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A Report on the Second James Joyce Graduate Conference, Rome, 1-3 February 2009

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 1, Fall 2008
pp. 13-16 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0119

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To mark Joyce's 127th birthday, a large group of young Joyceans, accompanied by some more established figures, descended on the "Eternest cittas" of Rome for the second James Joyce Graduate Conference at the Universitá Roma Tre this past February (FW 532.06). The event was organized under the auspices of the James Joyce Italian Foundation (JJIF) by the group's President, Franca Ruggieri, and its executive committee including Rosa Maria Bosinelli, Carla Marengo, John McCourt, Paola Pugliatti, and Romana Zacchi. Many of those present were fortunate enough to have been awarded scholarships, which allowed those gifted scholars to attend who otherwise could not have done so—for which much gratitude is due to the JJIF. The objective of the conference was to provide a forum for graduate students to present their work to their peers in an atmosphere of collegiality and lively debate, while also giving them an opportunity to interact more informally, thereby fostering a community of scholars whose work will be at the forefront of future Joyce scholarship.

In this regard, the setting, in the Sala Conferenze Ignazio Ambrogio at the university campus, was ideal. It provided a single venue and consequently a sense of communality and comprehensiveness that is not possible in larger conferences where panel-hopping is a necessary part of one's engagement with the material presented. All of those present were able to attend all of the papers, so that the ways in which various papers played off one another, and the types of debate that emerged as a result, could develop with the full understanding and contribution of those involved. The room was also adorned by Grazia Lodeserto's series of paintings inspired by Finnegans Wake, which became the object of much debate among those present.

Shortly before the conference, sadly, the James Joyce Italian Foundation announced the deaths of the highly regarded Italian Finnegans Wake translator, Luigi Schenoni, and Franco Antonio Belgiorno, the collector of one of Europe's largest collections of Joyce translations. The Foundation held a brief memorial for both, led by Paola Pugliatti and Bosinelli. Just a couple of days later, the Foundation announced the death of Professor Giorgio Melchiori, the renowned critic, translator, and apostle of Joyce's works in Italy (as well as honorary Trustee of the Italian Foundation).

On the morning of the second of February, the conference was opened by Ruggieri and the President of Roma Tre, Guido Fabiani, as well as by the Dean of Arts of the University, Francesca Cantu, and the Irish cultural attaché in Rome, Gerard McCoy, among others. After we were welcomed to Italy and to the university, the academic program began with Richard Brown's discussion of "Aeolus" that utilized the work of Walter Benjamin. This highly stimulating presentation gave way to a lively debate that set the tone for the remainder of the conference. It was one of four papers presented by established Joyceans, the others being given by Fritz Senn, Anne Fogarty, and Sam Slote. Their talks, interspersed between the panels of graduate students, gave shape to the ongoing debate about the direction Joyce studies should take in the coming years, a question of particular importance at a conference such as this. Senn asked, with deceptive simplicity, "Why is there still so much to do?" While an audience such as this is inclined to take for granted the idea that further study of Joyce is necessary, Senn's provocative and lively inquisition of his audience about the possibilities for future Joycean scholarship provided a necessary corrective to the all-too-common assertion that such scholarship is no longer as vital as it once was.

The graduate panels were generally made up of four speakers, with a chair and a respondent also present. The latter provided succinct and often challenging insights into the subjects discussed, foregrounding and illuminating aspects of the commentaries whose import might not otherwise have been clear. The theme of the conference was "Metamorphosis and Re-writing," and many of the presentations contained reflections on stylistic, genetic, thematic, and personal metamorphoses in Joyce's works. Given the theme, it is unsurprising that there were many papers on "Circe"; however the talks were as varied...

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