Daley Konchar Farr
Starting on Wednesday, April 13th, the students in Prof. Robert Cowgill’s English literature keystone are bringing to the greater Augsburg community the massive text that they have spent the past four months laboring over, arguing about, and learning to love: Ulysses, James Joyce’s epic of a day in 1904 Dublin.
The class has spent the last several weeks dividing up the chapters, choosing locations for readings, and designing posters. Each student in the class will participate in at least three readings, with groups of about two to four students reading each chapter in the book aloud at various locations on campus and around the Seward and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods.
These public readings are the fruit of a long semester of hard work on a hard text. At 782 pages long and full of different literary styles, parodies, streams of consciousness, narrative shifts, and an overwhelming cast of Dublin characters (both real and fictional), Joyce’s novel is an ambitious task to take on.
However, the idea of bringing a classic ivory tower text out into the public appealed to the students in the class, who also discovered that reading the book aloud often makes it easier to understand. Now, nearing the end of the semester, a good portion of the class of seniors (and one sophomore) are able to express enthusiasm, if not love, for the complicated adventures of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, the book’s two principle characters.
However, the text itself is still polarizing.
As part of a strategy to help students sort out their ideas and feelings as they come to the end of Ulysses and the ends of their runs as English majors, the students are assigned to have conversations about their futures and their feelings about literature in pairs in front of the class for the last several weeks of school.
During Tuesday night’s conversation, seniors Lindsey Graff and Ted Conover discussed their struggles with finding humanity in the book’s willfully difficult pages, and how through their resistance to Ulysses, they were able to gain a better understanding of their own approaches to reading and to art.
But even Graff, who has been an unabashedly outspoken skeptic of the class’s mission over the semester, was supportive of the public readings idea. “It gives people a good chance to try to embrace an inaccessible text,” she said. “It makes it a lot more accessible to hear it. I encourage people to get their own books and read along.”
Professor Cowgill, who came up with the idea after receiving a call from a USA Today reporter, says of the project, “Our curriculum for this class at this college is the learn-practice-perform model, and if you can perform Ulysses so that maybe people can understand it, that’s a pinnacle of sorts.” He adds, “These readings are an act of faith.”
Schedules for the readings are currently posted on the Facebook page—Three-Week Marathon Ulysses Reading, if you search—and flyers and posters are being distributed around campus. Anyone who is interested in attending or learning more about the readings is encouraged to seek out any of the students in the class or Prof. Cowgill for further information.
The readings, and the class, will conclude in the film studio, with all of the women in the class reading Molly Bloom’s famous final chapter together. Asked why he sees the public readings as a worthwhile project, especially for seniors, Cowgill said of his students.
“They’ve spent the whole term reading this difficult book, they’ve written papers before and they could write them again for this class. So why not do something they’ve never done before, and make the prose live for others?”
Monday, 4/18, 7:00PM
Calypso, Readers: Jenny & Ted C
Lindell Library, Augsburg Campus
Wednesday 4/20, 2:00PM
Lotus Eaters, Readers: Taylor & Colin
Christiansen Center (Glassed-in Area)
Wednesday 4/20, 7:00PM
Hades, Readers: Aren, Dre & Faiza
Monday 4/25, Noon
Lestrygonians, Readers: Molly & Ted C
Monday 4/25, 7:00PM
Scylla and Charybdis, Readers: Ted N, Daley, Aren
Tuesday, 4/26, 2:00PM
Wandering Rocks, Readers: Dre and Taylor
Wednesday, 4/27, 7:00PM
Sirens, Readers: Jenny, Daley, Dre
Thursday, 4/28, 7:00PM
Cyclops, Readers: Ted C, Faiza, Lindsey
Friday, 4/29, Noon
Nausicaa, Readers: Daley, Colin
Murphy Square Park
Monday, 5/2, 7:00PM
Oxen of the Sun, Readers: Aren, Lindsay, Becki, Susan
Tuesday, 5/3, 7:00PM
Circe, Readers: The Entire Class
Wednesday, 5/4, Noon
Eumaeus, Readers: Jenny, Becki, Susan
Wednesday, 5/4, 3:00PM
Ithaca, Readers: The Entire Class
Wednesday, 5/4, 7:00PM
Penelope, Readers: Female Class Members