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“A Learner like Stephen, a Wanderer like Bloom”: The 2011 Dublin James Joyce Summer School, 3–9 July 2011

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 48, Number 1, Fall 2010
pp. 13-15 | 10.1353/jjq.2010.0043

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Anne Fogarty, a pillar of the Joycean academic community in Dublin, opened the first day of the 2011 Dublin James Joyce Summer School with two inspiring papers. Her lecture, entitled “‘Unmanageable Revolutionaries’: A Re-reading of ‘A Mother,’” was a combination of a detailed close reading of a single Dubliners story with the larger historical context of the Irish revolutionaries and the gender politics at the beginning of the century. The cohesion of these perspectives was represented by the complexity of the figure of the mother: as a protagonist of a literary work of art, a symbol of “Mother Ireland,” and a woman at the beginning of the twentieth century caught between the ebbing patriarchal model and the feminist debate on her own role in society. Fogarty entered deeply into the heart of the time, touching upon Eamon De Valera’s controversial statement that females were “at once the boldest and the most unmanageable revolutionaries” and his belief that their sex determined their unpredictability and their acts were dictated by emotions and not by intellect.1 Nevertheless, they were necessary to him as a means of communication throughout the war. Fogarty used photographic material from this time to illustrate the role of the woman during the conflict: an enlargement of an image showed skirts on the lower part of a person dressed otherwise as a man.

On the same day, Fogarty presented a workshop entitled “Social and Cultural Historical Documents” that reviewed the resources for Joyce studies in the National Library of Ireland, this time as a part of the social program. The materials, especially obtained for the occasion, included the “Irish Homestead,” the 16 June 1904 edition of the Freeman’s Journal, and Samuel Roth’s pirated versions of Ulysses in his Two Worlds magazine. It was wonderful to see them all first-hand and to have them discussed by Fogarty.

In her paper “Ulysses, Walter Benjamin, and the Question of History,” Catherine Flynn used Benjamin’s idea of history to approach Joyce’s own understanding of the subject. Turning away from the traditional idea of history as a context of the fictional work that might clarify its content, Flynn argued that Joyce understood history not as past but as a living present. In detailed analyses of “Nestor” and “Cyclops,” she emphasized the importance of understanding the past through empirical events, which present not so much facts as their ethical grounds.

The papers of Maud Ellmann, Christine O’Neill, and Tim Conley collectively provided the second theme of the School: the corporeal senses in Joyce’s world. In “A Faint Mortal Odour: The Elusive World of Smell in Joyce,” O’Neill approached the topic of odors in Joyce’s writing and particularly in Stephen Dedalus’s portrayal through the perspectives of the philosophy of language and the connection of sensation and language. The introduction to her lecture gave depth to the literary analysis, for it did not reject metaphysics in Joyce’s works in order to emphasize the modernist concentration on sensations. The experience of smells was interpreted by O’Neill as an emphasis on the strength of body contact with the reality surrounding Stephen. She developed a typology of smells, distinguishing the pleasant and unpleasant, the artificial and the natural, in order to analyze the specific in the texts. In a highly creative twist, O’Neill pointed out that Stephen notices smells beginning in his early childhood—the “oily sheet,” his mother’s “nice smell” (“which was all left to our imagination,” commented O’Neill), and the smell of the trees after rain. The emphasis on sensory experience in the characterization of Stephen Dedalus contrasts strongly with the pure idealistic image he constructs for himself.

Ellmann and Conley presented two different conclusions about the topic of food in Joyce’s writings. In “Joyce Inc.,” Ellmann strongly emphasized the antithesis of food and “those big words . . . which make us so unhappy” (U 2.264). She concentrated on the sections of Ulysses that she claimed are best known: the ones describing food, eating, and cooking, including the Christmas dinner scene in A Portrait and the breakfast preparation in “Calypso.” In this way, she developed the theme of food as a...


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