The physics of James Joyce’s Ulysses

An early edition of one of Dublin's most famous literary masterpieces: <em>Ulysses</em> by James Joyce, published in 1922.

Enlarge / An early version of one among Dublin’s most well-known literary masterpieces: Ulysses by James Joyce, revealed in 1922. (credit score: Fran Caffrey/AFP/Getty Pictures)

Ulysses, the groundbreaking modernist novel by James Joyce, marked its 100-year anniversary final 12 months; it was first revealed on February 2, 1922. The poet T.S Eliot declared the novel to be “crucial expression which the current age has discovered,” and Ulysses has accrued many different followers within the ages since. Rely Harry Manos, an English professor at Los Angeles Metropolis School, amongst these followers. Manos can also be a fan of physics—a lot so, that he penned a December 2021 paper revealed in The Physics Instructor, detailing how Joyce had sprinkled a number of examples of classical physics all through the novel.

“The truth that Ulysses incorporates a lot classical physics shouldn’t be stunning,” Manos wrote. “Joyce’s good friend Eugene Jolas noticed: ‘the vary of topics he [Joyce] loved discussing was a large one … [including] sure sciences, notably physics, geometry, and arithmetic.’ Realizing physics can improve everybody’s understanding of this novel and enrich its leisure worth. Ulysses exemplifies what physics college students (science and non-science majors) and physics academics ought to notice, particularly, physics and literature should not mutually unique.”

Ulysses chronicles the lifetime of an peculiar Dublin man named Leopold Bloom over the course of a single day: June 16, 1904 (now celebrated around the globe as Bloomsday). Whereas the novel would possibly seem like unstructured and chaotic, Joyce modeled his narrative on Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey; its 18 “episodes” loosely correspond to the 24 books in Homer’s epic. Bloom represents Odysseus; his spouse Molly Bloom corresponds to Penelope; and aspiring author Stephen Daedalus—the primary character of Joyce’s semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Younger Man (1916)—represents Telemachus, son of Odysseus and Penelope.

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