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Moving Ahead with Joyce

Faculty member’s new book looks at action in ‘Dubliners’

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More than a century after James Joyce published Dubliners, a new book co-edited by BSU faculty member Dr. Ellen Scheible is providing some fresh interpretations of the Irish author’s celebrated collection of short stories.

Dr. Scheible, associate professor of English and coordinator of the Irish Studies program, also contributed one of the 10 essays that comprise Rethinking Joyce’s Dubliners.

The book, whose other co-editor is Kent State University English Professor Claire A. Culleton, challenges nearly century-old assumptions that Joyce’s stories can best be understood through the images of paralysis and immobility that permeate it, metaphors intended to reflect the stagnation and resistance to change in Irish society at the time.

Dr. Scheible and the other essayists argue that while paralysis is a theme in Dubliners, the book is also filled with movement, anticipating the push for change that erupted two years later with the Easter Rising, the 1916 armed insurrection in Ireland against British rule.

“A lot of Joyce scholars have picked up on this motif of paralysis,” a term Joyce, himself, used at one time in discussing his book, Dr. Scheible said. In contrast, “We were interested in the way he represents things happening, events unfolding, characters doing things.”

“I think he was saying that Dublin was a paralyzed city,” she said, “but that it was on the brink of something, a kind of eruption.” Dr. Scheible believes Joyce wanted to help encourage that break from the old, though the change he yearned for was an embrace of European modernity rather than the nationalist sentiment that came out of the Easter Rising.

Dr. Scheible, who founded the Irish Studies Program two years ago, has long had a keen interest in Joyce.

“I’m really intrigued by his experimental style as well as his ability to appeal to the basics of humanity and the human heart,” she said.

While her book will be of particular interest to scholars, Dr. Scheible said she hopes it will also appeal to readers “who aren’t necessarily Joyce connoisseurs but are just interested in him as a cultural figure.”

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