Study Abroad

In May, 2013, the University of Limerick’s International Education Division’s Summer School hosted our MOSAIC group, which consisted of students from Maryville University, Columbia College, and Central Methodist College in Missouri. We joined students from colleges and universities across the United States attending UL summer school. Students chose from six different courses taught by UL faculty, including classes in Irish Literature, Sociology, Law, Film and media, History and Creative Writing. The apartments they shared, each with private rooms and en suite bathrooms, were located in Cappavilla Village on the north campus, overlooking the River Shannon, and included full kitchens with daily breakfast service and housekeeping. Students were provided with vouchers for lunch and supper that could be used at any of the on-campus cafes and restaurants.

Excursions to major Irish attractions were provided by UL, including a trip to the nearby Craggenowen and Bunratty castles, Limerick Milk Market, and more distant excursions to the Burren, the Atlantic shoreline at Kilkee, the Flying Boat museum in Foynes, the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon, and to Dublin, where students visited the Guinness Storehouse, Croke Park Stadium (home to the Gaelic Athletic Association), and the Book of Kells in Trinity College. Two of our MOSAIC students attended one of the World Cup 2014 qualifying matches between Ireland and the Faro Islands while in Dublin. We were also hosted with food and drink vouchers to attend the UL annual Party on the Plaza, celebrating the university’s accomplishments during the previous year.

Our MOSAIC sponsored excursions included a trip to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, and the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Students participated in a photography contest sponsored by the University. Our MOSAIC students, Gabrielle and Mack, took first and second place respectively. Gabrielle’s first-place photo from her trip to the Dingle Peninsula can be seen on the UL International Education, Summer School web site.

MOSAIC students also received credit for our Maryville University study abroad course, “Exploring the Culture of Ireland.” Examples of their essays and photo essays included reflections on The Troubles, GAA Irish sports of hurling and soccer, the fallout from the Celtic Tiger economic bubble, Bloomsday and the books of James Joyce, and the Irish diaspora. For 2014, UL will again offer courses in Irish Literature, Sociology, Law, Film and media, History, and Creative Writing, and they will add two new courses: Irish Myths and Legends, and Nursing.

Ireland is known internationally as the Land of a Thousand Welcomes, and the faculty and staff at University of Limerick demonstrated that sentiment every day of our experience there. I strongly recommend this study abroad opportunity for undergraduate students who want to earn 6 hours of credit and experience three weeks immersed in Irish culture. For more information, visit the MU Study Abroad web site: http://www.maryville.edu/globaled/study-abroad/

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La Bloom 2013

June 16 began for my friend Mary and me in Dublin’s city center. We started our celebration in St. Stephen’s Green at the bust of James Joyce. The morning was sunny and cool. On Grafton, as visitors strolled the cobblestone street before the festivities got underway, the mood was peaceful. Flower vendors were busy setting up their stalls and the cacophony of Dublin’s street musicians had not yet started. We entered the park through the Fusiliers stone gates and went first to the central fountains. We’d hoped to spot some of the characters in Edwardian dress there but, true to Ireland, it was too early.

We visited the bust, near the bandstand, and paid homage to the man of the day. The park began filling with families and tourists. The celebration of Joyce’s Ulysses wouldn’t start until after noon.

We traveled back down Grafton, past Duke Street, and made our way up O’Connell to the statue of Joyce that stands on North Earl Street. Admirers were queued to take photos with the life sized likeness, snuggling up to the figure, and we did likewise. We passed groups of tourists being guided on Bloomsday walks, retracing Bloom’s route across the Liffey, through Temple Bar, and down the shore.

By one o’clock we made our way back to Duke Street for lunch at Davy Byrnes where we shared the back room tables with several Bloomsday regulars, some in full Edwardian dress. Many patrons opted for the Gorgonzola sandwich with a glass of burgundy but we were not so brave and instead chose cold plates. Fancy hats were in abundance on both men and women, and across the street, at the Bailey, straw boaters were distributed with black bands and red lettering that read, “Bloomsday at the Bailey, 2013.” The Bailey restaurant and bar is where the idea of Bloomsday was first born on June 16, 1954 by John Ryan and Brian O’Nolan.

Later in the afternoon, we visited the International Bar’s basement room for a series of performances by the Balloonatics where we heard interpretive readings from several chapters, including The Sirens and The Cyclops, accompanied by music. The room was small and tightly packed and the appreciative audience cheered the performers’ dramatizations. At the end, a hat was passed and coins were tossed in, in support of the three performers.

