Excerpts from Lectures Delivered for
The Great Courses

On James Joyce's Ulysses


Chapter 4 "Calypso"

For more information see the following review and The Great Courses (http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/joyce-s-ulysses.html)

Review of Heffernan’s lectures on Ulysses by “highstandards,”  Austin, TX,   September 28,  2014:

I have now taken and reviewed over 100 courses from TGC. Several of these courses were truly great, even memorable. I recall with real fondness and gratitude the teaching of such giants as Weinstein, Spiegelman, Kloss, Greenberg, Ressler, and Kinney. But, as hard as it is to deem one course from all the superb, 5 star courses I've experienced as the best, I have no hesitation in doing so with Heffernan's extraordinary work on Joyce's Ulysses.

In my view, this course does everything a great course should do. There was never a single moment in the entire course when I lost interest or was distracted for any reason. The teaching was thoroughly engaging, challenging, and inspiring throughout.

It is a particular pleasure while studying a piece of great literature to have the teaching itself be of high literary quality. The professor was extremely artful in constructing and delivering the course. His hard work, brilliance, passion, and creativity in the teaching add so much to learning.

Professor Heffernan has a very deep knowledge and understanding of the Ireland from which this superb novel emerges - its history, its politics, its literature and culture, and the landscape, especially of Dublin. This adds great value.

The professor obviously has a profound regard for Joyce, which complements his powerful mastery of the author and this amazing and complex novel. All of this, too, is indispensable to the course's remarkable success, especially when the professor so ably connects various characters and pieces of the plot from within the novel as well as from other works of Joyce.

I have had no previous exposure to Heffernan's teaching, but it's clear that he loves literature and is generally quite good at teaching it. In particular, his deep understanding and skill in teaching the trajectory of the novel before and through Joyce's work was also a real asset.

More important to the particular challenge in this course, a command by the professor of both the Joyce novel and the Homeric tale upon which it was "based" is absolutely required. Heffernan exercised this command brilliantly, indeed with genius. As the professor conceded, he did frequently "go out on a limb" in his theories about how the two texts relate to each other. Sometimes it did seem a stretch. (But sometimes Joyce's work itself seems a stretch!) Here's the key point, though: it's an extraordinarily beautiful thing to explore what Joyce does in Ulysses, and it's equally beautiful to have Heffernan's guidance in the exploration.

The positives of this course go on and on. Let me close by praising the professor's acting (and singing!) skills. It enriches the course greatly to have a professor of literature who can recite dialogue so beautifully in character.
Yes, notionally, it's hard to label one of many great courses as the best. But, for someone interested in a special learning experience in fine literature, I put this course at the top. "            

On Great Authors from Wordsworth to Samuel Beckett

On Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

On Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

For more information see Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition

Lecture delivered for the Vermont Humanities Council on October 1, 2008 in Middlebury, Vermont:

On James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man