Experiencing Bloomsday 2012

Clockwise from top left: inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, looking toward the choir and alter; Dublin Castle; Kevin O’Halloran holding court inside the grounds of Dublin Castle.

Sunday at St. Pat’s: Swetha Kodali

On Sunday, the last day of our trip to Ireland, Kevin, our brilliant leader and knowledgeable host, led the group to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to attend the church services. The Protestant service initiated with the procession and was followed by many other magnificent prayers, readings, and songs. For the sermon, the preacher gave the attendees some valuable and enlightening advice by telling everyone to “keep on keeping on” in all aspects of life. When the final hymn was sung and the service concluded, the group was astounded by the beauty of the church, the angelic voices of the choir, and the unique opportunity we shared. 

Personally, I was stunned by this unfamiliar experience because it was my first church service. Having never before attended a service, I found myself seeing the traditions and customs of the Christian denomination unfold in the oldest, largest, and most prestigious church in all of Ireland. First built in 1192, this church is a symbol of Irish culture, heritage, and tradition. I know I am not alone in thinking that the service in St. Patrick’s Cathedral was one that will stay imprinted in my memory forever.

After the church service, we traveled to the Chester Beatty Library situated near Dublin Castle and the City Hall. (Ed. note: Chester Beatty was a wealthy American businessman, particular in the gold mining industry, and lived a good part of his life in England and Ireland)  Donated by Alfred Chester Beatty to his adopted country, it houses many literary treasures. As we strolled around the exhibits, we saw collections of artifacts from around the world and intricately decorated versions of religious texts.

Moving on from the Library, Kevin led us to his endearing home in Ranelagh for a farewell supper. Once there, we were greeted by his lovely wife, Phyllis, and welcomed into an ornate sitting room and a gorgeous garden. At suppertime, Phyllis served mouth-watering lasagna, salmon, salad, and garlic bread. Although we were all completely full and satisfied after the meal, no one could resist Phyllis’s delectable desserts followed by tea. After a round of hugs and goodbyes, we made our way back to Dublin to spend one more night in the city that has given us so many experiences in just one short week.

On Friday, we visited Clongowes Woods College, a boarding school thirty minutes outside of Dublin.  It is site of the first two chapters of The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and alluded to in Ulysses.  The building was originally a castle built in the 1450s, but was converted to a school in the 1800s when the Jesuits took over the property.

Clockwise from top left: a view of Clongowes from the outside; our guide, Brendan, talking to the group in the Round Room (part of the original structure); a view of the yard where Joyce (and his alter ego Stephen Dedalus) played gravel football with his peers; the hallway leading to the Rector’s office, another scene from The Portrait.

Click here to learn about the new Bloomsday App for the iPhone.  Developed by students living and studying in the city of Dublin, it provides a comprehensive look at the city through the eyes of Joyce and the lens of Ulysses.

The Dead: Alex Fuller
“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark Mutinous Shannon waves.”

Prior to Bloomsday, the group was assigned to read one of the short stories in James Joyce’s Dubliners, entitled “The Dead.” “The Dead”—appearing at first to be quite grim—is actually one of Joyce’s most famous literary works. Unlike the collection of stories in Dubliners which in some ways denounce Dublin and its people, “The Dead” symbolizes a shift in Joyce’s view on his native city. For the first time in all of his writing, Joyce’s story illustrates Dublin and its people with elegance and beauty. There is, however, historical evidence as to why Joyce’s view of his homeland shifted—evidence that dates back more than a century to when Joyce lived in Trieste in the early 1900s. Joyce, unhappy with his job and lifestyle at the time, began to experience a feeling he had until that point never felt: homesickness. Longing to return to his homeland—yet unable to do so—Joyce did the next best thing by recreating his homeland on the pages before him. Joyce shifted the focus of his last story in his soon-to-be published Dubliners, and went on to depict Ireland more beautifully in a mere few pages than almost any writer can attest to doing so in an entire novel.

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” 

Jocyeans on Bloomsday!

Jocyeans on Bloomsday!

Eliza Farley: Bloomsday has arrived!

We woke up on June 16, eager to begin our celebration of Bloomsday.  We were slightly unsure of what to expect, but after a week of studying, traveling and lots of walking we were excited to tie together all of our experiences on the trip with Bloomsday festivities.  After an early morning book-club to discuss Joyce’s most famous short story,The Dead, we set out to find some Bloomsday activities with Kevin leading the charge.  We couldn’t find anything except for a few used book vendors and a farmer’s market in Temple Bar, so we decided to grab an early lunch near St. Stephen’s Green where the afternoon readings would take place.  The rain kept us inside for an hour or so, but we eventually found ourselves outside on a chilly and wet afternoon.  After discovering that we had an extra hour to kill before the reading started, we decided to find the origins of the Bloomsday hats we had seen around the city.  Unfortunately, the restaurant handing them out had run out before we arrived, but we did find a group reciting notable scenes from Ulysses.  We followed the reenactments and costumed scholars back to St. Stephen’s Green where we listened to readings from Ulysses by a variety of Joycean scholars, as well as a range of musicians who performed pieces related to Joyce’s work and life

The Dail: Lan Nguyen

“You guys need to be in dress code when we go there.” Mrs. O’Rourke turned her head to Kevin and added, “Dress code is the No. 1 issue that teachers love talking about at Berkshire school.” Can you guess where we went and why we needed to be in dress code?  On the fourth day of our wonderful trip in Ireland, we had a chance to visit the Dail (pronounced “Doil”), the Irish Parliament.

