Warm, Fullblooded Life: A Short Course on James Joyce’s Ulysses

The Community of Writers is honored to present a short course on Ulysses, by James Joyce, led by Peter Orner

Much has been written about Ulysses, perhaps too much. Joyce predicated as much. He said he’d keep the professors busy for a thousand years. He’d have gotten a big kick out of all the attention. But our focus in this 7 week on-line masterclass will be on the book itself, not what others have said about it. We’ll read it slow and steady over six weeks and zero in on Joyce the storyteller, the creator of indelible scenes. And we’ll reserve a seventh session to get to anything we missed along the way. We will talk about what is happening on the page, i.e., what is going on with these characters–Stephen, Leopold, Molly and so many others– on the streets of Dublin. And we’ll also take to heart Nabokov’s advice on how to teach this novel: “Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” We won’t teach or learn it, we’ll live it as best we can. And along the way we’ll make our own maps and get out into the streets of a novel that remains strange, enduring, and alive. 

I’ve always believed that fiction is mostly made up of two things: Life and Movement. Few books have more of these two elements than Ulysses. The novel, of course, has long been a colossal influence on so many writers, including Flann O’Brien, Vladamir Nabokov, Derek Walcott, Edna O’Brien, Toni Morrison, David Foster Wallace, Roberto Bolano, Zadie Smith, Sally Rooney– the list goes on and the list goes on. The novel is, among many other things, challenging, irreverent, offensive, thought-provoking, political, technically virtuosic (add as many more adjectives as you like) … It’s also entertaining, often wildly so, and extremely funny. Above all, it’s a book over-crowded with human connection. On a single day in Dublin, in June of 1904, people are constantly touching, jostling, and otherwise getting into each other’s intimate space. There’s plenty of bodily fluids, snot, urine, etc. Carnal relations, these too, though most (with a few singular exceptions) take place in the imagination. And yet, at the same time, Ulysses captures the many degrees of our loneliness, and often the loneliest place on earth is a bustling street. Ultimately, for all its bombast and radical narrative experimentation (plenty of which arguably fail) the book explores the subtlest of our intimate connections. 

Peter Orner

Dates & Times: Online Sundays from August 25 to October 6, 2024. Main sessions run from 4 pm-6 pm (Pacific) with optional discussion groups to follow.

  • Sunday, August 25, 2024 
  • Sunday, September 1, 2024 
  • Sunday, September 8, 2024 
  • Sunday, September 15, 2024 
  • Sunday, September 22, 2024 
  • Sunday, September 29, 2024 
  • Sunday, October 6, 2024 

Note: For those who are interested, intimate Zoom discussion groups (Virtual Houses) will meet after each session and on subsequent Saturdays at 10 AM.

Course Text

Participants who don’t own the text are asked to purchase it, if possible, before August 25. For this course, our text will be:

         Ulysses: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 16, 1990)

Handouts for each session will be posted online. Additional reading materials, including essays and poems will be added.

Photo Credit: Pawel Kruk

Peter Orner is the author of the novels The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo and, Love and Shame and Love and three story collections, Esther StoriesLast Car Over the Sagamore Bridge, and Maggie Brown & Others. His collection of essays, Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Still No Word from You, a memoir in essays, was published in October, 2022. A three-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, Orner’s work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Granta, and McSweeney’s. He has been awarded the Rome Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Orner is the director of creative writing at Dartmouth College and lives with his family in Vermont, where he’s a volunteer on the fire department. peterorner.com

What to Expect:

  • Six, two-hour weekly sessions online with assigned reading. The group can be large, depending on the course.
  • A bonus session on October 6 in which we will get to anything that hasn’t yet been covered, or will discuss topics we couldn’t get to in the first six sessions.
  • In the first 60 or 70 minutes, Orner will explore and supply background on the previously assigned readings.
  • In the second part, Orner will address questions and widen the discussion. Participant questions and comments will be submitted in the chat.
  • Optional small (8-10 person) discussion groups will be available to those with the energy and interest after the formal session is over. Discussion guides will be provided.
  • These sessions will be recorded, and will be available for later viewing by registered participants for 30 days following the final session


  • Early Bird Tuition is $360 (deadline: midnight on Thursday, August 15)
  • Standard Tuition is $400.
  • Limited financial aid available. Please contact us if needed.
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Online, and year-round, The Writers’ Annex is composed of short courses, seminars, workshops, and more. Our vision is to bring the creative insight and experience of our staff poets and prose writers to our community in all seasons, not just in the summertime, and not just here in our Valley.  Our online offerings will address such topics as eco-poetics, translation, and generative sessions. Some will be one or two days, some will be weekend intensives, and some will meet weekly for a month or two. In addition, we hope these offerings will help offset the tremendous expenses we face as an organization for our traditional in-person events in Olympic Valley.   Join our Mailing List