The “Nightmare of History” in James Joyce’s Ulysses


Stephen Dedalus
James Joyce

How to Cite

Record Jehl, R. E. (2013). The “Nightmare of History” in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, 9.


The majority of readers of James Joyce’s Ulysses tend to associate its most famous line, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” with Stephen Dedalus’s intention in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to overcome his past of rigid national and religious tradition. While this meaning is immediately present in the quote, a closer reading of the text suggests a far more ambitious–and perhaps even vain–impetus behind the identification of history as a nightmare. Additionally, just as the most popular reading has an autobiographical dimension–in which Joyce himself seeks to transcend his own tutelage–so does the alternate reading I present in this essay have implications for both Dedalus and Joyce.