Join us at The James Joyce Centre for a provocative talk by Professor Neil Davison as he discusses how Joyce’s awareness of Albert Altman, an Irish-Jewish Dubliner and local politician during the era, influenced the Dubliners’ story ‘Ivy Day in the Committee Room’. When Joyce’s piece is framed through Altman’s public profile during the historical moment the story is set, its depiction of the lament and confusion over the fall of Charles Stewart Parnell’s Home Rule leadership can be read on a more localised and nuanced level. Altman’s position as a Councillor on the Dublin Municipal Corporation from 1901-03 was a case study of the precarious position many Jews occupied in colonialised countries during the era when calcified racial divisions transformed the nature of imperialism across the globe.
In Ulysses, Leopold Bloom’s politics also appear to draw on Joyce’s memories of Altman, and ‘Ivy Day’ is the earliest piece in which the politician’s career influenced Joyce’s interest in labour issues as a necessary component of a future Irish independence. Through Altman, and later in full expression through Bloom, Joyce recognised how Jews, so often figured as outsiders to European cultures, also came to represent what has been called a third racial-space between coloniser and colonised during the late-stage of empire before the present postcolonial/post-Holocaust era.
Neil R. Davison is Professor of Modernism, Irish Studies, and Jewish Cultural Studies at Oregon State University. He is the author of James Joyce, Ulysses, and the Construction of Jewish Identity (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Jewishness and Masculinity from the Modern to the Postmodern (Routledge Press, 2010), and numerous articles on Joyce and other Irish authors, Holocaust Literature, and, most recently, Anglo and Francophone Caribbean authors. His work focuses on issues of race, gender, religion, and philosophy in twentieth-century literature.