This week, my virtual travels took me outside of Dublin and to the West of Ireland. Joyce’s Dubliners, while taking place exclusively in Dublin, alludes to the wide ranging international connections Ireland and Irish people had in the 20th century. The way in which Joyce’s Dublin characters imagine far-off (and some closer-to-home) places — for example, Eveline seeing Buenos Aires as potential freedom, and Little Chandler seeing London as a center of modernity and opportunity — might be reflected back to understand their attitudes about Dublin.
Using the “Mapping Dubliners” project, I explored not just the paths the characters took in Dublin, but also the places they referenced outside of the city. In particular, I looked at Galway, where Gretta from “The Dead” is from, and where the impactful story of a young dead boy she tells her husband takes place. The map in particular pointed to Nun’s Island as the house where Gretta’s grandmother lived, and where young Michael Furey came to see her in the rain, catching his death (“–Then the night before I left, I was in my grandmother’s house in Nuns’ Island, packing up, and I heard gravel thrown up against the window” 221). Furthermore, “The Dead” self-consciously meditates on the relationship between Dublin and the rest of the world and Dublin and the rest of Ireland. Miss Ivors implores Gabriel to visit the Irish countryside for a bike trip, rather than the European continent, associating the exploration of Ireland with Irish nationalism. The implication seems to be that the “real” Ireland is the Ireland of the countryside outside of Dublin, the Ireland of the west, including Galway, while simultaneously romanticizing and mythicizing these areas.
This photo features a footbridge underwater over the River Corrib at Nun’s Island. I found it visually striking not just for the beautiful image of the rushing river and the picturesque stone houses, but for its relevance to the associations “The Dead” creates with Galway. Galway, far from Dublin, seems to represent a place where nature might still overtake human frailty — a rain storm spelling doom for Michael Furey. This characterization is represented in this photo of the bridge overwhelmed by water, breaking the connection between the two sides of the river. It seems to poignantly echo the precariousness of human invention and human emotion that we can also see in Gretta’s story in “The Dead.”