With much to celebrate and much to discuss, the 2012 International James Joyce Symposium returned to Dublin this year. In the immediate aftermath of Joyce’s published work coming out of copyright on 1 January 2012, variously in different countries, the worldwide Joyce community were invited to ‘come to Dublin to experience a Symposium with a difference’. We were to take stock of the new possibilities open to Joyce Studies in an exciting, altered publishing environment. Joyceans descended on Dublin with a certain amount of anxious excitement and curiosity about what the next five days of papers, presentations, roundtables, and debates would unfold. Celebrations had been organized for this particularly special Bloomsday in the UK as well. The BBC’s Radio 4 was devoting an entire day’s airtime to all things Joycean (including a new five-hour dramatization of Ulysses), and the British Library was hosting a great selection of Joyce-related readings and conversations.
So what did Dublin and the weeklong symposium leading up to Bloomsday have to offer us? There was much lively and constructive discussion outside of the lecture halls and seminar rooms about copyright and publishing, particularly on the implications for Joyce’s unpublished work, and what this altered publishing environment will mean for the academic researcher. We did not have to wait long to get some sense of clarity about these questions as Robert Spoo lead the charge with the first plenary lecture of the symposium. Ecocriticism was another significant topic of specialist research interest with growing popularity and kudos during the week.
Monday morning provided the first of a selection of panels on Joyce and ecocriticism. Entitled ‘Joyce, Ecocriticism and Memory’, it included papers from Oona Frawley, Malcolm Sen, and Katherine O’Callaghan. This is an emergent subject in modernist research and there is a buzz about what it can bring to the field of Joyce studies. In many ways, ecocriticism is a platform from which literary critics can acknowledge the influence of ecological responsibilities and environment studies in our reading of literature. With this in mind, Frawley’s engaging presentation asked the question: why ecocriticism and Joyce, now? She maintained that nature can be seen as a site of nostalgia, [End Page 122] and then asked if we are now turning to the crossover of environmental studies with literature as a response to a time of crisis? Frawley focused on the example of Ghost Estates. Symptoms of a ruined economy, these half-finished, abandoned projects dot the Irish landscape and remind us of the race to build that epitomized the recklessness of the Irish boom era. Frawley demonstrated how the motivation to create one’s own space is a capitalist ideal which Bloom buys into and indeed demonstrates in his own fantasies of the suburban home. O’Callaghan’s interesting paper focused on the image of deforestation in Joyce’s work, while Sen raised the issue of how to fit Joyce into this critical paradigm, arguing that those liminal spaces in Joyce’s work provide frameworks of power which can be placed into an ecological narrative.
From ecocriticism we moved to Joyce and new media, another subject that provided delegates with multiple panels and perspectives throughout the week, a series that culminated in the participation by several delegates in an RTÉ Radio broadcast. The hour-long ‘Arts Tonight’ Ulysses special included live music performed by amateur soprano and professional Joycean Michelle Witen, as well as a panel featuring Declan Kiberd, Fritz Senn, Paul Saint-Amour, Robert Spoo, and Barry McCrea, who discussed the Joyce and copyright situation as well as their own experiences of reading Ulysses. A second panel included Cleo Hanaway, Aida Yared, and Joe Nugent, who talked about their various Joyce-related new media projects. The concept of alternative methods of reading Joyce is catching on and there are many fascinating new media projects out there.
Monday morning’s panel highlighted just a few of the alternative multimedia projects, including Matthew Kochis’s presentation on the Modernist Versions Project (MVP), a major new inter-university initiative that aims to advance the potential...