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Ulysses and Us: Book summary and reviews of Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd

Ulysses and Us

The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce's Masterpiece

by Declan Kiberd

Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd X
Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2009
    416 pages
    Genre: Other

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Book Summary

Declan Kiberd, professor of Anglo-Irish literature at the University College Dublin and Ireland’s premier literary historian, offers an audacious, pioneering new take on James Joyce's masterpiece. Ulysses, he argues, is not an esoteric work for the scholarly few but indisputably a work rooted in the lives of ordinary citizens, offering a humane vision of a more tolerant and decent life in the modern world.

Structuring his analysis around the mundane pleasures highlighted throughout the work—including waking, walking, and drinking—Kiberd progresses through each of Ulysses's episodes to elegantly reveal that Joyce's ultimate goal was to create a book honoring the richness of daily life. At a time when most other modernist authors adopted a rather dismissive tone toward popular culture and the emerging noise of industry, Joyce wrote Ulysses to extol the everyday man and embrace the bustle of middle-class streets. He wanted to infuse that commonplace Dublin world, in all of its grit and vulgar physicality, with a fierce passion and a miraculous interiority that would illuminate its underlying beauty.

For Kiberd, the seemingly banal hero of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, embodies an intensely ordinary kind of wisdom and, in this way, offers us a model for living well, in the tradition of Homer, Dante, and the Bible—all of which Joyce drew on in writing his book. By shedding light on Joyce's celebration of everyday life, Kiberd rescues Ulysses from the dusty shelves of rarified literary neglect and presents it to the audience it was originally written about and for which it was intended.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Kiberd's take on Ulysses should be on every undergraduate syllabus that includes Joyce's epic work, as it is an ideal introduction for the uninitiated—accessible, richly argued, funny and, in a kind of devil's advocacy fashion, begging for rebuttal." - Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

"Starred Review. Highly recommended for academic libraries catering to literature scholars for its widely referenced, close reading of the text, this should be considered an invaluable companion volume to Joyce's novel." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. A daring work that might put a powerful book in the hands of its rightful readers." - Booklist

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Author Information

Declan Kiberd

Declan Kiberd is a professor of Anglo-Irish literature at the University College Dublin and the author of Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation, which won the Irish Times Prize. He lives in Dublin.

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