Please forgive my long blogging silence – I’ve been working on turning my PhD thesis into a book and have finally sent off the m/s. (I may write something about that as a future post, because there’s little good advice out there about this process). But for now, I wanted to write something about my attempts to celebrate the centenary of Dubliners in 2014. I’ve set myself some challenges to get more people to read, or to remember fondly, Dubliners for its 100th birthday, which I’ll be writing about here: firstly, to tweet from the novel everyday, on a Tweeting Dubliners account (@Dubliners100, please do follow) and to blog about it; secondly, to do some work with schools, as I’ll be doing a WP session on Dubliners and the city; thirdly, to do some public engagement events which I’ll be doing as part of the ‘In the City’ programme of talks (http://www.shef.ac.uk/artsenterprise/inthecity); and finally, to present at some of the big conferences in my field such as the 2014 James Joyce Symposium on my Dubliners research and my experience of communicating it to different audiences (http://jjs2014.wp.hum.uu.nl).
So, firstly, an interesting fact about Dubliners: its centenary is, in many ways, a false anniversary, because of Joyce’s difficulties getting it published. Joyce first hoped it would be published in 1905 with Grant Richards, nearly ten years before its eventual publication date, but Richard’s printer refused to set the type for one of the stories on moral grounds and, after some years of back and forth between Joyce and Grant Richards about making changes, the deal fell through. Joyce wanted to sue for breach of contract, but was advised against doing so. From this early failure, we have one of Joyce’s most famous statements about the stories, as in desperation he wrote to Richard’s that
My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis. […] It is not my fault that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking glass.’ (Letters, vol. 2,134)
The book might also have been published in 1909 or 1910, when Joyce signed a contract with Maunsel & Roberts but again things broke down – this time the sticking point was first Roberts fear that the stories might libel living Dubliners and then, crucially, the contents of the story ‘An Encounter’, with its suspected masturbation and apparent interest in paedophilia (currently being tweeted @Dubliners100). Though Joyce offered to pay all the costs, to take over what was already printed – but the printer, John Falconer, refused to hand the sheets over and eventually destroyed them. It was only with Ezra Pound’s help and support that Joyce eventually secured publication of Dubliners in 1914, ironically, with Grant Richards who could have published it in 1905. But by its publication date on 15 June 1914, WWI was already looming, and the book had reasonable attention, but not much in the way of sales. It’s hard to imagine what kind of reception it would have received if it had been published in 1905, but the delays did give Joyce the time to write an additional story, my own favourite, ‘The Dead’.
Here are some things I’ve learnt or remembered from tweeting Dubliners so far:
– Not how to code – I’ve tried to set up a script for tweeting the lines of Dubliners automatically and failed miserably. Tweetdeck scheduled tweets it is then.
– The wikipedia summaries of the stories are hilarious – for example, this summary of ‘An Encounter’, ‘Two schoolboys playing truant encounter an elderly man’, or this description of ‘After the Race’, ‘College student Jimmy Doyle tries to fit in with his wealthy friends’.
– There are boats in ‘An Encounter’
– Creepy moments are much creepier in 140 characters – the constraints of twitter highlight Joyce’s extreme precision in these stories descriptions of the priest in ‘The Sisters’ or the ‘old josser’ in ‘An Encounter’ somehow become quite terrifying.
There’ll be more to come here, very soon.
Finally, some great Dubliners resources and events to look at this year:
– The new iPad app for ‘The Dead’ – including great new audio reading of the story by Barry McGovern.
– The ‘Mapping Dubliners’ project on twitter (@MapDubProj)
– A great-looking conference on Dubliners at IES 31st of October – 1st November (http://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events/ies-conferences/100Dubliners)