By Liao Fangzhou Source:Global Times Published
Shanghai's scholars and students of literature joined the city's Irish community to participate in a daylong pilgrimage reenacting the epic novel Ulysses. The event was in celebration of Bloomsday (June 16, 1904), the day in the life of Leopold Bloom as depicted in the novel and the most important day of the the fictional days in the world of author James Joyce.
Like the Bloomsday festivals currently taking place in Dublin and other parts of the world, the Shanghai celebration involves traveling, very often on foot, across the city wearing symbolic straw hats. At various stops they read episodes from the book, at times over Irish food, drinks and music.
This year's event is supported by the Consulate General of Ireland in Shanghai. It kicked off at Blarney Stone, an Irish pub on Yongkang Road. Lead by Irish Consul General Austin Gormley, professors and students from Shanghai University of International Business and Economics and Tongji University read extracts from chapter 1 to chapter 3.
The group read along the way from the pub to their second stop, including a spontaneous session at the People's Square metro station. "It is the first time Bloomsday has been celebrated at a Shanghai subway station, as well as along Huaihai Road, so we made history today," Gormley noted.
Readings by eight Shanghai Normal University students took place outside the Shanghai Grand Theatre. At 5 pm at Irish bar Tipsy Fiddler, participants from Shanghai International Studies University and Fudan University took over. This session was closed by readings from Irish Fintan Burke, Irish-American Lara Yates, and Ulysses illustrator Robert Berry from the United States.
"Ulysses revolves around Bloom's day from 8 am to 2 am the next morning, and the readings strictly follow that chronological order," Feng Jianming, Irish literature professor from Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times. "Therefore, we do the 'morning' chapters at the first pub, go on to the 'afternoon' chapters in the afternoon, and finish late for the 'evening' chapters."
But it was a one-hour lecture and exhibit from Robert Berry at the second stop, at the Shanghai Grand Theatre, that Vice Consul General Eoghan Duffy called the center piece of the event.
During a past Bloomsday in Philadelphia, Berry's home where he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, he met Joycean expert Michael Barsanti in a pub and had the idea of producing a graphic novel adaptation of the intimidatingly difficult book as a gateway for a new generation of readers.
In 2010 he conceived the Ulysses 'SEEN,' an app featuring its comic adaptation, which thus far includes the first four chapters. They are accompanied by a page-by-page reader's guide, dramatis personae (a list of the main characters in a dramatic work) and pop-up translations of non-English passages.
Berry displayed parts of his adaptation to the audience, demonstrating how he uses the language of comics to help readers absorb the complex mixture of narratives, speaking and thoughts while approaching the original text's deeper mysteries.
"For example, with a word balloon, you still have a reading experience unlike in films, but you can see who is talking," Berry explained. "Comics allow a certain level of immediate flow and visualization of the events."
When sharing his own take on the book, Berry said that reading it for the first time is a little bit like being drawn to the center of a foreign city, which makes reading and lecturing the novel in Shanghai and other Chinese cities particularly meaningful for him.
"You may kind of know some of the things around you, you may kind of know where to go and what to do, but you actually have to live in that city for a while to get a sense of all that it can be," Berry pointed out.
Berry is also the illustrator of the 100th anniversary edition of "The Dead," the final short story in Joyce's 1914 collection Dubliners. Participants took their time appreciating examples of his beautiful illustrations displayed at the lecture hall.
Irish literature students at the event told the Global Times that they were still in process of reading through Ulysses, and were happy to use Berry's ongoing digital project - which will be completed in 2022, the 100th anniversary of the book's publication - as a much-needed guide.
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