2009 WILDE ABOUT JOYCE
AT QUEEN'S HALL, STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA
Director Brenda Addie
James Joyce David Adamson
Oscar Wilde Paul David Goddard
Stephen Dedalus Justin Batchelor
Malachi Mulligan (‘Buck’) Glenn van Oosteroom
Nonna Maria / Concierge / Librarian Lou Endicott
Haines / Librarian Jason Cavanagh
Design Rafaella McDonald
Lighting Scott Allan
Oscar Wilde, it will be argued, is a ghost who haunts Ulysses, being mentioned often, both explicitly and implicitly, and arguably present in the character of Buck Mulligan. Bloomsday in Melbourne Inc. places Joyce and Wilde in an Antechamber of Heaven to sort out their differences. It’s a contest between two modern ways of writing. The seminar explores aspects of betrayal in the writings of Joyce and Wilde and in Joyce’s representation of sexuality and homosexuality in Ulysses.
Wilde was a significantly different artist from Joyce, and a convenient point of departure for Joyce’s writing. Joyce was only 13 when Wilde was tried, and he admired him greatly, while at the same time being quite ambivalent about by the ‘crime’ for which he was convicted, and traumatised by the conduct and outcomes of the trial.
'The first duty of life is to be as artificial as possible.'
WHAT AN AUDIENCE MEMBER HAD TO SAY
Joyce and Wilde: Bloomsday in Melbourne, 2009
Bloomsday in Melbourne, 2009, looked at Oscar Wilde, homosexuality and Joyce. This was done mainly through the play Wilde about Joyce by Frances Devlin-Glass, Roz Hames and Greg Rochlin, directed by Brenda Addie. In it, Joyce meets Wilde in an antechamber, which we soon learn is purgatory. Indeed it is Literary Purgatory, reserved for writers who must await there until they have become famous. Wilde has already been there some 40 years, when a perplexed Joyce joins him.
Once the preliminaries are established, Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan enter, later to be joined by Haines. Their dialogue comes directly from Chapter 1 of Ulysses (Telemachus). Witticisms as commentary from Wilde are occasionally interspersed, along with rejoinders from Joyce. In Telemachus, reference is explicitly made to Wilde twice, and in Ulysses twenty times. Buck Mulligan says, as he withdraws his shaving mirror “The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror. If Wilde were only alive to see you!” and later, “We have grown out of Wilde and paradoxes.” This provides an explicit textual connexion between Joyce, his characters and Wilde. And so a dialogue between the Joyce and Wilde opens up, covering literary fame – the route out of purgatory – writing, literary manifestos and the like. To explore this theme the play turns to Chapter 9 of Ulysses (Scylla and Charybdis). This is a difficult chapter in the book. It remains difficult in the play, despite the interjections and commentary of Joyce and Wilde (perhaps designed in part to leaven it).
Buck Mulligan: Lovely! I asked him what he thought of the charge of pederasty brought against the bard. He lifted his hands and said: All we can say is that life ran very high in those days. Lovely!
The play’s stated aim is to explore the extent to which Wilde inhabits or ‘haunts’ Ulysses. Is it Wilde’s homosexuality and Joyce’s reluctance to write about it that haunts Ulysses? The play’s argument is that homosexuality haunts Ulysses in that Joyce refuses to incorporate it into the fabric of the story. Homosexuality only surfaces briefly in Chapter 9 in discussions of literary theory and Shakespeare.
In the play Wilde is thus led to accuse Joyce:
… You catalogue all the pathologies, bar one…. But, je t’accuse: the one ‘pathology’ you omit – you only ever flirt with it - is one the one of which I was accused. But in your novels, it’s nudges and winks …
He goes on to tell Joyce that it is in Buck Mulligan – hence the scenes from Telemachus, Scylla & Charybdis, Oxen of the Sun and Circe – that Wilde is represented.
The irony is that at the play’s conclusion, it is homosexual Wilde who is escorted from the writers’ antechamber, famous despite (or perhaps partly because of) his homosexuality, while Joyce is left there.
For those of us who saw Wilde about Joyce in the afternoon, the evening concluded with a seminar. Both papers continued the theme around Joyce and homosexuality, and as if acknowledging Wilde’s exit from purgatory, readings from The Importance of Being Earnest over a Celtic Club dinner.
Adrian Beavis is a veteran of 7 Bloomsdays in Melbourne, and a Joycean.
Lou Endicott and Jason Cavanagh perform on Radio 3JJ
David Adamson as Joyce in top photo, and Lou Endicott as Radio play actor in bottom photo.
THE BLOOMSDAY SEMINAR
at the Celtic Club
JOYCE AND WILDE
PHILIP HARVEY & FRANCES DEVLIN-GLASS
Betrayal in Joyce and Wilde
Representing Queer After Wilde: Joyce, Buck Mulligan and Homophobia
Chaired by Bill Johnston
The City of Melbourne and the Irish Government are committed to the Arts, through their support of Bloomsday In Melbourne’s 2009 events as part of the 2009 Arts Grants Programs. Their support, and the support of the State Library of Victoria, Deakin University and The Celtic Club is gratefully acknowledged.