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James Joyce's Ulysses

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,539 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
With the passing of each year, Ulysses receives wider recognition and greater acclaim as a modern literary classic. To comprehend Joyce's masterpiece fully, to gain insight into its significance and structure, the serious reader will find this analytical and systematic guide invaluable. In this exegesis, written under Joyce's supervision, Stuart Gilbert presents a work tha ...more
Paperback, 405 pages
Published January 12th 1955 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1932)
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Community Reviews

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Sarah (Presto agitato)
It’s hard to resist the idea of a guide to Ulysses endorsed by Joyce himself, but at times I wondered if Joyce’s approval of this book may have been a joke in itself. I’m almost certain that he parodied Gilbert’s pedantic and tiresome style somewhere in Ulysses. This book seems to be mostly a series of long quotations from the novel, which I’m sure were worth including initially since this book was published before Ulysses was available to most readers due to censorship, but it’s repetitive, and ...more
Jul 11, 2012 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: tutsi-fruitsi
Gilbert got his tips straight from the Joyce's mouth while contributing to a French translation of Ulysses, so it’s really fun to speculate about how long the world would have had to wait for that extremely enlightening Odyssey-episode title/Organ/Art/Symbol/Technic schema if Joyce hadn’t just told him. Some of the opening essays are similarly useful (like "Met-him-pike-hoses." Read it!), and during Gilbert’s analysis of the episodes, he would periodically fling out a nugget of interpretation th ...more
Ulysses is one of those few iconic books that is discussed far more than read [see Tristram Shandy, Fairie Queene, Finnegans Wake, In Search of Time Lost, and a few others]. This is the tragedy of James Joyce's classic work, Finnegans Wake is in a class all its own, of experimental/analytical literary fiction.

Nothing new may be said of this book here, this anti-novel. What may be said is that it is NOT impenetrable; the book is not beyond the average reader; the book IS enjoyable, and Ulysses i
Paul Bryant
Oct 31, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: litcrit, joyce
Joyce was so cheeky - first he writes a difficult novel, then he gets his mate Gilbert to write an explanation of it and gives him so much information he may as well have written it himself. So this is kind of the official interpretation. Which hasn't stopped the serried ranks of Joyce scholars coming up with different theories. After all, what does the artist know about his own stuff? Nothing!
Allison Zink
Sep 15, 2012 Allison Zink rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modernist-works
An insightful (and at times, much needed!) companion to Ulysses. Gilbert gives a thorough and articulate overview of the meandering plot and alluding references throughout the novel, pointing out parallels, symbols, and allegories that inspire contemplation.
Barnaby Thieme
Jul 06, 2014 Barnaby Thieme rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
It's difficult to assess Giblert's classic study of James Joyce's novel. On the one hand, one can't help but value its key role in the history of Joyce scholarship. For decades, this was universally praised as the best-available work on Joyce's enigmatic masterpiece. It allowed two generations of readers to get enough of a foothold into its structure and method that they could derive pleasure from this mighty work. And some of its less-fortunate tendencies, such as Gilbert's proclivity for strin ...more
Sep 03, 2014 Danica rated it liked it
At times overblown and fusty, and prone to flights of fancy that come out of nowhere, piles metaphor on top of metaphor, while sticking quite close to a literalist mapping of every single parallel between Ulysses and the Odyssey. Still, I thought this was quite a nice thing to read alongside Ulysses and it saved me the trouble of feeling like I constantly had to Google references. GIlbert's use of French, Latin, and German with the expectation that readers would not need it to be translated into ...more
Nov 11, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok
I think there are better and more contemporary companion books to Ulysses than Gilbert's treatment, which I found somewhat helpful but also somewhat "too much" across the board. The scholarly tone tends to take much of the fun out of Joyce's work, and some of the more recent companion books openly acknowledge the great humor in Ulysses, where Gilbert is looking for the academic gem. Still, I would not have understood certain Irish historical references or Catholic jargon without his help, and fo ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 16, 2011 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Ed
Shelves: read2011
A great help when reading Ulysses. In the first half of the book, Gilbert has several essays about the themes and style in Ulysses. In the second half, there is a chapter devoted to each section of the novel. Gilbert does the best job at making the connections to The Odyssey, explaining what parts of the chapter harken back to the original epic poem.

