The Most Dangerous Book(publishing Ulysses) CAC by Bill Dunn What is a Mathematician doing reading literature? Especially the dense, complicated work Ulysses? Literature as antidote to dry Abstract Algebra Read James Joyce Araby short story from his Dubliners in college (at suggestion of D. Wickham) read Joyce Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man And besides
I like challenges Reading abstract math has taught me the skill of reading VERY slowly, ponder each word and symbol in context; good for reading literature and especially Joyce. To me, reading Ulysses, is like staring at those Magic Eye Pictures. Im an introvert. Stream of consciousness in my head, daily. What is the book about? (Hah! As if it could be summarized in just on slide!)
It is about the thoughts and activities of Leopold Bloom, designer and placer of newspaper ads, as he goes about ONE day, Thursday, June 16, 1904, among his countrymen and women in Dublin. Every chapter echoes events of Odysseus in Homers Odyssey journey home to his beloved Penelope. In Ulysses, Bloom returns from his day to his wife Molly (who, unlike Penelope, is having an affair with Blazes Boylan) An example: In the Homers epic, Odysseus and his men are trapped in a cave by the cyclops Polyphemus. They escape when Odysseus pokes his one eye out with a red hot poker. As the men flee, the wounded giant hurls a bolder at them nearly sinking their ship.
In Joyce, Bloom gets in an argument with a prejudiced barfly called the Citizen, who becomes enraged when Bloom says something to him while holding a glowing red cigar. As Bloom flees the pub, the Citizen hurls a biscuit tin after him. As (ref) write in their Introducing Joyce, Joyce is showing us that in our everyday lives we often unconsciously reenact in miniature the essential themes of mythology. Sounds innocent enough. So why was the book banned? As Judge Woolsey explained in the court decision of 1934, Joyce chosen style for the book is very honest, indeed, maybe too honest to some people, of the way people in Blooms middle class life thought and played and interacted with each other at that time in Dublin.
In the book, there are episodes where characters: urinate Defecate Flatulate Expectorate
Masturbate Fornicate Regurgitate menstrate pick their noses Drip their noses
Think blasphemous thoughts about priests and the church Lustfully look at women Think erotic thoughts Tell dirty jokes Eat gross bloody food
Gamble on horse races And, of course, Get Drunk This leads to moral decay and depravity, it is thus a direct threat to Civic Order. The public must therefore be protected! And if that were not enough The book is too dense, confusing, complicated, high brow, too hard to follow There are NO quotation marks! (Joyce thought there where
distractions) stream of consciousness, meandering, wandering prose Last chapter has just 8 run on sentences: strung out over 45 pages! And, of course, the f-word, s-word, c-word,. What a Novel Should do: During the 1934 Appeal of the Woolsey Decision, Judge Manton railed against Ulysses, saying Who can doubt the obscenity of this book..after reading of the pages referred to, which are too indecent to add as a footnote of this opinion?
In Mantons opinion, he argued that literature exists to refresh the weary, to console the sad, to hearten the dull and downcast, to increase mans interest in the world, his joy of living. Ulysses had none of these enobling aims! It was just too blunt and bold. The three main legal battles 1) 1921. New York Police Court, case brought against magazine The Little Review for serialization of chapters in Ulysses. 2) 1933. Main case in US District Court. Woolsey Decision finally allowing Ulysses to be imported into USA
3) 1934. Appeal by US. Circuit of Appeals. The Little Review magazine This was a New York Modernist magazine, based in Greenwich Village, edited by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and bankrolled by Wall Street lawyer John Quinn, a friend of Ezra Pound. It published avant garde material on art, poetry, literature, rebellion against the establishment of the day. The magazine serialized Ulysses in installments. But, the magazine relied on US Post Office for distribution. And the Post office had power to raise its rates, which would kill distribution for a small magazine. Also, Post Office was on the alert, by the Espionage Act,(WWI going on), to be on the lookout for anarchistic and obscene writing and foreign bad ideas on sex. Comstock Act of 1873 Anthony Comstock, gets President U.S. Grant, to sign this bill in 1873, and made Comstock a special agent of the Post Office to seek out and ban
immoral material. He also became head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV) where he worked from 1872-1915. The Comstock Act made the distribution or advertisement of any obscene, lewd, or lascivious book, pamphlet, picture, paper, print or other publication of an indecent character through the U.S. mail punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a ten thousand dollar fine. As Comstock explained Lust defiles the body, debauches the imagination, corrupts the mind, deadens the will, destroys the memory, scars the conscience, hardens the heart, and damns the soul. Comstocks successor to NYSSV was John Sumner. (pic of Sumner burning books) So heres what happened..
March 1919 edition of Little Review, lands in Translation Bureau of Post Office since it has some French Prose. Reviewer reads Ulysses installment-cries its obscene. Post Office warns the magazine, be careful! May 1919 issued banned under Comstock Act. Summer 1920 New York DA calls Sumner to complain about new installement of Ulysses, in Little Review character Leopold Bloom ogling Gerty McDowell and pleasuring himself. Smut! Oct. 20, 1920 preliminary hearing on DA charges of obscenity. Sumner says passages of Ulysses so obscenewould be offensive to Court and
improper to be placed on record. Even court stenographer could not write them down-it would be illegal. Hearing says-> go to trial. Trial Jan. 1921. Quinn for defense/ Sumner for Prosecution. Part of Quinns defense was that (i) the readers who could not understand Ulysses would, by definition not be corrupted by it, (ii) readers who could understand it would either be captivated by experimental style, or repulsed and bored. Either way, the vast majority of the citizens of New York would not be harmed. 2 of the three judges agreed.
