Report on the II James Joyce Graduate Conference, 2009 – Rome

On the second and third of February 2009, in occasion of Joyce\’s one hundred twentyseventh birthday, in collaboration with the James Joyce Reserach Centre – University College Dublin – and the School of English – Trinity College Dublin – Franca Ruggieri and John McCourt organised the Second James Joyce Graduate Conference held at the department of Comparative Literatures of the “Roma Tre” University.

The conference was meant to give emerging Joyce’s scholars the occasion to present unpublished papers and works in progress on Joyce to an International audience. The topic chosen was Joyce: Rewritings and Metamorphosis; speakers were mainly graduate students and young Joyceans, while chairs and respondents were specialists on Joyce and academics from several Italian universities (Carla Marengo Vaglio, John McCourt, Fritz Senn, Franca Ruggieri, Lia Guerra, Enrico Terrinoni, Masolino D’Amico, Rosa Maria Colombo, Romana Zacchi, Giuseppe Massara, Mariangela Tempera, Giovanni Cianci and Maria Del Sapio).

After the brief introductory ceremony the morning lecture was opened by Richard Brown’s (University of Leeds) paper “Joyce rewriting literature: ‘Aeolus’ through Benjamin”, followed by a first group of speakers dealing with the title “Comparative metamorphosis”; similarities and influences between Joyce, Kafka (Elisabeth Jenkins—North Carolina State University), Elisabeth Madox Roberts (Juliana Alexander—Radford University) and Carlo Emilio Gadda (Teresa Prudente—Torino) were investigated.

The following contribution, by Fritz Senn, founder and director of the Zürich James Joyce Foundation, was meant to give sense to the proceedings of Joycean studies. Full of wit and sense of humour Senn discourse has been an encouragement to keep on studying Joycean connections, with passion, zeal, curiosity and philological integrity.

A sombre tone followed with the memorial of Luigi Schenoni and Franco Antonio Belgiorno; Luigi Schenoni, honorary member of the JJIF, was about to conclude the huge fatigue of Finnegans Wake Italian translation — the first volumes had appeared for Mondadori. Franco Antonio Belgiorno, writer, essayist and collector of Joycean volumes and translations, had taken agreements with the JJIF to produce a catalogue of his library, but his sudden death interrupted this project.

The second part of the proceedings was split into two sections, each one dedicated to the last Joyce’s masterpieces: “Metamorphosis and Ulysses”, “Finnegans Wake and Metamorphosis”. Summarising the content of these dense panel sections is not easy: the contributions explored a wide range of aspects in Joyce’s works varying from an investigation on the “musical metamorphosis” of Circe’s episode (Michelle Witen—Oxford) to an accurate and deep research of Joyce’s debt to Giordano Bruno’s philosophy (Enrico Sabatini—Torino).
The conclusion of the first day conference saw the intervention of Anne Fogarty—she was director of the UCD James Joyce Summer School in the years 1997-2005. Her paper “Imagining the city in Joyce’s Dubliners” was an exploration of the function space has in Joyce’s short stories according to Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.

In the evening, as a tradition initiated years ago for such occasions, a buffet was offered by His Excellence, Sean O’ Huiginn, Irish Ambassador to Italy at his own residence in Rome. A brief illustration of the most recent Italian publications on Joyce and on Irish studies was presented by professor John McCourt.

Three panels followed the next day. In the first one metamorphosis was intended as influences, references, cultural suggestions and echoes of previous artists and philosophers in Joyce’s works. In the second one speakers concentrated on the influences Joyce produced on other artists or on simple similarities between Joyce and other personalities (like the Jugoslav writer Danilo Kiŝ—Ivana Milivojevic, Serbia, or the Italian composer Luciano Berio—Maria Domenica Mangialavori, Roma Tre). The last panel dealt again with “Ulysses and metamorphosis”. The theme was explored through different perspectives: linguistic (Craig Melhof—Canada), spatial (Liam Lanigan—UCD) and thematic (Patrick Lennon—UCD). Sam Slote (Trinity College Dublin) concluded this two days conference shedding light on the parallel between Stephen Dedalus’ ethics and Nietzsche’s philosophy.

A selection of the most brilliant contributions will be included in the volume Joyce Studies in Italy X. This issue will be dedicated to the memory of Giorgio Melchiori, who introduced Joyce to generations of readers, students and scholars since 1960 to the present days. Giorgio Melchiori, professor Emeritus of the University “Roma Tre”, Honorary Trustee of the James Joyce Foundation since 1994, was also Honorary Member of the JJIF since its birth and founder of this ‘occasional publication’.

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