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A Crash Course in Joyce

A Crash Course in Joyce

Okay, I’ll admit it. Before coming to Ireland I had only vaguely heard of James Joyce, and even then, if you’d asked me what he’d done or why he was famous, I couldn’t have answered. Now boy, did that change when I got to Dublin! From the minute I got off the plane, every tour guide and every professor I bumped into hurried to tell me all about James Joyce and where he lived and grew up and all the iconic Joycean sights in Dublin. I soon discovered, however, that Dublin had taken things a little farther where Joyce is concerned. Dublin hosted an enormous festival in celebration of him every year, and despite this being the last thing I could have expected as part of my study abroad, I was going to be part of it.

 The breakfast of fried kidneys, tea, and buttered toast featured in 'Calypso' ... yes, I really ate kidneys!

In June, Dublin has it's annual Bloomsday, in honor of the main character of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The celebrations take place all over Dublin and include a wide variety of events. First, you can kick off the morning by meeting at the James Joyce Center for the Bloomsday Breakfast. The breakfast consists of everything that Leopold Bloom cooked for his wife Molly in the fourth chapter of the book – pork kidneys, toast, and tea. Live actors also perform dramatic readings while guests enjoy their meal.

After breakfast, Joyce fans can head out on a bus or walking tour of Dublin, which stops by different famous monuments and sights that are featured in the book – such as Sweny’s Pharmacy, where you can still buy Leopold’s famous lemon soap! The pharmacy is actually kept in the same style that it was during the Edwardian era, and the volunteers who work there are happy to tell the history of the building! You can also read Ulysses in several different languages such as Japanese, Russian, and Arabic to name a few.

 Bloom's famous lemon soap at the original Sweny's Pharmacy!

Finally, guests were able to end the day by stopping into Temple Bar for more live readings and a chance to meet and talk with some of the actors. Right in the area, anyone who wanted to could look into Davy Byrne’s pub, which Leopold Bloom stops at for lunch. The pub still serves Bloom’s Gorgonzola sandwich with a glass of burgundy, which he famously enjoyed in the book! Overall it’s quite the event, with plenty to do, and lots of avid fans dressing up in Edwardian costume to really get into the mood.
 The infamous gorgonzola sandwich and glass of burgundy, enjoyed in the real-life Davy Byrne's Pub! And I got a souvenir photograph of the original Bloomsday to boot!

Now you’re probably asking, “Where in the world do YOU come into this?" Let me tell you. As part of my study experience here, I’m taking a class in Irish pop culture. My professor had an email from the owner of the James Joyce Center saying he needed extra volunteers to help out with the festivities and asked if any of her students would like to sign up. Thinking to myself that this was a once in a lifetime chance, I figured I would sign up!

I ended up spending the day helping out in the booth outside the center, giving out information and helping book guests into tours. It was a great day, and I got to meet some of the actors and readers for the event, as well as just learning a whole lot more about Joyce than I ever knew before! It was certainly a great day and an opportunity I wouldn’t have passed up! I mean, when’s the next time I’ll meet someone dressed up as a bar of lemon soap?

Jessica F. is a CEA alumni. She is studying Human Resources Management and General Management in Dublin in the summer of 2017 and is currently a junior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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