In the quotation from Ulysses that gives Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé’s new book its title, James Joyce makes a distinction between math problems and moral ones. The first are potentially solvable, though the effort might require “printed integers of units, tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions” (Joyce 572). Zumhagen-Yekplé’s book is not about problems of computation, however tricky, but on those ethical issues that characterize, as Leopold Bloom thinks, “a different order of difficulty” (Joyce 572). In her book, she argues that some of modernism’s greatest philosophical and aesthetic texts are committed to this harder problem, which, like the other sort, is theoretically solvable, but only through the strenuous work of personal transformation. Modernism’s much-discussed difficulty is not a matter of erudition or elitism; in her revelatory readings of...

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