Report on the 2005 ACS-Mellon Technology Fellowship

“Virtual Joyce:  The Geography of Ulysses

A web-based literary cartography of the Epic of Modernism

Marc C. Conner

Department of English, Washington and Lee University

Please view project at:


Project Aim:  The aim of this project was to begin crafting a web-based system of interactive maps to accompany and elucidate James Joyce’s 1922 novel, Ulysses.  The use that Joyce makes of the cityscape of Dublin in Ulysses is without parallel in world literature.  Joyce boasted that 100 years after his novel appeared, historians would be able to recreate the city of Dublin from his book alone, so accurate is his rendering of its houses, churches, pubs, shops—what he famously termed the “street furniture” of its world.  Today, much of Joyce’s world is lost, but much still remains.  Joyce was meticulous in getting right every detail of 1904 Dublin:  how long it would take a character to walk from Trinity College to the Ormond Hotel; how the interior of the Holles Maternity Hospital could accommodate both drunken medical students and women in labor; and where Georgian Dublin (the heart of British imperial control of the city) existed in relation to the slums and tenements of the north side (where Joyce himself lived).  Today we can reconstruct the essential movements of Joyce’s characters through Dublin, marking the buildings and monuments that remain, crossing the same streets and paths, and realizing the cultural, political, and artistic significance of geography, architecture, and landscape in this intricately crafted novel.


The Process:  In this project, I have photographed a wide range of sites employed in Ulysses, using digital camera technology. (These images are part of and contribute to my Irish Studies Searchable Database, a resource supported by a 2002 ACS-Mellon grant that contains over 4,000 images of Ireland.  This resource can be entered at:  Then, in partnership with John Blackburn, Head of the Instructional Technology Group at Washington & Lee University, we have used the new Google map interface to construct navigable maps of the city of Dublin.  Onto these maps we have created hot links keyed to the actual physical locations of these sites and of characters’ progression from one site to another in the course of Ulysses.  Clicking on these links, or using the navigation bar at the top of the page, brings up the specific episode (of the 18 episodes in the novel).  From here, the viewer can read a summary of the episode (including Joyce’s corresponding symbols, “technics,” arts, organs, colors, and hours), its relation to Homer’s Odyssey, and can view images of that site as it appears today.  Because these maps can be controlled by the viewer, one can zoom in to the level of individual buildings on particular streets, and zoom out to the level of the entire region of Dublin city and its environs.  The result is an annotated visual web guide to Ulysses, with maps, images, and information corresponding to the important events in each of the book’s 18 episodes, and clear annotations explaining the significance of the site in relation to the actions, themes, and structures of the novel.  This offers a unique resource to aid in the teaching and reading of this book, in which readers of all levels will be able to see and interact with the actual geography of Joyce’s epic, to see how the characters move through and respond to his densely realized world.


Teaching Applications:  The uses of this web project for readers and teachers of Ulysses are multiple.  For the independent reader of the novel, there are several fine guides available.  And most guide books to the novel include some maps and general summaries and details of the episodes.  But here those resources are combined in an interactive way, so that one can jump from episode to episode, can view images associated with different episodes, can manipulate the mapping interface to examine particular streets and buildings or to chart movement by characters across whole sections of Dublin.  Furthermore, no book nor web site contains as many images of Joyce’s Dublin as it appears today.  By linking these site images to the novel, the resource allows the reader of Ulysses to gain a powerful appreciation for and understanding of the actual uses of space made by Joyce in the novel.  Furthermore, one gains a sense of the Dublin of today, and how powerfully Joyce’s book remains embedded within the city (and vice versa).  Indeed, short of a guided tour in Dublin, this site could become the best overall introduction to Joyce’s Ulysses available.


Teachers of Joyce’s novel could employ these maps within any technologically-equipped classroom (one would only need internet access and projection).  The teacher could direct students to the actual physical location of the sites and events in the novel, could chart the progress of the characters as they move through the book, and could show the uses Joyce makes of space, location, and structure in his fictionalized city—uses that parallel good blocking on a stage.


Students could use the site as they read the novel to give them a clearer sense of the geographical devices in the book.  The images and maps would help make the novel come alive to them, and emphasize the crucial point of how closely Joyce modeled his fictional Dublin on the real Dublin (indeed, there might not be any such distinction for Joyce).  The impact of realizing Joyce’s devoted realism would be powerful for any reader of the resource.


Assessment and Continued Progress:  The current project is certainly at an intermediate state.  We have completed the first two of the 18 episodes, but the format and technology is now all in place, and I’m confident that the remaining 16 will be accomplished more quickly.  Some revising of the current format is needed—it’s a bit too “cramped,” and shifting on-screen parts into pop-up windows and other revisions of space and layout are needed.  In addition, as I work through each episode, it becomes evident where I need to gather additional images.  That image-gathering work will continue along with my overall work on my Irish Studies Database.  Finally, I hope to add in both older photos gathered from Joyce scholars of Dublin in the earlier parts of the twentieth century, as well as older maps that give a clearer indication of what Joyce’s Dublin was like closer to his own day.


