Judge Woolsey's Ulysses Opinion: Early print history and reader response

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Judge John Munro Woolsey’s opinion lifting the US customs ban on James Joyce’s Ulysses quickly entered mainstream culture through newspapers, radio broadcasts, and mimeographed copies. Then, just weeks after he had issued it and months before it would appear in the official law books, the opinion was printed in the new Random House edition of Ulysses. The opinion was in fact multiple opinions appearing in multiple institutional settings. Its early history in print and media culture, in the weeks and months after its issuance in December 1933, repays close study, as does its early reader response both in press accounts and in unpublished letters that Woolsey received. That several diverse institutions of modernity simultaneously embraced the opinion should make us hesitate before classifying it as solely a document of law, literature, or popular or elite culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-70
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Judge John Munro Woolsey
  • News media
  • Obscenity
  • Print history
  • Reader response
  • Ulysses opinion


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