MIT Students Inspired by Retired Literature Lecturer to Read James Joyce

Published on: February 2, 2016

Retired, long-time MIT Literature Lecturer, Skip Eiland, recently had a study group with students Anna Walsh and Judy Pu. These students went to Dr. Eiland’s home to discuss Ulysses. When asked about it, Judy Pu said, “Anna and I took Professor Eiland’s 21L.485 Modern Fiction class and we really enjoyed the discussions that the class had and the texts that he selected for the course. He was clearly very knowledgeable about the texts but encouraged students to direct the discussions, which led to some lively debates. Overall, it was one of the most engaging classes that I’ve had at MIT. Following the class, Anna suggested reading Ulysses together, partly because Professor Eiland seemed to reference Ulysses at least once every class and his love for the text was very apparent. We decided to start with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man instead and it wasn’t until this past summer that we tried to make some progress on Ulysses. When I emailed Professor Eiland this summer to ask if he would possibly be teaching a seminar on Ulysses, I wasn’t aware that he had retired. He replied enthusiastically with suggestions of accompanying texts to look at and offered to host a dinner meeting for discussions. The dinner discussion was warm and energetic, and we spent some time talking about books that have made an impact on us and the things we were doing as seniors before actually moving to the text. Professor Eiland did point out some thematic elements and elaborated on character dynamics to keep an eye out for as we continue with the text. We only organized one meeting for the past semester because of how hectic our fall semesters as seniors turned out to be, but I think everyone would like to try and work something out for the spring.” Both students and instructor benefited from this informal, intellectual exchange.