Patrick Hastings: “The Guide to James Joyce’s Ulysses”
In 2003, a young future English teacher spent a few months living and working at Shakespeare & Company, the iconic bookstore on the Left Bank of Paris. “It is an old bohemian place where they let ‘book people’ stay there for free to work there for free,” he said. He was able to have such an experience through a Washington and Lee University global stewardship internship program that funds internships abroad. He arrived at Shakespeare during its first literary festival on June 16. He would later learn that his arrival date fell on “Bloomsday,” the day on which the book “Ulysses” by James Joyce is set. “That first celebration of Bloomsday in Paris was magical. ‘Ulysses’ was in the air around the bookshop, and I knew I had to read it.”
And that’s how Patrick Hastings came to love James Joyce’s classic masterpiece, a notably difficult-to-read book.
“The novel was challenging but it was also really funny, and it was emotionally resonant,” said Hastings, who is now Gilman’s Upper School English Department chair.
In college, Hastings wrote an honors thesis about the bookstore where he lived and worked in Paris, and he read the novel for the first time as part of that endeavor. Though he worked with an advisor, he largely “figured it out on my own,” and so he was able to determine what guidance others may want when reading it without instruction. “That made me an anomaly. That helped me establish my own angle and reading experience, which gives me a different approach,” Hastings said.
In 2006, Hastings went to Dublin on a professional development grant from Tower Hill, the school in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was teaching at the time. Over the course of two weeks, he reread “Ulysses” again, this time at the locations where the book takes place. The novel depicts the events of one day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland.
He began teaching English at Gilman in 2007, and in 2010, he created a senior elective so he could share his favorite book with his students. By 2016, Hastings was working on a website to support the course (ulyssesguide.com) because he wasn’t satisfied with the decades-old guide books available on the subject. “My students have been essential in finding the right voice and pace in the writing,” he said.
When Hastings realized that through his website content he had essentially created what amounted to an entire guide book, he knew he needed to protect his work. That led him to seek advice from an intellectual property lawyer, Gilman parent Stephanie Shea, who put him in touch with an acquisitions editor at Johns Hopkins University Press, another Gilman parent, Matt McAdam.
Hastings’s book, “The Guide to James Joyce’s Ulysses,” is available now for in paperback and Kindle format through Amazon and in paperback at The Ivy Bookshop. Johns Hopkins University Press published the book on February 1, 2022. As fate would have it, “Ulysses” celebrated its 100th anniversary the very next day.