Ulysses by James Joyce – Comparison of the German and English Wikipedia Articles

Wikipedia emerged to one of the largest and most used online encyclopedias. With over 33 million articles in over 280 languages, it provides users with almost any information they need. Our task now was to compare an English Wikipedia article with a German one in order to find differences and similarities. The article we chose was the article about James Joyce´s  Ulysses.

Structural differences within articles

The first thing that caught our eye was the fact that the English article´s introduction differs from the German one. For instance the English article introduces the publisher of the book, Sylvia Beach, right in the beginning whereas the German article mentions her later. The table of content is also different in both articles. In the English version there is one background chapter before it starts with structure and content of the novel. In contrary the German version has 4 chapters about the background of the novel before it goes over to structure and content.

Another observation we made is that the so called “Telemachiad” or the first part of the book contains 3 episodes which are referred to in a short and neutral overview in the English Wikipedia article. At the same time the German article features a broader description of these episodes. There one can find interpretative and biographical remarks. As the Wikipedia rules want articles to be neutral this passage of this article is claimed to violate the rules due to lack of neutrality and too much unnecessary information without correct sourcing.

The next difference that we observed is the English chapter “Gabler´s corrected edition” as it contains additional information about Hans Walter Gabler, who was a German professor who published a new and corrected version of the novel in 1984. Interestingly there is no reference to Gabler himself or his corrected edition in the German article even though he is German. However the German article of Ulysses features additional information about Hans Wollschläger´s translation which has its own article, while the English article does not refer to him.

Differences in secondary sources

The German wikipedia page refers to the German translation of the novel, whereas the English site does not comment on any existing translations. This is probably due to the fact that the original novel was written in English. None of the articles mention any other translations (for example the French translation) of the novel. In our opinion this is unsufficient especially because one expects to get a full overview of the topic represented on the wikipedia page.

A very striking difference between the German and English wikipedia articles on Ulysses is the origin of the secondary sources. The Literature as well as the webpages, that were used to back up the information on the page, are originally in the same language respectively. For example the English article only references English secondary literature as well as English web pages. This can also be detected on the German wikipedia page. At first this seems the obvious thing to do, however one would expect to find a lot more secondary literature on Ulysses, it being an originally English novel. None of the sources are translated or derived from a source in another language. On the one hand one could say that this observed fact is something both articles have in common. On the other hand the sources  themselves are different in content.

In conclusion, one could say that both articles almost contain the same information. The articles contain structural differences like the length of the chapters or the order of the chapters. Furthermore the articles differ in content especially if you take the chapter “Telemachiad”. The English version gives a neutral overview, while the German version is too subjective. Even though it seems normal that articles in different languages use sources in the corresponding language, it is disadvantageous due to the fact that information is lost. Therefore our recommendation is to use all accessible sources in order to broaden the search for information. Of course this requires language skills and can only be realized by people who speak more than one language.

Text by Jahn Wickneswaran & Alina Ruxton




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