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C LIT 496 A: Special Studies in Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
M 1:30pm - 4:20pm
SMI 309
Joint Sections: 
ENGL 543 A, ENGL 498 A, C LIT 570 A
Gary Handwerk

Syllabus Description:

Course Syllabus: Comparative Literature 496A/570A

                      English 498A/543A

        Special Topics: James Joyce, Ulysses

 Spring 2018                                                     Professor Gary Handwerk

MW 1:30-3:20 OR M 1:30-4:30                     Office: A-402 Padelford

Smith 115                                                         Phone:  543-2183

Office Hours: Thur. 1-3 PM and by appt.          E-mail:


About the course:

 This is, first and foremost, a course about reading (and surviving) one of the great works of modern literature, James Joyce’s Ulysses…and secondly, about having fun while learning how to do so.  This is a text of sufficient density and complexity that we can easily spend an entire quarter (and could doubtless spend even longer) just becoming familiar with the text.  So our first objective will be to get a handle on Joyce’s text—who the characters are, what’s going on, and what Joyce is up to with his non-stop linguistic and stylistic experimentation.  Ulysses is a particularly self-reflective sort of text, deeply concerned with what it means to write and to read and putting intense demands upon your skills as a reader.  Hence this is a course (here I draw upon prior experience teaching this novel) from which you should emerge reading almost anything you might subsequently read differently than you would have before we began—more alertly, more intensively, more interrogatively.  Equally important, Ulysses is a deeply historically rooted text, an analytical distillation of Irish and European politics, literature and culture that needs to be read in terms of its social and political context as well.


The first step in getting Ulysses under control is keeping track of what is going on.  Here you will find the Blamires text to be indispensable…but also, in itself, insufficient.  It provides you with a framework for the individual chapters, but concedes itself that it can’t begin to do justice to the complexity of what is going on when you read those chapters.  You may choose to read each chapter in Blamires before, during or after your reading of the corresponding chapter in Ulysses, but I doubt you can do without it.  For historical background, we’ve got Don Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated, though you may well find yourself gliding through the Web or visiting the library to fill in more of the background on which text relies.  Most importantly, however, keeping this novel under control means keeping up with where we are and trying, even on a first reading, to read as carefully as you can.  Hence I will be giving weekly quizzes each Monday, expecting you to have completed your initial reading of that day’s material and any preceding material by class time.  These will be brief factual quizzes, intended to sharpen your eye for the details so crucial to Joyce’s prose.  First one—and only one not on a Monday—this Wednesday.


Given the small size of our group, I’m going to give you considerable freedom with regard to your written work.  One longish paper will be due at the end of the quarter; it can be on any topic that interests you—a study of an individual chapter (or even a portion thereof), an analysis of a particular theme, an examination of Joyce’s techniques of composition, a comparison of different editions, or any number of other things.  I’ll be asking you to decide on a topic by mid-quarter, in consultation with me.  These papers must include reference to at least two critical works.


The most important thing, however, is that you come to class regularly and ready to participate.  Ulysses is NOT a text that most people can read on their own, and the experience of reading it in a group is incomparably richer than attempting to do so alone, and the group experience is enhanced by the willingness of every individual in it to come each day with questions, thoughts and feelings about the text.  Hence attendance and participation will make up a significant component of your grade—not simply as a measure of how much you talk, but of how fully you are engaging Joyce’s text.  If you’re hesitant about speaking up in class, we’ll find other ways to assess your engagement.  But I’m hopeful that the size of the class will let each of you feel comfortable in helping to shape the direction of class discussion and contributing to it on a regular basis.


Course Requirements:

  • weekly quizzes 15%
  • attendance, class participation 15%
  • final paper (12-13 pp. for undergraduates; 16-18 pp. for graduates)    70%

Required Texts:

 James Joyce, Ulysses: The Corrected Text (Vintage)

Harry Blamires, The Bloomsday Book (Routledge)

Hugh Kenner, Joyce’s Voices (U of California P; republished by Dalkey Archive)


Strongly Recommended Text:

Don Gifford, Ulysses Annotated (U of California P)—likely to be really useful for answering all sorts of little questions you’ll have as you read along.

Course Web Site (under Comp Lit 496):


Course Calendar (subject to probable modest ongoing revision):

 March 26         --         Introduction:

March 28         --         Chap. 1: Telemachus (16); Kenner and Hayman essays; FIRST QUIZ

 WEEK 2          --         Chap. 2: Nestor (11), Chap. 3: Proteus (12); Chap. 4: Calypso (13);

(April 2)

 WEEK 3          --         Chap. 5: Lotus-Eaters (14); Chap. 6: Hades (24)

(April 9)          

WEEK 4          --         Chap. 7: Aeolus (26); Chap. 8: Lestrygonians (27)

(April 16)

 WEEK 5          --         Chap. 9: Scylla and Charybdis (29); Chap. 10: Wandering Rocks (30) 

(April 23)

 WEEK 6          --         Chap. 11: Sirens (30); Chap. 12: Cyclops (44)

(April 30)


 WEEK 7          --         Chap. 13: Nausicaa (30); Chap. 14: Oxen of the Sun (36)        

(May 7)

 WEEK 8          --         Chap. 15: Circe (148)

(May 14)

 WEEK 9          --         Chap. 16: Eumaeus (43); Chap. 17: Ithaca (64)

(May 21)

WEEK 10        --         Chap. 18: Penelope (37)

(May 28)         

JUNE 8            --         FINAL PAPER DUE

Catalog Description: 
Offered occasionally by visitors or resident faculty. Content varies.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Elective
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:13pm