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The Genesis of Leopold Bloom: Writing the Lives of Rudolph Virag and Ellen Higgins in Ulysses


This essay uncovers the various textual and chronological accounts of the evolution of Leopold Bloom's parents (Rudolph Virag and Ellen Higgins) and thereby explores the constructed nature of character in James Joyce's Ulysses. The manuscripts document how Joyce created their life-stories non-sequentially in a piecemeal fashion over many years. This essay challenges some of the ways that readers usually think temporally about the intertwining strands of a real life's linear chronology and the multi-faceted possibilities of narrative chronology. Based on a textually-informed, genetic-critical methodology, it explores Joyce's creative process and shows how primarily archival work can fruitfully intersect with a broader range of critical close readings — it thereby also investigates some of the radical innovations in Ulysses. By tracing the dynamic evolution of the text, we see what Ulysses actually was at various stages along the way, thus re-contextualizing the published work in a much wider textual and historical environment.