Writing Ulysses


“In writing one must create an endlessly changing surface . . .”
–James Joyce, from Arthur Powers’s Conversations with James Joyce

James Joyce (1882–1941)
Ulysses, manuscript of the first page of the “Telemachus” episode
Zurich, 1917
The Rosenbach, Philadelphia; EL4 .J89UL 922 MS
© The Estate of James Joyce.


While Joyce had a scheme for Ulysses, a structure, he knew what he was doing to that extent, but as he worked on the actual chapters, his mind became increasingly restless and his imagination, increasingly ambitious. So the very act of writing became for him an act of changing of possibility, of excitement, so that he was telling the story of these characters and their day in Dublin, but he was also setting about to create a sort of systems of style and systems of competing narratives, often in a single page, often in an episode, but usually in each episode having a different style. So he constantly revised the text to making many additions and emendations even as the book was being printed, he was making changes, of course, much to the puzzlement, astonishment, and annoyance of the printers.