April 15, 2024

Future Encounters with “Ulysses”

Event Series: Cultural Encounters: Books that Have Made a Difference

The Ha'Penny Bridge Dublin painting by Samuel Frederick Brocas (1818)

James Joyce’s Ulysses (1920) is a book filled with descriptions of the feeling of encounters. “Brief encounters” form the subject of a titillating joke early on, and the entire day of June 16, 1904 is, for Leopold Bloom, a painful lead-up to an encounter between his wife Molly Bloom and her lover. Meanwhile, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus, for different reasons, find themselves roaming the streets of Dublin having their own brief encounters with a host of characters whom they know, but not well. This talk by Cóilín Parsons will trace some of these but concentrate on another sort of encounter, between this Dublin novel and South Africa.

A constant presence through the book, South Africa turns up as an image of anti-colonial revolt for the most part, marking an unfolding colonial crisis elsewhere that foreshadows Dublin’s own. The talk will tie these threads together by reference to the experience of teaching Ulysses in South Africa, staging an encounter between it and twenty-first-century students far removed from Dublin, and asking how calls for curricular change and “decolonization” in the South African academy in the last eight years might be a way marker to new encounters with Ulysses in its second century of existence.

This event is sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project and the Georgetown Humanities Initiative at Georgetown University with Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. It is part of the year-long series, Cultural Encounters: Books that Have Made a Difference.


Cóilín Parsons

Cóilín Parsons

Cóilín Parsons is associate professor of English at Georgetown University, where he also directs the Global Irish Studies Initiative and holds the Sonneborn Chair in Interdisciplinary Collaboration. He is the author of The Ordnance Survey and Modern Irish Literature (2016) and editor or co-editor of Relocations: Reading Culture in South Africa (2015), Science, Technology, and Irish Modernism (2019), and Transnationalism in Irish Literature and Culture (summer 2024).

Michael Scott

Michael Scott

Michael Scott (moderator) is senior dean, fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college advisor for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior advisor to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously served as the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University, where he is professor emeritus.