But not the third! Verdict: Anderson and Heap guilty of violation New York State law against obscenity. Ordered 10 days in jail or fine of $100 (steep in those days). Sympathetic person at trial paid their fine Aftermath Sent shudder to publishers. No one would dare touch Ulysses now. NYSSV was so powerful at the time, that publishers quaked before it. No more Ulysses in installments.
Story heads to Sylvia Beach over in Paris Shakespeare and Company Name of American Sylvia Beachs Paris Bookshop She gets French printers to finally get Ulysses into print; hard task given all of Joyces many many edits and changes Three editions at small, medium, large prices printed. Beach gives Joyce copy on his 40th birthday in 1922. Reception to the Novel
Literary critics give mixed reviews: Ezra Pound gives it high praise; Virginia Woolf gives tepid response (but later changes her view) Word about the novel gets around the world, demand grows. So does calls in UK and USA for bans and confiscations and burnings! It becomes fashionable to have a clandestine copy (shh) People smuggle the book: hide it in a different cover, or unbind it and hide it in newspapers, then reassemble it. Ernest Hemingway becomes a booklegger and assists smugglers
bring the book in through Canada. Warning letter to Sylvia Beachs sister Holly Dec. 16, 1926 Madam: One package addressed to you, containing one obscene book Ulysses has been seized from the mai for violation of section 305 [of the] Tariff Act, which prohibits the importation of all obscene or immoral literature. (Seizure No 5217) If you will sign and return the enclosed Assent to Forfeiture no further action will be taken by this office. Respectfully
L. H. Schwaebe Collector of Customs U.S. Treasury Dept. Enter ACLU Lawyer Morris Ernst, publisher Bennet Cerf of Modern Classics and Random House The worst part about censorship was that it was maddeningly arbitrary
Yet, Ernst thought it could be possible to get Ulysses into US And Cerf was eager to make more money Ernsts Gambit! New York law and Comstock Act described criminal literature using what Ernst called the six deadly adjectives: obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent, and disgusting. However.. The Tariff Act only had one adjective: obscene Ergo: Ernst would argue that Random House did not violate the Comstock Act, but the Tariff Act!
The cornerstone of Ernsts argument was that Ulysses was a modern classic, and a classic couldnt be obscene. Further, the law had a loophole that if the US Treasury Dept recognized the book as a classic, the law would allow it to be imported. Well, maybe this could work Ernst first had to get a copy of the book seized under Tariff Act so he could bring the case to court But how do you force customs agents to do this?
Ernst sends letter to New York City Customs House alerting them that a package containing the dreaded Ulysses would arrive on the SS Bremen on May 3, 1932. Customs was so busy they unknowingly just sent the package on to Random House unopened! Cerf tells this to Ernst. Ernst takes it back tells officer in charge hey, I think this is contraband, open it! Officer does and says of for Gods sake, everybody brings that in. We dont pay attention to it
Frantic Ernst screams: I demand you seize this book! So they did (whew!) Judge Woolsey, and the decision Ernst wanted this judge: he would actually read the novel all the way through. It took him a long time Nov 25, 1933. DA Sam Coleman vs Morris Ernst argued before Woolsey that this book did not violate Tariff Act. Coleman focused on specific words and passages
Ernst focused on the text as a whole. The judge observed that, no matter how we try to hide basic facts of human life from ourselves, the Laws of Man are just no match for the Laws of Nature. Joyce was misunderstood because he was so honest to life and loyal to his writing technique Woolsey wrote: It many places it (Ulysses) seems to me to be disgusting, but although it contains, as I have mentioned above, many words considered dirty, I have not found anything that I consider to be dirt for dirts sake. Each word of the book contributes like a bit of mosaic to the detail of the picture Joyce is seeking to construct for his
readers.when such a great artist in words, as Joyce undoubtedly is, seeks to draw a true picture of the lower middle class in a European city, ought it to be impossible for the American public legally to see the picture? Ulysses may, therefore, be admitted into the United States. The gov. appealed, but The book went before a 3 judge panel of Martin Manton, Augustus Hand, and Learned Hand in May 1934. Even though new lawyer Conboy read to them for 50 minutes all the usual terrible parts of the book, the Hands thought, well, this book will not last as a substantial contribution to literature thought it is kind of a classic
And the reader of it was not left with any great consolation of humanitys goodness, but just confusion, misery, and degradation And, after all, confusion, misery, and degradation was NOT illegal. The Woolsey ruling stands. Hurrah Unfortunately, Bennet Cerf accidently gave the printers a pirated copy to print! Ack! This was fixed later! (whew)
Let the US readers by repulsed and confused and enthralled, and academics write paper after paper on Ulysses! And if you think Ulysses is confusing, just try Finnigeans Wake NYSSV disbanded in 1950 after Sumners retirement Bloomsday Celebrations From the James Joyce Center website: The first Bloomsday celebrated in Ireland was in 1954, the fiftieth
anniversary of the first Bloomsday, when the writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann OBrien visited the Martello Tower at Sandycove, Davy Byrnes pub, and 7 Eccles Street, reading parts of Ulysses and drinking a great deal as they went! Today, Bloomsday is celebrated by Joyceans across the globe with readings, performances, reenactments, and a host of other events. In Dublin, enthusiasts dress in Edwardian costume and gather during the day at many of the locations where episodes of Ulysses take place. The James Joyce Centre hosts Bloomsday Breakfasts and other events in the run up to June 16 as well as on the day. To Ban is Human Its always the age old seesaw between state power and individual freedom. Hayess codes for what you can and cant show in movies 1950s US Senate committee on Juvenile Deliquency comic book code
1970s The FCCs list of 7 dirty words you cant say on radio and TV 1980s Meese commission on pornography; PMRC on warning labels for records Yearly challenges to books, as recorded by American Library Association Happy Reading (but dont tell anybody. Shhhhhh.)
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