The Rosenbach Announces a New Exhibition — 18 Reasons to Read Ulysses: A Centennial Celebration [press release]

PHILADELPHIA, May 9, 2022—The Rosenbach is proud to announce 18 Reasons to Read Ulysses: A Centennial Celebration, a new exhibition to commemorate the great Irish novel 100 years after its publication in 1922. 18 Reasons to Read Ulysses opens at The Rosenbach Museum and Library on June 1, 2022 ahead of the Bloomsday festival on June 16, 2022.

This year marks a century since the publication of James Joyce’s Modernist masterpiece, Ulysses. The Rosenbach, home to the only complete manuscript of the novel and the location of Philadelphia’s annual Bloomsday celebration, marks this occasion with a thematic exploration of the novel’s eighteen episodes.

“James Joyce’s Ulysses has been called the greatest modern novel, but it has also inspired scores of writers and readers since its publication in 1922, solidifying its place as one of the most influential novels of all time.” Says Kelsey Scouten Bates, The Rosenbach’s John C. Haas Director. “Joyce’s manuscript lives at The Rosenbach along with a collection of related materials that put into context Joyce’s life and times. The Rosenbach is proud to celebrate this 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking genius and impact of Ulysses.”

The exhibition challenges the novel’s reputation as a difficult book to read, presenting eighteen highlights from the manuscript, each representing a single theme—along with related objects from The Rosenbach’s collections.

“Each of the exhibition’s 18 sections highlights a central theme for the corresponding episode of the book.” Says Judith M. Guston, The Rosenbach’s Curator and Senior Director of Collections. “We walk through the novel, complementing pages from its sole complete manuscript with artifacts from across the collections, suggesting interpretive links across time, geography, and culture.”

Visitors can engage with these thematic groupings separately or connect them to the larger nexus of ideas at play in the novel.  Nationhood, food, literature, music, identity, and love are just a few of the themes. Enlarged photographs line the walls of three galleries and visitors will feel that they, too, are roaming Dublin alongside Joyce’s characters.

The exhibition is enhanced by over one hundred paintings by contemporary artist, Heather Ryan Kelley, whose work on Ulysses is a visually engaging meditation on the themes of the novel. Kelley says, “Part of what drew me to Ulysses was Joyce’s free manipulation of style. Joyce used style as an element of composition that was meant to be exploited, and he exploited it thoroughly.” Her paintings range from tight realism to painterly abstraction, gestural expressionism, found-object assemblage and collage, and quotations from art history in what Kelley describes as a “joyous response to [the] great novel.”

18 Reasons to Read Ulysses: A Centennial Celebration will be on view at The Rosenbach Museum and Library from June 1, 2022 through September 18, 2022. Full details of the exhibition can be found on The Rosenbach’s website.

The exhibition is presented alongside the Bloomsday festival, a day-long public reading with musical performances that bring the epic novel to life. Held on June 16, the day that Ulysses is set in 1904, the festival returns in-person after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic. Joyce enthusiasts and novices alike can drop by any time between 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2022 to listen to the reading, relax in the beer garden with local food trucks, and enjoy free admission to The Rosenbach. Bloomsday is FREE and open to the public. Full details at