The day’s forecast was for showers and the sky looked gloomy. We waited for a long time to get into the Dail, but it absolutely deserved our waiting and expectation. We were lucky enough to witness how Irish Congress passed the bill. They discussed a bill dealing with funding to retirement homes. The Chair of the Congress called for a public vote and the result showed up on the big screen in front of us. (Ed. note: when we were sitting in the gallery and looking out on an empty Dail chamber, the bill came to a vote; bells rang and within eight minutes the chamber filled up with representatives and they held the vote)

Kevin talked more about the current government in Ireland. There are two sides: the opposition and the government (the party in power). (Ed. note: there are two houses, the Dail and the Senate.  The Dail is elected by popular vote, much like our House of Representatives.  The Senate is elected or appointed by certain groups, or even certain people, within the Republic.) The constituents of Ireland want to abolish the Senate because of financial reasons. According to our knowledgeable and adorable leader Kevin, he suggested that a reform could be the best solution for the Irish government to make the necessary check and balance system stronger.

The architecture of the building was so beautiful with its high ceilings. There were many security guards of course but they enthusiastically welcomed us and our guide, Jim, told us about the significance of every single object in the building. Before we left the Dail, they gave each of us a poster of Proclamation of Irish Republic of 1916 written by the Provisional Government.  They also stamped the date of our visit on the posters to mark the day we went there. If you want to see it, just ask Mr. Cronin or Mrs. O’ Rourke.  We all were very happy and learned a lot about Irish culture and history day by day through the trip.

James Joyce Center: Ellie Rochman

On Thursday, we visited the James Joyce center and the Dàil (which is the equivalent of what we call Congress).

The James Joyce Center was beautiful; I mean truly marvelous! First of all, the building the center was housed in was gorgeous with exquisite trimming, huge windows and high ceilings, for it is in a part of Dublin with older houses that have been preserved to capture what it was like in Joyce’s time. Our tour guide was a phenomenal speaker with a lovely accent and incredibly articulate pronunciation of words. However, the information that the James Joyce Center gives about Joyce’s life was the most valuable part of this activity because it brought to light why we even came to Ireland in the first place: to discover a literary genius who’s made history, not only for his adventuresome and controversial novels, but for his ability to convey a truly accurate and insightful message about his culture and his country that many more than just Dubliners enjoy.

The Center had three levels. The first floor displayed what James Joyce’s yard looked like and of course had a gift shop for the typical tourist or literary enthusiast. The second floor had a large room where our tour guide gave a big and almost flawless lecture on the timeline of Joyce’s life. On this floor there was also a large table with an abundance of informational books about Joyce as well as some of the books he wrote, including his only children’s book. The third floor laid out what Joyce’s working environment was like when he was an adult and writing Ulysses. Because Joyce was a drinker, much like his father, he and his family did not have the loveliest or roomiest accommodations due to poor financial investments in alcohol, but this small setting allowed Joyce to work off of his relatives who both inspired his work and later on aided him in his writing when he started going blind

Overall, visiting the center was very enjoyable; however, the fact that James Joyce a bit of a hard knock life cannot be overlooked. The James Joyce Center stresses how dysfunctional Joyce’s childhood was because of his family’s moving around from house to house, and always having to go one level worse than the previous home because his father was an alcoholic. Unfortunately, this led Joyce to follow a similar path, but it was not just him that lived a life of sliding down to poverty. Most Irish families shared a similar story to Joyce’s during the 19th and 20th centuries and I think that is why he is celebrated today. Today, James Joyce is not only regarded for his artistry and talent as a writer, but his relationship with his readers because he told everyone’s story.

Day Three: A History Lesson

We covered a wide range of Irish history on Wednesday.  We began the day as far back as possible when visiting Trinity’s exhibit of the Book of Kells, a 9th century religious text made out of calf skin and beautifully written and decorated.  Along with a couple of texts like it, the Book of Kells has survived the centuries and is an example of the religious dedication the early Celtic monks possessed.

After perusing the gift shop, we exited Trinity out the front gate, getting a history of a few statues and entering what is now the Bank of Ireland building, but what was formerly the Parliament building.  We wrapped up day’s march at two museums. Our first stop was the National Gallery, where we saw the museum’s permanent collection of European art and a separate exhibit that housed the museum’s collection of the Irish masters, many from the 19th and 20th centuries.  We finished the day at the National History Museum, examining in particular gold jewelry and ornate chalices from the prehistoric age, found preserved in the many bogs that cover the Irish countryside.