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The Trieste Joyce School - Day 2

Participant Diary, June 25th – July 2nd, 2016

One of the main struggles of contemporary society is to try and address the people who are actually “sane” enough to understand the terrible consequences of our thoughtless actions. We are inevitably marching into certain extinction if we fail to notice the necessary changes we could implement. Some of those implications and guidelines were left at our disposal by many great writers, such as William Blake and James Joyce. Conveniently connecting all the ideas so that they coalesced into one, Malcolm Sen opened up a rather interesting topic: how much of our current state of affairs can be inferred from Joyce’s texts? We would say that this clairvoyance is something that should be inherent to all great writers, because their insight into human nature is unquestionably more profound and substantial, but it was still a challenging task to undertake and to place Joyce in Anthropocene. Although both agreeing and disagreeing with the proposed ideas (Joyce couldn’t have possibly written from the perspective of a man anticipating death and apocalypse – doesn’t the slip that Bloom makes reveal that “in the middle of death we are in life”?), we realised what an arduous task it must have been to try and incorporate all the bits and pieces which were left as clues in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake and to comprise them in an hour and a half talk.

Then we went on to be informed of the peculiarities of Joyce’s status as a problematic writer who was writing about Ireland while living outside it. His works were repeatedly stigmatised as being pornographic, vilifying, amoral and rather unacceptable, yet they were still read, but “little read by sane folk”. Although they had many accusations to level at Joyce’s works, the Irish (the Irish clergy, that is) weren’t particularly afraid of them, simply because they didn’t think they posed any threat to the sane folk who wouldn’t read them. Fritz Senn justifiably pointed out that all of their arguments were based very firmly in the text itself. Its ludic play with words, characters, settings and styles is juxtaposed to any ‘sane’ way of writing, therefore only the insane folk can read it so that it has some meaning to them. While some saw him as a mild threat, other Irishmen saw Joyce as the writer who knew Ireland inside-out and was capable of depicting it in the only possible true-to-life way and, who, despite all her flaws, he loved her dearly.

Trieste, Day Two

At the seminar, we embarked on a journey of interpreting Ulysses and from the very onset it was clear that we were dealing with an almost impossible task – how were we to cram everything there could be said in only five seminars? But, as we got more and more relaxed, the necessary inquisitiveness set in and questions started overtaking the answers. We felt the positive atmosphere that was so necessary was about to become more consistent and enshrine us like a thick fog.

Within that fog and with the guidance of our professors, but first and foremost, with the great love and appreciation for what the book really means to us, I believe that we will be able to safely reach the ground.

The photo is courtesy of Danijela Mitrović.


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