Joyce’s Ulysses was first published in Paris in 1922, the same year in which the violent upheaval of the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence culminated in the birth of the Irish Free State. Fittingly, Irish identity and nationalism are key themes that run throughout the novel. Stephen Dedalus thinks constantly about the Irish literary scene and its preoccupation with national identity and consciousness, while Leopold Bloom, the son of an Irish Catholic mother and a Hungarian Jewish father, is treated with suspicion by many of the Dubliners he encounters on account of his religious and ethnic background. Bloom’s persecution is most evident in the Cyclops episode of the novel, in which the xenophobic nationalist the Citizen asks the barbed question that provides the title of this event; to him, Bloom is not truly Irish.
This special event in the General Post Office, the main battleground of the 1916 Rising and in many ways the birthplace of the Irish State, will see three contemporary Irish writers get together to discuss Joyce’s examination of Irishness in the novel, using it as a way into a discussion about current concerns like sovereignty, borders, migration, xenophobia and the question of identity. Each of these authors will bring their own distinct focus to this discussion in what is sure to be a fascinating insight into the continuing contemporary relevance of Joyce’s work. Ticket-holders also get free admission to the award-winning GPO Witness History exhibition before the event (from 5:30pm), where you can learn more about the social and political upheaval of early twentieth century Ireland that continues to shape our view of national identity today.