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“A great deal of dullness. Then some dirt. Then more dullness”: Tom “Tennessee” Williams’s 1936 Reading of Ulysses

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 48, Number 2, Winter 2011
pp. 251-263 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0052



D. H. Lawrence has traditionally been identified as the modernist writer who most influenced the American playwright Tennessee Williams early in his career. Joyce, too, had a hand in shaping Williams’s early literary and dramatic voice, and this essay explores the extent to which Williams recognized—or did not—the Irish writer’s impact on his own evolving aesthetic. Reading Williams’s 1936 attack on Ulysses in a college essay he wrote not long after the novel’s censorship ban was lifted against his 1974 acknowledgment that he “love[d] Ulysses” and thought Joyce “the greatest writer since Shakespeare,” this essay demonstrates that Williams’s growing admiration for the novel stemmed more from his appreciation of the “lyrical” Joyce than his understanding of the “modernist” Joyce.

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