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Jetés et Tours en l’air: A Report on the XXIst International James Joyce Symposium, Tours, France, 15–20 June 2008

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 45, Number 2, Winter 2008
pp. 212-216 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0052

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The Symposium this year had as its theme “Re-Nascent Joyce,” alluding to the Renaissance connections of the town of Tours, home to Leonardo Da Vinci and François Rabelais among others. Participating in a Joyce symposium on French soil always promises intellectual excitement, since it is the country where Joyce first tasted exile, resided for over twenty years, and completed and published Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

In remembering French Joyce gatherings, one quickly recalls Jacques Lacan’s 1975 opening address in Paris that cemented the cultural paradigms of psychoanalysis and poststructuralism as key models in discussions of literature. This year, the practice of meticulous readings of Joyce alongside a variety of methodological paradigms offered multiple instances of jouissance, a theme that prompted the most provocative panel title, “Dear Dirty Joyce,” with Mark Shechner deliberating on the theme of orgasm as a structural element in Joyce’s writings in his paper, “Ejaculation: The Novel.”

The polymorphic character of Joyce scholarship was most appropriately summarized in the panel where we witnessed such diverse approaches to Joyce as those of Luca Crispi on the textual evolution of “Penelope,” Terence Killeen on his research on Alfred Hunter, one of the elusive models for Bloom, Michael Groden on the origins of his work on Ulysses, and Bill Brockman on the James Joyce Checklist project. The Checklist is available online free, thanks to the support of Tom Staley and the hospitality of the Harry Ransom Research Center’s website. This digital database, where so much of the rich Joyce scholarship is catalogued, is an immensely helpful resource for scholars. Users can access the bibliographical details of books, essays, or even websites that are relevant to searching keywords. We all felt most grateful to Bill Brockman and were eager to visit the checklist at < http://research.hrc.utexas.edu/jamesjoycechecklist/index.cfm >.

A large number of papers pursued the theme of Joyce and the Renaissance; among the most substantial was that of Anne Fogarty who illuminated anew the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode of Ulysses, offering valuable historical details meticulously interwoven in a discussion of Shakespeare, Joyce, and cultural politics. Fogarty reminded us of the way the episode presents two different literary Renaissances—the one of Shakespeare’s age and Joyce’s in 1904—and specifically of the way the rival forces of the English Renaissance and the Irish Revival mark the texture of the episode. She then elaborated on how Joyce in “Scylla and Charybdis” presents Hamlet as a ghost story and how the episode is transformed into a stage where Joyce becomes the producer of Hamlet within Ulysses.

Among the most valuable groups of papers was the panel that historicized Joyce’s work and foregrounded events that might have overshadowed the texts. Specifically, Spurgeon Thompson spoke on the Irish socialist James Connolly and his presence or absence from Joyce’s texts and offered a tour de force of historical and political interpretation. Connolly could not actually have been in Ulysses’s Dublin because he was in the United States in 1904, lecturing on anti-imperial socialism. Turning to Finnegans Wake, Thompson exposed the way Joyce interrelates Daniel O’Connell and James Connolly in FW 303.8–13 by focusing on this phrase: “This is cool Connolly wiping his hearth with brave Danny” (FW 303.09–10). Thompson thus argued that Joyce repeats here Connolly’s account of O’Connell’s involvement in the prosecution of Robert Emmet, as narrated in Connolly’s 1910 Labour in Irish History. Enda Duffy examined how nervousness as well as the economy of energy is portrayed in Joyce’s texts. Chaired skilfully by Vincent Cheng, the panel inspired exciting questions and contributions from the audience as it mapped out unexplored areas in Joyce scholarship.

In the panel chaired by Claire Culleton, the theme of primitivism was discussed. Maria McGarrity examined Roger Casement’s presence in “Cyclops,” while John McCourt explored Joyce’s stance towards the Irish primitive as romanticized by the Irish Revival. Margot Backus, in the “Before and After Post-Colonialism” panel, interrogated issues that still remain unexamined in Joyce studies. Backus described the way that the Dublin Lockout of 1913, and specifically the traumatic enforced starvation of strikers...

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