“I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.”—James Joyce
Though Joyce died in January 1941, he was absolutely correct in predicting that he would transcend mortality amongst literary scholars. This past December, it was 100 years since the publication of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a novel that the professors do, indeed, still bicker over. Perhaps Joyce intended that quote to apply in particular to his novel Finnegans Wake, a minefield of bilingual puns, literary allusions, and political commentary that must be deciphered, not merely read. Of course no discussion of Joyce would be complete without mentioning Ulysses, his most famous text, and the one that cemented him the minds of many as the greatest writer of modernity.
So how can society properly honor such a legendary literary figure? With his own holiday, naturally! June 16th is Bloomsday, named after Joyce’s character Leopold Bloom and commemorating the day on which the events in Ulysses take place. Though Joyce scholars around the world will undoubtedly reflect upon their favorite author this day, there is no place the festivities of Bloomsday are more apparent than in the author’s hometown of Dublin.
The importance of Bloomsday in Dublin cannot be understated—it is a big deal. Throughout the city, people engage in dramatic readings of Joyce’s novels, dress in costumes of his characters and of Joyce himself, and embark on pub crawls. The full Irish breakfast, consisting of beans, sausages, toast, and puddings, are a popular way to start Bloomsday, and tall pints of Guinness are poured across the city. Though Guinness is the drink of choice throughout Dublin, it should be noted that Joyce himself much preferred white wine, which he drank almost exclusively.
In honor of Bloomsday, you might want to check out The Death of the Book: Modernist Novels and the Time of Reading by John Lurz, Assistant Professor of English at Tufts University. Lurz proves Joyce’s prediction of his own longevity correct, undertaking a fascinating and eye-opening study of Joyce’s novels in relation to those of Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf. His goal is to shed light on the way in which the format of the book itself, as a physical object, assists these authors’ literary experiments. By doing so, he acknowledges the effect that the passing of time in which reading necessarily unfolds has on the modernist novel, and the ways in which the novel acknowledges this effect.
Fordham University Press is also the home of Joyce Studies Annual, edited by Philip T. Sicker and Moshe Gold, professors in the Fordham University English Department. This journal publishes the latest in Joyce scholarship, including critiques, comparative studies, letters from Joyce and his literary colleagues, and artwork modeled after Joyce’s novels. In January, the 10th edition was published by Fordham University Press, commemorating a decade of Joycean literary interest and study.
So this Bloomsday, we encourage you to put on your best waistcoat, borrow some small, round spectacles or the eye-patch from your child’s Halloween costume, and drink a nice glass of white wine. While you’re at it, feel free to peruse www.Fordhampress.com for a variety of books on Joyce, modernist studies, literary criticism, and Irish studies.