Reading Ulysses at The Rosenbach led by Vicki Mahaffey [in progress]

Date / Time

  • October 7, 2021
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • November 4, 2021
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • December 2, 2021
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • January 6, 2022
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • February 10, 2022
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • March 3, 2022
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • April 7, 2022
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • May 5, 2022
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • June 2, 2022
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm



  • Tuition for this course is $450.
  • Rosenbach members receive a 10% discount on tuition.
  • Not a member? We invite you to join upon registration. Click here for more information about membership.
  • This course is limited to participants who are 17 years of age or older.
  • This course is initially held virtually over Zoom but will move to in-person sessions at The Rosenbach at a later date. Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation.
  • This course will require proof of vaccination.
  • If you have questions about registration, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].


This course will begin meeting online, then will move to in-person sessions at The Rosenbach when it is safe to do so. If you are interested in an entirely virtual Ulysses course, please check out our Learning Ulysses Online course led by Robert Berry.

Course Description

Reading Ulysses is sometimes regarded as the Mt. Everest of literary achievement, its difficulty rewarded by exaltation for those who complete the journey. Yet the book is also a great comic novel, which seems like a contradiction. How can a strenuous climb up Mt. Everest be comic? Which is it: a test, or a fun-for-all?

Ulysses stimulates readers to see themselves as they are, not as they would like to be. As Leopold Bloom reminds himself, channeling Robert Burns, the aim is to “See ourselves as others see us.” The challenge and the fun of Ulysses are the same, then: to learn to see the strengths and limitations of how we (both individually and as a group) perceive and understand something new and unexpected. To guess at what might be going on and to laugh when we are wrong. To learn from the insights of the people around us. As Joyce writes in Finnegans Wake, “Hirp hirp for our missed understandings!” Like Homer’s Odysseus, we leave the rock of home (Ithaca) and journey into the unknown, becoming increasingly unmoored as the book unfolds.

Learning to laugh at oneself—with delight, understanding and sympathy—is a step towards accepting mortality. It is a prerequisite for establishing reciprocal relationships with others. The book is daring us to “Bloom,” and continue blooming; to open both heart and mind to the multitudinous differences and idiosyncrasies of others as they change across time. Ideally, Ulysses is read in concert with others, which is the privilege we have when reading it (or reading it again) at The Rosenbach. Its aim, quite simply, is to replace the desire for perfection with a renewed experience of the joy of life, with all of its possibilities and limitations.


Syllabus for Reading Ulysses at The Rosenbach


About the instructor

Vicki Mahaffey  is the author of three books, all of which have something to do with Joyce, as well as two edited collections and fifty articles. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania for almost thirty years. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the International James Joyce Foundation (currently serving her third term). While at Penn, she taught courses at the Rosenbach and was involved in the planning of the annual Bloomsday celebrations (she is proudest of introducing musical performances, although she was also part of the team that chose the readings). She is currently the Kirkpatrick Professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois..

Scholarship Opportunities

Scholarships may be available for this course. For more information, please contact Emilie Parker at [email protected].

Proof of Vaccination

Beginning on September 1, visitors and program attendees must show proof of vaccination along with all ​staff members and volunteers. With limited space for social distancing in our historic house and library, requiring proof of vaccination is the best way to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff.

  • Visitors and program attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination along with their photo ID at the front desk. We will accept your original CDC issued card or a photo.
  • With the vaccine requirement in place, masks are not required but are encouraged and will be available for use.
  • Visitors who are unable to show proof of vaccination will not be able to visit The Rosenbach at this time, including unvaccinated children under the age of 12.

About Rosenbach Courses

Revisit beloved classics or experience new ones with Rosenbach courses. Book lovers delve into fiction, history, and poetry with the guidance of a literary expert and the company of other readers. See all upcoming courses.

By registering for this program, you will be added to The Rosenbach’s email database to receive future communication about programs and events. If you’d prefer not to receive these messages please email [email protected]g with unsubscribe in the subject line.