James Joyce Cultural Centre
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35 North Great George's St · interesting places nearby
James Joyce Cultural Centre information
Denis Maginni, the exuberant, flamboyant dance instructor and ‘confirmed bachelor’ immortalised by James Joyce in Ulysses, taught the finer points of dance out of this beautifully restored Georgian house, now a centre devoted to promoting and preserving the Joycean heritage.
Although Jimmy probably never set foot in the house, he lived in the ‘hood for a time, went to a local school and lost his virginity a stone’s throw away in what was once Europe’s largest red-light district. We couldn’t imagine a more fitting location for the centre.
The centre owes its existence to the sterling efforts of Senator David Norris, a charismatic Joycean scholar and gay-rights activist who bought the house in 1982 and oversaw its restoration and conversion into the centre that it is today.
What it is today is more of a study centre than a museum, although there are a handful of exhibits that will pique the interest of a Joyce enthusiast. These include some of the furniture from Joyce’s Paris apartment, which was rescued from falling into German hands in 1940 by Joyce’s friend Paul Léon; a life-size re-creation of a typical Edwardian bedroom (not Joyce’s, but one similar to what James and Nora would have used); and the original door of 7 Eccles St, the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom in Ulysses , which was demolished in real life to make way for a private hospital.
It’s not much, but the absence of period stuff is more than made up for by the superb interactive displays, which include three short documentary films on various aspects of Joyce’s life and work, and – the highlight of the whole place – computers that allow you to explore the content of Ulysses episode by episode and trace Joyce’s life year by year. It’s enough to demolish the myth that Joyce’s works are an impenetrable mystery and render him as he should be to the contemporary reader: a writer of enormous talent who sought to challenge and entertain his audience with his breathtaking wit and use of language.
While here, you can also admire the fine plastered ceilings, some of which are restored originals while others are meticulous reproductions of Michael Stapleton’s designs. Senator Norris fought a long, unrewarding battle for the preservation of Georgian Dublin, and it’s wonderful to see others have followed his example – the street has been given a much-needed face-lift and now boasts some of the finest Georgian doorways and fanlights in the city.