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ENGLISH 185D: Ulysses and Difficulty

James Joyce's Ulysses is widely hailed as a masterpiece of world literature¿¿the most important expression which the present age has found,¿ as T. S. Eliot put it¿yet it is perhaps equally famous for its endless capacity to defeat and frustrate its readers. This course, which is built around a careful reading of Ulysses in its entirety, will tackle the problem of the novel's difficulty head-on. What specific features constitute its difficulty, and what ends do they serve? How do the novel's different modes of difficulty affect how we read and interpret it? And what is at stake, politically and ideologically, in the novel¿s refusal to be easily ¿readable¿? In addition to the primary text, we will devote critical attention to its various reading apparatuses (schemas, annotations, online summaries), along with secondary readings that foreground its interpretive challenges. In the process, we will seek to develop a more refined vocabulary for talking about difficult texts, while also thinking more broadly about the role of difficulty in modernist aesthetics.
Terms: Aut | Units: 3-5
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