Last night, area residents experienced a little bit of Dublin right here in Maine through the work of Irish author James Joyce when Professor of English Marilyn Reizbaum brought what she terms the "Joyce mystique" to members of the Association of Bowdoin Friends.
The lecture, originally scheduled for Wednesday, James Joyce's birthday, was moved to Thursday night following the snow storm. However, many who attended the lecture had also attended Tuesday's screening of "Nora," a film by Pat Murphy based on the life of Joyce's wife Nora Barnacle.
"The Dead," the final installment in Joyce's 1914 collection "Dubliners," was in part inspired by a story told to Joyce by his wife Nora.
"Memory is an unstable place," remarked Reizbaum. She noted that Joyce's style is characterized by "beauty in the fissures, uncertainty, the questions we are left with."
Reizbaum centered her lecture around the differences between Joyce's work "The Dead" and John Huston's film adaptation of the short story. The primary distinction, Reizbaum explained, is that the film renders Joyce's tale both "pleasant and melancholy," while the literary work is less of a "caress" and more of a "pinch."
Joyce's short story, ending with a blanket of ambiguously symbolic snow, "delivers a loss," according to Reizbaum. She added that Huston's work puts this loss "to rest," making the film a powerful—albeit misguided—rendition of Joyce's tale.
Professor of Art Mark Wethli is team teaching the seminar class Joycean Revolutionaries with Reizbaum this spring.
A lover of both the original and film depictions of "The Dead," he remarked of Reizbaum's lecture, "I think she got it exactly right... both of them are very moving but in different ways."
Brunswick resident Caroline Beckjord was also fascinated by the "contrast between the story and the movie" which Reizbaum brought out; however, she was equally struck by the "sensitivity" with which the story is told in both mediums.
Eric Beckjord of Brunswick, appreciated Reizbaum's illumination of such a complex literary work, saying, "she opened a window to look out on this incredibly involved set of relationships."
The primary relationship Eric Beckjord refers to is that of characters Greta and Gabrielle, a married couple distanced after Greta painfully reminisces on the sacrifice of a former lover.
The recounted story of this now-dead lover is romanticized by director Huston, himself dying during the making of "The Dead."
Highlighting the "nostalgia and shades of loss" in the story, Reizbaum lended a surreal quality to the experience of reading and viewing.
"The whole thing is a dream," said Brunswick resident John Eusden. "You wake up and put the parts together yourself, but it is so dreamy you may not be able to put together all the parts...the book is a dream."
"Both the film and the book use nuance very powerfully," added Wethli. "Much is revealed in very slight turns of conversation, gestures, passing thoughts...very small things are often very large truths, [whether] revealed or concealed."
Reizbaum is conducting a semester-long series titled "The Ulysses Project," celebrating Joyce's infamous novel "Ulysses." The events, classes and exhibitions included in her project will culminate in a public symposium, "The Next Joyce Century: Still Fearing and Loving Ulysses," on April 14 and 15.