The Morgan Library & Museum celebrates one hundred years of James Joyce's Ulysses

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The Morgan Library & Museum celebrates one hundred years of James Joyce's Ulysses
Berenice Abbott (1898–1991), James Joyce, 1928. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, gift of Sean and Mary Kelly, 2018; 2018.20. © Berenice Abbott via Getty Images.

NEW YORK, NY.- To mark the centenary of the groundbreaking novel’s first edition, the Morgan Library & Museum presents One Hundred Years of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” open now and running through October 2, 2022. Curated by the noted Irish author Colm Tóibín, the exhibition explores the trajectory of Joyce’s life and career from lyric poet to modernist genius and illuminates the author’s creative process through rare publications, portraits, correspondence, manuscripts, plans, and proofs—many of which are reunited for the first time in a century. It considers key figures from Joyce’s biography that inform the creation of Ulysses, such as Joyce’s father, John Stanislaus Joyce, and his wife, Nora Barnacle, as well as those instrumental in realizing its publication: Harriet Shaw Weaver, Margaret Anderson, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Beach. The exhibition also looks at artists and writers who responded to the novel, as well as the censorship that attended its publication in the US.

Ulysses was first published in book form on February 2, 1922. Set on one day—June 16, 1904—the novel follows the young poet Stephen Dedalus and the unlikely hero Leopold Bloom on a journey through Dublin. The landmark work links the epic to the ordinary, connecting characters and motifs from Homer’s ancient Greek poem the Odyssey with everyday life in Joyce’s hometown. Written in self-imposed exile between 1914 and 1921 in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris, Ulysses invokes the atmosphere and the topography of 1904 Dublin in astonishing and meticulous detail. On its publication in Paris a century ago, the novel expanded the limits of language and genre— and not without controversy. Censored and banned in America and England for obscenity, Ulysses became the catalyst for new legal standards of artistic freedom.

One Hundred Years of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” draws on items from the Morgan’s Sean and Mary Kelly Collection, including inscribed copies of the author’s works, rare publications and broadsides, a manuscript fragment, and Joyce’s typewritten schema of the Homeric structure of Ulysses. Major contributions from the James Joyce Collection, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, and additional institutional loans include the first and last pages of the manuscript, proofs on which part of the novel was written, and rarely seen letters between Joyce and Nora Barnacle. Also featured are textual and visual responses by figures such as Virginia Woolf, George Antheil, Henri Matisse, Vladimir Nabokov, and Ralph Ellison.

The Morgan’s Director, Colin B. Bailey, said, “The 2018 gift to the Morgan of the Sean and Mary Kelly Collection of James Joyce has inspired this project, enabling us to celebrate one of the most daring and controversial literary works in the English language. I can think of no one better to spearhead our efforts than Colm Tóibín, who, among many other accomplishmenbts, is a leading expert on Joyce.”

The exhibition is guest curated by Colm Tóibín and co-organized with Sheelagh Bevan, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator, Department of Printed Books and Bindings, and Philip S. Palmer, Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head, Literary and Historical Manuscripts.

Accompanying the exhibition is a fully-illustrated volume of essays co-published by the Morgan and Penn State University Press. Edited by Colm Tóibín, this book presents work by preeminent Joyce scholars and representatives of the major manuscript collections, as well as an interview with Sean Kelly, who, with his wife Mary, donated their extensive Joyce collection to the Morgan. Tóibín’s expert interpretation of the Dublin context for Ulysses precedes writings that treat Joyce's life in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris from 1914 up through the novel’s publication, drawing on notebooks and letters, as well as extant manuscripts and proofs. Along with the editor, One Hundred Years of James Joyce's "Ulysses" includes contributions by Ronan Crowley, Maria DiBattista, Derick Dreher, Catherine Flynn, Anne Fogarty, Rick Gekoski, Joseph M. Hassett, James Maynard, John McCourt, and Curator Emeritus John Bidwell, who organized the publication for the Morgan.

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