Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ulysses and the 1001 nights

I'm presenting a sort of preliminary paper at the upcoming Joyce Conference at UC Irvine and the topic is the relationship between James Joyce's Ulysses and the 1001 Nights.

I say preliminary because thankfully that is the format of the conference as everyone will be presenting a 5 page argument abbreviated paper instead of a fully developed one and thankfully because my argument isn't as developed as I intend it to be.

What I'm suggesting in this paper is that previous scholarship on both the Nights side and the Joyce side fail to fully develop which specific version of the Nights Joyce used for inclusion in Ulysses. Aida Yared has an article which convincingly argues that Joyce had not read any version in particular before Finnegans Wake and that Joyce uses extensively from Burton's specific version in the Wake.

The primary function of the Nights in Ulysses seems to be as part of the English/Irish pantomime and not of any textual version.

Once you begin looking at the specific version of the Nights Joyce uses you can begin to uncover the ways in which he uses the Nights in Ulysses.

In any case, I think most scholarship on Joyce and the Nights apart from Yared's article just mentions the 1001 Nights in a general sense and that they influenced Joyce but not to what extent nor which specific versions of the Nights and in what ways.

For whatever that's worth it's sort of the direction this paper is heading. It'll be my first conference paper too.

- M


  1. Hi, Michael. So, which translation do you think it was?

    an idea: there might be more literature on the question of which translation of the Odyssey he read--maybe some of it could be transferable to the Nights question?

  2. Hi Moti

    That's true about the Odyssey, there is a lot of scholarship tracing the influence on Ulysses.

    As far as the Nights goes it looks like Joyce didn't really own or read a copy until he finished writing Ulysses. After that, while living in Trieste, Joyce had an Italian version of the Nights and also a complete Richard Burton version.

    The article: Yared, Aida. "Joyce's Sources: Sir Richard Burton's Terminal Essay in Finnegans Wake." Joyce Studies Annual, 11 (2000): 124-66 - is the best and one of the only mentions on the link between the Nights and Joyce that goes into any detail.

    - M