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  • The Dublin James Joyce Summer School, 7–13 July 2013
  • Gabriel Renggli (bio)

The events of this year’s James Joyce Summer School in Dublin took place in the middle of a blazing heat wave (not too typical for that city) and an atmosphere of geniality (very typical of it). Clearly, the organizers — director Anne Fogarty, associate director Luca Crispi, and Fritz Senn, the school’s patron — could not have chosen a better time for the event, nor done a better job welcoming students and scholars from around the world to Joyce’s city for a week of lectures, seminars, and social gatherings.

As in previous years, the academic programme consisted of lectures by a variety of guest speakers, which were held in the morning, followed by instalments of four week-long seminars, each focusing on one of Joyce’s major works, in the afternoon. And as in previous years, the lectures could profit from the ambience of a very Joycean location indeed: the Physics theatre of Newman House (home to University College Dublin when Joyce attended it there), where Stephen’s conversation with the dean about the words ‘tundish’ and ‘funnel’ in A Portrait is set.

Although the school had no fixed topics, it was interesting to see that many speakers used the context of a summer school — open to newcomers to Joyce as well as experts and more advanced students — to address questions of [End Page 162] historical, political, cultural background, rather than more abstract issues. Many lecturers, though by no means all, talked about the contexts in which we can read specific characters or narratives.

Professor Fogarty (UCD) opened the lecture series with an in-depth investigation of memory and history in ‘The Dead’, drawing our attention to the Battle of Aughrim (1691), which marked a failed attempt by the Jacobite forces to undo their defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The conflict is conjured up in Joyce’s story both through the song ‘The Lass of Aughrim’ and Gabriel’s anecdote involving the statue of William III on College Green. Fogarty suggested that the implicit presence of this moment from Irish history ties in with other spectres of the historical past that surface in ‘The Dead’, most importantly the appearance of Michael Furey, whose early death may be read as a symbol of traumatic history transcending personal loss.

Dr Aida Yared of Vanderbilt University engaged us in a lively presentation on what, drawing on Umberto Eco’s theory, she termed ‘open works’. Yared’s case was for a balance between authorial originality and readerly engagement. Speaking of models for reading Ulysses, she proposed the analogies of the playground and of the (modern) art exhibition — two spaces in which your actions will make your experience different from other people’s, but within the limits already outlined. Developing the spatial metaphor in this way, Yared argued for a creative interaction that still seeks to respect a text’s uniqueness. As one example of such a playful and productive entrance point into the textual space and cultural context of Ulysses, she presented early twentieth-century postcards from her personal collection, some of which she very generously gave away to her audience.

Dr Fritz Senn (Zurich James Joyce Foundation) spoke on the subject of the art of speech in Ulysses. Beginning with the observation that characters in Ulysses seldom express something in a straightforward way, he discussed figures of speech and lapses of speech in view of what he called ‘logodaedalia’, or the cunning use of words. By this he referred to the Irish oral culture that elevates speech acts — from the telling of an anecdote to the ordering of a drink — to the status of veritable public performances. This art of speech, Senn posited, complicates the relations in Joyce’s text between performance by the characters and performance by the episode’s other voices.

The presentation by Dr Luca Crispi (UCD) centred on a twofold ‘biography’ or timeline: the fictional biographies of Molly, Leopold, and Milly Bloom; and the trajectory of the writing process that created these characters. Crispi gave a captivating introduction to genetic criticism by demonstrating how mapping [End Page 163] Joyce’s revisions...


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