The lifting of the ban on Ulysses in the United States on December 6 1933 meant more than just allowing a book to go on sale. It was an unexpected and monumental boost for freedom of expression whose fresh wind blew across the world. The judgement came during a dark time in US and world history, the 1930s, when the Great Depression bit deep into the hearts of American life, when the Nazis began their rise to power in Europe.
Not all was dark in the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became US President and led the country back into the light, Fiorello La Guardia was elected Mayor of New York and re-invigorated a city that had been on its knees, Prohibition, that had given rise to gangsterism, corruption and black marketeers was abolished. The lifting of the ban on Ulysses around the same time completed the quadrant that would make the clouds disappear and allow the sun to shine.
In the United States, the abolition of slavery is celebrated on June 19 but another day of festivities is reserved for February 12, the birth date of Abraham Lincoln, the US President who did more than most to eradicate the stain of slavery from his country.
In France, Bastille Day symbolizes the French Revolution. However, another revolution – the defeat of Nazism – is celebrated on May 8, Victory in Europe day.
Bloomsday is marked on June 16, the date on which events in James Joyce Ulysses are recorded. However, there is another important date connected to this book, December 6. On this day in 1933, a court in the United States finally lifted the ban on Ulysses being imported to the country. Why not have two days as well to celebrate Ulysses?
While thousands of events are held around the world to mark Bloomsday, there is a compelling case for another day of celebration on December 6 – Ulysses Day when stifling censorship was lifted and Freedom was given a new set of lungs.
Fans of James Joyce mark Bloomsday by re-enacting scenes from Ulysses and other works by Joyce. So, what could be done for Ulysses Day? Below is a proposed schedule of events for December 6 when Liberty overcame shackles.
Suggested Ulysses Day Program of Events
- A re-enactment of the Ulysses trial
- A reading for the judgement that was delivered by Judge Woolsey
- Readings of reflections on the case by the principal participants
- Readings from newspapers of reaction to the judgement
- Readings of Joyce’s own letters celebrating the ban on Ulysses being lifted.
- A moment’s silence for Paul Léon, one of Joyce’s closest friends, who was with the author in Paris when news of the judgement came through and who later died at the hands of the Nazis.