Dublin’s Fair City: James Joyce and Bloomsday

From January 2012 copyright on major works of James Joyce (1882-1941) was lifted by the European Union seventy years after his death. Lifting of copyright restrictions will permit performances, readings and adaptations of Joyce’s work without having to seek permission or having to make a payment to the James Joyce Estate that is controlled by the writer’s grandson Stephen Joyce, its sole beneficiary.
Freed from copyright restriction are some major works including Dubliners, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Less clear are other categories of work including collections of his manuscripts, personal papers and correspondence and his major works published posthumously. The vast body of James Joyce’s work, commentary and worldwide bibliography is extensively documented.
Dublin is planning to hold many activities to celebrate the lifting of copyright restrictions with a festival of literary and related events throughout 2012.
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce
Arguably Ireland’s greatest literary genius and a leading proponent of modernism in fiction and short story, James Joyce was born on 2 February 1882 in Dublin at 41 Brighton Square to John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Murray Joyce, spending his earliest years there and in Castlewood Avenue.
Joyce was deeply rooted in the Dublin and Catholic tradition. He was educated at the Jesuit Clongowes Wood College and at Belvedere College before going on to University College Dublin, on St. Stephen’s Green, where he studied modern languages English, French and Italian. He spoke and read in many languages and the complicated language and expression in his works are a large part of his unique literary legacy. All of Joyce’s works confronted censorship and courted controversy. He described his working methods as those of both “engineer” and “pasteman”.
The Dublin of 1904 will forever be recalled from when the penniless student, James Joyce, ‘walked out’ with a hotel maid, Nora Barnacle, a walk that changed their lives, led them to exile and caused him to immortalise the date of 16 June in his novel Ulysses, since celebrated as Bloomsday. James Joyce and Nora Barnacle left Ireland in October 1904 for Trieste where he got a job teaching English. His son Giorgio and daughter Lucia were born there in 1905 and 1907. Over time the family moved between Trieste, Rome, Trieste, Dublin, Zurich, Trieste, Paris, London, Paris and Zurich.
James Joyce paid his last visit to Ireland in 1912. He died in Zurich on 13 January 1941 and is buried in Zurich’s Fluntern Cemetery, described as a lovely setting in a very leafy place. His statue by the grave shows him seated distractedly holding an open book. The James Joyce Foundation established in Zurich in 1985 is rich in Joyce artefacts and archival material. It holds regular activities to honour the writer’s time spent in Zurich.
Bloomsday 2012
From the main character Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, Bloomsday is celebrated each year on 16 June, the date chosen by James Joyce to set his Dublin odyssey. Initially banned as being judged obscene it was published in Paris on 2 February 1922, the writer’s fortieth birthday. The novel consists of eighteen chapters, each one covering one hour of one eighteen hour day in a detailed account of Dublin that deeply explores the life of the city. Joyce claimed that should Dublin City be destroyed by some catastrophe, it could be built brick by brick, using Ulysses as a model, so accurate is it in every minute detail.
Dublin’s Bloomsday Festival includes re-enactments of Bloomsday as people visit the places where the novel is set with readings, performances, breakfasts, look-alike contests and visits to pubs and venues associated with James Joyce’s work. Special events are organised in collaboration with the James Joyce Research Centre at University College Dublin, other institutions and places with Joyce connections. In 2012 there will be additional academic, literary, cultural and sporting events to celebrate lifting of copyright.
Marjorie Fitzgibbon’s statue of James Joyce, with him leaning on his stick, stands near the corner of the city’s North Earl Street. It was unveiled by the Lord Mayor on Bloomsday 1990. There is a bust of him in St. Stephen’s Green. Dublin’s James Joyce Walk with its fourteen plaques, each bearing the relevant quotations from the chapters of Ulysses, is a prominent city landscape. Plaques and statues of the Irish writer are to be found in other places and he is celebrated and commemorated around the world.
Co-hosted by University College Dublin and Trinity College, the XXIII International James Joyce Symposium on “Joyce, Dublin and Environs” will take place from 10-16 June 2012. In a signal year for Joyceans it will aim to rethink Joyce’s writings and the new possibilities and challenges after the lifting of copyright restrictions. Joycean and academic institutions will be active partners in different events during 2012.
The University of Dublin, Adult Education Centre, will run a course titled Dublin: One City, One Book designed to tie in with events for the 2012 festival. Dublin City Council’s own initiative will encourage Dubliners throughout April to read its book choice of the same title, Joyce’s collection of short stories. The National Library of Ireland plans to engage the public in a number of activities in promoting its collection of James Joyce material and the writer’s own association with the National Library of Ireland.
* * * * * * * * ** * * *
On 14 January 2009 the newspaper Guardian reprinted the report dated 14 January 1941 from the Manchester Guardian by Kevin Cryan on the death of James Joyce. These are extracts …
With the death of James Joyce there passes the strangest and most original figure which Ireland gave to Europe in this generation …
His originality lay in his discovery of a literary form for expressing the inconsequent complexity of the human mind and all the dim resemblance that is its migrations possessed to the orderliness of grammatical sentences or the appearance of time and space …
The stranger may get the feel of the city from it, but Ulysses must be first a book for Dubliners where the graces and disgraces of their little life bounded by the Hills of Howth, the Dargle and the Circular Roads have capital magnitude …
Europe appreciated him and yet he was at last locked out of Europe, as of Ireland, in some secret temple of his own mind, as removed from the great passage of events as his own countrymen today.
Ita Marguet, March 2012
Note: Acknowledgement is given to all sources used in this text. It follows texts written 2003-2011 on James Joyce and his family, including Irish-Swiss connections, by Ita Marguet.