A Digital Ulysses for the Errant Reader: Joycean Encyclopedism and the Encyclopedic Web
James Joyce scholars in the 1990s and early 2000s tried, without much success, to use hypertext to improve upon existing annotations of Ulysses. Joyce's estate put a freeze on such work in 2003. Now that Ulysses has entered the public domain in most of the world, it seems feasible to return annotating it digitally. We are now much better equipped to do it. Hypertext was the wrong technology for the job. It's determinate, where the novel is polysemous and encyclopedic, and it inevitably disrupts reading. Google's reorganization of the Web into a kind of encyclopedia, the growth of the online archive, and the pervasive adaptation of habits of attention to those developments have brought us past those limitations. On today's teeming, "Googlized" Web, Ulysses can be opened up to its referential surroundings by readers for whom making searches and wandering in the network are second nature. This exploratory, elective distraction is a form of reader-directed annotation that seems in keeping with the spirit of the novel, which we might identify with Bloom's errant, encyclopedic curiosity. Digitally-minded Joyce scholars would do well to focus on improving and enriching the technology and archive that enable it.