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Ulysses Annotated by Don Gifford

Ulysses Annotated (1974)

by Don Gifford

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I've just finished my first read of Ulysses, and it was a transcendent experience. I took two months, took my time, looked forward to my weekly (sometimes biweekly) visits in Joyce's Dublin.

I am not yet ready to write a review of Ulysses - I want to let the experience wash over me a bit longer before I try to capture it in words. But I do want to say a few words about the reference texts I used: [b:Ulysses Annotated|10543|Ulysses Annotated|Don Gifford|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1166254003s/10543.jpg|13227] and [b:The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses|595038|The New Bloomsday Book A Guide Through Ulysses|Harry Blamires|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1345208104s/595038.jpg|1929805] (which I will discuss in a separate review).

Gifford's [b:Ulysses Annotated|10543|Ulysses Annotated|Don Gifford|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1166254003s/10543.jpg|13227] is a breathtakingly comprehensive, encyclopedic approach to referencing Ulysses, often word by word and line by line. Gifford covers historical, mythological, and religious references and context; discusses cultural movements in Ireland; provides definitions for slang and lyrics from popular songs; and even combs through directories, maps, and other archival records to explain when Joyce was drawing directly from actual people, places, and events in Dublin.

As a historian, I loved having access to this volume as I was reading Ulysses. It helped me to resurrect my knowledge of Irish history. I had fun brushing up on early-20th-century Irish slang (you never know when it could come in handy). And I even had an (unanticipated) opportunity to learn more about Theosophism.

That being said, I was wary of having Gifford's exhaustive research displace my attention from Joyce's incandescent, humorous, exuberant use of language. To avoid this, I did not read the annotations side by side Ulysses's text. Instead, I would read an episode of Ulysses, sometimes re-read it, and then page through the relevant annotations for that episode. The process was reminiscent of reading encyclopedias, or paging happily through the OED. (I know, very geeky....)

So, if you are a first-time reader, I don't think you should feel it necessary to read Gifford too. You will understand and appreciate Ulysses more on your own terms, with some guidance from [b:The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses|595038|The New Bloomsday Book A Guide Through Ulysses|Harry Blamires|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1345208104s/595038.jpg|1929805]. If you need to understand the significance of every word you read, try to let go of that when you read Ulysses, and let the language wash over you.

If you are about to re-read Ulysses, or if you share my love of historical references and context, then I recommend Gifford very highly - just don't let your perusal of it direct your attention away from what is really important - Joyce's writing itself. ( )
  KrisR | Mar 30, 2013 |
Outstanding companion to Joyce's Ulysses. Provides compact explanations of myriad objects, songs, poems, and references made in Ulysses. Also provides basic summary of the reference episodes in the Odyssey, schema provided by Joyce to his friends, and a lovely, brief introductory chapter that explains the general political, religious, and financial preoccupations of the time. Highly recommended reading companion for Ulysses. ( )
  syntheticvox | Jul 10, 2011 |
Indispensable as a reference guide for a first or subsequent reading of Joyce's epic. Extremely helpful for understanding how each chapter refers to Homer's equivalent stage in his journey, and how Joyce crafts each chapter to correspond to different styles of writing. For those of us with gaps in our knowledge of classical literature, the frequent references become comprehensible. I guarantee that most readers do not have a thorough enough knowledge of Irish history to read the book without help in this area. My own reading of Ulysses took quite some time, because I used this book extensively so I could really grasp what Joyce was saying. ( )
3 vote nog | Aug 24, 2009 |
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"I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality." - James Joyce
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520067452, Paperback)

Here substantially revised and expanded, Don Gifford's annotations to Joyce's great modern classic comprise a specialized encyclopedia that will inform any reading of Ulysses. Annotations in this edition are keyed both to the reading text of the new critical edition of Ulysses published in 1984 and to the standard 1961 Random House edition and the current Modern Library and Vintage texts.
Gifford has incorporated over 1,000 additions and corrections to the first edition. The introduction and headnotes to sections provide general geographical, biographical and historical background. The annotations gloss place names, define slang terms, give capsule histories of institutions and political and cultural movements and figures, supply bits of local and Irish legend and lore, explain religious nomenclature and practices, trace literary allusions and references to other cultures.
The suggestive potential of minor details was enormously fascinating to Joyce, and the precision of his use of detail is a most important aspect of his literary method. The annotations in this volume illuminate details which are not in the public realm for most of us.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:50 -0400)

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