We will post some sample/practice questions here. (And I'll post s'more later.)

Student-generated questions:

1. Describe three different types of narrative voice used in Ulysses, and explain the function of each in its respective episode.

2. Find a moment in Ulysses where Joyce is intentionally obfuscating meaning or being purposefully unintelligible. Analyze the effect this has on the reader/narrative.

3. Focus on the role of parody/satire in the novel; how does Joyce use satire throughout the novel, what does he satirize, and what does his satire accomplish? [JE: would narrow down for actual exam]

4. Explain Stephen's "Parable of the Plums" (in "Scylla" and "Ithaca"). What glimpse does this parable give us into J's Ireland?

5. Explore the role of talismans--objects that accompany Bloom (or others)--and throwaways. Make an argument about the function or thematic significance of one or both of these.

6. Bloom's budget in "Ithaca" omits a couple of items. Where else has Bloom omitted information or been disingenuous, and how can we interpret these lies of omission?

7. Explain the disruptions of meaning produced by Bloom's name and pseudonyms.

8. Compare two or more episodes in their treatments of love and sex.


Adding to the list:

9. Why is it important that Bloom has a foreskin? (Had to ask.)

10. The climactic "Christmas dinner" scene in Portrait ends with Stephen's father exclaiming "Parnell! My dead king!", an incident that even prompts Stephen to try writing a poem. How does Portrait figure the relationship between poetry and politics?

11. As the boys are called to hockey in "Nestor," Stephen reflects, "They broke asunder, sidling out of their benches, leaping them. Quickly they were gone and from the lumberroom came the rattle of sticks and clamour of their boots and tongues." This language might remind some readers of his claim in "Scylla" that "where there has been a reconciliation . . . there must have been first a sundering" (9.334-5). Compare the theme of reconciliation/sundering in these two chapters, "Nestor" and "Scylla" (and, if you like, any other chapters).

12. In class it was suggested that in "Eumaeus" and "Ithaca," Bloom is presented as a Christ figure for Stephen, and Stephen as a Christ figure for Bloom. In light of the rest of the novel, discuss the reciprocity and mutual kinship that develops in these chapters, and reflect on the theme of "reciprocity" in general. (Incidentally, "reciprocity" is one of the major themes in the work of Samuel Beckett,
the Irish playwright and Joyce's greatest literary acolyte. I wouldn't put that on the exam, but it's worth considering!)

13. Compare and contrast Joyce's use of "The Croppy Boy" (a song which appears in "Sirens" and "Circe") with his use of the "jew's daughter" song (in "Ithaca"). How do these uses of song -- and Joyce's use of music generally -- reflect the novel's themes of nationalism, ethnicity, and martyrdom? (For more notes on "The Croppy Boy," see Gifford.)

14. In "Eumaeus," Bloom reflects on the tourism industry as a possible panacea for Ireland's economic and cultural woes (see 16.491 and following). In light of this, consider the significance of tourism and travel in the novel; how, for example, might it reflect Bloom's/Joyce's thinking about national borders in general?

15. Make an argument for the progression of the last five chapters: Oxen, Circe, Eumaeus, Ithaca, Penelope. What does each chapter add to the one before it; how does his choice of formal devices in these chapters reflect the momentum of the novel's ending; how does Joyce build a "through-line" (i.e. a connective thread) from one chapter to the next? Address both form and content.
(In 30-35 minutes you probably wouldn't be able to cite extensive examples from all five episodes; you could think more broadly about each episode's structural role in the novel, and then cite a few examples selectively.)

16. In "Circe," as Privates Carr and Compton begin swarming and the scenery begins crashing around him, Stephen says, "Personally, I detest action." How do you interpret Stephen's statement in light of the rest of the novel—how is Joyce's representation of Stephen in Ulysses shaped by ideas of inaction (passivity, immobility, paralysis, etc.)?

17. Make an argument about Joyce's fascination with anagrams, codes, and discrete letters (e.g. the names of degrees and honors). Choose two or three episodes in which this fascination is most evident, and develop an interpretation of what themes this motif generates.

18. Compare and contrast "Skin-the-Goat," the storyteller in Eumaeus, with the Citizen in "Cyclops." How do these encounters shape how we understand Bloom's role in the novel?

19. Stephen D. says a couple of times that he does not belong to Ireland but, rather, Ireland belongs to him (see, for example, 16.1162). To what extent does/doesn't the novel seem to endorse this position? Does it establish Stephen as an independent artistic mind or as a solipsist (or both)? Find several examples where Stephen's self-absorption or egoism reflects his relationship to Ireland.

20. As we've observed, narrative voice tends to meander between first and third-person (both limited and omniscient) points of view throughout the novel. Yet, in a handful of moments, a third-person narrator makes peculiar references to the novel's narrative form (see 11.569 and 16.1691). How does this narrator, in those examples and/or others, call attention to Ulysses as a piece of fiction? Who might be speaking in these moments, and how do such instances effect the credibility of events, characters, or even the narrative voice?

21. Reflect on the following claim, from critic Christy Burns:
  • Joyce defines the desire for nationalistic cohesion as a form of paranoia, which focuses both negatively on 'foreignness' and with a destructive celebration of its own seamless identity. (Gestural Politics: Stereotype and Parody in Joyce [SUNY Press, 2000], 16.)

How would you respond? Where/how does Joyce show us the "desire for nationalistic cohesion" in these respects; where/how does Joyce (as Burns goes on to argue) unravel or critique this desire for cohesion? Cite at least 2-3 episodes in your response.

22. Analyze the following passage from "Eumaeus," in which Bloom and Stephen have an exchange about the relationship between work and patriotism.
  • That's the vital issue at stake and it's feasible and would be provocative of friendlier intercourse between man and man. At least that's my idea for what it's worth. I call that patriotism. Ubi patria, as we learned a small smattering of in our classical day in Alma Mater, vita bene. Where you can live well, the sense is, if you work.

  • Over his untasteable apology for a cup of coffee, listening to this synopsis of things in general, Stephen stared at nothing in particular. He could hear, of course, all kinds of words changing colour like those crabs about Ringsend in the morning, burrowing quickly into all colours of different sorts of the same sand where they had a home somewhere beneath or seemed to. Then he looked up and saw the eyes that said or didn't say the words the voice he heard said -- if you work.

  • -- Count me out, he managed to remark, meaning to work. (16.1135ff)

As you analyze this passage, develop an argument about how the novel as a whole figures work: in terms of patriotism and the state, in terms of "intercourse between man and man," in terms of poetry and art, and/or in other terms. (You needn't cover all of these.)

23. In "Calypso," Bloom sees an opened envelope under Molly's pillow. Examine how this open envelope helps us to understand Molly's role in the novel, citing "Calypso," "Penelope," and any other episodes that may seem relevant.