The Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA)’s Great Texts / Big Questions lecture on Thursday 26 August is Irish literature scholar Dr Cóilín Parsons, who will discuss ‘James Joyce’s Shorter Masterpiece: The Dead’. This free public lecture starts at 5pm at Hiddingh Hall, UCT’s Hiddingh Campus, Orange Street, Cape Town.

Irish poet and writer James Joyce (1882 – 1941) is considered by many to be one of the most influential novelists of the twentieth century. “James Joyce’s writing is not short on masterpieces – UlyssesA Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man, and Finnegan’s Wake inspire awe and fear in those who have read them or read about them,” said Parsons. The Dead, written when Joyce was just 22 years old, is the last and most famous short story in Dubliners, a collection of 14 short stories first published in 1914. The Dead centres on Dubliner Gabriel Conroy, his wife Gretta and the epiphany he experiences at his aunts’ party. In 1987 director John Huston made a film of The Dead; this was adapted into a Tony Award-winning musical in 1999.

Cóilín Parsons is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Born in Galway, Ireland, he was educated in Ireland and the US. He graduated with a PhD from Columbia University in New York, where he was a lecturer in English and Comparative Literature. He was also an adjunct professor of Irish Studies at New York University, where he taught Irish drama. He moved to Cape Town in 2009. Parsons has published on the origins of literary study in Ireland and India, Sydney Owenson’s Indian novels, