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60 Years On: The Legacy Of James Joyce
by Victoria Cochrane on 04/11/08

On North Earl Street in Dublin stands a statue affectionately known as ‘the prick with the stick’. It is in fact a statue of arguably Dublin’s most famous writer, James Joyce. Along with the bust of Joyce in St Stephen’s Green in the city, and the fact that there is a street, as well as a library in the university college named after him, and a museum dedicated to his life and works, it soon becomes clear just how revered James Joyce is in Dublin.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Joyce enthusiasts now also hold a celebration every year on June 16th known as Bloomsday, to commemorate the life of Joyce; and also to relive the events that take place in Joyce’s most famous work: the novel, Ulysses.

The novel is set in Dublin, and the entire story takes place on one day – June 16th, 1904. The day is a secular holiday in Ireland, while the name Bloomsday derives from Leopold Bloom, the main protagonist of Ulysses. June 16th was also the date of Joyce's first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, when they walked to the Dublin village of Ringsend.

The day involves a range of cultural activities including Ulysses readings and dramatisations, pub crawls and general merriment - much of it hosted by the James Joyce Centre in North Great George's Street, the museum where the front door from number 7 Eccles Street - the fictional home of Leopold Bloom - is on permanent display.

Enthusiasts often dress in Edwardian costume to celebrate Bloomsday, and retrace Bloom's route around Dublin via landmarks such as Davy Byrne’s pub. Hard-core devotees have even been known to hold marathon readings of the entire novel in the same pubs and hotels in Dublin which Bloom might have used on his journey, with some readings lasting up to 36 hours.

The first celebration took place in 1954, and a major five-month-long festival (called ReJoyce Dublin) took place in Dublin between April 1st and August 31st 2004. On the Sunday in 2004 before the 100th “anniversary” of the fictional events described in the book, 10,000 people in Dublin were treated to a free, open-air, full traditional Irish breakfast on O’Connell Street consisting of sausages, rashers, toast, beans and black and white puddings - all served with a pint of Guinness!

Bloomsday celebrations take place in other parts of the world too, including Philadeplhia in the United States, where the Rosenbach Museum & Library is home to the original handwritten manuscrip t of Ulysses. Also, In Syracuse, New York, Bloomsday is celebrated every year with large portions of the book read aloud, or presented as dramatizations by costumed performers. The city is also home to Syracuse University, whose press has published or reprinted several volumes of Joyce studies.

Bloomsday has also been celebrated since 1994 in the Hungarian town of Szombathely, the birthplace of Leopold Bloom's father, Virág Rudolf, an emigrant Hungarian Jew.


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