James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ gets trigger warning 100 years after the book was banned

James Joyce’s work has always provoked debate

Craig Simpson

A century after outraged censors banned Ulysses in 1922, academics have decided James Joyce’s novel may be too shocking for modern students and have slapped it with a trigger warning for being potentially “offensive”.

The 800-page story of an ordinary man’s day in Dublin is studied at the University of Glasgow, where staff now alert students to possibly upsetting “language and attitudes”.

Joyce’s writing contains “explicit” references “to sexual matters”, according to the trigger warning, high- lighting the same issue that led to the work being banned in Britain 100 years ago.

They are also warned they may be offended by references to “race, gender and national identity” in the work of the author, who famously lampooned Irish nationalism.

The blanket warning for the dedicated James Joyce English literature module states: “We will examine texts that include explicit or graphic references to sexual matters.

“We recognise some students may find this difficult and may find some of the language and attitudes towards race, gender and national identity that we discuss in relation to Joyce’s work offensive.”

The warning adds that staff will “endeavour to make seminars a space where everyone can discuss these ideas and engage with this content sensitively, empathetically and respect- fully”.

The Dublin author, who lived from 1882 to 1941 is regarded as among the greatest modern writers, particularly for Ulysses.

It was initially banned in the UK and the US for the “obscenity” of passages describing sex and masturbation. The British ban was lifted in 1936.

The main discussion of race in the work centres on the Jewish identity of the book’s hero, Leopold Bloom. This identity clashes with the Irish nationalist sentiment of other characters in the book, which Joyce tackles in Ulysses.

Professor Frank Furedi, an education expert at the University of Kent, said: “The trigger warning brigade demonstrates that the impulse to censor is alive and well. The spirit of the old-school censors who banned Ulysses in 1922 lives on.

“The trigger hunters could not possibly give the author of Ulysses a free pass. For the record, if you find Joyce triggering, you better confine your reading to the London phone directory.”

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “We give warnings to students who may find some contexts disturbing or for whom a particular class session may cause upset.

“We are, however, keen for everyone to engage, and endeavour to make seminars and lectures a space where everyone can discuss these ideas and engage with this content sensitively, empathetically and respectfully.”