Re-Joyceing in Dublin: Great Writers Inspire Ireland

This time last week, it was ‘Bloomsday’ (16th June) – a daylong celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Whilst the UK celebrated in style with Radio 4 devoting an entire day’s air time to all things Joycean (including a brand new 5-hour dramatization of Ulysses!) and the British Library hosting a great selection of Joyce-related readings and conversations, I was having the craic in Dublin – Joyce’s birth place and the setting for Ulysses. I was a delegate at the week-long XXIII International James Joyce Symposium at Trinity College and University College, Dublin. I attended 5 days of Joycean talks, made my first foray into radio, helped to ‘LiberateUlysses’, visited several (authentically) Irish pubs, and enjoyed some delicious dinners in Korean, Spanish, and Moroccan eateries!

Trinity College Dublin, photo by Cleo Hanaway

Trinity College Dublin, photo by Cleo Hanaway

My panel was on Tuesday morning and was entitled ‘Joyce, “Impact”, and Public Engagement’.  I discussed my Ulysses Illustration Workshop (see previous blog posts: 1, 2, 3) and the developing Joyce collection on Great Writers Inspire. I focused on Pat Lockley’s fantastically instructive visualisations of James Joyce’s 1922 text, Ulysses. You can view Pat’s visualisations via Great Writers Inspire: click here. Here is a screen cast of Pat helpfully explaining one of his visualisations: http://www.pgogy.com/james/2_grid.wmv

'Joyce, "Impact", and Public Engagement', photo by Sam Slote

‘Joyce, “Impact”, and Public Engagement’, photo by Sam Slote

There were 3 other panellists on my public engagement-focused panel – Steve Cole, Hans Walter Gabler, and Aida Yared (pictured above giving her talk).

  • Steve talked about his spectacularly ambitious ‘LiberateUlysses’ project – a FREE multimedia internet-based platform for Ulysses addicts, including a collaborative Twitter version of Ulysses, several Ulysses-inspired art projects, and a space for international discussions of Joyce’s great text. Steve’s talk was entitled ‘A “Joyced” Public is a Better Public: True or False?’. By the end of his talk, it was clear that the answer to his question is indubitably YES!
  • Hans discussed his plans to convert his well-received Critical and Synoptic Edition of Ulysses into a searchable hypertexted ebook/webspace. While the technical side of Gabler’s internet-based Ulysses is still very much in development, there is a solid well-thought out philosophy behind the project: 1) critical editions are not just for scholars; 2) reading Ulysses should be a social enterprise; 3) while books are for reading (in the narrow sense of the word), editions are for use (for enabling exploration and interpretation).
  • Aida, a teaching paediatrician by trade and celebrated Joycean in her ‘spare time’, showcased her enlightening FREE website: http://www.joyceimages.com/. The website aims to illustrate Ulysses (in its entirety!) using period images, including adverts and postcards. Like Hans, Aida also talked about the philosophy behind her project. Instead of substituting Joyce’s words for pictures, Aida aims to draw attention to the words. JoyceImages.com aims to (in Umberto Eco’s terms) ‘open’ rather than ‘close’ Joyce’s great text.

We had some really positive feedback; I’ve already had five delegates contact me to say that they’re interested in using and/ or contributing to Great Writers Inspire. There was one negative comment, which opened with the line ‘When I was at Oxford, we read books’! It was interesting to see that there is still some genuine fear that websites like Great Writers Inspire signal the death reading as we know it – the death of the close reading of paper texts. For me (and for the vast majority of Symposium delegates), traditional book-reading and online educational resources are in no way mutually exclusive. In my experience, they can be mutually beneficial – I know of many people who have first encountered texts online then have gone onto read them in a more traditional format. It also works the other way around – people read paper books then go online to learn more about them or to use a key-word search or visualisation programme to further their literary research. As several delegates stated, even if traditional forms of book-reading are preferable for some, surely it is better to encourage reading in any format that engages the reader. And ebooks are often more engaging and more accessible – especially for younger readers.

The appetite for alternative forms of reading was also discussed in a fantastic panel on ‘Joyce’s New Media’. The panellists showcased some great Joyce-based websites. Unfortunately, unlike Great Writers Inspire, none of the sites appear to have a ‘ShareAlike’ licence, so we can’t share resources with them. However, they’re still worth a look:

Cleo Hanaway at RTE Radio Studios

Me at RTE Radio Studios!, photo by Aida Yared

As mentioned above, I also braved the studios of RTÉ Radio 1 for my first ever radio appearance (can I use ‘appearance’ for aural phenomena?!).  I was a little nervous and had no idea how the programme would run until about five minutes before it was recorded! The hour-long Arts Tonight Ulysses special included readings by Fergus Cronin and live music performed by amateur soprano and professional Joycean Michelle Witen and retrotastic music hall performers Darina Gallagher and Sinead Murphy. One panel – featuring Declan Kiberd, Fritz Senn, Paul Saint-Amour, Robert Spoo, and Barry McCrea – discussed the Joyce copyright situation and their own experiences of reading Ulysses. A second panel – including me, Aida Yared, and Joe Nugent – talked about our Joyce-related new media projects: me – Great Writers Inspire; Aida – JoyceImages.com; Joe – joyceways.com. I had great fun and managed to publicise Great Writers Inspire at the same time!

RTE Radio 1 Arts Tonight Ulysses Special

RTE Radio 1 Arts Tonight Ulysses Special, photo by Cleo Hanaway

If you’re interested, you can listen to the RTE Ulysses podcast here (my brief moment of Irish fame is 40 mins and 40 secs in!).

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