‘Ulysses’ and the Lie of Technological Progress

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School of Literature, Media, and Communication professor Ian Bogost, Ph.D. wrote “Ulysses and the Lie of Technological Progress” for The Atlantic.


Joyce’s formal innovations exerted pressure on language rather than on medium. Words work more or less the same as they did in 1904 or 1922 or 1942. Books work identically. Today, by contrast, formal media innovation rules the day. New devices and infrastructures push out old ones, and they do so at an ever more rapid pace. And yet, Ulysses too was a media product of its time, one largely unreadable absent its historical context. The bric-a-brac of Dublin shop windows; the guffaws of then-current headlines; the references to long-outmoded Celtic twilight; the intrinsic linguistic conflict of the English language in Ireland; then-new technologies now long gone.

If Bloomsday must be celebrated, it is high time that the holiday fully devour Joyce’s novel in order to expel and move beyond it. The ultimate lesson of Ulysses is that everything that seems permanent decays and returns to earth. But in so doing, it doesn’t vanish. It facilitates new growth, both native and invasive. The old bonds with the new, and in so doing it both ruins and extols it.

Click here for the full article from The Atlantic.

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Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

Digital Media and Entertainment
Ian Bogost, James Joyce, School of Literature Media and Communication
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