Irish Studies celebrates James Joyce’s birthday

Megan Welch

James Joyce’s birthday on Feb. 2 marks an important date in Irish history and an occasion fit for a party. If Joyce, born in 1882, were still around he would be 127 years old. He also would have thoroughly enjoyed his bash at Flip and Bailey’s on Feb.1.

In a typical display of Irish hospitality, multitudes of students and local Joyce lovers alike crammed into the downstairs of Flip and Bailey’s bar to share food, laughs and plenty of pints. James Murphy, director of the Irish studies program, hosted the crowd.

Festivities began with dinner and an introduction by Murphy. He informed the crowd that in the Celtic tradition, Feb. 1 marks the beginning of spring.

“Despite what the groundhog may say, it’s springtime,” he said.

Murphy then ushered in the evening with a reading by famed author Jorge Luis Borges that demonstrated Joyce’s profound influence over writers around the world.

Several readings followed, beginning with an excerpt from the short story “Araby,” featured in Joyce’s collection, “The Dubliners.”

Gerald Dawe, Heimbold Chair of Irish studies for this spring semester, came next. A member of the school of English at Trinity College in Dublin, Dawe recited a poem that he had written.

Dawe’s poem, “In Memory of James Joyce,” makes multiple references to iconic Irish names and places, such as U2.

The poem made for the only solemn part of the evening. Its imagery aptly described a country still coming to terms with its tumultuous past.

“So much for the past, we must make our own choices and live with them,” Dawe said.

The final reading was performed by Megan Quigley, associate English professor. The piece, also by Dawe, was a re-envisioning of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in the final chapter of Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

Irish music permeated the evening. Jim Klingler, professor of management in the School of Business, played acoustic guitar accompanied by a mandolin and a hammered dulcimer, an instrument faintly resembling a harp and played with wooden hammers.

A group of Irish step dancers also provided entertainment, demonstrating their quick-footed moves in the middle of the admiring crowd.

Murphy was quick to clarify that though the event was held on Joyce’s birthday, it was truly a celebration of Irish culture in general.

“I hold this celebration because I have been teaching Joyce for years and I love Joyce,” Murphy said. “I think we can all say that Joyce is one of the great writers of the English language. He changed the face of modern literature, but we could have been celebrating any of the great Irish writers: Yeats, Keats and Beckett, among many others.”

On Joyce’s literary prowess all can agree. Many of the students present at his birthday celebration cited his beautiful writing as one of their primary reasons for attending. Senior Sinead Cloughley described him as “one of the best writers of the 20th century.”

Regardless of the reason for attendance, the Irish don’t need an excuse to have a good time.