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“Vigo Goes Viconian”: A Report on the Nineteenth Conference of the Spanish James Joyce Society, Vigo, Spain, 11–12 April 2008

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 45, Number 2, Winter 2008
pp. 216-220 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0053

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Since its foundation in 1990 at the University of Seville under the direction of Francisco García Tortosa, the Spanish James Joyce Society has been meeting every year at a different Spanish city where the Society’s members, very much like a family, gather on the occasion of their traditional annual pilgrimage. After recent conferences in Santiago de Compostela, Las Palmas, and Seville, this spring was the turn of the Atlantic city of Vigo, in Galicia, located in northwestern Celtic Spain. The Conference was organized by M. Teresa Caneda Cabrera and Martín Urdiales Shaw, associate professors of the University of Vigo, with the collaboration of some of their graduate students who assisted in the reception of attendants. Both the Rector’s Office and the Department of English at the University of Vigo sponsored the event. The chosen venue for the meeting was the Cultural Centre of the “Fundación Caixa Galicia,” a centenary building located in Vigo’s modernist street par excellence, well known for its turn-of-the-century architectonic heritage. Held in the heart of one of Europe’s busiest harbor cities, whose resemblance to the port city of Trieste has often been noted, the Conference provided participants with a unique opportunity to enjoy tourist sites. The official opening included welcoming speeches from the academic authorities involved. Organizers, who enthusiastically welcomed Joyceans from all over Spain, extended also the regards of the Ambassador of Ireland, His Excellency Peter Gunning, whose letter to the participants recalled the bonds between Spain and Ireland in Joyce’s consciousness, long before the establishment of an Embassy. If the words of the President of the Spanish James Joyce Society had already remarked the existence of Joycean echoes in the Galician cultural and literary scene, the official opening ended with an enchanting musical performance that delved further into the ties between Ireland and Galicia. The folk group Nao D’Ire, linked to the Department of English of the University of Vigo through one of its members, offered several of its own compositions and included a wink to Irish culture with the performance of “Women of Ireland.”

The program of the Conference included over thirty papers in nine panels chaired by academics from several universities all over Spain (including Vigo, Santiago, A Coruña, Alcalá de Henares, Huelva, and Seville). The morning session started with a panel, which, after the splendid concert, was appropriately devoted to “Joyce, the Language of Music and Translation.” Gabriel Pérez Durán discussed the innovations taking place in the canon of Irish music, viewed, in the light of Ulysses’s intertextuality, as a form of transformation and translation of previous materials. José Ruiz Mas commented on the Peruvian translation of Joyce’s poetry in order to emphasize the translator’s successful reproduction of Joyce’s lyricism.

The next panel on Finnegans Wake opened with an enlightening contribution from García Tortosa. In his “Vico y Vigo: confluencias y ramificaciones,” he explained the etymological relation between the Italian philosopher and the Galician city hosting the event. Consequently, Vigo was considered as a participant in the formation of the name of the main character in Finnegans Wake, Earwicker. This character was also present in “[T]he voce of Shaun, vote of the Irish, voise from afar,” by Margarita Estévez Saá, who discussed the antagonistic figure of Shaun. The panel included a paper by Carmelo Medina Casado who traced the presence of Spanish words and influences in Finnegans Wake as he showed some of the fruits of his recent research into the Buffalo notebooks. Following this panel, participants were first invited on a short walk through the modernist heart of the city, where they encountered the so-called “Merman,” a steel statue overlooking Vigo’s inlet and presented in the Conference’s poster as one of the postmodern icons that would probably have impressed Joyce the most. The final destination of this walk was the Town Hall, where all the participants enjoyed a welcome reception.

After the lunch break, the afternoon session started with a panel on “Joyce and Modernism.” The first contributor was Caneda Cabrera, who presented a paper on Joyce’s Dublin and Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin through...



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