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"A Luminous Day": A Report on the California Joyce Redux Conference, 30 January 2010
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The conference convened "in the heart of the orangeflavoured mudmound" on the University of California, Irvine, campus (FW 111.34). We were gathered in Orange County, but the tinge of orange colored more than just our location. In the penultimate event of "California Joyce Redux," Margot Norris appealed for sympathy for that flame-haired devil, Hugh E. Boylan, and the rest of the conference glowed with the energy of more than one hundred participants, many of them non-academic Joyce fans, all of whom had assembled on a temperate winter's day to present, listen, and discuss.

"California Joyce Redux" was conceived by Laura O'Connor for three different purposes: as a meeting of the Southern California Irish Studies Colloquium, a group that assembles about three times a year; a sequel to the 1993 California Joyce conference, also held at Irvine; and a tribute to Margot, a co-organizer of the 1993 conference whose leadership in the Joyce community has long influenced those in and beyond Irvine.

The day started off with a bang. Kevin Dettmar invited us to imagine the challenge of teaching rock music to students who are unaware that some of their favorite songs are, in fact, cover versions—and who, when they hear the original, still prefer the cover. Kevin, the only person I know who argues by way of both Samuel Beckett and Led Zeppelin, urged us to be more like his students and treat Joyce's allusions as secondary to our experience of Joyce's language. In other words, Joyce didn't start the fire, but if we try to account for every bit of tinder, we risk extinguishing it.

Most of the other speakers took the opposite tack, delving into the history of Joyce's language and culture. Carol Shloss looked to the past in her ongoing elaboration of her hard-won copyright battle. She observed that there has been legal confusion between privacy laws and copyright laws, the former originally meant to serve a definite public good by protecting reputations from being scorched, the latter originally meant to protect personal financial benefit from going up in smoke. I was fascinated to realize that, because he worked at home in a space he shared with many other people, Joyce himself never enjoyed very much privacy nor did his daughter, Lucia, confined as she was to a public asylum. Carol reaffirmed that, when writing biography, there are ways of responsibly and ethically lifting the shroud of privacy.

Enda Duffy also referred to Lucia, whose name means "light," but he preferred to keep the dimmer switch turned down low. Merrily meditating on Joyce's sunglasses (a design motif for the posters of both the 1993 and the 2010 conferences), Enda proposed light as a key modernist medium but noted that, in manipulating it as a formal element, Joyce's works arc toward darkness. Though it can be uncomfortable to feel our way around in the dark, in effect, to grope for meaning in texts that confound our senses, Ulysses shows that, after sundown, the real assault on enlightenment values begins—but also that darkness can be quite sociable.

Tony Crowley focused on the moment in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when Stephen Dedalus comes in from the "chilly grey light" and sits with the dean of studies before the fire, debating the proper use of the word "tundish" (P 184, 188). Tony led us on a meticulous etymological tour, demonstrating how "tundish" smolders quietly in the history of both Irish-English and English-English, appearing in contexts naughty and nice, savory and unsettling. This method of isolating and tracking the permutations of a single word resonated with Kimberly Devlin's exploration of the way Finnegans Wake transforms tangible objects into language and then converts them back again into rearrangeable fragments. If earth is the archaeological womb in which language is created, in the Wake, linguistic play overcomes those material origins. Cleverly playing on the pun "whole" and "hole," Kim offered many examples of how Joyce exploits the gap between the signifier and the signified, overcoming the world with language.

Vincent Cheng brought us out of the poststructuralist frying pan and into...



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