ZIP Proposal: Tackling ‘The Hardest Read in the English Language’
Question: To what extent does James Joyce’s Ulysses deserve the critique of being the most challenging text in the English language?
Big Ideas: Questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens.
- Apply appropriate strategies to comprehend written, oral, visual, and multimodal texts.
- Recognize and appreciate how different forms, formats, structures, and features of texts enhance and shape meaning and impact.
- Think critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts.
- Read 190 pages of Ulysses (Episode 1-7).
- Read four different reviews of Ulysses.
- Three academic, one informal.
- Write a research essay answering my inquiry question.
- Decide whether I want to read the rest of the book.
- What would you like to learn to do/what question would you like to pursue in your inquiry? Why did you choose this skill/question? What motivates or excites you in pursuing this line inquiry?
I would like to investigate James Joyce’s Ulysses by reading a section of the book, and then reading and analyzing multiple reviews of the book and deciding whether they are fair assessments of Ulysses. My question is the following:
To what extent does James Joyce’s Ulysses deserve the critique of being the most challenging text in the English language?
I chose this question because Ulysses is a very formidable part of the English literature. I haven’t read many early-20th century novels, and am interested in the stream-of-consciousness narrative style that James Joyce is renowned (and scorned) for. I am excited to take on the challenge of reading it, and being able to determine for myself what makes it so controversial.
- What do you currently know about this topic/skill, and what skills do you currently have that will help you succeed in your work?
I currently know very little about James Joyce and his writing style, or Ulysses. Most of the prior knowledge I know about the book is from this Guardian article. However, I am a fairly avid reader, and can read at a pace of 473 words per minute (according to a Staples.com comprehension test).
- What is a specific list of skills that you hope to have expanded on / learned by the end of this assignment?
- Learning how to read quickly (this project is only three weeks long), but also with comprehension.
- The ability to interpret a text and translate it into something that makes sense for me.
- The ability to critique reviews (ex. finding places of personal bias).
- The ability to properly identify characteristics that make a book difficult to read.
- Who can you approach for support during your work / research?
Mr. Morris, first and foremost. Ms. Walstrom (she has studied the book before). If necessary, other teachers in the English department?
- What are some other resources that might be useful in helping you complete your inquiry?
- The library copy of Ulysses I am using for the project has a whole section of notes that help explain the meaning of the prose.
- This website, which has a complete page-by-page analysis of Ulysses.
- A dictionary, to look up vocabulary I do not understand.
- How might you demonstrate your learning at the end of your inquiry?
I will write a research paper (around 5-6 pages) detailing my own reading of Ulysses and comparisons with other reviews of the book. For an in-class lesson, I could give groups different passages from the book and ask them to try and interpret its meaning, and write their own condensed version of the passage.
- What is your schedule for learning?
December 5th – Finish proposal.
December 5th – Begin reading, annotating, creating a list of words I don’t know, and summaries of chapters.
December 15th – Finish reading, write a review.
December 18th – Read four other reviews of Ulysses and make an essay outline.
- Approve outline with Mr. Morris.
December 22nd – Begin writing essay.