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Introduction

Joyce's Masterwork Faces Challenges - Banned Books

By

Ulysses - James Joyce

Ulysses - James Joyce

Vintage
Study Guide

Introduction

James Joyce's Ulysses is one of the most important books of the 20th century, but its size and style often scare away would-be readers. And, while his language has been praised for its poetic and varied style, it has also been criticized for its explicit nature.

Ulysses was first published in serial form in The Little Review, starting in 1918. Several years later, in 1921, the serialized form of the book was first seized and challenged in a New York court with the result that the court ruled against The Little Review and its Ulysses excerpt.

The controversy surrounding the book did not end with its first complete publication in 1922. This time, instead of simply taking the book to court, New York postal officials seized and burned 500 copies of Ulysses.

Copies of the book were distributed in bootleg-fashion until 1932, when Customs once again seized a copy of Ulysses, which was being sent to Random House. Since the publishing house was intending to publish and distribute copies of the book, the press came to the book's defense.

In his decision, Judge John M. Woolsey ruled in favor of Random House, stating that the book was "not pornographic," and that "Joyce has attempted--it seems to me, with astonishing success--to show how the stream of consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries..." Judge Woolsey further said that Joyce "shows how each of these impressions affects the life and behavior of the character which he is describing."

Judge Woolsey's decision was upheld by the circuit court of appeals, with Judge Austus Hand explaining the decision: "We think 'Ulysses' is a book of originality and sincerity of treatment, ant that it has not the effect of promoting lust."

The case was not appealed to the Supreme Court... and Ulysses could finally be obtained in the United States by legal means.

Two years later, in 1936, the novel was finally legalized in the United Kingdom.

But, what is the book about? Read on...

Ulysses

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