Love it or hate it, Bloomsday is the annual day of celebration for James Joyce’s polarizing novel Ulysses. It takes place on June 16th each year, to mark the first day of the protagonist Leopold Bloom’s journey across Dublin.
To mark the occasion some Joyce fans follow the tradition of reading the novel in Edwardian garb—though Marilyn Monroe did it back in 1955 in decidedly modern attire… her bathing suit.
Nowadays, though, celebrations can consist of two weeks of lectures, film screenings and readings surrounding the novel that the majority of people (at least all the sane ones) find impossible to read. And while to these readers, including yours truly, suffering through lectures on Ulysses is a punishment only slightly worse than actually reading a chapter of Ulysses (and very marginally better than suffering the fate of Prince Oberyn vs The Mountain), in Vanity Fair’s opinion, Bloomsday has become a “travesty” for another reason:
The celebration that came closest to the spirit of the novel might have been the very first one, in Dublin in 1954, when four of the city’s literary notables attempted to trace the novel’s steps around the city, only to crap out halfway through, too drunk to go on…
Nowadays it would be nice to think that swelling readership of Ulysses drives the Bloomsday boom, but it’s more likely that Bloomsday provides an opportunity for cultural validation that’s about as substantial as sharing an author quote on Instagram. Reading Ulysses is a slow, immersive, and ultimately private experience; Bloomsday is a social-media-ready event, where like-minded people convene to celebrate their own taste.
Which reminds me… which Instagram filter should I use for my Ulysses selfie?
Just kidding. Like I’d own that thing.
Check out #bloomsday on the Twitterverse here for lots of cool news about the impact Ulysses has had around the world, including how one Iraqi poet translated the 1922 text into Arabic (you can watch that video here).
Want to know what the fuss is all about? Check out eNotes’ study guide, Homework Help, quizzes and trivia for Ulysses here.
(Feature Image via Yeats 2015)