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Princeton to publish book on Joyce’s nationalism by late Frank Callanan
Frank Callanan SC

17 Jan 2022 / people Print

Princeton to publish Joyce book by late Frank Callanan

Princeton University Press has signed world rights to James Joyce: A Political Life by the late senior counsel and historian Frank Callanan, who died suddenly at his home in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2, before Christmas.

Callanan (65) combined a busy legal career with prolific historical and literary writing, and posthumous publication of his Joyce book will be in 2023.

It examines the influence of Irish nationalism on Joyce’s formation as a writer in the first decade of the 20th century.

Callanan spent years studying the politics of James Joyce, researching in the National Library, going through the Freeman’s Journal, and other archives, and was described at his funeral eulogy at Westland Row church in Dublin 2 as a “clever, oblique, subtle and devious researcher”. 

In April 2021, Callanan’s Green Street lecture, at the King’s Inns, examined barrister John Francis Taylor’s famous 1901 speech, also at the King’s Inns, and how it relates to Ulysses. 

The 1901 King’s Inns debate was a contest between unionist and nationalist conceptions of Ireland.

Callanan said that Joyce was susceptible to Taylor’s argument, which married Ireland’s artistic and historical heritage with high nationalism.

Newspaper coverage

Joyce read copious newspaper coverage of the speech, though he may not have been actually present, Callanan believed.

Stanislaus, Joyce’s brother, had written that James read Arthur Griffith’s weekly publication the United Irishman, and described it as “the only paper in Dublin worth reading and, in fact, he used to read it every week”.

Callanan was the son of solicitor Fionnbar Callanan, who also passed away just days before his son.

Callanan junior won an open scholarship in classics to University College Dublin, where he read history, and was auditor of the Literary and Historical Society.

He later studied at the European University in Bruges, and was called to the Bar in 1979.

Callanan published well-received books about both nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell and his bitter enemy Tim Healy, namely, The Parnell Split, 1890-91 (Syracuse University Press) and TM Healy (Cork University Press).

He was also known for his masterly entries in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Frank Callanan became a senior counsel in 1998, and practised mainly in employment law and judicial review. He is survived by his wife Bridget Hourican.

In the forthcoming book, Callanan will explore “the consistently neglected brilliance, acuity, and coherence of Joyce’s treatment of politics and modelling of history”.

As a researcher, he is regarded as having changed debate in the international scholarship on Joyce.

Callanan also worked on the forthcoming documentary, ‘100 Years of Ulysses’, directed and produced by Ruán Magan, which will be screened on RTÉ on 3 February, just one day after the centenary of the publication of Ulysses.


His funeral Mass heard from fellow historian Margaret O’Callaghan that Callanan was “gentle and shy, kind and generous, sensitive and proud.

“He thought through the generations, and was proud of his antecedents – of Joseph McGuinness, elected from prison three times for Longford, in 1917, 1918 and 1921; of the Magans, the Stantons, the Geartys and the Callanans – of all who went before him,” she said, referring to his many cousins and relatives in the legal profession.

Meanwhile, Joycean scholar Senan Molony has examined the use of Greek myth in Ulysses in a new book.

In Helen of Joyce – Trojan Horses in Ulysses, Molony finds Trojan horses scattered throughout the 20th century's greatest literary masterpiece, and demonstrates that key characters have allegor­ical equivalents – from Cassandra to Menelaus and Agamemnon, even stretching to historical giants such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.

The book uncovers coded messages that reveal 1904 Dublin as the Troy of 1,250 years BC.

Out now, Helen of Joyce – Trojan Horses in Ulysses, costs €20.

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