Homeric Parallels in Ulysses by Charles Rossman (rossman@mail.utexas.edu)

This is a guide to those passages in the Odyssey that provide the most overt bases for episodes in Joyce's Ulysses. This guide aims to help students locate pertinent Homeric passages without having to (re)read the entire Odyssey. Listed first is the episode in Ulysses, followed by the relevant passages in the Odyssey. Citations to Homer are first to the books by number and then, if particular scenes are uniquely important, to the pagination of the Robert Fitzgerald translation in paperback.

Part I of Ulysses, the "Telemachiad," corresponds to books 1-4 of the Odyssey.

1. "Telemachus": The general situation of book one of the Odyssey.

2. "Nestor": In general, book three of the Odyssey.

3. "Proteus": The Proteus episode occurs in book four, pp. 63-70.

Part II of Ulysses, the "Wanderings of Odysseus," corresponds to books 5-12 of the Odyssey.

4. "Calypso": In general, book five of the Odyssey.

5. "Lotus Eaters": The episode occurs in book nine, pp. 147-48.

6. "Hades": In general, book eleven of the Odyssey.

7. "Aeolus": Occurs in book ten, pp. 165-67.

8. "Lystrygonians": Occurs in book ten, pp. 167-69.

9. "Scylla and Charybdis": Occurs in book twelve, pp. 211-2, 217-18.

10. "Wandering Rocks": No parallel: an alternative path for Odysseus, mentioned by Circe in book twelve, p. 211, but a possibility not actualized in the Odyssey.

11. "Sirens": Occurs in book twelve, pp. 210, 214-16.

12. "Cyclops" Occurs in book nine, pp. 148-62.

13. "Nausicaa": In general, books six and seven of the Odyssey.

14. "Oxen of the Sun": Occurs in book twelve, pp. 213, 220-225.

15. "Circe": Circe appears as an enchantress in book ten, pp. 169-182, during which she gradually becomes a prophet and helper. She reappears in the latter role in book twelve, pp. 209-14.

Part III of Ulysses, the "Nostos" (or "Return"), corresponds broadly to the entire second half of the Odyssey, books 13-24.

16. "Eumaeus": Generally, books fourteen (in which Odysseus finds shelter with the swineherd, Eumaeus), fifteen (in which Telemachus returns to Ithaca), and sixteen (in which Odysseus and Telemachus are reunited in the swineherd's dwelling).

17. "Ithaca": Generally, books seventeen through twenty-three, in which Odysseus returns to his palace (seventeen) and, with the help of his son and the goddess Athena, slays the suitors (book twenty-two), puts to death the maids who have slept with the suitors or otherwise aided them (twenty-two), and at last returns to Penelope and their marriage bed (twenty-three).

18. "Penelope": No parallel book in the Odyssey gives Penelope's sustained perspective or voice.

Comparative Narrative Chronologies

This chart summarizes the links between episodes in Ulysses and books in the Odyssey, in order to expose the achronological and intermittent nature of Joyce's borrowings from/parallels to the Odyssey. Bear in mind that Ulysses has eighteen episodes and the Odyssey has twenty-four books.

Episode in UlyssesBook in Odyssey
10No parallel

[possibility posited in XII]

13VI & VII
15X & XII
16XIV, XV, & XVI

Basic Questions

1. As always, get the facts straight: In what explicit ways does Ulysses parallel the Odyssey and in what ways does it differ from it?

2. When are these parallels and differences light-hearted and joking, and when are they more portentous? How do you make the distinction?

3. What, finally, is the purpose and value of the the latent presence of the Odyssey in Ulysses?