UB to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of "Bloomsday" with Exhibition from Its World-Famous James Joyce Collection

Release Date: May 10, 2004 This content is archived.


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The only known copy of "Sporting Times," printed in April 1922, proclaims the "Scandal of Ulysses," and a copy of the life-sized statue of James Joyce erected at the writer's gravesite.

Two walking canes belonging to James Joyce, two of his passports and the Swiss identity card issued to him shortly before his death.

James Joyce's handwritten notebooks, typescripts, galley proofs and page proofs for the first edition of "Ulysses."

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- James Joyce chose June 16, 1904 -- the day he met his wife, Nora -- as the date of the stream-of-consciousness journey undertaken by his protagonist, Leopold Bloom, through Dublin's emotionally charged cityscape, and his exhausted return home in the early hours of June 17 to the imprint of his wife's lover upon his bed sheets.

Because Bloom is the "Ulysses" of the novel that became one of the most influential books of the 20th century, June 16 is known to Joyce aficionados throughout the world as "Bloomsday" and this year marks its 100th anniversary.

The University at Buffalo -- which holds the single largest collection of Joyceana in the world -- will celebrate with "A Centennial Bloomsday at Buffalo," a public exhibition of documents, paintings and photographs from the James Joyce Collection of the UB Libraries' Poetry/Rare Book Collection.

UB's Joyce collection includes dozens of family portraits, photos, letters and personal items; important first editions and periodical publications of his work, and hundreds of the most important notebooks, typed copies, printer's proofs, galleys and other materials related to the writing of "Ulysses" and "Finnegans Wake."

The free exhibit will run from June 8 through Sept. 22 in the university's Poetry/Rare Books Room, 420 Capen Hall on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.

By mid-July the entire exhibition will be available online at UB's Poetry/Rare Book Web site at http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/units/pl/exhibits/index.html.

Items from UB's Joyce collection also have traveled to Dublin, Ireland, where a massive celebration of Bloomsday's centennial is planned.

One of the principal anniversary events will be "James Joyce and Ulysses at the National Library of Ireland," an exhibition that will open in June and will feature, among its own manuscripts, first editions, literary and biographical items of display material from the UB collection.

Samuel Slote, Ph.D., scholar-in-residence in the UB Joyce Collection, said that among the items sent on loan to the National Library of Ireland are Joyce's walking canes, an exceedingly rare copy of a poster printed by the Sporting Times advertising "The Scandal of Ulysses" to the British man or woman in the street; multiple handwritten drafts and notebooks used in the preparation of "Ulysses," plus annotated and corrected proof sheets, galley proofs and other material that demonstrates why the publication of the book, one-third of which was written in the galley proof stage, drove Joyce's printers nearly mad.

UB also sent a small copy of the statue of Joyce that marks his gravesite in Zurich's Fluntern cemetery -- a site from which the roaring of lions can be heard. Slote says Joyce may have been referring to Fluntern in "Finnegans Wake," when he wrote, "As the lion in our teargarten remembers the nenuphars (water lilies) of his Nile…"

Slote oversaw preparation of UB's celebratory exhibition, which includes 14 cases of material, and wrote an extensive descriptive catalogue.

Among the material to be featured in the exhibit is work produced by Joyce before he wrote "Ulysses." These include essays, a handwritten 1904 draft and first English edition of "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," photos of Joyce as a child and young man in Ireland, and handwritten drafts of Joyce's "Epiphanies," which describes the central concept of his early aesthetic theory and practice in terms of the sudden spiritual revelation he referred to as "the most delicate and evanescent of moments."

The exhibit also will include first editions of "Chamber Music," 36 lyrical poems written by Joyce between 1901-07; his play "Exiles," and "Dubliners," 15 short stories written between 1904-07 and published in 1914, one of which was signed "Stephen Daedalus," Joyce's early pen name, when published before 1914 in various Dublin journals.

A number of the handwritten notebooks used by Joyce in preparing "Ulysses" and "Finnegans Wake" will be on display along with handwritten drafts and typescripts and printer's proofs with Joyce's ever-expanding additions; lists of press notices and subscribers in the author's hand, telegrams, first and other important editions often inscribed by Joyce, and many of the 100 foreign-language editions of the novel held in the collection, including those in Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Greek and Czech.

The writing or formation process -- poesis -- used by major 20th-century authors, including Joyce, is the focus of the UB collection. It also is the only collection that holds significant materials from his entire writing career.

"We have the most comprehensive collection of 'Ulysses' materials, as well," Slote says, "from notebooks, handwritten early drafts and handwritten manuscripts to typescripts, printer's proofs, the first edition, the first serializations. We have other important editions, as well, including more than 100 editions in languages other than English."

Michael Basinski, the collection's curator, points out that other collections offer bits and pieces of such items, and some collections, like that of the National Library of Ireland, are very significant. The UB collection, however, includes original elements of most of the steps employed by Joyce as he created the novel, which, Basinski says, "is why this collection is necessary to the research of so many Joyce scholars."

The continuing fascination with Joyce and, in particular with "Ulysses," is due, says Slote, to a number of factors, including the fact that Joyce "was endlessly inventive and a master of idiomatic English speech.

"He spoke several other languages, including Italian, French and German, and was an acute observer of the human condition, and insisted on its honest representation, regardless of how 'vulgar' some may have found it at the time it was published," he says.

"Because he was obsessed with what language is, and what it does, Joyce, more than any other writer, I think, brought formidable tools to his effort to evoke what it is to be a human being," Slote adds. "He employed astounding command of a wide range of writing and speaking styles to demonstrate the reality of modern experience."

The notebooks in the UB collection reveal that Joyce collected references from everywhere; from death notices to weather reports to bits of geology, music, science, foreign literature, mythology -- any subject, really. The writer jotted them down, crossed them out as he used them and from them reproduced them in a cacophonous catalogue of life as lived, illustrated with verbal maps, subliminal suggestions, memories, bits of song cycles and articulated sensualities of every kind.

Slote says the text of "Ulysses" "is as rich and complex as life itself. It is full of color, music and great wit. It is really a very, very funny book, and a poignant book," he says.

"Joyce used language so astutely and many kinds of geographic and historical games, complex cross references reflected back and forth across different chapters, and a wonderful narrative that echoes the voice of whatever it is that he is describing. This complexity, cross referencing and endless hidden intrigue may account for why so many readers never feel as if they have finished 'Ulysses' and why it is considered by so many, many readers as one of the most significant books of the past 100 years."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 27,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. The university offers the only degrees in law, pharmacy and architecture in the SUNY system, and is the home of the only comprehensive public school of engineering in New York State.

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