Why specifically is a study of Ulysses useful in psychotherapeutic practice?
Ulysses provides an excellent and broad platform from which to develop and study the theory of mind. Although the characters are syntactical constructions, Joyce’s genius with language creates beings of depth and complexity while he uses a myriad of styles, allusions and shifting registers to ground our understanding whilst expanding linguistic potential.
In Ulysses, the space between exterior and interior realms is probed and disintegrated as the form of the writing reflects the fluidity between the language of our minds and what is translated into exterior speech. We come to know Bloom and Stephen through thought, sensory impression, memories, fantasies, anxieties, hauntings, humor, relationships, and all the detritus that floats through the mind of an ordinary man on an ordinary day. Except that Joyce reveals that the closer we move towards understanding another, the less able we are to see them as ordinary.
The book also engages questions and stances around gender, sexuality, identity theory, cultural taboo, prejudice, nationalism, myth, self-determination, political oppression….the endless nature of the list does not point to a vagueness in the work: in fact, in all the areas that the narrative delves, the explorations are substantive and tangible.
The challenge of reading and understanding the book offers a rich opportunity for metacognitive considerations. Each participant in the carefully facilitated study of Ulysses on offer contributes to the understanding of the group as a whole. We each approach the work from the angle informed by our personal histories and education (formal and informal), the way we hear a phrase and the connections we bring to the images and ideas on the work. A full weaving of these pieces is required for a satisfying reading of this work. Each page contains layers of meaning and allusions that illuminate the complex characters and the psychological strains that hum just beneath the surface. Reading this book with a collection of minds attuned to the nuances of language and identity will reveal the incredible depth of the text and the innovative brilliance that Joyce employs to create the most insightful revelation of human mind to date.