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The Scallop of Saint James: An Old Pilgrim’s Hoard. Reading Joyce from the Peripheries (review)

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 45, Number 2, Winter 2008
pp. 385-388 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0065

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Over the last four decades, the reception of James Joyce’s oeuvre in Spain has been enriched by a great amount of scholarly criticism. The volume James Joyce in Spain: A Critical Bibliography (1972–2002), with its over three hundred entries, including critical studies, collections of essays, book chapters, articles in journals, and postgraduate dissertations, clearly shows the wide interest Joyce has lately aroused among Spanish scholars.1 Since 2002, several other books on Joyce have been published in Spain, notably a study on the characters in Ulysses by María Isabel Porcel, entitled Interrelaciones de los personajes en “Ulises” de James Joyce, and two collections of essays—Joyceana: Literaria Hibernica and Silverpowdered Olivetrees: Reading Joyce in Spain.2 To these should be added the contributions in the annual journal Papers on Joyce. Most of this academic research on the author has evolved within the context of the Spanish James Joyce Association, formed in Seville in 1990 under the chairmanship of Francisco García Tortosa. The book reviewed here also emerges from that source, since it gathers several essays originating in the XVI Meeting of the Association, held in Santiago de Compostela in April 2005. Moreover, the publication of The Scallop of Saint James was sponsored by the Amergin Research Institute of Irish Studies at the Universidade da Coruña, whose director, Antonio Raúl de Toro, is also a leading member of the Spanish James Joyce Association.

The title of the book suggests a comparison between the scallop shell and Joyce’s work. Both have become recurrent points of reference since the scallop shell is the symbol of St. James and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Joyce’s writings, like an old pilgrim’s hoard, are seen as a treasure that readers and critics have at their disposal to find references from other lands and authors. Just as pilgrims go to Santiago de Compostela, the twenty-one academics of this collection travel towards the figure of Joyce from abroad and provide, as the subtitle indicates, a reading of his work from the peripheries. The three editors of the volume, lecturers in the English Department at the University of Santiago de Compostela, have succeeded in giving a sense of overall integration and bringing cohesion to an eclectic mix of themes and contributions, some in English and some in Spanish. Balanced and well organized, this collection of essays should appeal to the Joycean community because of the breadth of its coverage, the quality of its contents, and the variety of approaches used by the knowledgeable cadre of contributors. Although some of the topics dealt with may seem intricate, most chapters are easy to read and have a multitude of references for those who want to delve deeper into the themes that are discussed.

Oddly enough, the book opens with a short story by the Irish writer Joseph O’Connor entitled “Two Little Clouds” (xiii–xxi). O’Connor is the author of several widely acclaimed books, including the novels Cowboys and Indians, shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize, and, more recently, Star of the Sea, which was published in twenty-six languages and received the Prix Littéraire Européen Madeleine Zepter for European Novel of the Year.3 It is not a common practice to include an unpublished story in a collection of scholarly essays, and one may wonder why a piece of creative writing is placed alongside academic research. The answer to this puzzle lies in the fact that O’Connor’s story was inspired by Joyce’s “A Little Cloud,” which rightly serves one of the main purposes of the volume, as stated in the preface: to show “how new generations of writers connect with Joyce’s work in a very creative manner” (vii). Obviously, it is not a coincidence that the last essay of the volume, written by José Manuel Estévez Saá, provides a brief yet insightful comparative analysis of Joyce’s and O’Connor’s tales, thus rounding up our pilgrimage to the Joycean world.

O’Connor’s rewriting of Joyce is followed by an interesting essay by the noted Spanish scholar García Tortosa on the role of criticism in shaping Joyce’s reputation and...



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