Editing Modernism in Canada


June 3, 2013

The Long Now of Ulysses

How do new media forms change interpretations and representations of literature at a practical, exhibitionist level? This past spring, students in two graduate courses at the University of Victoria (The Modernist Novel and Intro to Digital Literary Studies) worked under the curatorial guidance of Stephen Ross and Jentery Sayers to figure that out.


Using James Joyce’s Ulysses as its point of reference, the resulting exhibit — The Long Now of Ulysses — combines digital and analogue media both to highlight passages of the text, and to tie those passages, as well as the novel’s themes and motifs in general, to contemporary events, places, etc. The exhibit, which inhabits physical space in the Maltwood Gallery located downstairs in McPherson Library and ethereal space via the Maker Lab website, blends the tangible with the abstract, and in doing so engages the various ways through which the text is mediated.


The Long Now of Ulysses did not arrive without its issues. After the first heady days of brainstorming possibilities which included smell, interactive sound, and a bucket of raw kidneys, the realities of labour and the space took precedence. Many of the co-curators had to become familiar with Ulysses (which is no minor task), while others had to learn new digital tools and procedures. Further, the Maltwood Gallery — although centrally located and attractively situated — shares space with the library, and more particularly, the graduate study carrels. Those concerns limited the auditory possibilities, and effectively curtailed the hoped-for olfactory exhibition.


A significant factor in all aspects of the exhibit has been — somewhat predictably — labour. Instead of including everything Ulysses, the co-curators have had to prioritize, and to cut out those things which are beyond the scope of time and labour. Fortunately, the central concepts, items, and projects have made it through unscathed, and are available for perusal in the exhibit.


The physical side of the Long Now of Ulysses exhibit is now on display in the Maltwood Gallery (downstairs in McPherson Library/Mearns Centre for Learning). Online components are accessible at the Maker Lab website — check it out before August 12.

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