Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Introduction: Joycean Unions

Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Introduction: Joycean Unions

Article excerpt

At the 2004 Dublin Centennial James Joyce Symposium it became clear that since their original plans had fallen through, the International James Joyce Foundation would have to find an alternate site for the 2006 symposium. As it happened, Dr. Tekla Mecsnóber of Károli University, Budapest, and Prof. Ferenc Takács of ELTE University, Budapest were prepared to make a presentation to the Board of Trustees suggesting that the XXth Symposium be held in Budapest and Szombathely, home of Bloom's fictive ancestors. Even before this proposal many members of the Foundation had been eager to involve Eastern European scholars more actively in European Joyce meetings. In one respect, this process had begun in earnest with the Trieste Joyce Summer School meetings sponsored by Prof. Renzo Crivelli and Dr. John McCourt, where an unusual number of Hungarian, Croatian, Slovenian, and Romanian scholars participated, including both faculty and graduate students. But there had already been a small international conference in Szombathely as early as 1993, attended by, among others, Fritz Senn, who began actively to work toward a greater involvement of Eastern European scholars in Joycean activities. Perhaps most significantly, Senn arranged for scholarships to be made available to Eastern European scholars through the Friends of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.

My own connection with the symposium was less direct. Some years previously Tekla Mecsnóber had been my student in a small undergraduate class on Joyce while both of us were on exchange at the University of Utrecht, in the Netherlands. We met again at several symposia, and before making the presentation she asked me to help with the academic program. I was delighted to do so, and the spirit of cooperation that made the soliciting and organizing of contributions for the symposium a particular pleasure has continued in the development of the present volume.

From the start, the idea of a Budapest symposium was greeted enthusiastically by Margot Norris, President of the Foundation, and by Morris Beja, the Executive Secretary. The XXth International Symposium was formally organized by the Hungarian James Joyce Society, Szombathely. The host committee consisted of the chair, Dr. Ferenc Takács of Eötvös Loránd University, president of the Hungarian James Joyce Society; Dr. Marta Goldmann of Berzsenyi College, Szombathely; Maria Kiss of the Hungarian-Irish Friendship Association; László Lovrics of Corvinus University, Budapest; and Dr. Mecsnóber. Advisory members included Dr. Marianna Gula of the University of Debrecen; Dr. András Kappanyos of the Institute for Literary Scholarship, Budapest; Dr. Maria Kurdi of the University of Pecs; Zsuzsa Lang of Berzsenyi College, Szombathely; and Dr. Donald Morse, University of Debrecen.

Ulysses has a geographical source in Hungary, as the birthplace of the fictive Bloom's fictive ancestors, and it is reasonable to suppose that Joyce's experience in Trieste, with its mingled population of Italians, Germans, Croatians, Serbians, Slovenes, Czechs, and Hungarians - not to mention a substantial Jewish population to some of whom Joyce had significant ties - must have influenced his creative process.1 But if Trieste was a cultural gateway to Eastern Europe, part Romance and part Slavic languages and cultures, the idea of Hungary, a place he never visited, must have struck even the cosmopolite Joyce as a place completely other. It could function as a mysterious source for the familial line of his protagonist Bloom that would brand him as a cultural outsider in a way that giving him ancestors from Italy or Germany would not have done. Joyceans are a polyglot lot, but nevertheless for most of them Budapest must have been the first conference venue where the language surrounding them was entirely unfamiliar. At the same time, Joyce's writing sometimes provided a linguistic lifeline: many conferees remarked on the frequency with which they encountered shops labeled "Virág", which everyone realized must designate florists. …

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