Digital Dubliners: Free, 21st Century Ways to Read Joyce’s Great Story Collection on its 100th Anniversary

Read near­ly any crit­i­cal com­men­tary on James Joyce’s Dublin­ers, his 1914 col­lec­tion of short sto­ries that chron­i­cle the lives of ordi­nary Irish res­i­dents of the title city, and you’re sure to come across the word “epiphany.” This is not some aca­d­e­m­ic jar­gon, but the word Joyce him­self used to describe the way that each sto­ry builds to a shock of recognition—often in the form of painful self-awareness—for key char­ac­ters. Short-cir­cuit­ing the typ­i­cal cli­max-res­o­lu­tion-dénoue­ment of con­ven­tion­al nar­ra­tive, Joyce’s epipha­nies give his sto­ries a verisimil­i­tude that can still feel very unset­tling, giv­en our typ­i­cal expec­ta­tions that real­ist fic­tion still obey the rules of fic­tion. Dra­mat­ic moments in our lives rarely have neat and tidy end­ings. But in sto­ries like “Eve­line,” “Ara­by,” “A Lit­tle Cloud,” and the collection’s cap­stone piece, “The Dead,” the often feck­less char­ac­ters find them­selves par­a­lyzed in states of exis­ten­tial dread by sud­den flash­es of self-knowl­edge, unable to assim­i­late new and painful insights into their lim­it­ed per­spec­tives.

That final sto­ry (adapt­ed into John Huston’s final film) “ele­vates the book to the lev­el of the supreme art­works of the 20th cen­tu­ry,” writes Mark O’Connell in Slate. O’Connell’s essay com­mem­o­rates the cen­te­nary of Dublin­er’s pub­li­ca­tion this month. Dublin­ers remains, he writes, a book that “writ­ers of the short sto­ry form seem basi­cal­ly resigned to nev­er sur­pass­ing.” Writ­ten in the author’s ear­ly 20s, the sto­ries, as Ulysses would eight years lat­er, “reveal some­thing pro­found and essen­tial and unre­al­ized about the city and its peo­ple”: “Dublin can feel less like a place that James Joyce wrote about than a place that is about James Joyce’s writ­ing.” All of us non-Dublin­ers can enter the city through Joyce’s exquis­ite sto­ries, and in an increas­ing vari­ety of ways, thanks to dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy. At the top of the post, find a dig­i­tized first edi­tion of Dublin­ers. Just above, we have a read­ing of “Eve­line” by “vel­vet-voiced” Dublin­er Tad­hg Hynes, and below, hear Irish actor Jim Nor­ton read “The Sis­ters.”

You’ll find many more read­ings of Dublin­ers’ sto­ries online, such as this dead­pan read­ing of “Ara­by” from one of our favorites, Tom O’Bedlam, a Blooms­day read­ing of “Eve­line” by award-win­ning Irish play­wright Miri­am Gal­lagher, and this Lib­rivox col­lec­tion of read­ings from var­i­ous voic­es. I think Joyce would have very much appre­ci­at­ed the use of tech­nol­o­gy to keep his work alive into the 21st cen­tu­ry. Part of his lit­er­ary mission—certainly in many of Dublin­ers’ stories—was to illus­trate the stul­ti­fy­ing effects of cling­ing to the past. An eager adopter of new tech­nolo­gies, Joyce in fact brought the first cin­e­ma, The Vol­ta, to Dublin in 1909. So it seems fit­ting that 100 years after the pub­li­ca­tion of Dublin­ers, his book receive the mul­ti­me­dia app treat­ment in the form of Dig­i­tal Dublin­ers, a free, “engag­ing and author­i­ta­tive edi­tion” of the book designed by Boston Col­lege stu­dents and fea­tur­ing “three hun­dred-odd images, sev­en hun­dred or so notes and expla­na­tions, two dozen videos, crit­i­cal essays and hyper­links, inter­ac­tive maps sourced from con­tem­po­rary news­pa­per, sound, film and pho­to­graph­ic archives, with essays, film, record­ings, back­ground and expert dis­cus­sion.” Watch a short pro­mo video for Dig­i­tal Dublin­ers below, and down­load the book on iTunes here.

Final­ly, you may wish to read the text in a more late-20th-cen­tu­ry, and more open, for­mat with this ful­ly search­able “hyper­tex­tu­al, self-ref­er­en­tial edi­tion” pre­pared for Project Guten­berg. Whichev­er way you read Joyce’s Dublin­ers, you should, I pre­sume to sug­gest, read Joyce’s Dublin­ers. And if you have read these sto­ries before, even “some­where in the dou­ble fig­ures,” as Mark O’Connell has, then you’ll know how rich­ly they reward re-read­ing, or hear­ing, or study­ing along with oth­er read­ers and lovers of Joyce and a well-worn map of Dublin, or its shim­mer­ing touch-screen dig­i­tal equiv­a­lent.

Dublin­ers also appears in our two col­lec­tions, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free and 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

James Joyce’s Ulysses: Down­load the Free Audio Book

James Joyce’s Dublin Cap­tured in Vin­tage Pho­tos from 1897 to 1904

A Free Playlist of Music From The Works Of James Joyce (Plus Songs Inspired by the Mod­ernist Author)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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