The relation of Ulysses to literary realism is one question, its relation to reality another. By the “realness” of Ulysses, we usually mean Joyce’s representation of the inner lives of Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus, from the micturant scent of grilled kidneys in the morning to the affirmations with which Molly ends Bloom’s day. No writer in English since Sterne had unpicked the layers of language and consciousness so carefully; perhaps only Henry James had woven them together with as sharp an eye for detail. Yet our focus on Joyce’s method reflects more than his self-conscious technique and sophistication. It also reflects the distances between the novel’s conception and its composition, and between its composition and its reception.

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