Bloomsday Edition: James Joyce vs. Apple

Today’s June 16th, so in commemoration of Bloomsday, let’s revisit how Leopold Bloom and Ulysses were making headlines last summer.

That James Joyce. He just can’t quite seem to stay out of censorship controversy, even eight decades after the original publication of Ulysses back in 1922. Ulysses “Seen” is a fun little comic/graphic adaptation of the Joyce novel (it’s great, seriously — definitely worth a visit to ulyssesseen.com). However, Throwaway Horse — the company behind the Ulysses Seen iPad app — ran afoul of Apple’s App Store approval policies. This caught the public eye on June 13, 2010 (see: New York Times, “Joyce Found Too Graphic, This Time by Apple”), when the app was rejected on the grounds of objectionable images containing nudity. To their credit, Apple quickly had a change of heart, and took a Mulligan, if you’ll pardon the expression. And soon thereafter on June 16, 2010 (NPR: “Apple Relents, And ‘Ulysses Seen’ is Seen After All”), Ulysses “Seen” was approved in its uncensored form, and the people rejoyced. Robert Berry, the cartoonist behind the graphic novel adaptation of the novel, shared some interesting reflections on the entire episode with The Washington Post (“The Plump Irony: Come Bloomsday, Apple admits mistake over ‘Ulysses’ app”):

“Who decides the way we see new content on these very exciting new devices: The artist reinterpreting them for a new and exciting venue, or the grocer or newstand seller who knows nothing about the content but talks incessantly about the kind of product they have to offer?”

“but [Apple] never acted as a censor, never told us what we could or could not say. … We didn’t believe these were good guidelines for art, but respected their rights to sell content that met their guidelines at their own store. Apple is not a museum or a library for new content then, so much as they are a grocer.”

Sometimes, history does indeed repeat itself. Joyce’s original novel, was (in)famously accused of obscenity, effectively stopping all legal publication of Ulysses in the United States for an entire decade, until the historic 1933 case, United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, which still stands as one of the most important and long-reaching pronouncements on art and censorship, pretty much ever.

And now, one Bloomsday later, you can download Ulysses “Seen” from the App Store here.

For what it’s worth, The Huffington Post has been keeping score of similar episodes of book censorship in the App Store (“Apple Censorship: Apple Censorship: From The ‘Kama Sutra’ To ‘Ulysses,’ 9 Books And Book Apps Apple Has Censored Or Rejected”). Moby Dick and “The Importance of Being Earnest” are the notable ones. Most of the others on the HuffPost list are dumb things nobody really cares about.

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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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