Declan Kiberd writes that the aim of Ulysses was to create a different kind of reader, one who after reading it would experience the world in a very different way. He wanted to free people from all kinds of constriction, including passive readership. Joyce hoped that by changing the language and style of writing, you may alter thought and transform the world.
Ulysses is, in many ways, an educative text. Joyce’s (and Stephen’s) educational theory, writes kiberd, is that teachers should ask questions, open children to ancient legends, and ask them to contemplate the faraway and the remote – as they naturally want to do. The model of education favoured by Joyce does not master the young but mediates the relation between generations. Stephen rejects all ideas of mastery and asks to be coached by the children in his role as a teacher. He turns errors into portals of discovery.
The uselessness of school is a recurring theme in the book. It is no ordinary learning that Joyce seeks to evoke in Ulysses but to cultivate a ‘phronesis’ or practical wisdom in the reader. Bloom is more like a guru than an old-fashioned instructor. The aim is not to convey content but draw Stephen into process of transmission itself so that teacher-turned-learner can become a teacher again.
Joyce believed in the use-value of art – its transformative potential. The book respects the masses by showing how admirable they are but also how much more vibrant they might become. Before Joyce, no one had represented thought, the streams of consciousness, of the ordinary man in ordinary situations.