U.S. v. One Book Called Ulysses

In 1922, Ulysses, the masterpiece by the Irish writer James Joyce, was published in Paris. Its importation into the United States, however, was blocked by the application of the Tariff of 1890, which allowed customs officials to confiscate books they deemed obscene. Joyce`s American publishers in New York filed suit against the ban, and on December 6, 1933, Judge John M. Woolsley of the U.S. District Court of New York, ruled in their favor.

In defending Joyce`s use of certain words that attracted the particular ire of government officials, Judge Woolsley commented:

The words which are criticized as dirty are old Saxon words known to almost all men and, I venture, to many women, and are such words as would be naturally and habitually used, I believe by the types of folk whose life, physical and mental, Joyce is seeking to describe. In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring.

He ended with:

I am quite aware that owing to some of its scenes Ulysses is a rather strong draught to ask some sensitive, though normal, persons to take. But my considered opinion, after long reflection, is that whilst in many places the effect of Ulysses on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.

Ulysses may, therefore, be admitted into the United States.