Joyce’s Ulysses

“Joyce’s Ulysses” (ヂョイスのユリシイズ, Joisu no yurishīzu) is an article by Doi Kōchi (1886-1979), a scholar of English literature at Gakushūin (The Peers School), published in the February 1929 issue of the Japanese journal Kaizō. This article is ostensibly the first academic consideration of Joyce printed in Japanese, and served as a major influence in the development of discourse on Joyce in Japan.

Joyce had been already partially introduced to Japan in 1918 by Noguchi Yonejirō, a poet known for his collections of poetry and art criticism published in English.[1] He was also mentioned by the author Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, who produced ostensibly the first translation of Joyce into Japanese when he translated a short selection from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1922.[2] Furthermore, in 1925, the poet Horiguchi Daigaku wrote an article for the journal Shinchō discussing Joyce and his use of the “interior monologue,” explicating its influence on writers in America and England.[3]

Compared to these earlier explorations of Joyce, Doi’s article was the first major scholarly and literary exploration of Joyce that presented the work to Japanese audiences. Doi, who was also known for introducing T. S. Eliot to Japanese audiences, already had a solid scholarly background from which to discuss Joyce. His article was published in Kaizō, one of the major journals of the time. At the time, it was the most extensive translation of Joyce available in Japanese, as it contained lengthy translations from both A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses (Doi’s article is based on his acquisition of the original 1922 British publication of Ulysses). Furthermore, it also introduced the literary background surrounding Joyce and both A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, as well as the reception given to those works by discussing excerpts from reviews by British newspapers and other modernists, such as Ezra Pound. Although certain English-language works were available in Japan, they were limited to readers with English ability. With the translations presented here by Doi, Joyce was opened to a much larger audience of native Japanese speakers, and this article can be seen as a catalyst for many subsequent studies of Joyce. In particular, the scholar Itō Sei was strongly influenced by this article, and eventually presented a complete translation of Ulysses in two parts: the first published in 1931 and the second in 1934.

Doi’s article mainly serves to introduce Ulysses through the frame of reference of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Doi explains Joyce’s life as it manifests in his works and discusses the roots of Joyce’s style. In particular, he emphasizes Joyce’s intentionality in the depiction of consciousness and his unique style, noting it is “definitely not by an artless expression, but by an extremely keen intelligence that the unconscious heart is analyzed and then reconstructed.”[4] Furthermore, in his citation of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Doi also pointed to the “spider’s threads” that underline passages from the work, marking Joyce’s meticulous planning. It is this planning that Doi emphasizes to move perception of Joyce as fitting into a scheme of stream of consciousness towards the affirmation of his own unique style. Doi uses his perceptions of Joyce’s style as the basis for his discussions of Ulysses, particularly focusing on Joyce’s use of parody and the manner in which his depiction of consciousness, which was depicted as seemingly unconscious in Portrait, develops into a more complex and deliberate phenomenon in Ulysses. As Doi writes at the end, Joyce “hinted that if a creator concentrated on his own spirit and was able to exquisitely display the form of the flowing movement of the consciousness, the form of the novel, as well as new forms of style, would be infinite.”[5]

Doi’s reaction to Joyce is one that is expected of his position, both as a scholar of English literature and as a teacher at Gakushūin, renowned as a school for the purpose of education children of the Japanese aristocracy. He focuses primarily on Western reception to Joyce and his works, eschewing the admittedly meager writings that were done on him in Japanese. Within that Western sphere, Doi is most involved in examining British responses to Joyce, noting the deep textual analysis that British responses to Joyce were able to achieve and comparing them to French, Italian and German criticism of Ulysses, which Doi characterizes as examining the work in regards to Freud, Einstein, Bergson, Pascal, Shakespeare and Rabelais, as well as attempting to align the work within movements such as Futurism, Sensationalism, Bolshevism and Psychoanalysis. To Doi, within these non-English language criticisms, he is unable to find a criticism that considers Ulysses on a textual level. It is perhaps out of this concern over misrepresenting Joyce’s text that Doi himself avoids textual parsing of the work, remarking at the end of the article that he is not even confident in the nature of his own translations that he has done. However, Doi’s focus on Joyce’s style is perhaps also a way of subtly criticizing previous Japanese-language articles that were written on Joyce, which Doi might perceive as attempting to follow other non-British critics in positioning Joyce within epistemological movements such as psychoanalysis. Regardless, the breadth of responses to Joyce that Doi cites, as well as the laundry lists of movements and thinkers (all familiar to Japanese audiences by the time this article was published) that have apparently been related to Joyce and his works makes one thing clear to Doi’s audience: Ulysses is a grand work with a grand reception, and it is a work that everyone should be reading.[6]


  1. ↑ Kockum, Keiko. Itō Sei: Self-Analysis and the Modern Japanese Novel. Stockholm University Press, 1994, p. 89.
  2. ↑ Ibid, p. 90.
  3. ↑ Ibid, p. 90.
  4. ↑ Doi Kōchi, “Joisu no yurishīzu” ヂョイスのユリシイズ. Kaizō 改造. Tokyo: Kaizōsha. 1929:2, 21-47, p. 26.
  5. ↑ Ibid, p. 47.
  6. ↑ This article prepared by Michael Chan.