Joyce Without Borders, the 2019 North American James Joyce Symposium, took place from June 12 to June 16, 2019. It was jointly hosted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM). This was the first annual gathering of Joyceans in the global south, as well as the first to host panels in both English and Spanish, and thus foregrounded the excellent work on Joyce being done in both languages.
Joyce Without Borders received 192 proposals in response to its Call For Papers, from 24 countries: Mexico, Ireland, USA, Canada, Turkey, France, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Denmark, Belgium, Australia, Germany, Japan, Perú, Scotland, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Czech Republic, Russia, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, and Qatar.
The academic program featured 4 keynote presentations, 8 artistic/alternative presentations, 44 scholarly panels (including 8 in Spanish), 3 off-conference Reading Group sessions, and a final roundtable presentation. In all, more than 180 Joyceans participated.
In addition to the UNAM and the UAM-Cuajimalpa, sponsors of the Symposium included the International James Joyce Foundation, the Embassy of Ireland, Mexico, Culture Ireland, Cultura UNAM, Casa Universitaria del Libro (CASUL), Facultad de Filosofía y Letras (UNAM), the National Museum of Anthropology, Diageo, Amadís, Red CACINE, and Cuerpo Académico Expresión y Representación (UAM-C).
Joyce has had a major impact on Latin American writers, who have found much to admire in Joyce’s bold experimentalism; his fusing of experiential details with universal concepts; his baroque profusion of words, languages, and styles; his critique of hegemonic structures of family, nation, and creed; and his resistance to myriad manifestations of imperialism.
Borders, boundaries, barriers: Joyce bowed to none. That is why the 2019 Symposium was dedicated to the many ways in which Joyce was an artist without borders; to the ways in which his work, like his life, transcended conventional divisions. As Stephen Dedalus famously puts it, “I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use -- silence, exile, and cunning.” By celebrating Bloomsday in Mexico at this historical moment, the Symposium sought to honor Joyce’s spirit of artistic freedom and exilic statement.
And yet, exile can have its pleasures. In 2016, the New York Times named Mexico City its number one tourism destination, atop a list of 52, calling it “A metropolis that has it all.” Among the many cultural, culinary, and architectural attractions the article describes, it mentions the “French-style 19th-century mansions of La Roma”, arguably the city’s most beautiful and cosmopolitan neighborhood. One of those mansions, the UNAM’s exquisite “Casa Universitaria del Libro”, served as the Symposium’s main venue. And since Mexico, like Ireland, is renowned for its hospitality, this Symposium did its best to make good on that reputation, while also showcasing for attendees the deep influence Joyce’s work has had in this country.
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