- Omnium Gatherum: The Dublin James Joyce Summer School, 6–12 July 2008
Just what is it that makes the Dublin Summer School so different, appealing, and modern for James Joyce scholars and enthusiasts? With University College Dublin, the National Library of Ireland, Boston College, and the James Joyce Centre organizing a multifaceted academic and social program, participants have the unique chance to walk through Joycean textual and urban spaces in unprecedentedly inspiring ways. I had already appreciated this when I participated in the 2007 Summer School, so it was fortunate that I could attend again in 2008. That year, the Summer School was an omnium gatherum of young scholars and distinguished academics, who traveled to Dublin from the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Czech Republic, and Italy—to mention but a few places—and joined Irish Joyceans in order to attend lectures that incisively reread Joyce’s texts and instigated passionate discussions at Newman House, where Joyce studied and where parts of Stephen Hero and A Portrait are set.
The academic program started with a presentation by Anne Fogarty, the Director of the Summer School, who has also been President of the International James Joyce Foundation since June 2008. Fogarty discussed “Eveline” within the specific context of The Irish Homestead, where it was first published, and in relation to its women’s columns that offered advice to the readership on how to be good housekeepers. By engaging with the work of feminist historians on the social, political, and psychological implications of emigration for women, Fogarty offered a historically and textually detailed rereading of “Eveline.” In 1904 (when “Eveline” was first published), Irish women emigrants to Argentina would move from an Irish patriarchal society [End Page 419] to an Argentinean one. Taking such a future into consideration, Fogarty argued, we should not easily condemn Eveline for not eloping with Frank. Eveline prefers to be independent, modern, and undomesticated. Fogarty placed her approach within current materialist readings of Joyce’s work and emphasized that history in Joyce’s work is not “a back-projection, nor a self-explanatory context.” The critic’s challenge is to investigate how, through the texts’ tensions and incongruities, Joyce “interferes within debates” that affect his contemporaneity. Following Fogarty, Philip Kitcher’s lecture was a challenging re-engagement with the ethical questions that underlie Finnegans Wake. By invoking Aristotle’s political and ethical view that to live well is to be active and to participate in politics, Kitcher offered an illuminating and convincing close reading of FW 143.3–28, where the “fargazer” (FW 143.26) appears to be seeking a panorama, a wider view of life.
A panoramic account of hermeneutic approaches to Joyce’s work was the main theme of Fritz Senn’s witty and perceptive talk. Senn described readers of Joyce as Odyssean explorers who seek knowledge. He stressed that, thanks to the proliferation of Joyce scholarship, there is now more historical knowledge available on issues that Joyce touches upon in his texts than he himself actually had. Indeed, all papers and presentations at the school seemed continually to excavate factual evidence directing readers of Joyce towards new explorations. In fact, Maria McGarrity’s paper was an account of Roger Casement’s report on the red-rubber trade in the Congo by the Belgians as depicted in the “Cyclops” episode of Ulysses. McGarrity explained that the term “red rubber” (U 12.1547) relates to the blood of the natives who were systematically worked to death by the Belgians. Such barbarous practices questioned Eurocentric ideas about the primitive versus the civilized. Drawing on her research in Casement’s correspondence, housed at the National Library of Ireland, McGarrity explained that Casement, an Irishman in the service of the British Consular Service, drew a parallel in his letters between Belgian atrocities and the brutality of the early “exploiters and exterminators” of “the native Irish” (NLI MS 13,080—I/ii).
Taking into account Angela Bourke’s seminal work on Irish folklore, The Burning of Bridget Cleary, Luke Gibbons reflected on primitive beliefs specific to the Irish context. He focused on the extent to which the Famine broke down social tissue in Ireland and the ways the...