Cover image for James Joyce and censorship : the trials of Ulysses
James Joyce and censorship : the trials of Ulysses
Vanderham, Paul.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xii, 242 pages, 4 unnumbered leaves of plates ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6019.O9 U756 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



When James Joyce's Ulysses began to appear in installments in 1918, it provoked widespread outrage and disgust. The novel violated a long list of taboos by denigrating English royalty, describing masturbation, and mingling the erotic with the excremental--in a style that some early reviewers called literary bolshevism. As a result, U.S. Postal authorities denied several installments of Ulysses access to the mails, initiating a series of suppressions that would result in a thirteen-year ban on Joyce's novel. Obscenity trials spanned the next decade. Using personal interviews and primary sources never before discussed in depth, James Joyce and Censorship closely examines the legal trials of Ulysses from 1920 to 1934.

Paying particular attention to the decision that lifted the ban on Ulysses in 1933, a decision that the ACLU cites to this day in cases involving censorship, Vanderham traces the growth of the fallacy that literature is incapable of influencing individuals. He argues persuasively that underneath every esthetic lie ethical, political, philosophical, and religious convictions. The legal and the literary aspects of the Ulysses controversy, Vanderham insists, are virtually inseparable. By analyzing the writing and revising of Ulysses in the context of Joyce's lifelong struggle with the censors, he argues that the censorship of Ulysses affected not only the critical reception of the novel but its very shape.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

No literary obscenity case is as well known as this one: in 1933, Judge John M. Woolsey ruled in favor of Joyce and his publishers, noting that "while in many places the effect of 'Ulysses' on the reader is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac." Random House has published this opinion in its editions of Ulysses for more than 60 years. Joyce scholars--e.g., Michael Groden in Ulysses in Progress (CH, May'78) and contributors to Joyce: The Return of the Repressed, ed. by Susan Stanford Friedman (1993)--have suggested that Joyce and his supporters followed an Aesopic form of self-censorship through obscurity, as if difficulty was morally purifying. Vanderham (King's University College, UK) performs the valuable task of minutely examining the various trials and arguments on both sides of the legal battles over the censorship of Ulysses. Especially valuable is his inclusion of the prosecution's long list of all of the objectionable passages in the novel. Though firmly focused on Ulysses, Vanderham's study provides ground for any discussion about censorship in the arts generally and adds important new information to that in such recent works as Adam Parkes's Modernism and the Theater of Censorship (CH, Oct'96). Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. L. Orr Washington State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. viii
Abbreviationsp. xi
List of Illustrationsp. xii
Introductionp. 1
1 Ulysses at Warp. 16
2 Ulysses and The Young Personp. 37
3 Making Obscenity Safe for Literaturep. 57
4 The United States against Ulyssesp. 87
5 The Well-intentioned Lies of the Woolsey Decisionp. 115
6 Late Encounters with the Enemyp. 132
Conclusionp. 150
Appendix The Censor's Ulyssesp. 169
Notesp. 211
Indexp. 237