In the Footsteps of Leopold Bloom

Yesterday, on Day 2 of Dublin, Mr. Shifflett and I took two walking tours with the James Joyce Centre. The first was the Joyce Circular, which covered some highlights of Joyce’s life and a few locations from several of his works; the second was In the Footsteps of Leopold Bloom, which covered Bloom’s journey through the city in a single chapter of Ulysses.

Before I tell you about the walking tours, though, I should tell you that we did all of this with full bellies: we dined on the majesty of the Full Irish before leaving for our day’s journey. If you’ve never heard of or enjoyed a Full Irish, here’s what it is: it’s a Full Irish Breakfast. Eggs (fried or scrambled), bacon, sausage patties, a sausage link the size of a hot dog, baked beans, and a baked tomato. And several slices of toast. The idea is that when you eat a Full Irish, you feel full – for the rest of the day. Baked beans may sound weird for breakfast, but they are delicious. Beans on toast, beans on egg, beans on sausage, beans on everything. All of this should be enjoyed with several cups of tea. (Yes, for those of you who know what a coffee fiend I am, I have been drinking tea, and plenty of it.)

With the Full Irish under our belts, we took walking tour #1, which took us around some lovely Georgian streets (if you look at Dublin Mapped, we started at N Great George’s Street, walked north-ish to see Joyce’s school Belvedere College, around back to pass St. George’s Church (which figures in the first Bloom chapter of Ulysses), over to Eccles Street where Leopold Bloom lived, past playwright Sean O’Casey’s birthplace, down to the building where “The Boarding House” took place in Dubliners, and down O’Connell Street (which is like the grand boulevard of Dublin) to the statue of Joyce. I have a few pictures for you:

First, the types of buildings we were seeing everywhere on our walk: lovely restored/maintained Georgian buildings.

Georgian Dublin Buildings

Next, the James Joyce statue:

James Joyce Statue, Dublin

Finally, St. George’s Church:

St. George’s Church, Dublin

Now, we noticed something funny about the church. It has four clocks on the tower, and they’re all stopped at different times, seemingly randomly. One is at 2:43, or something like that. But the clock on the front is stopped at 8 o’clock… and when Leopold Bloom hears the bells of this church in his first chapter in Ulysses, guess what hour they’re tolling? If you guessed 8 o’clock, you’re right, and hopefully you’re as mystified/excited as we were. THE SPIRIT OF JAMES JOYCE LIVES IN DUBLIN AND WANTED TO JOIN US ON OUR TOUR!

Our second tour was Leopold Bloom’s journey through the Laestrygonians chapter of Ulysses, and it was really cool. Seriously. If you remember your Homer, you know the Laestrygonians were giant cannibals who devoured many of Odysseus’s men. This chapter in Ulysses is about Bloom’s hunger and how he stops for lunch, but it’s also about the bodily hunger of Dubliners who were destitute/starving, and the intellectual and spiritual hunger of a city looking for meaning. Beyond that, the physical path Leopold Bloom walks – straight down O’Connell over the Liffey River, around the curves of D’Olier and College Streets past Trinity College, down Grafton Street, and turning on Nassau and then on Kildare to end at the National Library – actually reflects digestion! Look at the map and check out the straight stretches (O’Connell is the esophagus), the curves (D’Olier and College are peristalsis), the end stretches (Grafton, Nassau, and Kildare become the intestines and the end stop).

Okay, that sounds weird, but it’s really cool. James Joyce knew his city so well, even writing from a foreign country – that’s right, he wrote Ulysses while living in Europe – he could remember the streets, their shops, and the monuments, and could map out a perfect route that reflected the symbolic content of his chapter. He’s one smart dude.


The city has installed these plaques in the sidewalk to mark Bloom’s journey in this chapter:

Bloom’s Footsteps Plaques

A view of the city from the south bank of the Liffey, looking over the river to O’Connell Street:

View from the Liffey

The tours were amazing – I felt like I learned a lot, which is saying… well, something. My knowledge of Joyce and Irish history is okay, but it’s not my specialty, so all of the things we’re doing have something to teach me, which is awesome.

Next up: a play review of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and then I need to get out of here and have some adventures today.


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