Martello tower, photo by Erik Simpson

The Science of "Ithaca"


The questions and answers that constitute the narration of "Ithaca" wander widely through the represented consciousnesses of Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, and the disembodied questioning and answering voices of the episode. Part of the episode's humorous pedantry comes from its frequent evocation of scientific thinking, to the point where the profusion of references to science can numb the reader's attention to their accuracy or even to the nature of the claims being made. In this project, we catalog the episode's use of science, documenting its place in the narrative structure, its associations with the two main characters, its relationships to various scientific disciplines, and—to the extent possible in light of the wildness of the narration—the accuracy of the specific scientific claims.

Like the scientific claims of the episode itself, our numbers and charts should be taken lightly. Also like the episode's claims, however, our numbers and charts may lead in interesting directions, and our catalog places many of the quirks of the episode in historical context.

Readers interested in the science of Ulysses will find much more on the topic in our essays about science and medicine.