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  • Dublin Celebrates the Wake's 80th Birthday:"Finnegans Wake at 80"; "Lucia Joyce: Perspectives"; "Text/Sound/Performance: Making in Canadian Space"; and "Finnegans Wake-End," 11-13 April, 25-27 April, and 3-5 May, 2019
  • Derek Pyle

4 May 2019 marked eighty years since the first publication of Finnegans Wake, and this spring multiple events in Dublin celebrated the book's impact, history, and continuing legacy. These events included "Finnegans Wake at 80," an academic conference organized by Sam Slote at Trinity College; "Lucia Joyce: Perspectives," an afternoon event following immediately after "Finnegans Wake at 80" and dedicated to Lucia Joyce, organized by Genevieve Sartor; the "Text/Sound/Performance" conference at University College Dublin organized by Gregory Betts; and the James Joyce Centre's "Finnegans Wake-End," which took place during the 3-5 May bank-holiday weekend. When viewed as a whole, these events represent a significant turn in academic, artistic, and popular interest in and appreciation for Joyce's final work.

The "Finnegans Wake at 80" conference, 11-13 April in the Trinity Long Room Hub at Trinity College, was the third-ever conference dedicated to the Wake, and it signaled a significant shift in academic interest and reception of the Wake. It was only through the combination of Slote's organizational prowess and significant dedication to the Wake that such an event could occur. The conference offered a series of fascinating discussions and presentations, which, in effect, presented an overview of current Wake studies, collectively spanning and encompassing the various subsets of academically minded Wake [End Page 10] engagements, including critical and modernist readings; genetic and textual analysis; discussion of the Wake in translation; bibliographical and cultural surveys of the Wake and its impact; digital-humanities projects; and an audio-visual installation, which I curated, representing the academy's increasing interest in the exegesis of artistic responses.

The genetic and textual analyses came to an apex at the Friday night reading group, held at the James Joyce Centre on North Great Georges Street. Focusing on the conclusion of the Anna Livia chapter, beginning at FW 213.11, the group showcased the Wake reading style championed by many Joycean academics, wherein the text is treated as a kind of cryptogram that can be decoded through reference to Joyce's manuscripts, and by understanding Joyce's (genetic) process of composition. In this style, there is an emphasis on "plot" and characters, here, the washerwomen, and there are generally right and wrong ways of reading the text. Although this reading style has its limitations, the pleasure of sitting in a room filled with erudite scholars who have spent decades poring over the text and Joyce's manuscripts is a remarkable experience, that reveals not only the genius inherent in Joyce's text but also the undeniably brilliant minds who are the backbone of Joyce studies.

The paper presentations on Thursday concluded with Fuat Sevimay, who discussed translating Finnegans Wake into Turkish, followed by a roundtable discussion on translating the Wake with Congrong Dai (Chinese), Robbert-Jan Henkes (Dutch), and Enrico Terrinoni (Italian). Wake translators are remarkable human beings, and it was fascinating to hear from each translator about his or her various processes, which were infused with astute scholarship, humility, and humor.

I was unable to attend the Thursday plenary featuring Chrissie Van Mierlo, but Peter Chrisp, who maintains the blog "From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay," recounted that Van Mierlo "looked, through the character of Shaun, at the fascinating question of what had happened to Joyce's visual imagination by the time he wrote the Wake. [Van Mierlo] talked about the many models for Shaun—John McCormack, Wyndham Lewis, images of saints (Patrick and Kevin), Kevin Barry, various priests such as Father Bernard Vaughan, illustrations of Tristan from [Joseph] Bedier's edition and of postmen from La Poste et les Moyens de Communication by Eugene Gallois."1

Tim Conley's Friday plenary, "Petitions Full of Pieces of Pottery," provided an overview of so-called "crackpot" readings of the Wake. Conley suggested that, by studying such "taxonomies of misreading," we might learn something important about the function and cultural impact of Finnegans Wake, but this potentially interesting...