City of Literature: Dublin
It is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland and contains most of its national cultural institutions including the National Library, National Archives, National Theatre and Chester Beatty Library.
Every year the city celebrates James Joyce and Ulysses through Bloomsday, a festive day of literary breakfasts and readings all across the city. The James Joyce Cultural Centre is open to the public throughout the year, and a special Bloomsday breakfast is served annually on 16 June. Dublin has produced some of the world’s most famous writers, including Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and James Joyce.
10 Things to Know About Dublin
1. A City of Literary Attractions
The city of Dublin is filled with literary things to do and see, with a seemingly endless list of buildings and sites connected to the city’s authors.
From Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawl, which combines the literary heritage of the city with some of its famous pubs, to George Bernard Shaw’s birthplace and guided literary walks associated with Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Brendan Behan and other Dublin writers, there truly is something for every lover of literature.
Visitors can trace Leopold Bloom’s famous walk from Ulysses by following 14 bronze plaques set into footpaths. Located near the city’s famous Trinity College is Sweny’s Pharmacy, where James Joyce’s literary creation Leopold Bloom bought his famous lemon soap.
Also keeping the memory of Dublin’s authors alive are buildings including the James Joyce Centre and the Yeats Memorial Building, an important hub within Dublin for the preservation of its literary culture as it is the home of the Yeats Society.
2. Literary Festivals
Dublin is home to a variety of dynamic literary festivals, the most prestigious being the International Literary Festival Dublin which features a packed program of talks and readings with Irish and international authors. The Dublin Book Festival is similarly popular and celebrates its ten-year anniversary in 2016.
These are not the only festivals to grace the streets of Dublin. There is an exciting list of literary celebrations that span throughout the months of the year: Poetry Now (March), Seachtain na Gaeilge (March), Dublin: One City One Book (April), Franco-Irish Literary Festival (April), Dublin Writers’ Festival (June), Bloomsweek (June), Mountains to Sea (September), BOOKS 2010 (September), IMRAM – Irish language literature festival (September), and the Children’s Book Festival (October).
3. Publishing and Bookshops
A collection of nearly 50 publishing houses call Dublin their home and they cover a vast range of genres and forms, from books to literary periodicals.
There is an exciting range of independent publishers: Blackhall Publishing Ltd, New Island Books, The O’Brien Press Ltd, Ocean Publishing Ltd, New Century Publishing Ltd, Orpen Press and Merlin Publishing Wolfhound Press, amongst others, which all promote the exciting range of voices from the city and beyond.
Bookshops, both large and small, can be found on most of the streets within the city centre. Dublin’s popular Hodges Figgis is a bookstore boasting an impressive collection of books from all genres, with a bargain basement downstairs. Other popular bookstores within the city include The Winding Stair Bookshop, Ulysses Rare Bookshop, The Yellow Brick Road, Books Upstairs, Chapters – only a small selection of the dense list of Irish bookstores, all of which come with their own quirky personalities and exciting supply of literature.
4. Literary Prizes
Dublin features an exciting calendar of literary prizes and awards, one of which is the International Dublin Literary Award, the world’s most valuable literary prize for a single work of fiction. This award has been celebrating the success of talented writers for over 15 years.
Other awards within the city include the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award, the Hennessy Literary Award, the Francis MacManus Awards for short stories for radio, the Irish Book Awards, the Irish PEN/A.T. Cross Achievement in Literature, Oireachtas na Gaeilge – Duaiseanna Liteartha – a series of awards for new and established Gaelic writers, Business to Arts, and the Biennial Award for an Outstanding Thesis on Reading and Literacy (RAI).
Dublin has produced some of the world’s great writers, including Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Jonathan Swift and Sheridan Le Fanu, amongst many others. These literary greats are celebrated both visually – in statues, plaques, memorials and graves – and imaginatively throughout the city. George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney are all also Nobel Prize Laureates.