Throughout the afternoon we saw parades of costumed revelers and, as the weather continued to be fair, had plenty of opportunities to admire their sartorial splendor and fine millinery. The crowd on Duke Street grew larger and more vocal as the day wore on and the side streets all around Grafton buzzed with excitement. Some who’d spent the better part of their day engaged in pub crawls were more than a bit worse for the wear. Still, Bloomsday (or La Bloom, as the purists call it) 2013 was a smashing success.

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Bloom’s travel timeline

I’ll be spending Bloomsday in Dublin and in preparation I’ve collected the essential places and events in Ulysses in a timeline. I don’t expect to visit them all. While some still exist, others have changed dramatically or are completely gone.

I’ve planned a good portion of my day on Sunday around the events in St. Stephen’s Green. Those include readings and reenactments. And, of course, a bite to eat at Davy Byrne’s pub.

8:00am,Bloom is at his home on Eccles Street and at the butcher shop nearby
10:00am, at the Post Office on Eccles Street, All Hallows’ Church, the chemists and public baths
11:00am, in Glasnevin’s Cemetery for Dingham’s funeral where he’s snubbed by Menton
Noon, in the newspaper office of Freeman Journal, buying ad space
1:00pm, visits Davy Byrne’s Pub on Duke Street where he eats the famous Gorgonzola sandwich. On the way there he passes Burton’s restaurant where he’s disgusted by the piggish eating behavior of the men he sees there
2:00pm, at the National Library, where he encounters Stephen Dedalus. This is the setting for Stephen’s explanation of his Hamlet theory
3:00pm, at Merchant’s Arch, buying a book, Sweets of Sin for Molly
4:00pm, near The Ormond Hotel, where he follows Boulan, his wife’s lover, and later, outside the Ormond, he finds Birdie, a prostitute
5:00pm, an argument ensues in Barney Kiernan’s pub over Irish nationalism, and outside the pub, Cunningham’s carriage pulls away and a tin is thrown at Bloom
8:00pm, on the rocks at Sandymount Strand, he encounters Gerty McDowell and masterbates behind a rock, then naps on the strand
10:00pm, at the National Maternity Hospital, waiting for news of Mina Purefoy’s baby’s delivery, then he follows Dedalus to the Dublin red light district
12:00am, at Bella Cohen’s brothel he chats with Zoe, another prostitute, and Stephen breaks a chandelier, running away into the street. Bloom pays for the damage.
1:00am, on Beaver Street, where he and Stephen encounter W. B. Murphy, a sailor, who tells them adventure stories, and afterward they walk together back to Bloom’s house
2:00am, at home, Bloom offers to let Stephen stay the night but he declines. Bloom finds evidence that Boylan and Molly have been together. He is resigned to her infidelity.
4:00am, Bloom’s wife, Molly, reconsiders her life with Bloom

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The Irish Short Story

With my return trip to Ireland as a faculty sponsor for Study Abroad just a couple of months away, I decided to delve deeper into Contemporary Irish Literature. Last summer, I spent most of my reading time exploring Irish culture and history. And I took a second turn with James Joyce’s Ulysses. I have a passable familiarity with other works by Joyce and Yeats and I’ve read a few of Heaney’s poems. But the extent of my experience with Irish fiction writers whose work was produced in the second half of the twentieth century was Roddy Doyle’s trilogy.

This week, I picked up the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story and did something I seldom do. I read the editor’s introduction. I tend to read greedily, foregoing introductions to collections and diving right in to the stories. Most of the time, I’ll eventually get around to reading what the editor had to say, but not always. (Yes, I admit this with some shame.)

This collection’s editor, Anne Enright, has her own impressive list of accomplishments: five novels and two short story collections, along with essays and a book of non-fiction. Yet, I didn’t know much about Enright. So, I started with her introduction to the collection; it features no less than thirty-one different Irish writers including Frank O’Connor, Clare Boylan, Sean O Faolain, and Colm Toibin.

Enright sets the table for this feast of Irish literary delicacies by describing short stories this way: “Short stories are the cats of literary form; beautiful, but a little too self-contained for some readers’ tastes.” It was an analogy that resonated with me. I do appreciate a good short story for its containment. Alice Munro– my favorite contemporary North American writer– is particularly adept at creating a world within a well-defined space.

What I’m looking forward to as I read more Irish writers’ short stories over the next few weeks is discovering the lyrical within them. Irish story telling has a long oral history out of which its poetry and prose have developed. Irish writers excel at taking the language of their oppressors, the English, and using it to express more than a clever tale or message. The Irish write their personalities and temperaments, as well. I suspect it’s their outsider identities that lead them away from the traditions of English fiction writers, to a more artful use of the medium.

I expect to have read most of these stories well before its time for my departure. If anyone has a recommendation for other works of contemporary Irish fiction, especially in short story form, that you’d like to share with me, please leave a comment with your suggestions.