Making Culture Bloom

By McCalman, Iain | Cultural Studies Review, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Making Culture Bloom

McCalman, Iain, Cultural Studies Review


This paper was originally delivered as the Telstra Address at the National Press Club in Canberra on 16 June 2004. The speech marked the occasion of the establishment of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), a new umbrella body representing the diverse but allied interests of researchers, educators and practitioners working across those disciplines. lain McCalman rose to speak to a room full of academics, administrators, practitioners and policy experts who had descended upon the national capital to meet with federal parliamentarians to exchange views and learn about each others work. Before the afternoon was out, that audience would bring CHASS into existence at Us inaugural general meeting. As McCalman noted, it was an auspicious day indeed.1

On 16 June 1904, exactly one hundred years before the establishment of CHASS, an Irish Jew of Hungarian extraction called Leopold Bloom set off on a twenty-four hour perambulation around the streets and bars of Dublin.2 This fictional incident is the basis of James Joyce's Ulysses, the greatest novel of modern times. It has also given rise to Bloomsday, a kind of Irish literary holy day celebrated in cities all around the world. It was a specially appropriate moment for us to celebrate the birth of our new peak body, because Bloomsday provides a perfect parable for why the Australian public and government should cherish our sector.

How is it a parable? For a start, Bloomsday shows us the serendipitous way that humanistic culture can bring economic benefits to a nation, or to use the jargon of our day, how it can produce commercial spin-off. James Joyce could not have imagined that his novel would one day generate festivals around the globe, as well as a swag of income for his country of birth. When he wrote the novel, just after the First World War, he was, as usual, desperately poor, and Ulysses didn't have the look of a commercial goer. Not only was it one of the most unorthodox and intellectually demanding novels ever written, it was also bawdy enough to be banned in much of the western world. Though Joyce loved Ireland with a passion, he wrote Ulysses in part as a satirical blast against the materialism and narrowmindedness of his day. An early example of the humanities brain drain, he fled in exile to Europe where he spent the bulk of his later literary life. It was from there on 16 June, twenty years later, that he wrote wistfully in his notebook: 'Will anyone remember this date?'3

What a change he'd find, if he could return to his homeland today. Last year, being the centenary of Poldy Blooms Dublin walk, the celebrations in Ireland were especially frenzied. Bloomsday became a five-month-long festival called 1Re-Joyce 2004', extending from April through August.4 Organised by a specially convened government committee, it featured a carnival of parades, multimedia spectacles, exhibitions, films, street theatre, concerts, dances, lectures, conferences, seminars, sports events and tours. More recondite Bloomites could even attend a Yiddish Ceildhe on the Esplanade. The head of the Irish state was the official sponsor of all these activities and presided at such commemorative events as the 'parable of the plums'.5 This is an incident in the novel when two old ladies clamber up on Nelsons pillar to ruminate about life and spit plum pips at the passing citizenry. Since Nelsons pillar was long ago blown up by the IRA, the festival had to make do with its replacement, a building called the Spire situated on O'Connell St at the edge of the River Liffey. In true Bloomsian fashion Dublmers call this tremendous tower The Stiffy on the Liffey'. James Joyce would have approved.

Joyce would also have found, if he could return to Dublin today, that conditions have become a great deal more hospitable for writers like himself. For a start, he'd not have to pay tax on the earnings of Ulysses or any other of his writings. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Making Culture Bloom


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.