This paper examines how semiotics, in conjunction with hermeneutics, can illuminate the structure of James Joyce's 'Ulysses' as a literary text. The paper begins with an account of two poet-critics who examined Joyce's novel in terms of classical myths and literary precedents. A crucial turning-point in the essay occurs when Jean Michel Rabate's Lacanian reading of the novel is introduced to clarify Joyce's use of the "signifier of absence" to clarify the meaning of paternity in the novel. The function of the intertext is then examined, particularly in view of the relationship between Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. The conclusion of the paper shows how a dialogical reading supports the belief in a 'hermeneutical self' as part of the text's underlying meaning.