This winter term I will use the resource in one of my own classes for the first time.  My seminar on “Gnosticism and Modern Irish Literature” will devote 4 weeks to Ulysses, and I will have the opportunity to employ the resource each class in there.  This will be my first chance to assess its effectiveness within a classroom.  I will also use the student evaluations of the course to assess the effectiveness of this particular learning application.  These assessments will form the beginning of an ongoing chronicle of outside assessment, which I hope to extend to several prominent Joyce scholars in the coming year as I publicize the resource in the James Joyce Literary Supplement and the Irish Literary Supplement, as well as at a future meeting of the International James Joyce Symposium.  Responses from outside readers/viewers will be built into the project, as readers and teachers can write in their impressions of the resource and how it can be improved.


The support of the Associated Colleges of the South and the Mellon Foundation to this project has been substantial.  The project would not be at its current state without that support.  I am also grateful to the experts in technology at Washington & Lee University, without whose support, help, and patient education this project would not exist:  Jeff Overholtzer, Jeff Knudson, and John Blackburn.



Addendum:  Further Teaching Applications of the Irish Literary Studies Web Portal, supported by ACS-Mellon Technology Grants in 2002 and 2005


The Irish Literary Studies Web Portal at Washington & Lee University has been ongoing since 2000.  A wide range of teaching applications are contained in the multiple learning resources available here, all of which I employ in my Irish Literature courses (including Modern Irish Literature, Supervised Study in Ireland, Irish Poetry, and Yeats and the Irish Revival).   Below are listed the major uses that I and other teacher/scholars have made of this Web Portal


  • Introducing Irish History:  A Web Text:  This is the most ambitious part of the current teaching and scholarly applications.  In order to provide a cultural and historical context for students in Irish literature, I have written a detailed historical overview of Ireland (now approximately 100 web pages, perhaps more including the images), including a time-line that now runs for 7 pages. The web-text includes many images of Ireland to illustrate the historical concepts I am presenting.  It also includes sound (folk songs, poetry readings), crucial links to related topics (e.g., “Saint Patrick of Ireland,” “The Irish Monasteries,” etc.), and the Irish High Crosses and Mapping Ireland modules I discuss below.  This project, which I presented at the 2003 American Conference of Irish Studies meeting, allows me to introduce students to Irish history efficiently and effectively, offering a self-guided course of study that students can complete during the first week of the semester.  Students can also return to this resource throughout the term.  It will be invaluable to colleagues in related areas who want to direct students to a sound overview of Irish history.  View at:
  • Spring Term in Ireland program:  this contains a detailed narrative and pictorial travel log for the 2000 program, which gives a complete description of that first program to Ireland.  This module, which now consists of over 100 web pages, stands as a model of the program to Ireland.  The 2002 and 2005 trips will consist of a detailed “slide gallery,” along with a brief narrative itinerary and an accompanying map section.  Future trips will be similarly entered into the web site. View at:
  • Irish Authors and the Irish Landscape:  this key teaching tool combines narrative and image to produce pages that offer biographical, historical, and cultural context for the major Irish authors I teach.  This is a module that also employs student efforts:  group web-readings of several of Yeats’s major poems, and also student essays and images on Joyce’s Dublin.  This section will be of great help in introducing these authors as I teach them in my Modern Irish Literature courses.  View at:
  • Irish Poetry and Language:  here I offer an audio reading of one of the great 17th-century Irish poems, in its original Irish, read by a native Irish speaker and poet.  I also offer the song version of the poem.  This is of great use as I try to give the students a sense of the actual sound and musical quality of Irish poetry.  View at:
  • Viewing the Celtic Cross:  a 3-dimensional viewing engine of all aspects of the Irish High Crosses at Monasterboice.  This module has been incorporated into the History Web-Text as an interactive component, challenging students to study the Irish High Cross and discuss its place in Irish history.  View at:
  • Mapping Ireland:  we have developed two complementary models of a map of Ireland, connected to the database of Images I have produced.  In one model, students can click on an Irish county and see all the images associated with that county.  In the other, students can zero in on highlighted points on the map that show where images of Ireland are to be found (keyed to the GPS coordinates Jeff gathered).  This module has great potential, from the immediate aid of being able in class to go to the map and show students where a site is located, to many more ambitious and complex applications.  View at:



In addition, several other teaching benefits are at work:  the ability to create, within minutes, detailed slide-shows of crucial sites, contexts, and literary scenes for use in lectures or presentations; an interactive database that students can access and search with ease; and a format for students to produce and publish their own work on Irish literary studies. 


The Irish Literary Studies at Washington & Lee University Web Portal is available at: