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James Joyce classic on Twitter

Published June 22, 2009 6:00 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Forget about Ashton Kutcher. James Joyce's "Ulysses," one of the most difficult novels in English, is on Twitter.

Two devotees of Ulysses have adapted its 10th chapter to Twitter, which limits users to 140 characters per post. Called "Wandering Rocks," the chapter is especially well-suited to Twitter because it follows 19 Dubliners going about their daily business.

For three years now, Ian Bogost, a Georgia Tech professor, and friend Ian McCarthy, a product manager at LinkedIn, have commemorated "Bloomsday" on Twitter on June 16. That date in 1904 is when the entirety of Ulysses takes place, chronicling the experiences of a man named Leopold Bloom.

Bogost says using Twitter "for literary performance art might help shift perspectives on the service" and get people to use it for more than self-centered musings. "Perhaps in so doing, we can shift people's interest in social media technologies from egomania and immediacy toward deliberation and cultural reflection," Bogost wrote in an e-mail from Australia.

Bogost and McCarthy have dubbed their performance "Twittering Rocks," a play on the chapter's title that could also mean Twittering is awesome. They have registered 54 of the novel's key characters as Twitter users, and Bogost built a software program that tweets their first-person utterances at the correct moments in the chapter.

"The result is a complex web of timed interactions between many characters," he said, "precisely the effect Joyce was aiming for in the novel."