What does the novel Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce (1882–1941) have to do with American Studies? The answer is simple: Bloomsday is an annual literary festival celebrated in many U.S. cities, around the globe, and particularly in Dublin, the setting of the novel. The event is named for one of the novel’s protagonists, Leopold Bloom. The novel takes place on June 16, 1904, the day that James Joyce met his later wife, Nora Barnacle. Celebration activities include dressing up in period costumes, readings, theater performances, film screenings, and art exhibits associated with the novel and Joyce’s writings and life. The liveliness of the festivals testifies to the fun of reading Ulysses, especially if it’s read aloud. The novel is often mistakenly described as inscrutable for the average reader, but it is perhaps more accurately described as surprisingly readable.
In honor of Bloomsday, I’ve imagined a tongue-in-cheek letter of condolence from Milly Bloom, now fifty-two, but at the time of the novel the fifteen-year-old daughter of Leopold Bloom and his wife, Molly, to Mrs. Joyce (born Nora Barnacle). The letter is dated 1941, nineteen years following the novel’s publication and thirty-seven years following that famous day in Dublin in 1904.
In the digital information age, sensationalist headlines are all around us, all around the clock.
To stand out from the general noise even for a split second, a genuinely momentous sensation has to shake the collective foundation on- and offline. Enter Montero Lamar Hill, aka Lil Nas X. The 22-year-old Georgian rapper knows how to jump-start the pop cultural wave pool like few others as demonstrated by the virtually inescapable splashes he made with his new single, released this March.
Every so often, a book comes around by an author you’ve never heard about – although you pride yourself on always following new, enticing, and award-winning publications from the U.S. Well, The Friend is a novel (the sixth!) by a woman whose name I’d never encountered before: Sigrid Nunez. Not George Saunders or Colson Whitehead, not Joan Didion or Louise Erdrich, but Sigrid Nunez. And when I saw a Harlequin Great Dane on the cover, I knew I needed to read it.
Mere days after Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States, the new administration announced its intention to put Harriet Tubman – known as Moses – on the twenty-dollar bill. The currency redesign – a relatively common occurrence in the 19th century – was originally set for release in 2020 to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. The majority of Americans supported the redesign in 2016 when the last poll on the issue was taken. President Donald Trump put the project on hold, citing security issues and attributing the Obama initiative to sheer political correctness. While Trump may still view Andrew Jackson as an American hero, historians are quick to point out the complexities of the former U.S. president’s biography. Jackson owned hundreds of slaves and was responsible for the Indian Removal Act that led to the death of about 4,000 Cherokees, forced to walk from the Southern states to modern-day Oklahoma on what is now referred to as the Trail of Tears. Even though he probably should be, Jackson will not be completely removed from the twenty-dollar bill – he’ll just be demoted to the back. The irony of placing Tubman on one side and Jackson on the other on a symbol of national identity has not gone unnoticed and certainly speaks to the division in American society today.
If you want to go where no man has gone before, why not try your hand at collaborative writing? The idea is simple: Combine various types of writing in an elective course with a deep understanding of a specific theory. The seminar, “Where no man has gone before: Women and Science Fiction,” was my attempt to have students not only apply various forms of writing but also gain a deeper knowledge of intersectionality using social science fiction – with a dose of creativity. Just look at these student-produced project covers!