Interdepartmental Colloquium

9:30a-10:45a TR (20) 3 cr.


This course is designed to introduce Honors College juniors and seniors, English majors and non-majors, to some of the extraordinary artistic achievements of James Joyce. We will begin by reading Joyce’s "The Dead" and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, before starting our reading of Ulysses, a close study of which will occupy us for the rest of the semester.

We will read slowly and deliberately, attempting to become as many different kinds of readers as Ulysses asks of us, therefore broadening our perspective to include some familiarity with classical paradigms, primitive and Christian ritual, Irish history, literary history, popular culture, Joyce’s biography. We will also view some film versions of the works we read.

For over a decade after its publication in 1922, Ulysses was banned in the United States and elsewhere, due to its erotic and scatological content. We shall deliberately confront Joyce’s apparent fixation on sexual matters (not only in Ulysses but in "The Dead", A Portrait of the Artist, and in Joyce’s private life and letters) in order to raise several questions about literature and life. For example, just how might carnal knowledge lead to intellectual or spiritual knowledge ("sex for thought" --in the words of the cultural critic, Robert Darnton)? How does Joyce exploit and blur distinctions between art and pornography, "good" and "bad" literature, good and bad human beings, or between lust and love, maleness and femaleness, excrement and sacrament?

Although Joyce may be a tough nut to crack, I’m convinced from my past experiences of having taught Joyce to Honors students that his fiction will prove to be accessible, entertaining, provocative, and uniquely rewarding to any thoughtful and hardworking Honors College junior or senior. By exploring Joyce, we will be embarking on the exciting enterprise of exploring ourselves, of viewing our private and public lives from new and arresting perspectives.

Written work will include a few short papers (two-three pages) which will serve as the basIs for oral reports. An optional extended essay of about ten pages may, with the permission of the instructor, be substituted for the final examination. Class attendance and participation is essential. Grades will be determined by total performance in class and on paper. This course will count for humanities credit as well as for the Honors Notation and (for English majors) as three hours towards completion of the major.

This course is open to Honors students or by permission of the instructor. Students interested in this course are encouraged to send email to me at millerl@indiana.edu prior to registration.