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  • ‘Matter Mixed with Void’:The Sixth Annual James Joyce Research Colloquium, Dublin 25–7 April 2013
  • Siobhán Purcell (bio)

This year’s James Joyce Research Colloquium convened in Dublin at the end of April for a weekend of exegesis and expounding of all things Joycean. The James Joyce Research Centre, helmed by Anne Fogarty and Luca Crispi, hosted the Colloquium for the sixth year running, this year changing procedures somewhat. The event began in UCD, but for both Friday and Saturday, the Colloquium decamped to Marsh’s Library, located in the heart of the Hibernian Metropolis. Though described in Stephen Hero as ‘an old library in the midst of those sluttish streets which are called old Dublin’ (SH 181), the library was a beautiful setting made all the more welcoming by very accommodating staff, and in particular, by Sue Hemmens.

When applying to the colloquium, interested parties were encouraged to plan panel formats in advance. This made for cohesive and tightly-bound sets of papers that resonated thoughtfully and more fully than individual papers loosely gathered under baggy headings. In addition to this measure, there were no formal introductions and panels were not formally chaired. Though disconcerting at first, this obliged both speakers and attendees to mingle, introduce themselves, and disqualified any seedy navel-gazing or passive wall-flowerism. Having attended the very first Colloquium in 2008 as a terrified UCD undergraduate, it was wonderful to come back to speak at the event, and witness how the openness, generosity, and collegial nature of the gathering, espoused in that earliest of meetings, is still very much alive and actively nurtured by Fogarty and Crispi.

The event kicked off on the UCD Belfield campus with Clare Hutton’s intrepid paper, ‘The Development of Ulysses in Print, 1918–1922’, a version of which appears in this issue. With a lightness of touch, Hutton married the two [End Page 158] most prominent methodologies that came to mark the Colloquium as a whole: careful and methodical genetic research paired with cautious but insightful close reading. Hutton’s examination of the history of Ulysses as a determinately serialized text successfully made the case for the necessity of further study of Joyce’s publications in the Little Review, and the resulting additions made in the 1922 edition. Hutton also drew attention to the many complexities of this history — pointing, for example, to the first appearance of ‘Calypso’ in an edition entitled ‘The American Number’ — and reflected upon how the readership, reception, and suppression of the Little Review after the publication of ‘Nausicaa’, influenced the ‘final’ (scare quotes tacitly acknowledged) version of Ulysses published in 1922.

The next morning, in the beautiful enclave of Marsh’s Library, Anne Fogarty began the day with a forceful study of the historical moment of Ulysses. Fogarty’s paper made a compelling case for a re-examination of how the First World War and the Easter Rising palpitate discretely and proleptically through the diffuse temporalities and ‘big words’ of Ulysses.

Fogarty’s erudite, historically-inflected approach, contrasted well with the first panel of the Colloquium: ‘Joyce’s Grammar’. This panel, which had evolved from a working group that met in Zurich, forensically examined the role of grammar in Joyce’s texts, from Stephen Hero to Finnegans Wake. Elizabeth Bonapfel’s discussion of Joyce’s decision to use the tiret to connote speech, as opposed to inverted commas — dismissed by Joyce as ‘great eyesores’ — established a convincing discussion of modernist realism and its formal blurring of speech and narrative. Teresa Prudente gave a rich and complex discussion of the displacement of the comma in ‘Ithaca’ and suggested that this displacement marks the beginnings of a non-linear Joycean procession towards the void. Her evocation of Lucretius’s theories on ‘matter mixed with void’ seemed to chime with the proceedings of the Colloquium on the whole. Federico Sabatini’s paper resonated with Prudente’s discussion of science in his analysis of non-Euclidean geometry and compunction in Finnegans Wake. Sabatini argued insightfully that the figure of the point, infinite in non-Euclidean geometry, is also experimentally deployed in the ‘Oold Vvico Rroundpoint’ (FW 260.14–15) and the cyclical nature of the Wake...


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