Banned Book: Ulysses

In celebration of Banned Books Week, Politics & Prose Bookstore tips its cap to the books that offended, outraged, and generally poisoned the minds of the masses with wanton creative expression. Though our selections make great kindling, we assure you they’re much more enjoyable when read. Join us all week on the slide into moral turpitude with the best censored reading material the canon has to offer.

Banned not for being difficult and confusing, but for its apparent sexual content, Joyce’s modernist classic was the object of ire even before its full publication. Ulysses was burned in serialized form in the U.S. in 1918 before it was burned as a published manuscript in Ireland in 1922, Canada in 1922, and England in 1923. The book was officially banned in England in 1929, possibly because the mass-burning proved insufficient to suppress its readership. In 1920, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice successfully argued to have the book labeled as obscene and effectively banned in the U.S. in 1920. The ban was lifted in a 1933 court ruling. After devoting a month of his time to reading Joyce’s manuscript, Judge John Woolsey concluded his opinion by noting, "I am quite aware that owing to some of its scenes ‘Ulysses’ is a rather strong draught to ask some sensitive though normal person to take. But my considered opinion, after long reflection, is that whilst in many places the effect of Ulysses of the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.”

A sentence worthy of censorship:

The trajectories of their, first sequent, then simultaneous, urinations were dissimilar: Bloom’s longer, less irruent, in the incomplete form of the bifurcated penultimate alphabetical letter, who in his ultimate year at High School (1880) had been capable of attaining the point of greatest altitude against the whole concurrent strength of the institution, 210 scholars: Stephen’s higher, more sibilant, who in the ultimate hours of the previous day had augmented by diuretic consumption an insistent vesical pressure.