The Blagger's Guide To...James Joyce

Time at last to say 'yes I said yes I will Yes'

*Copyright protection of the works of James Joyce officially ended at the start of 2012, meaning that they can now be read in public, or excerpts from them used, without the express permission of the writer's estate.

When Joyce died on 13 January 1941, British and Irish copyright extended for only 50 years, but that was extended to 70 years when EU copyright laws were harmonised. Until now, anyone wanting to perform, quote extensively from, or publicly read Joyce's work needed the permission of his grandson and sole beneficiary Stephen Joyce, who was said to be "very protective" of the copyright.

*One of the first beneficiaries of the lapsing of the copyright was the singer-songwriter Kate Bush. "Originally when I wrote the song 'The Sensual World' I had used text from the end of Ulysses by James Joyce, put to a piece of music I had written," she recently revealed. "When I asked for permission to use the text I was refused, which was disappointing. I then wrote my own lyrics for the song although I felt that the original idea had been more interesting. Well, I'm not James Joyce am I? When I came to work on this project I thought I would ask for permission again and this time they said yes. It is now re-titled 'Flower of the Mountain' and I am delighted that I have had the chance to fulfill the original concept." The song, complete with Molly Bloom's "yes I said yes I will Yes", appears on her 2011 album Director's Cut.

*This year, the PanPan Theatre Company, based in Temple Bar, Dublin, plans to stage a version of Joyce's only play, Exiles, and take it on a world tour. In addition, the James Joyce Centre plans to work with RTE to broadcast a regular programme of Joyce's works, including Ulysses, The Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Neither of these projects would have been possible before the lifting of the copyright. The James Joyce Centre, dedicated to the life and works of the writer, is located at 35 North Great George's Street, Dublin, and runs lecture series, promotion events, Bloomsday and walking tours of Joycean locations in the city every Saturday at 11am and 2pm.

*The Bloomsday festival happens annually in Dublin on 16 June, the date on which the events of Ulysses are set. Many participants dress in Edwardian costume and retrace the steps of the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, around various landmarks such as Davy Byrne's pub (for a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy). Continuous readings of the novel on the day have been known to last 36 hours. This year, organisers plan a flash mob, which will appear in pre-arranged locations all over Dublin performing passages from the novel. "Lifting the copyright restrictions will make a huge difference," said an organiser. "It means that not only can his work be cited freely for the first time, but there can be new interpretations."

*For many years, Joyce scholars assumed that the writer was severely short-sighted, explaining his trademark spectacles. Even Richard Ellmann, in his definitive biography in 1959, wrote that Joyce's "nearsightedness was soon to make him wear glasses". However, last month the British Medical Journal revealed that he was in fact longsighted, after researchers discovered his 1932 glasses prescription. The clue was in his glasses all along, it also turned out: close examination of photographs revealed that the lenses were convex, not concave.

*Joyce's middle names were Augustine Aloysius.

Comments