U22 Podcast, Lotus Eaters: Welcome, Global Reader!

If you are an international reader of Ulysses, that is, anyone not born in Dublin, there is something in the U22 podcast on Lotus Eaters, especially for your musings.


I tweak the noses of my friends in Ireland by telling them there are only a few genuinely Irish surviving, and these are all in the northeastern United States. Irish noses like Napper Tandy’s are the best suited for tweaking; I submit my own into evidence. But having DNA that passed through Ireland without the Irish culture, language or habitation is not being Irish. Neither does being Irish without the ways, slang, or intimate familiarity with Dublin equip the Ulysses reader to understand the context of Joyce’s City. Don’t despair. In U22E5, Ato Quayson reveals how Ulysses became his key to better understanding his own city. And mine. And yours.

Few academics in U22’s cadre have contributed to the appreciation of Ulysses as Professor Quayson has. He has examined the novel not like a researcher or an instructor but as a reader. I hope I honor him by calling him a reader of our ilk rather than as an academic. Honor is what I intend. He confesses that he had difficulty finishing his first reading of The Dublin book. Then everything changed. He put together Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (2014), his book about “… Accra, the city in which I grew up.” His Accra is a postcolonial city with a slave culture plastered over with a master’s culture like Dublin. Walking down the Sackville Street he knew best (also colonially labeled Oxford Street, Accra), he found a sack of sub-cultures. Around this corner is a youth culture and, at the next, the iron-pumping gym culture. He found that, like Dublin-city, street life opened when Ulysses helped “turn the urban key” for him. Joyce, Quayson says,”might have been writing Accra.” And Newark, New Jersey for me. And City Yours, Nation Yours for you.

If you only know London, Vienna, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow or Petrograd, Istanbul, Berlin, or the Beijing of the last twenty years, you might think there is nothing to gain from viewing Ulysses through Ato’s lens. I think you could reconsider. The capitols of the great empires are now themselves postcolonial cities populated and acculturated by the peoples they “refined” and enslaved. We have all been postcolonial slaves. Many of the same were also dynastic conquerors- Saxons, Teutons, Egyptians, Swedes, Mongols, Celts, Magyars, Americans, Hittites, et al.. All aboard!

Only about twenty percent of the readership of the James Joyce Reading Circle is in Ireland. Fewer than half of those are in Dublin, and some of those are not native-born Dubliners. Almost everyone reading this site is an internationalist reader of Ulysses without an intimate knowledge of the city. We are the others who apply the Quayson principles to understand our native or adopted cities. Our Book is about humanism, not geography, not any one theology, nor prescribed political form.

Ulysses is for and about readers. Readers read for joy. This is why we welcome Ato Quayman. We aren’t academics sentenced to count the steps across Monto or weigh pork kidneys so that they might sell hats to each other. We read for pleasure, not to earn our daily.

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