Few authors have so anatomised and celebrated a city as did James Joyce with the city of Dublin. It is therefore extremely appropriate that a statue of this enigmatic author should grace a Dublin street. This life-sized brass statue of Joyce stands in North Earl Street, and it was unveiled in 1990. It’s the work of Irish-American sculptor and actress Marjorie Fitzgibbon (1930 – 2018), who also created the bust of James Joyce which stands on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.
Along with its plinth, the statue is 8 feet (2.4m) tall. The statue depicts Joyce standing cross-legged and leaning on a walking stick, one hand in his pocket and pushing back his coat tails, hat slightly askew, gazing contemplatively upwards, as if pondering his fascinating home city and what he could do with it in his fiction. His perhaps slightly smug expression has given rise to a local nickname for the statue – the ‘prick with the stick’ (the Dublin statue of Molly Malone, heroine of a traditional song, is affectionately called ‘the tart with the cart’).
Tourists love taking selfies with the statue, which seems to invite interaction between subject and viewer. It is now a ‘talking statue’, which means there’s a pre-recorded voiceover you can find in an app. There’s a QR code on the statue. The recording is narrated by Irish actor Gabriel Byrne.
I think it’s a statue with a great deal of personality! I don’t think I’d have liked James Joyce very much – he was a sponger, difficult as a husband and father, and arrogant, but he was one of the 20th century’s most influential writers and I love seeing him celebrated in this quirky and memorable way in brass.
Selected links for relevant websites, books, movies, videos, and more. Some of these links lead to protected content on this website, learn more about that here.
Susannah Fullerton: James Joyce – Ulysses Video Talk
Susannah Fullerton: Happy Birthday, James Joyce
Susannah Fullerton: Ulysses is published in full
Susannah Fullerton: The First Bloomsday
Susannah Fullerton: James Joyce dies
Susannah Fullerton: Obscenity ban on Ulysses is lifted
The British Library: James Joyce