Reading James Joyce

“The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole Life to reading my works.” –James Joyce

This summer, I seriously begin that journey of devotion. Okay, not really; settle down. Of course, Joyce was joking in the above quote. Well, joking in a truly Joyceian way that lets you know he was completely serious. But the point is that I am reading a lot of Joyce this summer. And actually, it’s completely voluntary. (TWIST!)

To anyone who’s ever read James Joyce, he’s a surprising choice for a summer beach read. His work is heavy, dense, and sometimes just downright incomprehensible (Finnegan’s Wake, anybody?). Nonetheless, I find myself perched by the pool this summer, cool drink in hand, and Dubliners by my side. Why, you ask? Because strangely enough, out of everything in the world, I chose to study James Joyce.

"Nothing says summertime reading like a little Levinas."-Entertainment Weekly

“Nothing says summertime reading like a little Levinas.”-Entertainment Weekly

This foray into depressing Irish Lit (is there even non-depressing Irish lit?) is for my Senior Honors Thesis Project coming up this fall. Honors students are invited to spend a semester studying the interdisciplinary subject of their choice and then present their thesis at the end of the semester to students and faculty. I’ve chosen to explore James Joyce and notions of Irishness, and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited.

For those that are still confused as to why I equate James Joyce with positive feelings, let me back up a little. You see, I decided to become an English major because of James Joyce. After reading some of his work in high school, I was immediately entranced. He was complicated, unique, and most of all, puzzling. I can’t say that I always enjoyed reading Joyce, but I can say that he challenged the way I thought and forced me to grow as a student of literature merely to keep up with him.

And once I experienced this feeling of being challenged into growth, I knew it was what I sought in my college education. I wanted to go to college to read James Joyce. The only problem is, in my three years at Drake, I never came across a Joyce class. I’ve read things I never knew about and been challenged in so many other ways, but I still haven’t gotten the chance to study the one man who drove me to this point. So, with this Honors Thesis process, I have the power to change all that. I’ll be forming my own class, doing my own readings, and doing my best to challenge myself as much as Joyce challenges me. And who knows? Maybe this is just the start of a lifetime of devotion.

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