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Eire on Erie: Bloomsday and James Joyce

The International James Joyce Conference attracts up to 250 scholars, and has been held in parts of North America and Europe. In 2009, these top minds will be heading right here, to the heart of Buffalo, New York.

“What we wanted to do is have it here in Buffalo and make a three ring circus out of it,” said Mark Shechner, professor of English at the University at Buffalo.

The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency, with events all across the Queen City, highlighting the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney, Pearl Street Brewery and other Buffalo hot spots. People from across the nation will be emersed in the Buffalo culture so many of us are proud of.

The event will include readings, films, lectures, receptions, a banquet, a library exhibition, a Bloomsday celebration that is open to the public, and guests from here and abroad.

Something Buffalo can offer, found nowhere else, is the rich collection of Joyce manuscripts kept at the University at Buffalo.
“Here in Buffalo, because we have this great manuscript collection, we’re trying to get people to come and talk about the composition of Ulysses, Finnegan’s Wake and to use and read the manuscript collection as a basis for discussion, so there is going to be a focus on composition,” explained Shechner.

Author Colum McCann will be featured as a guest speaker. This native of the Emerald Isle will be sharing his own pieces of writing, including a number of his published books.

The main event, enjoyed by scholars and geared towards Buffalonians, is the Bloomsday Celebration, held across the world every year on June 16th. The event’s title comes from character Leopold Bloom, in Joyce’s Ulysses.

“Bloomsday is the only global literary festival in the world, held in Shanghai, Moscow and Tokyo… Buffalo is one of the world’s centers now,” said Laurence Shine, professor at Buffalo State College and Bloomsday producer and director.

Bloomsday started in Dublin, but has been celebrated in Buffalo everywhere from a backyard party to the Irish Classical Theater, drawing crowds up to 900 people. Public figures, elected officials and ordinary people all participate in reading at the celebration. This year’s event, for Joyce scholars only, will be held at the Pearl Street Brewery.  The venues for events that are open to the public are still being decided and will be issued shortly, according to Shechner.

This, “conference that is a party,” will also include more social activities including an Irish music session at Ulrich’s Tavern.

Both Shechner and Shine are excited to set a precedent for conferences in Buffalo to be fun, engaging and informative, with the goal of bringing more people through the area for conferences in the future.

“Everyone would admit Joyce is the Shakespeare of the modern age, and so he has engaged the top philosophers in the world,” explained Shine.

So how did Buffalo get this opportunity? Shechner explained, “We applied to it. There is the International James Joyce Foundation which is kind of like a franchise, it is nothing more than them writing us a letter saying, ‘Sure, you can do it.'”

Pulling off the event obviously includes a lot of organizing, and of course, sponsors. Sponsors include The Oishei Foundation, The UB English Department, UB’s College of Arts and Sciences and Humanities Institute, Riverrun Productions and many more.

Bloomsday Conference

June 12 – 17

Various locations TBD

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