Bloomsday on the Horizon, Part II: Guest Post by Trustee Steven Rolfe

Great minds think alike! No sooner had I posted my Bloomsday heads-up, when I received a guest blog post about Ulysses from Rosenbach trustee Steven Rolfe, MD. He has some very helpful and practical suggestions on how to survive and enjoy reading Ulysses, so read on for his post:

“I came to Ulysses relatively late in life-and have been trying to make up for lost time ever since. In the hopes of having others avoid this terrible flaw in judgment, I would like to offer some recommendations to do my part to help cure joyceophobia ( as a psychoanalyst I feel qualified to at least make this attempt).

Here are the suggestions of an amateur reader of the novel:

1)Take the Ulysses course beginning in the fall at the Rosenbach. It is terrific and it is always helpful to read this novel with others. The teaching is superb, the pace manageable.

2)Equip yourself with the following helpful aids-that are useful to read along with the novel

The Bloomsday Book” by Henry Blamires- This book paraphrases Joyce’s Ulysses . It helps one realize why Joyce writes the way he does, and how accessible the novel really is. I consider this a must for first time readers. Not exactly “No Fear Ulysses” but does its job admirably.

Reading Joyce’s Ulysses “by Daniel Schwartz, a professor from Cornell who writes a very helpful chapter by chapter analysis of the reader’s Odyssey that is reading Ulysses.

3) Strongly consider having a look at 2 books of criticism that are excellent and that will fundamentally enrich your understanding and appreciation of the novel:

The Cast of Characters” by Paul Schwaber-Paul is a psychoanalyst who will teach you as much about psychoanalysis as about Ulysses. This book is a brilliant study, focusing on a deep understanding of the character’s inner lives. The author plays very close attention, as a psychoanalyst would, to the thought -associations of the characters, permitting an intimate meaningful reading of the text that exemplifies the best of psychoanalytic criticism.

Ulysses and Us” by Declan Kiberd, a book published this year by Mr. Kiberd, a Professor at UCD,Dublin-this book as well is a must read. Prof. Kiberd decries the “academics” who appropriated this novel for the arcane halls of academia. “Oh rocks, tell us in plain words” Molly Bloom says and Kiberd does his best to emphasize the approachability of the novel and how it is a novel about everyday life. On the front book jacket (the version published in Dublin-not the U.S. version for some reason) is an Eve Arnold photo of Marilyn Monroe reading the final chapter (so I’m told). On the back cover the following quote by Joseph O’Connor pretty much sums up this book of criticism: ” The most exciting book I know on the most exciting novel ever written”. Need I say more?

A brief word of caution about reading the novel itself – Before you begin promise yourself that you will not let yourself stop reading where many have faltered-chapter 3-Stephen on the beach-The relative inaccessibility of this chapter is of course-as everything in Ulysses- purposeful and revealing and is meant to tell us much essential about Stephen’s character and inner life-plough through it with the above aids and you will, before you know it ,be well on your way toward completing your Odyssey. When you later meet Stephen discussing his theory of Shakespeare you will be thankful for the two above mentioned books-both of which will greatly enrich your understanding of the Shakespeare theme in the novel.

If by chance you are unable to read the novel in the next month-you do have an option that’s not so bad- promise yourself you will come to Bloomsday at the Rosenbach…June 16…come for the day to hear the novel read by local Philadelphians of some renown, but at the very least come at the end of the day to hear the Poets Simpson reading Ithaca……. and Penelope “read’ by Drucie McDaniel. If this rendering doesn’t convince you to read and experience the novel, perhaps you should consider psychoanalysis…..”

Dr. Rolfe is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and member of the Rosenbach Board of Trustees. He is a Principal of BoswellGroupLLC ,a NY based consulting firm that advises CEO’s and SR business leaders on management , leadership and interpersonal challenges of running their organizations.