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James Joyce's Ulysses includes sexual descriptions which prompted a ban against the book in 1920. Read an excerpt?

James Joyce's Ulysses

In 1918, James Joyce's novel Ulysses is published in installments by a small Greenwich Village magazine, The Little Review. The novel, which uses stream-of-consciousness storylines to compress universal concerns into a single day in the life of three characters in 1904 Dublin, immediately comes under the eye of the New York Anti-Vice Society because of its frank sexual content.

The publishers are tried under obscenity provisions in the U.S. Postal Code in 1920 and are found guilty, fined, and ordered to cease publication. Ulysses' banned status and publicity from the trial, however, generate widespread interest among some writers and readers.

In 1922, an American bookseller in Paris, Shakespeare and Co., publishes a first edition, which sells out instantly. Joyce finds champions in poets Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot and novelist Ernest Hemingway. He is hailed by some as the greatest modern writer of English prose. The book is routinely smuggled in to both the United States and Great Britain, where it is also banned.

Random House wages a four-year legal battle to publish Ulysses in the United States and wins its landmark case in 1934. Four years later, the book is published in England. By the end of the 20th century, Ulysses is taught in colleges and universities around the world. Scholars admire its audacity and poetical vision. Readers love its playful humor and humanity. Some critics consider its publication the signal event in the emergence of the modern novel. In 1998, a board of distinguished writers convened by Random House's Modern Library series selects Ulysses as the best novel of the century.


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