This year's Symposium was dubbed "Praharfeast," an appropriate title for a week of intellectual and culinary delights. In the "far east" city of Prague ("Praha"), those attending the 2010 James Joyce Symposium feasted on an array of stimulating presentations while enjoying sunshine and cheap Czech beer. Charles University hosted the event. The venue's small delights are worth recalling: the view of red rooftops over the Charles River from upstairs conference rooms; the daily-changing assortment of Czech pastries (one favorite: small, round apple doughnuts); and the rows of card catalogues lining the building's halls, a reminder that we were in a city whose history still influences its present.
Vincent Cheng addressed this history in his compelling paper on "Joyce, Kundera, and National Forgetting." Describing Prague's fraught past and the struggles for control over its "official" memory, Cheng discussed both the dangers of enforced forgetting and the positive potential of forgetting as a strategy for escaping the burden (or nightmare) of history. Prague's literary and theoretical legacy was evident throughout the week. Two panels on "Structuralist Approaches to Joyce" demonstrated the continued relevance of this mode of analysis, which has a long history in Prague. On a panel titled "Inchoative Joyce: Floating Frontiers, Linguistic Perturbations," Benoît Tadié traced parallels in Joyce's and Roman Jakobson's lives and compared communication breakdowns in Joyce to Jakobson's description of aphasia. Two panels paid tribute to Prague's leading literary light by examining "Joyce with Kafka." Prague was also the perfect setting to celebrate the launch of Hypermedia Joyce, a collection of essays drawn from the last decade and a half of Hypermedia Joyce Studies—a publication housed at Charles University. As we vied for spots near the wine table, we also celebrated the launches of Tim Conley's Joyce's Disciples Disciplined: A Re-Exagmination of the "Exagmination of Work in Progress" and David Vichnar's Joyce Against Theory.
Several panels pushed Symposium attendants to consider the relationship between Joyce and his reading communities. As part of a panel on "Readers and Receptive Horizons," Michael Groden thoughtfully considered the structures of communities within Ulysses and their implications for the reception of Joyce's work. The most vivid and contested articulation of this topic occurred during a roundtable session that posed the question "Is Joyce a Great Writer?" James DiGiovanna had the unenviable role of taking the negative [End Page 16] position, while Andrew Gibson, Sam Slote, Paul Saint-Amour, and Fritz Senn made the case for his greatness. As the panel itself recognized, the question is a dangerous one, liable to beget simplistic responses: Joyce's greatness can be either uncritically accepted as self-evident (the question was, after all, posed at a week-long Symposium devoted to his work) or too quickly dismissed on the grounds that he holds only limited appeal outside the confines of elite scholarship. Yet the panelists' discussion was worthwhile in touching on our definitions of canonicity, on the particularity of Joyce's appeal, and on how we might push past the reputation of difficulty in order to engage our students when we teach Joyce.
The well-attended panel on "Joyce and Alcohol" was another memorable event. John Gordon gave illuminating close readings of Blazes Boylan's sloe gin and bottle of port. In addition to listing an impressive catalogue of alcohol references in Finnegans Wake, Finn Fordham offered inebriation as a metaphor for vision and language in the work. Katherine Mullin gave a spirited (if you will pardon the pun) and informative history of Ireland's culture of "treating" (buying rounds), which resulted in very insightful readings of "A Painful Case" and "Counterparts." The panel even managed to conclude on a sobering note, as Austin Briggs considered the reluctance of Joyce's biographers to discuss the extent of his alcoholism or its impact on Joyce's family.
The Symposium also featured a particularly touching roundtable titled "In Memory of Joyce," whose guest of honor was Giorgio Joyce's stepson, Hans Jahnke. Jahnke discussed his donation of a case of letters, postcards, and other Joyce papers to the James Joyce Foundation in Zurich and said that he considered it...