In the contemporary scene, Dublin-based writers have done exceptionally well in their literary successes: Colum McCann has won the National Book Award, Sebastian Barry has taken the Costa Award and Anne Enright was awarded the Man Booker. The New York Times called Conor McPherson ‘the finest playwright of his generation’ and Maeve Binchy is one of the world’s best-loved storytellers.
6. Bloomsday Breakfasts
Bloomsday is a festive day of literary breakfasts, readings, performances and re-enactments organised throughout the city at a number of different venues. It is a celebration of Thursday 16 June 1904 in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and is named after his infamous fictional character, Leopold Bloom.
Dublin’s James Joyce Centre is open to the public throughout the year, and a special Bloomsday breakfast is served annually on 16 June. The breakfast usually features items from the breakfast Leopold Bloom ate within the novel on this date including liver and kidneys.
7. Libraries and Museums
Dublin’s literary scene is solidified in its impressive collection of libraries and museums, which host regular literary events including readings, author meetings, panels, discussions and exhibitions, as well as paying tribute to the importance of Dublin’s literary past.
The National Library of Ireland has the world’s most comprehensive selection of Irish literary material, particularly the work of W.B. Yeats, where a collection of over 2,000 items were donated by his family.
Founded in 1592, Trinity College Library takes the title of Ireland’s largest library, housing five million printed volumes, most importantly the Book of Kells.
Dublin’s libraries do not focus solely on Irish literature, however, as the Chester Beatty Library holds one of the world’s most outstanding collections of Islamic manuscripts and Oriental art.
The Dublin Writers’ Museum was opened in 1991 and tells the story of literary Dublin over the past 300 years. Housed within a stunning 18th century building, the museum celebrates the work of writers including Jonathan Swift, Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce. The museum also has a room dedicated solely to children’s literature. On the coast sits the intriguing James Joyce Tower and Museum, where Joyce is known to have spent six nights in 1904. It houses letters and photographic work by the author.
8. Universities and Education
Trinity College Dublin was founded in 1592 and has been consistently ranked in the top 25 of the world’s oldest universities. It is home to an excellent school of English which has been ranked seventh in Europe by the QS University Rankings. The School is continually developing literary studies within Dublin, providing scholarships and grants for current and prospective students, and is proactive in creating literary spaces such as the Roy McFadden Library at the Oscar Wilde Centre, which was opened in January 2016.
The other three Universities ranked as world universities by QS are University College Dublin, Dublin City University, and Dublin Institute of Technology, proving that Dublin is a city dedicated to research and learning.
Situated on Dawson Street, the Royal Irish Academy was founded in 1785 and is viewed as Ireland’s ‘leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities’, housing a research library with an extensive selection of collections. The Academy’s honorary members include Charles Darwin, Maria Edgeworth, Albert Einstein and Theodor Mommsen, amongst many others.
9. National Emerging Writer Program
The National Emerging Writers Programme is a project organized by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, in association with Writing.ie. The program uses three of Ireland’s writers, Carlo Gébler, Sinead Moriarty and Declan Hughes, and digitally shares their expertise as a innovative way of reaching new writers seeking to develop their craft.
10. Literary Bridges
There are three modern bridges in Dublin named after three of Dublin’s literary giants: James Joyce, Sean O’Casey and Samuel Beckett.
James Joyce Bridge was opened on Bloomsday in 2003, crossing the River Jeffrey next to the James Joyce House. The bridge is illuminated at night, creating a beautiful atmosphere both day and night for walkers within the city.
The Sean O’Casey bridge connects the Custom House Quay to City Quay, where it has been connected with Seán O’Casey’s own words ‘Take heart from your city’s hidden splendour’, in representing the way in which the building of the bridge in 2005 helped transform the area from a decaying urban landscape to an interesting and brightly illuminated area of urban growth and development.
Samuel Beckett’s Bridge crosses Guild Street to Sir George Rogerson’s Quay, and was built in 2009. It is seen to act as a connection between social divisions within the city and is also a moving bridge, named after Samuel Beckett in honour his contribution to literature and the culture of Dublin as a city.
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A poem from Dublin author Jessica Traynor appeared as a poetry projection on the streets of Krakow and Edinburgh.