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"Phoenix Rising": A Report on the 2007 Dublin James Joyce Summer School, 8-14 July 2007

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 44, Number 3, Spring 2007
pp. 425-428 | 10.1353/jjq.2008.0006

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Like a mythical phoenix rising from its ashes in flamboyant plumage, this year's Dublin James Joyce Summer School, emerging from the vestiges of its last cycle in 2005, was spectacular. The School, which was founded in 1988 by Augustine Martin, then Professor of Anglo-Irish literature at University College Dublin, missed a couple of beats in 2004 and 2006 but now seems set to re-establish itself as a regular feature of the Joycean year. The School's renaissance was made possible by a felicitous conjunction of circumstances that saw University College Dublin, Boston College Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, and the James Joyce Centre pool their resources in support of the cause. This quadripartite alliance was crucial to the School's organization and was reflected in its numerous emblematic venues. Indeed, Joyce's Wakean quip, "Run, Phoenix, run!" (FW 283. n3), seemed an apt prophecy of the fiendish pace at which participants were ushered from one Joycean hotspot to another. The School's students, most of whom were staying in residential halls on the UCD campus, commuted into the city center at every "joyday dawn" (FW 194.11), jogging jauntily across or around Stephen's Green to Newman House, filling those hallowed halls in which Stephen, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, confronts the dean of studies about beauty and vision, funnels and tundishes, Aristotle and Aquinas. Joyce's stern-looking bust, which faces Newman House from the Green's south side, looked on impassively. Morning lectures were typically followed by a quick sprint across to Boston College, on the Green's east side, for lunches and afternoon seminars. The National Library of Ireland, a mere stone's throw away from the Green's northern edge, played host to the School's program of afternoon workshops, as well as to guided tours of the Library's highly acclaimed W. B. Yeats Exhibition and a splendid opening reception. The James Joyce Centre in North Great George's Street, although it did not take us "farther westward" and thus "box [our] corner" (D 223, 11), made for a fantastic banquet venue for the School's closing ceremony and provided a perfect launching pad for walking tours of Joyce's Dublin.

Anne Fogarty, who has been the School's Academic Director since 1995 and who now holds the Chair of Joyce Studies at UCD (as well as being President-elect of the International James Joyce Foundation), blazed a trail for the week's lecturers with a dazzlingly detailed textual and historical examination of Joyce's consistently oblique treatment of the Phoenix Park Murders in Ulysses. There was more talk of murder and of Joyce's fascination with epistemological uncertainty in Mr. Justice Hardiman's discussion of four cases of unnatural death in Joyce's works. Fritz Senn's talk on Joycean "coincidance[s] of their contraries" (FW 49.36) also had uncertainty—or what he termed a "black hole principle"—at its heart. Fritz (who is the Summer School's Patron) showed that no single interpretation of Joyce's works has ever been found to withstand sustained analysis. He seized on two textual nuggets to illustrate Joyce's self-consciousness regarding this "disruptive pattern principle." In "The Sisters," the narrator's aunt innocently asks, "How do you mean?" (D 10), and in "Telemachus" Haines evasively responds to a question of Stephen's with the oxy-moronic statement: "I don't know, I'm sure (U 1.493). Sean Latham contributed to the week's feast of Joycean uncertainties in a talk on the topic of modernities. Taking the discrepancy between the times indicated by Dublin's ballast office clock (set to Dunsink time) and time ball (set to Greenwich time) as a symbol of the critical parallax Joyce's works require of their readers, he questioned the adequacy of any straightforward description of Joyce as a modernist writer, presenting him instead as an author whose works negotiate an array of discontinuous and even discordant modernities.

Interdisciplinary approaches were well represented. Katherine O'Callaghan brought her specialist knowledge of music to bear on Ulysses, highlighting the motif of call and answer that can be traced not just...



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