Snow Falling in Mexico: Joyce Without Borders, 2019 North American James Joyce Symposium, a Review

In her rewriting of “Two Gallants”, Evelyn Conlon uses as a setting for her story an international conference reluctantly titled Another Look at Joyce. My reference to this short story is pertinent in the light of what we experienced last June in Mexico City: Joyce Without Borders, the 2019 North American James Joyce Symposium. Although it might seem that nowadays it would be hard to say anything new about the aforementioned Irish author, this symposium welcomed, in Casa Universitaria del Libro (CASUL), more than 130 speakers, distributed in 45 panels, in order to analyze the diverse ways in which Joyce embodied the figure of an artist without borders and how his works and life transcended conventional limits and divisions. The audience, the organizers, everyone had something relevant to say.

The organizing committee included professors from the two host universities, namely the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Metropolitan Autonomous University: Aurora Piñeiro, Argentina Rodríguez, Mario Murgia (UNAM), and James Ramsey (UAM-Cuajimalpa). The scientific committee was integrated by Joyce scholars such as Tim Conley (Brock University, Canada), Onno Kosters (Utrecht University, Netherlands), Norman Cheadle (Laurentian University, Canada), Kiron Ward (Sussex University, England), Anne Fogarty (University College Dublin, Ireland), and Hedwig Schwall (KU Leuven, Belgium). Alongside academics, graduate and undergraduate students from English and French literature departments from UNAM and from UAM-C collaborated as the support team. The four keynote speakers were professors Michael Wood (Princeton University, USA), Terence Killeen (James Joyce Centre, Ireland), César Salgado (University of Texas, USA), and Luz Aurora Pimentel (UNAM), who captivated the audience with their theoretical approaches and interpretations of Joyce’s oeuvre. Lastly, the artists who kindled the congress were Rita Duffy and Carol Wade, alongside the composer Neal Kosaly-Meyer, filmmaker Gavan Kennedy, and actress Emoé de la Parra.

Throughout this unforgettable five-day gathering the atmosphere was one of camaraderie and international cooperation derived from the high regard of the figure of Joyce as a writer whose ability to destabilize different types of limits permeated an event where boundaries were also erased. Joyce Without Borders was much more than a reunion and an exchange of ideas: it also evidenced that the purpose of having borders is to transgress them. There is no doubt that in current political times when notions of walls, either real or imaginary, have become constant references, as well as in varied social contexts of polarization and racial segregation, the figure of James Joyce is more alive than ever—and the study of his works is imperative to face the sociocultural challenges of many societies in the world.

Carolina Ulloa

Member of the project PAPIME 400219
“Anglo-Irish Literature of the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries”.