Monday, 16 June 2014

LETTERS OF NOTE: Jung and Ulysses

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Today's Letter of Note concerns two titans in their respective fields: James Joyce, one of the 20th century's greatest novelists, and Carl Jung, the brilliant psychoanalyst and former disciple of Sigmund Freud.

In 1922 Joyce published Ulysses, the novel which many consider his masterpiece. The story takes place on June 16 1904 (110 years ago today) and follows an ordinary day in the life of writer Stephan Daedalus and advertising canvasser Leopold Bloom. Written as a stream of consciousness with various allusions to Homer's The Odyssey, it is regarded as a seminal work of the modernist movement of which Joyce was one of the leading figures.
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In the years since its publication, the book has had its fair share of outright detractors and caused a great deal of confusion in many more. Jung was one such figure, writing an article in 1932 in which he laid out many criticisms of the novel while expressing his admiration to Joyce for the psychological problems it presented. You can get a feel for his state of mind in this letter, which he sent to Joyce the same year along with a copy of the essay.
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For more on The Odyssey, I advise you to check out my review of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and judge for yourself whether Joyce did a better job than the Coens.

Daniel

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