Bloomsday at 100

Two reflections

On June 16, 1904, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, one of literature’s most unlikely and endearing couples, each journeyed through Dublin in James Joyce’s Ulysses. To Joyce enthusiasts all over the world, that day became known as “Bloomsday.” This year being the centenary, Ireland is holding a festival from April 1 to August 31. Although Joyce might have been pleased that his works are still being read, that his name is remembered with affection and festivity in his own country, where it was once condemned and reviled, the commemorative program outlined by the Irish Tourist Board would hardly have been to his taste. Joyce has become an Irish industry in some ways as trivial as leprechaun spotting and shamrockery.

But not entirely. Dubliners, Joyce’s seminal 1914 book of short stories, describes the paralysis of his native city. The twin forces of politics and religion had entrapped the Irish in alcoholism, sexual repression, and poverty. Frustrated by such oppression, Joyce himself left Dublin, not coincidentally, in 1904. He called his Dubliners a “chapter in the moral history of my country,” an attempt to galvanize the creative energy that would help his fellow citizens to “revolt against the dull inelegance” of the city. Dubliners refused to examine the darkness underpinning the veneer of their shabby respectability, Joyce thought. In contrast,...

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About the Author

Mark Patrick Hederman writes from Glenstal Abbey, Limerick, Ireland. He is the author of The Haunted Inkwell: Art and Our Future (Columba).