Want to solve the puzzle of James Joyce’s Ulysses? You are in good company. “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries,” Joyce notoriously boasted. This exhibit offers a playful and interactive introduction to cracking the code of Ulysses. When it was first published in 1922, British censors believed that the book was written in spy code. Though they may have been a tad paranoid, it is true that codes, enigmas, puzzles, and ciphers are pervasive in Joyce’s text. In fact, protagonist Leopold Bloom’s address, 7 Eccles Street, was originally the home of Joyce’s friend J.F. Byrne, a pioneering cryptographer who invented a machine for producing a supposedly “unbreakable” cipher.
In “Deciphering Ulysses” visitors are invited to learn about the famous novel as they decode Leopold Bloom’s clandestine letters, explore his recreated desk drawer, read what the United States Court of Appeals had to say about Joyce’s enigmas, and glimpse an early reader’s arsenal of maps and charts for understanding the text. You may not definitively solve the puzzle of Ulysses, but you will experience first-hand the delight Joyce took in play, with every reading of his novel yielding new combinations, outcomes, insights, and meanings.