Ulysses to be “Seen” at NYC’s Irish Arts Center

Detail from James Joyce's Ulysses, "Calypso," adapted by Robert Berry

Detail from James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Calypso,” adapted by Robert Berry

Out of all the spine-tinglingly wonderful adaptations in the third volume of The Graphic Canon, Robert Berry’s is among the most daring. Mr. Berry began his project to adapt James Joyce’s magnum opus, Ulysses, into a graphic form in 2008, and a selection of his work (fourteen pages of the “Calypso” episode from the project, titled Ulysses “Seen”) will be included in Volume 3 this June.

Ulysses is infamously inaccessible, the bane of countless collegiate English majors since its publication over 80 years ago. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most acclaimed books of the 20th century, and its fans and scholars celebrate its legacy each year on Bloomsday (June 16, the date of the novel’s events). Berry and his editor, Mike Barsanti, have embarked on an extraordinary mission to reconcile the novel’s impenetrability with its genius, so as to break down the barriers which prevent so many from enjoying Joyce’s masterpiece. As Barsanti says in this commentary:

Comics offer an almost infinite plasticity of form – and while there are a lot of conventions for certain elements, (like dialog balloons, for instance, which get tricky on a few pages), there are infinite ways to use comic conventions to approximate the narrative innovations of the text. It isn’t the same thing as the text, not by a long shot, and we try to be careful to talk about Ulysses Seen as an adaptation, not a substitute. We hope Ulysses Seen will serve as a bridge to the novel, a way of getting over all of the hype about its difficulty.

Detail from James Joyce's Ulysses, "Telemachus," adapted by Robert Berry

Detail from James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Telemachus,” adapted by Robert Berry

This year, Ulysses “Seen” will be featured in four cities around the globe–Dublin, Ireland; Pula, Croatia; Trieste, Italy; and New York City, USA–for an exhibition titled “Four Chapters in Four Cities.” Each city’s exhibit will feature Berry’s original art for the comic and event posters.

Here in New York, the exhibition will be hosted from May 1st through June 30 at the Irish Arts Center, where attendees may view a wealth of pages from the second episode, “Nestor.” There will be a free opening reception and artist’s talk when the exhibition opens on May 1st. A panel discussion moderated by Karen Green will also be held at the IAC on June 4th with Robert Berry and several other illustrious contributors to The Graphic Canon, including Annie Mok, Lauren Weinstein, and Peter Kuper. See you there!

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