University at Buffalo Hosts VIRTUAL BLOOMSDAY CELEBRATION Review – United by Literature

James Joyce James Joyce by Alex Ehrenzweig, 1915: work: RedAppleJack (talk)derivative work: Missionary / Public domain

Sitting in front of a wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, Edna O’Brien crouched over her paperback copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses and read the famous soliloquy by the character of Molly Bloom, wife of the main character, Leopold Bloom. The passage, in which Molly’s thoughts are expressed in contrast to those of the main characters, concludes the epic book. Molly reminisces on the first time she met Leopold, and how she fell in love with him. Before reading it, O’Brien claimed that the passage encompassed feelings that we all can relate to, about love and life and overwhelming passion.


University at Buffalo Hosts Atypical Bloomsday

This is what topped off a very atypical Bloomsday event hosted by the University at Buffalo, home to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Joyce materials. Traditionally, Bloomsday, which celebrates the day during which Ulysses takes place, is a holiday for gathering, a day during which literary fans might be found at a theatrical performance or street party, or even an Irish pub crawl. This year, with most public gatherings being too dangerous to take part in, the University at Buffalo, like many other Joyce institutions across the world, had to move their celebrations online.

In about five-minute-long segments, readers from Dublin to New York sat in front of their computer cameras and read from their copies of Ulysses (many of which were well-loved, with tattered covers and mounds of sticky notes peeking up from the pages). The physical proximity was gone, but the passion was still there. One reader pinched his nose to produce the nasally voice of a character; another performed a very convincing meow when a cat entered the scene. Voices rose and shrank, and hand gestures blurred across the screen as the readers lost themselves in the passages. One reader had even dressed up, wearing a suit and boater hat.


Perched at their desks or dining room tables and peering down into computer cameras, we heard 29 distinguished academics, writers, and other Joyce fans en toto reading their selected passages from Ulysses. The hour and a half experience, stilted by some expected technical difficulties such as readers forgetting to unmute themselves, reminded us of the unifying power of literature, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Although there were no public gatherings this Bloomsday, in this reviewer’s opinion, the University at Buffalo managed to connect readers across continents and unite them through a shared love for this epic Irish novel.

Fans of Joyce and Ulysses will likely highly enjoy the University at Buffalo’s future Bloomsday events, regardless of whether they will be on or offline.


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Jim Maynard
Alison Fraser
Mike Groden


Ansie Baird
Ronan Crowley
Anne Fogarty
Joseph Hassett
Josephine Hogan
Brigid Hughes
Patrick Hughes
Glenn Johnson
Damien Keane
Father Pat Keleher
Margaret Kelleher

Sean Kelly
Senator Timothy M. Kennedy
Al Kolodziejczak
Evviva Weinraub Lajoie
Dan Liberthson
Dipanjan Maitra
Gillian McCain
Katherin McSharry
Ambassador Daniel Mulhall
Senator David Norris
Edna O’Brien
Simon O’Connor
Vincent O’Neill
Molly Peacock
Michael Silverblatt
Mary Therrien
Colm Tóibín
Joseph Valente

For information on the University at Buffalo’s Bloomsday event next year, as well as other virtual events to be hosted in the coming days and weeks, please visit the University at Buffalo website.

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