On This Day in Joycean History

UlyssesNotebookMarch 1st, 1914 marks the day in which James Joyce started writing Ulysses. Started is the key word here as the Irish author had other projects to complete in the meantime. These included the Egoist‘s publication of  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man sequentially a month earlier, the publication process of Dubliners with his publisher, Grant Richards, and the prospect of completing his play Exiles which Joyce started writing in 1913. Nevertheless, his project on completing Ulysses was set aside and wasn’t picked up again until the following year. On June 16th 1915, Joyce announced to his brother Stanislaus that he had completed the first episode of Ulysses as well as an outline to the structure of the book. Who knew the birth of the first episode would be celebrated on this special date 100 years later!

For more information and further readings on this day in Joycean history, check out Dublin’s James Joyce Center website.

Miriam Mokrusa for Festival Bloomsday Montreal.

Source: “On This Day…1 March.” The James Joyce Center. N.P. 1 March 2014. Web. 1 March 2015. http://jamesjoyce.ie/day-1-march/

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Kevin Birmingham to Close Festival Bloomsday Montreal 2015

What does the subject of Kevin Birmingham’s The Most Dangerous Book have in common with the Charlie Hebdo tragedy? Since early January, the murder of the twelve Charlie Hebdo staff sparked debates on the concept of freedom of expression or freedom of speech in art within the news and social media platforms. Contemporary authors, such as Salman Rushdie who lived years under the death threat after the publication of his book The Satanic Verses in 1988, spoke out on the subject of the Charlie Hebdo murders in anger, while justifying that art has the capacity to push the artist to the edge: “[…] artists who go to that edge and push outwards often find very powerful forces pushing back. They find the forces of silence opposing the forces of speech. The forces of censorship against the forces of banned booksutterance” (Rushdie)

With Rushdie’s words in mind, one can easily think of James Joyce and his experience with “the forces of censorship” in the early twentieth century—particularly the 1933 case that occurred in the United States District Court regarding Ulysses and freedom of expression. The trial between the United States and Random House publishing group demonstrated whether or not Ulysses was an obscene piece of literature. The case brought up the sexual content of the novel, the blasphemous remarks against the church, as well as the indecency of the language being used. Yet Random House contested that the text was not offensive and was protected by the first Amendment of the American Constitution with respect to freedom of speech. In the end, Judge M. Woolsey ruled that the book was not obscene at all and that Joyce expressed the realities of our thoughts. Moreover, Woolsey considered the text as a whole when making his decision, rather than focusing on particular fragments of vulgarity, indecency, profanity, pornography and four-letter words.

Of course, this is only one of many instances in which Joyce’s works faced censorship issues. As it is demonstrated in his letters to his editors, Joyce himself had censorship problems in regardBirminghams to his other works, like “The Dead” for example. Yet it is understandable why Ulysses was perceived as an almost illicit piece of literature as many considered it a “dirty” book. Today, the discussion of Ulysses on trial has re-opened thanks to the recent publication of The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham. Birmingham’s text presents to the reader a biography of Ulysses and its reception during the turn of the twentieth century (A review of Birmingham’s text can be found in an earlier post here). This Bloomsday, we are excited to announce that Kevin Birmingham himself will be closing up our Festival Bloomsday Montréal 2015 with a talk on his recent book. Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask Birmingham his opinion on the recent Charlie Hebdo tragedy after the publication of his research on “the forces of censorship against the forces of utterance”?

Make sure to catch Kevin Birmingham’s discussion on The Most Dangerous Book on June 16th, 2015 at the Jewish Public Library (5151 Côte Ste-Catherine) at 7:30 pm. Admission is $10 for members and students / $15 for the general public. An Irish style reception will follow.

