Home: Diasporic Joyce

**See You in Toronto! You can now register for the Saturday, June 24 banquet. Tickets to the banquet will only be available until June 6.

A provisional schedule of the conference has also been posted.


James Joyce grew up in the shadow of a massive diaspora brought about by the devastating potato famine of the 1840’s, when Ireland lost fully a third of its population to death and forced migration. By the end of the 19th century, 40% of Irish-born people were living elsewhere. The city of Toronto is also marked by that history: relatively small at the time, with a population of only 30,000, at the height of the famine it became a destination for nearly twice that number of Irish men, women and children. Ireland Park, on the quayside at the foot of Bathurst St., created in 2007 as a famine memorial with four sculptures intended by Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie to complement his Famine figures in Dublin, provides an artistic link between Dublin and Toronto, as if sister cities.

Now, in the 21st century, Toronto has become uniquely multicultural: slightly more than half its citizens were born in another country, drawn from every part of the world. Joyce, who lived and wrote in Dublin, Trieste, Zurich, Paris, and (briefly) London, knew of Diaspora personally, and as a witness. His fiction is imbued with yearnings to return to home, or trepidation at leaving it, as well as a keen interest in how borders or the lack of them create violent confrontation, whether it be an altercation in a local pub, an estrangement in a marriage, or the launching of a World War. In so-called “Globalization”, money itself is also diasporic: transnational corporations and free flowing capital, trade agreements and mobile labor forces, the unequal distribution of wealth and the continuing increase of precarious employment.

This invites us to consider the various movements linked to the Diasporic: not only transnational capital, but also transgenerational trauma and even perhaps the transmigration of souls. Joyce shows us barriers are everywhere: in ourselves, in our relations to others, between our hope and our reality, driving our desire and threatening our peace of mind. For Joyce, the political is not just the personal, it is a part of the unconscious. History, in Stephen’s Dedalus’s famous metaphor, “is a nightmare from which I am still trying to awake.” In its modest way, we propose Diasporic Joyce as a further contribution to a geopolitical, transnational, interpersonal, “wake-up call.”

Please direct all inquiries to diasporicjoyce@gmail.com.

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