I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 because sometimes the formatting and length of quotations makes it harder to read. Especially when I have just rea
Bob R Bogle
Jan 15, 2013 Bob R Bogle rated it liked it
Shelves: all-things-joyce
Obviously essential for every Joycean. Has its share of gems. Of course it's troubling when a writer tells you what his book means, or in this instance assists another writer in telling you what his book means, episode by episode, page by page, symbol by symbol, incident by incident. Certainly emphasizes the depth of the Homeric references, which I now appreciate more than I did before. Easily readable (except when it sometimes slips into Greek, Latin, French, Italian, or German) and no doubt of ...more
Jun 17, 2011 Jamie rated it did not like it
This may have been a literary classic, but when the story is so difficult to comprehend even in consideration of the supporting analytical commentary, it is an indication that the book has past its time. Having read this book, I now have a good insight into what my novel would subsist of, should I write it entirely under the influence of a heavy narcotic. A day's account of two people could not have been told more cryptically, for this alone, it could not be a classic in my eyes.
Feb 25, 2009 Padraic rated it really liked it
Word was that Joyce spoon fed this stuff to Gilbert, but what the heck. How else can you figure out who Bella Cohen is supposed to be in the Odyssey? And if Joyce was merely pulling our legs, it's all good craic.
May 09, 2015 Helena rated it really liked it
Hmm, very good. Very enlightening. Not that it explained everything (far from it), but it offered a firm foundation for me to begin understanding Ulysses. Particularly enjoyed the parts where it links Ulysses to the Odyssey, and all the research Joyce must have done about it to write in all the (sometimes subtle) correspondences. Another enlightenment: the episodes in Ulysses do not have the same chronology as the Odyssey. Very enlightening, because this confused me rather when I read it the fir ...more
Mar 30, 2014 Erich rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2001
One of the three valued books I had with me to decipher Joyce's puzzle.
May 16, 2007 Kristopher rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who love Joyce
Have you read Stuart Gilbert's study of James Joyce's Ulysses?

A wonderful resource for Joyce's daunting novel. I think it is best read after going through Ulysses once on your own. It provides a good thematic read in its account of the Ulysses narrative, its relation to the epic it draws from, and its overlying themes. Gilbert, thankfully, has his eyes on the scope of the novel as a whole, which is often difficult to do oneself in reading Ulysses. His introduction is fun if you enjoy biographica
Stephen Kastner
Dec 31, 2013 Stephen Kastner rated it it was amazing
Gilbert's book is the essential road map for voyaging through the epic Ulysses. I read it in tandem with Joyce's work. Each chapter in Ulysses is carefully analyzed in a parallel chapter by Gilbert. If you want to truly comprehend Ulysses in all of it's subtle and arcane dimension, Gilbert is your guide. I suggest reading Gilbert's chapter first, followed by exploring the Joyce chapter with knowledge and clues in hand. Reading Ulysses was once a lifetime goal that I tried and failed to achieve o ...more
Jason Smith
Jun 14, 2010 Jason Smith rated it really liked it
Worth reading if you're interested in the Homeric parallels in Ulysses. The information at times can seem highly esoteric and there are large passages of untranslated non-English text——somewhat off-putting for someone like myself who is currently operating with only a semi-functional understanding of English as it is. Still, one can gleam some intersting tidbits just by skimming areas you're curious about.