Miriam Mokruša for Festival Bloomsday Montreal

Cited: Rushdie, Salman. “Salman Rushdie on Charlie Hebdo: freedom of speech can only be absolute.” The Guardian 15 Jan. 2015 Web. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/15/salman-rushdie-on-charlie-hebdo-freedom-of-speech-can-only-be-absolute

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Canadian Connections to James Joyce

On his way to work in 1922 Barnett Braverman, a friend of Ernest Hemingway and the first ‘booklegger’ of Ulysses (as Birmingham calls him), took a copy a day of Ulysses into the USA on the Windsor/Detroit ferry. The book wasn’t yet banned in Canada. See full story: Windsor’s word smuggler http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=2136f2c2-f29d-4b17-bbbe-5ae080490262&sponsor=

Another Canadian connection. Marshall McLuhan used the works of James Joyce extensively in his own work. This article deals with the source of many of McLuhan’s most startling observations regarding art, society and technology and James Joyce. See full article: http://www.cjc-online.ca/index.php/journal/article/download/531/437

One quotation from McLuhan:  “Looking at Joyce recently. A bit startled to note that the last page of Finnegans Wake is a rendering of the last part of the Mass. Remembered that the opening of Ulysses is from the first words of the Mass. The whole thing is an intellectual Black Mass.” (McLuhan, 1987:183)

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Jim Joyce: 133rd anniversary

Mary Joyce gave birth to James 133 years ago on February 2nd 1882.  We can be sure that neither she nor her husband John had any clue that their little boy Jim would became the famous author of Ulysses (amongst other great literary works)  and that a day would be set aside for the celebration of the man and his great book published in 1922.

Mark June 12-16 in your calendars folks for our Festival Bloomsday Montreal.1024px-James_Joyce_birth_and_baptismal_certificateJames_Joyce_age_six,_1888



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Festival Bloomsday Montreal: Tentative Events Schedule for June 2015

Please click on the “Upcoming Events” tab to see the list of events we are planning for June 2015.  More details will be posted regularly on this site.

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Finnegan’s Wake Reading Group

Hi Joyceans!

We all know you have a love for Mr. Joyce and Ulysses. For those who want to get into that most challenging of his work we are starting a group to begin reading “The Wake”. Details will be available soon here, on our Face Book page and on Twitter.  The groups will meet at the Westmount Library starting on Wednesday, March 18th.

If you are interesting in joining this group leave your contact info on this blog.

Thanks very much.

Dave Schurman for Bloomsday Montreal.

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A Girl is a Half-fomed Thing by Eimear McBride

Just completed reading this really quite difficult novel that was published in 2014 by Simon and Shuster Canada. Some impressions are given on our Face Book page. Here is a good review from the National Post:


As well here is another review that was posted on Goodreads that also gives a sense of the book:

Art? May. Be. Literature? So said they. Why? Know not I. Story new? Before heard. Interesting? No. No. No. Then why? Do. Not. Know. Life short books more. Time save you I. I. No name sister girl. Brother no name. Sick. Brain tumor. Operation. Survive! Mother catholic. Pray she pray. Jesus Christ. Father died. Funeral. Pray mother. Jesus is savior. Uncle funeral come. Sister girl. Thirteen. Rape. Uncle bad. Bad. Bad. Blood and semen run. Prey. Girl sad. Sex. Sex. Violent sex. Years many. Blood. Semen. Buises more bruises. Why? Depressionmutilationviolationselfinflictedpainlookingforlovrebellionashamedangerpain. I. Grandad died. Pray mother pray. Funeral. Back bad uncle. Sex. Blood. Semen. Bruises. Sick brother. Brother sick. Tumor back. Pray mother pray. Jesus is savior. Sex more sex. Uncle bad sex back. Brother dies. Sister girl angry, angry. Violent sex drug me with pain. Mutilation. Violation. No procreation or masturbation. I. Mamma mad. Mad. Mad. Sister girl trade you for dead brother. Dead I. I. Dead. End the.

I James Joyce? Ulysses like I write? Not. But write can I too.

NOT an easy read but one that a solid Joycean might find interesting…
Dave Schurman for Bloomsday Montreal

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