Left Bank: The Women Who Rescued James Joyce's Ulysses

New York City, New York | Film Feature

Documentary, History

Lisa Reznik

1 Campaigns | New York, United States

13 days :15 hrs :49 mins

Until Deadline

32 supporters | followers

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Goal: $31,200 for post-production

Left Bank uncovers the largely unknown story of the daring women who helped make Ulysses a global treasure. Thanks to their belief in James Joyce’s genius, Ulysses became a best-selling international classic and a triumph of modernist literature. We're running this campaign to raise finishing funds.

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Mission Statement

The stories of the courageous women who played pivotal roles in bringing James Joyce's Ulysses to the world have been overlooked. Left Bank investigates who these women were and why it was so important for them to oppose censorship so that Ulysses, then alleged to be obscene, could be published.

The Story

Left Bank highlights how obscenity laws hampered the publication of

Ulysses and how a group of trailblazing women found a way to publish it.

One hundred two years since its publication by Sylvia Beach, Ulysses is widely considered the most important novel in the English language, one that has attracted controversy and changed the future of literature.

Left Bank: The Women Who Rescued James Joyce's Ulysses will take viewers on the journey of the author's struggles and success, revealing the story of the gutsy women who, in spite of fines and the threat of jail terms, played prominent roles in making possible the achievement of his ambitious novel.

The remarkable women who helped shape and publish Ulysses were based in different countries. In London, Harriet Weaver supported James Joyce financially so he could devote himself to writing. In New York, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap were the first publishers of Ulysses in their literary magazine, The Little Review until a NY court declared the novel obscene. Following this verdict, James Joyce was unable to secure publishers for his novel in the English-speaking world. In Paris, Sylvia Beach, the American owner of the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, located on the left bank of Paris, came to the rescue. Together with French bookseller and publisher Adrienne Monnier, Beach planned publication of the novel. She worked closely with Joyce on the difficult task of reading and correcting proofs and with the French typesetters who were generally unfamiliar with English.

Left Bank also pays homage to Nora Barnacle, Irish author James Joyce's lifelong muse and eventual wife. The couple had their first date on June 16, 1904, later immortalized as Bloomsday, the day the events in Ulysses take place. Nora followed Joyce's nomadic life in various European cities, sacrificing a great deal for his art while inspiring Joyce to create several female characters in his novels, including Molly Bloom in Ulysses.

James Joyce had a lifelong battle with censorship, in particular with efforts to publish his controversial novel, Ulysses. At 732 pages, Ulysses is one of the most notorious, celebrated and influential works of the 20th century. By the standards of the day, Ulysses was considered to be extremely sexually explicit. As well as being a vast collection of literary and religious quotations and everyday trivia, it's also an encyclopedia of obscene words. Ulysses also broke new ground: it was radically experimental and introduced new literary techniques, including stream of consciousness. As a result, Ulysses almost didn't get published in the United States or any other English-speaking country due to censorship prohibitions.

Early chapters of Ulysses began appearing serially in the March 1918 edition of The Little Review, an avant-garde literary magazine published in New York City's Greenwich Village by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap. In Left Bank, we document how the editors of The Little Review were charged with publishing obscenity and prosecuted in a New York City courthouse. The consequences of the guilty verdict included the editors being forced to pay a fine and stop publishing Ulysses in their magazine. At this point, the chances of Ulysses being published seemed unlikely, until Sylvia Beach stepped in.

The 1933 federal trial The United States vs One Book Called Ulysses in New York City reversed the ban and produced a landmark freedom of expression ruling. Today, Ulysses is said to be one of the most widely circulated judicial decisions in history. These trials will be featured in Left Bank as vivid animated sequences.  

At the heart of the documentary lies the indomitable spirit of Sylvia Beach who was tireless and extremely dedicated to James Joyce and his novel. After reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Sylvia Beach developed a passionate belief in Joyce's genius, which led her into a risky and courageous undertaking: the publication of Ulysses as a book when no one else dared and before James Joyce had finished writing it. As publisher, Sylvia Beach would make whatever sacrifices were necessary to allow Joyce the freedom to shape his masterpiece. Through painstaking collaboration with James Joyce and the French printer, Beach navigated the intricacies of the publishing process, overcoming countless obstacles to bring Joyce's experimental novel to fruition. Ulysses would have been a very different book had Beach not been so generous in her support of the author and his work.

Left Bank takes viewers on a visit to the present-day Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, where the current owner, Sylvia Whitman, offers insights into the legacy of the original store and its visionary founder. Whitman's international recognition for her successful stewardship of this bookstore adds a contemporary perspective to the story, demonstrating the enduring impact of booksellers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, who shaped literary history.

Left Bank: The Women Who Rescued James Joyce's Ulysses will transport viewers to a world where art and free expression were actively suppressed, showcasing the women who defied convention to support a unique literary work. Dynamic motion graphics will transform photographs and print documents into moving images, including Sylvia Beach's ingenious "Prospectus" that simultaneously pre-sold and promoted the novel to readers on both sides of the Atlantic, and the heavily hand-edited page proofs of Ulysses. Left Bank will feature archival materials from Beach’s and Joyce’s notebooks, correspondence, and Ulysses page proofs. 

Sylvia Beach kept careful records of advanced orders for the first edition of Ulysses.

Sylvia Beach let James Joyce write a third of Ulysses on the page proofs,

which drove up printing costs substantially, and even made the printer threaten to quit. 

