Ulysses Deemed Offensive

According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, 2 February 2023, by Craig Simpson, Ulysses is being banned again.

“Academics say the Dublin-born author’s early novel contains ‘explicit references’ to ‘sexual matters’ that some may find ‘difficult’

Outraged censors banned Ulysses in 1922, and a century later academics fear the novel may be too shocking for modern students, as James Joyce’s work has been issued with a trigger warning for being potentially “offensive”.

James Joyce

The 800-page story of an ordinary man’s day in Dublin is taught on a dedicated module at the University of Glasgow, where staff now alert students to possibly upsetting “language and attitudes” in the writer’s work

Joyce’s writing contains “explicit” references “to sexual matters”, according to a trigger warning seen by the Telegraph states, highlighting the same issue which led Britain to ban his work 100 years ago.

Modern students are also warned they may be offended by references to “race, gender and national identity” in the work of the Irish author, who famously lampooned the nationalism of his homeland.

The blanket warning for the dedicated James Joyce English literature module at Glasgow states: “As part of this course we will examine texts that include explicit or graphic references to sexual matters.sec

“We recognise that some students may find this difficult and may find some of the language and attitudes towards race, gender and national identity that we discuss in relation to Joyce’s work offensive.”

The warning adds that a safe space will be provided to discuss Joyce’s literary output, stating staff will “endeavour to make seminars a space where everyone can discuss these ideas and engage with this content sensitively, empathetically and respectfully”.

The Dublin-born author, who died in 1941 at the age of 58, is regarded as among the greatest modern writers, particularly for his masterpiece Ulysses, which was initially banned in the UK and the US for the “obscenity” of passages describing sex and masturbation. The British ban was eventually lifted in 1936.

Censors principally objected to a passage from the point of view of Joyce’s heroine Molly Bloom. The main discussion of race in the work centres on the Jewish identity of the book’s hero, Leopold Bloom.

This identity clashes with the Irish nationalist sentiment of other characters in the book, which Joyce lampoons in Ulysses and his other writings, including A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man, which contains complaints that Ireland is an “old sow” with “too much god”.

This early novel is taught along with his final work Finnegan’s Wake on the Glasgow module, which has been given the trigger warning, a move which has been criticised.

Prof Frank Furedi, an education expert at the University of Kent, said: “The trigger warning brigade demonstrates that the impulse to censor is alive and well. The spirit of the old-school censors who banned Ulysses in 1922 lives on.

“It was only a matter of time before the grievance archeologists dug up something to feel traumatised about in Joyce’s great work.

“The trigger hunters could not possibly give the author of Ulysses a free pass. For the record, if you find Joyce triggering you better confine your reading to the London phone directory.”

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “We give warnings to students who may find some contexts disturbing or for whom a particular class session may cause upset. 

“We are, however, keen for everyone to engage, and endeavour to make seminars and lectures a space where everyone can discuss these ideas and engage with this content sensitively, empathetically and respectfully.””

I find this controversy somewhat amusing. Does it not occur to these nervous academics that the internet is awash with pornography, and that only an extreme ‘snowflake’ could be upset by it. One is tempted to advise these snowflakes, ‘Grow up, or don’t study literature.’

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