Some episodes play more to their Homeric references better than others, "Telemachus," "Cycl
Apr 09, 2014 Katy rated it really liked it
A wonderful breakdown of this epic novel - augments the reading experience by illuminating the scheme that's not always transparent. This guide was authorized by Joyce as well.
I stopped at page 50, when I could no longer tolerate the idolization of Joyce. Yes, he wrote a very complex and innovative (and kind of fun) novel/anti-novel. No, I don't think that anyone is justified in seeing it as faultless and always-intentionally meaningful. Especially given the fact that the introduction to the edition I read went into great detail regarding the (supposedly) misguided edits made to the text (some of which Joyce himself corrected). AND Attridge's casebook on Ulysses said ...more
Dec 01, 2013 Allison rated it liked it
This book is very helpful if you're interested in parallels between Homer's Odyssey and Ulysses. It's the only guide that Joyce helped with, so it talks a lot about the different symbols and techniques that go into each episode. I gave the book three stars because first I find there are problematic assumptions about race and women throughout the text. Secondly, the book quotes giant blocks of text, which can be frustrating and impede the analysis. For the more casual reader, I would recommend Ha ...more
Josh Brown
Dec 06, 2013 Josh Brown rated it it was ok
I guess the common excuse for this book is that it's an "early critical account" and so for some reason we're supposed to ignore its huge lapses in judgment, its gross sexism at several points, and its pseudo-scientific and astrological absurdities as somehow quaint. Such a reading is really just condescending primitivism. As far as I can tell, Gilbert was made an unwitting dupe to Joyce's PR strategy. Viewed in that light, this book is an interesting read. Gilbert's strained analyses and needle ...more
Mar 19, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Like other studies of Ulysses, Gilbert’s book includes synopses of the actions in each chapter and discusses the symbols and Homeric correspondences employed in the work. However, this study of James Joyce’s novel has a particular authority inasmuch as Gilbert was a friend of Joyce, and was able to get suggestions from the writer of the novel while producing this text.
Andy Mejía
Oct 11, 2015 Andy Mejía rated it it was amazing
This book is saving me while reading Ulysses. It's very useful!
Feb 28, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing
Yes, I really read Ulysses.
May 04, 2008 Jim rated it liked it
This is the guidebook to Ulysses I refer to in my comments about that book. A very good place to start, this book was written in consultation with Joyce, and contains a lot of the accepted ideas about the structure of his epic and the special characteristics of each unique chapter, how they correspond to The Odyssey and so forth. Later scholars warn to beware of taking these ideas as the final word on the book, though. They suggest that Joyce, through Gilbert, might in some cases have been pulli ...more
Jan 29, 2014 cliffisimus rated it it was amazing
I could have never understood Ulysses without this classic study guide.
Jan 15, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
This is one of the original and best guides to surviving James Joyce's Ulysses. While sometimes he quotes overly long passages and his analyses can be debated, Gilbert overall does a splendid job at making sense of the text. I've read Ulysses twice, and both times, Gilbert held my hand to get me through. A must-read if you tackle Ulysses.
Dec 17, 2007 Bradley rated it really liked it
Shelves: literarycriticsm
The first two chapters are most instructive. After these, there is a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, followed by discussion of themes, etc. There is a chart which is very interesting as well, which serves as a sort of key to the allusions and symbolism. Joyce pretty much ghost authored this book, giving much source material and his applications of technique to the author.
Leaves me wanting a little more.
Mar 09, 2009 Ardi rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
James Joyces Odysseus handlar om annonsagenten Leopold Bloom och hans upplevelser i Dublin under en hel dag, den 16 juni 1904.
Det var den dag då James Joyce första gången "gick ut" med sin blivande hustru Nora Barnacle.
I Dublin firas "Bloomsday" den 16 juni varje år.
Dublin är då fylld av uppträdanden, uppläsningar och litterära smakbitar på pubarna.

Jun 18, 2008 Christin rated it it was ok
Gilbert thinks he has the text all wrapped up. Most of his Odyssey parallels are a stretch. He does tend to blather on about his own theories, and some of his ideas are unintentionally hilarious for how skewed his perceptions of class and gender are. But it does offer handy schemas and the perspective of one of Joyce's contemporaries.
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