Our team edited a 45-minute preview version of Left Bank that won the award for Best Documentary at the Austin Revolution Film Festival in February. The Left Bank preview was well received when it was screened at a number of educational conferences:

  • Pacific Ancient and Modern Languages Association in Portand, OR
  • Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, PA
  • Joyce and Humanism in the 21st Century Conference, Jagellionian University, Krakow, Poland
  • XV Italian James Joyce Foundation Conference, Rome, Italy
  • International James Joyce Symposium, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

Audience reactions to the film have been enthusiastic. "The preview version is fantastic. offering many lessons in a manner that's engaging and entertaining. This film brings the extraordinary story of the creation of Joyce's novel to life." Craig Svonkin, Executive Director, Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association.

"I found it totally intriguing. It’s so important that you're making this film as it illustrates so well all the support Joyce received from these generous women committed to literature and the arts.” Professor Elisabeth-Christine Muelsch, Angelo State University, San Antonio, TX.

We're kicking off this campaign to raise funds needed to

complete production of the 80-minute Left Bank feature.

The Left Bank feature version will include archival footage and stills as well as interviews of these Joyce scholars: John McCourt, Sam Slote, Marilyn Reizbaum, and Neil Davison.

Screenings of the Left Bank preview version:

Filming partners include The Morgan Library and Museum in New York and the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia where we interviewed some of the top experts for Left Bank.

Our filmmaking team believes Left Bank will contribute to an intriguing understanding of how Ulysses was brought to the world. Our commitment to making this film stems from a deep-seated belief in the importance of preserving and celebrating the untold stories of women who have contributed significantly to the arts. By shining a spotlight on their invaluable role in shaping the publication and legacy of Ulysses, we seek to inspire audiences to appreciate the multifaceted contributions of women to our cultural landscape. We've worked together on previous award-winning and Emmy-nominated films.

Distribution Plans

We've devised a multifaceted approach to promote and distribute Left Bank: The Women Who Rescued James Joyce’s Ulysses to reach a broad and engaged worldwide audience. Carefully researched and creatively told, Left Bank will appeal to those who appreciate literature and the arts, and to the worldwide Joyce community. In terms of global reach: Ulysses has been translated into more than twenty languages, including, fittingly, Gaelic. Our target audience for Left Bank is therefore international and diverse.

Left Bank has significant educational value. We plan to create discussion guides which will facilitate its integration into educational curricula, making it a valuable resource for students studying literature and history.

Joyce’s epic has sold millions of copies worldwide. Our film will speak to a global audience about the author’s achievement and the courageous women who helped make this unique novel a global treasure. Once reviled and burned in the United States and Great Britain, Ulysses has become a cultural artifact. By the end of the 20th century, Ulysses was being taught in colleges and universities around the world. Some critics consider its publication the signal event in the emergence of the modern novel. In 1998, a board of distinguished writers convened by Random House's Modern Library Series selected Ulysses as the best novel of the 20th century.

How You Can Help

Contribute to the campaign to help us finish the film. The rewards are amazing -----> By pledging any amount you choose, you'll be offering us the opportunity to tell a powerful story. Not only will you receive our undying gratitude, but you'll also receive special perks available only to our Seed&Spark backers. Choose any amount that fits your budget - or a reward that peaks your interest.

SPREAD THE WORD -----> To reach our goal, we need to reach beyond those in our own circles. If you'd like to be part of supporting a female writer-director, bringing a film about the largely unrecognized women behind James Joyce's experimental novel, and know that YOU helped make it a success... please LIKE & FOLLOW our page, SHARE it with your friends, family and everyone you think would be interested, especially if they're fans of Ulysses.

THE INCENTIVES -----> Filmmakers are coming off one of the toughest years yet. Everyone works hard for the money that’s pledged and we can't thank you enough. Which is why in addition to knowing that you're a most generous person that gets to be part of something meaningful, we want to make sure you get something extra special in return. On the right-hand side of the screen is where you'll find our full list of perks as our extra way of saying thank you.

TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION Your donation is tax-deductible! Left Bank: The Women Who Rescued James Joyce's Ulysses is a fiscally sponsored project of New York Women In Film and Televsion, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions in support of Left Bank are payable to NYWIFT and are tax-deductible, less the value of any goods or services received, as allowed by law. The value of goods and services offered is noted under each donation level. If you would like to deduct the entire donation, decline the reward at checkout. 

Our Commitment To You

As a supporter of this project, you will be informed every step of the way, which will include future in-person and online presentations as well as behind-the-scenes content and updates you can view anytime. We aim to complete Left Bank in 2025 and you'll be the first to know when we do!

Contact us through this campaign or go to www.leftbankthefilm.com and click "contact"

Left Bank invites viewers to appreciate the power of literature, the resilience of the female trailblazers, and the enduring relevance of artistic freedom in the face of censorship. Against significant adversity, these extraordinary women wholeheartedly invested in James Joyce's genius. We believe our documentary will speak to a global audience about James Joyce's remarkable achievement and the female pioneers who helped make this unique novel a global treasure.


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Original Music Composition and Recording

Costs $8,400

In Left Bank, we aim to create an emotional connection to the creative 1920s with classical and popular music composed for the film.

Archival Footage and Stills

Costs $10,500

Left Bank will feature rare archival materials from collections held by top libraries and Ulysses typescript pages, galleys and page proofs.

Motion Graphics

Costs $6,500

Dynamic motion graphics will transform photographs and print documents into moving images including Ulysses’ hand-annotated page proofs.

Color Correction

Costs $5,800

A colorist will adjust the colors in film and video in order to make all images appear clear, natural, and with proper light exposure.

About This Team

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