December 30, 2011
James Joyce’s classic story, “The Dead”, takes place at a New Year’s dinner-dance in Dublin in 1904. It is filled with colorful personalities, and is a glimpse of a bygone era.
The hostesses of the annual dinner are the Misses Kate and Julia Morkan, frail elderly aunts of the story’s central characters, Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta, the crisis in whose marriage provides the dramatic through-line of this deeply emotional story.
“The Dead,” is the final work in Joyce’s famous collection of short stories, Dubliners, depicting the lives of different people living in and around Dublin, Ireland at the turn of the 20th century. Selected Shorts commentator Hannah Tinti cites it as a tribute to Joyce’s perseverance—it took him nearly ten years to get the volume published, after problems with censors and several printers backing out on deals. Dubliners was eventually released by Grant Richards in 1914, and has been keystone in contemporary literature ever since.
Tinti notes, too, that the stories in Dubliners are arranged chronologically, so that the first few, such as “Araby” are tales of youth. The main characters get progressively older in each story, so it makes sense that “The Dead” which includes both older characters and the ghosts of those no longer living, should be the final piece in the collection.
This program features Part 1 of “The Dead,” and includes period music by one of Joyce’s favorite singers, the Irish tenor John McCormack. The performers are Rene Auberjonois, Fionnula Flanagan and Isaiah Sheffer