The Jewish Ulysses: How and Why to Read the World’s Greatest Novel

November 12, 2016 Acton Free
(Photo: Paul Hermans)
(Photo: Paul Hermans)

James Joyce’s Ulysses is often ranked as the world’s greatest English-language novel, but it is also a famously difficult text. Jewish readers have both a valuable advantage in understanding Ulysses through its Jewish contexts, and also, perhaps, a special reason to encounter the challenge: Joyce’s novel rewards our efforts by teaching us about the shared experiences of the Jews and the Irish, and more broadly, the importance and the limits of cross-cultural sympathies. “Jews and Irish remember the past,” Joyce wrote in his notes for Ulysses, suggesting that a similar experience of national memory was the reason to create, as he later described it, “an epic of two races (Israel-Ireland).”

In this conversation based on her book Israelites in Erin, Professor Abby Bender explores how Joyce enlists Irish-Jewish parallels, and how Ulysses foregrounds Jewish collective memory as its central theme. The conversation will also serve as an introduction to Ulysses, with a particular focus on Jewish elements. Dr. Bender received her Ph.D. in English from Princeton. She teaches literature at The College of Mount Saint Vincent.

Following Dr. Bender’s talk, there will be light refreshments; her books will be sold and autographed.

Registration is not required, but your email to will help us to anticipate attendance.


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Fact Sheet
Saturday, November 12, 2016, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Congregation Beth Elohim
133 Prospect St
Acton, MA 01720

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