation of a real transformation* (see footnote at bottom of the post)
i think perhaps an interesting next step would be to sit in on classes with some of the great teachers of Ulysses -? the ones who make the book come alive for their students. i’d like to see what characteristics are common to all and which different. then we could think about how to take the essence of this experience into an ideal version. note, that even if the answer in the end is that for teachers to work their magic they need to be live, in front of an audience, then the question for me becomes, how do we get that into a networked book?
So please if you took a great course in Ulysses or know of anyone who did, comment here or send me a note at
* footnote -? many years ago a group of us were trying to imagine the encyclopedia of the future. we saw it in part as the ultimate teacher/tutor who knew everything about everything, who waited in the background till called, and who then was able to engage you at your level on any question you put forth. this view, while valid, placed 100% of the value on learner-initiated activities. it seems in retrospect as if foolishly we completely discounted the ability of the teacher/mentor/knowledgeable companion to raise interesting questions which could start the learner off in unexpected but perfectly wonderful directions.

ideal ulysses, part one

ok. i’ll admit it. i haven’t read Ulysses yet. sadly, there are a lot of important books in that category, but i have a particular excuse for this one. Ulysses is daunting for me. for starters, it’s pretty much been at or in contention for the top spot in the canonstakes for as long as i can remember, but more importantly, I’m very sure that if i just go at the text by itself i’ll feel helpless, knowing that i’m only grasping a small, and possibly even least interesting, bit of the whole. so i’m waiting for my dream edition, the highlights of which include:
• a beautifully rendered text, perhaps even with help and guidance of a master typographer.
• a low-footprint interface that the reader can dismiss at will, leaving only the text on the page with all buttons etc. hidden from view. since the book will have copious annotations, it’s important that the reader can hide and reveal whichever graphic indicators indicate the presence of annotation.
• a complete audio version. ideally this might be a recording done with the best actors specifically for this edition, but it could also be assembled from readings done over the years. in any case key passages should be represented by multiple readings. and of course the text and readings should be tied to each other, allowing you to read and listen at the same time.
• a thorough word and phrase glossary with a snappy and intuitive mechanism for getting to it directly from the text.
• the explanation of references -? literary, linguistical, historical, personal, social, political. ideally each of these categories would be represented in some unique way, so that readers can turn specific layers on or off at will. these annotations will be comprised of text, audio, and/or video.
• close readings of key passages by experts from multiple interesting viewpoints.
• for these last two, i’m sure i want there to be a mechanism for people to question and challenge the original authors and each other. the genius of the wikipedia for me is that by revealing the back and forth of an article as it evolves, it brings us closer to the truth -? or at least improves our understanding of the complexity of the factors underlying the subect at hand. so, we’ll need a good way, which i imagine will involve some form of benevolent moderation, of enabling a conversation to emerge in the myriad margins of the work. enabling comments that refer to multiple points in the expanded text is crucial to get beyond the constraints of current commenting schemes which tend to restrict you to paragraph, page or whole.
thoughts -? objections, agreements, additions, subtractions?