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Roll Away the Reel World

James Joyce and Cinema

Edited by John McCourt

Publication Year: 2010

Roll Away the Reel World traces Joyce’s involvement in early modern cinema, his thematic and formal borrowing from this genre, and the impact of his writings on later avant-garde and mainstream cinema ranging from Godard to Rossellini to Scorsese. Written by an international group of leading Joyce and film studies scholars, the first section of the book provides a revealing account of the writer’s central involvement in 1909-10 in setting up the Volta cinema, the first specifically-designated cinematic space opened in Dublin.

Published by: Cork University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

Notes on Contributors

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pp. ix-xi


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pp. xiii

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Introduction: From the Real to the Reel and Back: Explorations into Joyce and Cinema

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pp. 1-11

Thus wrote Stanislaus Joyce in his diary in June 1907 expressing his surprise at the mushrooming of new cinemas in Trieste in the early years of his life there. In the same entry, he complained about the programme of films he had recently seen, which had, he writes, ‘an air of America and degeneration, and of pandering to the lowest imagination of the rabble’. ...

Part One

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1. James Joyce and the Volta Programme

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pp. 15-27

It is one of the more surprising and intriguing corners of James Joyce’s biography that he founded one of Dublin’s first cinemas.2 From being a passing anecdote in his personal history, interest has grown in Joyce’s brief flirtation with film exhibition, with scholars becoming intrigued by the actual films shown at the Volta Cinematograph, and asking to what degree they might reflect Joyce’s own enthusiasms. This essay aims to...

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2. Dedalus Among the Film Folk

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pp. 28-40

The following article is based on my research for the exhibition entitled James Joyce, Trieste and Cinema: A History of Possible Worlds, held at the Palazzo Costanzi, Trieste, in January and February 2009, which was one of a series of events commemorating the centenary of Joyce and the cinema Volta during the 2009 Alpe Adria Trieste Film Festival. The purpose of the research was to explore and document the Triestine...

Part Two

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3. Joyce, Early Cinema and the Erotics of Everyday Life

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pp. 43-56

At first, nothing much seems to happen in Thomas Edison’s 1901 film What Happened on 23rd Street, New York City.1 It shows an everyday scene, full of busy passers-by. However, a few boys and men appear to be loitering on the lookout, and the film’s promising title invites its spectators to do likewise. A grate in the foreground is pointed up when a woman strolls...

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4. The Ghost Walks

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pp. 57-68

You don’t have to believe in ghosts in order to see them. What you make of what you see is another matter entirely. One person’s mysterious apparition is another’s optical illusion. Horatio’s reaction on seeing the ghost of King Hamlet walking the night seems to me a most commendable one, in that his scepticism has not disabled his imaginative capacity...

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5. Mirages in the Lampglow

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pp. 69-85

The silent film historian James Card offers an anecdote that illustrates the special challenge that Joyce faced when he returned to Dublin in late 1909 to promote and operate the Volta Cinematograph. He was courting an Irish audience whose everyday lives were ‘filled with magic and illusions, with the commonplaces of banshees, pixies, gremlins and...

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6. Futurist Music Hall and Cinema

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pp. 86-102

In denying ‘any surfacing of even vague futurist traits’ in Joyce and claiming that ‘between Marinetti’s crazy ideas, the confused theorizing of the futurists and his brother’s there was the same difference that is found between a clown and a tragic actor’,1 Stanislaus Joyce was implicitly overlooking the meaning and relevance of the intertwining of clownish and...

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7. Circe’s Costume Changes

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pp. 103-121

In order to build such a structure not only did Joyce draw on a huge variety of literary texts but also, as pointed out by Cheryl Herr, on various forms of public entertainment such as the theatre, pantomime, the music hall, the circus and harlequinade.3 Another very important source for the ‘Circe’ episode was the cinema, which, having been born as a part of the...

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8. ‘See Ourselves as Others See Us’

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pp. 122-136

I would like to argue in this essay that Ulysses conveys a Merleau-Pontian model of perception, which is heavily influenced by early cinema. According to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ‘the philosopher and the moviemaker share a certain way of being, a certain view of the world’.1 As I shall show, Joyce shared this philosopher/moviemaker’s viewpoint. In...

Part Three

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pp. 139-148

In the 1950s a new wave of ‘literary’ filmmakers – self-styled auteurs – emerged in Paris, linked to the journal Cahiers du Cinéma. It is a wellknown story. Led by Jean-Luc Godard, these filmmakers – heavily immersed in the traditions of Italian neo-realism and the films of Chaplin, Griffith, Hawkes and Welles – comprised a neo-avant-garde...

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10. Tracing Joyce

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pp. 149-157

James Joyce’s story ‘The Dead’ fell into the hands of two of the most celebrated filmmakers of the twentieth century, Roberto Rossellini and John Huston, who made, respectively, Voyage in Italy (1953) and The Dead (1987). This essay seeks to measure some consequences of their re-working for cinema of the material structures of Joyce’s complex written text. Joyce’s story has an extraordinary narrative structure: it is almost...

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11. Odysseys of Sound and Image

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pp. 158-173

This essay examines how Joyce’s 1922 novel extends the classical principle of ekphrasis – verbal imitation of visual representations – into the age of moving images. In turn, it considers in what ways this literary ‘cinematicity’ is engaged with in the film adaptations of Ulysses. More broadly, cinematicity has come to denote the tendency in late Victorian culture to...

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12. James Joyce, Subliminal Screenwriter?

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pp. 174-185

Our world is primarily the world of the visual, in Joyce’s matchless phrase, the ‘ineluctable modality of the visible’ (U, 3.1). These self-eyed images are joined to a secondary extent by those provoked by sounds, spoken words or dreams. For some the most memorable of the visible images stem from moments in the movies. Born in 1935, ‘I have measured out my life’ not with coffee...

Appendix Volta Filmography

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pp. 187-204

Notes and References

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pp. 205-228


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pp. 229-239


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pp. 241-248

E-ISBN-13: 9781908634061
E-ISBN-10: 1908634065
Print-ISBN-13: 9781859184714
Print-ISBN-10: 1859184715

Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1