Irish theater critic and scholar Fintan O’Toole will present the 2014 Robert Fagles Memorial Lecture, entitled “Mr. Bloom and the Buddha,” on Friday, February 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. The lecture is part of a series presented by Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies. The event is free and open to the public.
O’Toole, one of Ireland’s leading public intellectuals, is teaching at Princeton this semester including the course, “Ghosts, Vampires, and Zombies in Irish Theatre and Literature.” Robert Fagles, for whom the annual Memorial Lecture is named, was a member of the Princeton faculty for 42 years in the Department of Comparative Literature and a renowned translator of Greek classics. His critically acclaimed translations of Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” became bestsellers.
In the Robert Fagles Memorial Lecture, O’Toole will focus on a looted Burmese statue of the Buddha that sits, largely forgotten, in a corner of the National Museum in Dublin. But it has a strange and significant presence in James Joyce’s Ulysses, where it features twice. O’Toole will show how a neglected object can help us to understand some key things about Joyce’s masterpiece, not least the relationship between Leopold Bloom and his unfaithful wife, Molly.
As a drama critic, O’Toole has written for The Irish Times, New York Daily News, Sunday Tribune (Dublin), and In Dublin Magazine. His books on theater span a wide range of topics, from his biography of Richard Brinsley Sheridan to theater currently appearing on Irish stages. He is Assistant Editor, columnist and feature writer for The Irish Times. He also contributes to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, The Observer, and other international publications. The Observer named O’Toole one of “Britain’s top 300 intellectuals” in 2011. He has received the A.T. Cross Award for Supreme Contribution to Irish Journalism, the Millennium Social Inclusion Award, and Journalist of the Year in 2010 from TV3 Media Awards.
O’Toole’s most recent project, History of Ireland in 100 Objects, covers 100 highly charged artifacts from the last 10,000 years. It has been published in book form by the Royal Irish Academy and as an app for iPad, iPhone and Android devices.
O’Toole’s visiting professorship is made possible through funding from Leonard L. Milberg, Princeton Class of 1953, a generous supporter of the arts and cultural studies who in 2011 donated an extensive collection of prose by Irish writers to the University, including more than 1,700 books, manuscripts, portraits, audio-visual materials and other items that illustrate the richness and vitality of Irish writing from 1798 to the present. Milberg’s donation of the Irish prose collection was made in Fagles’ honor.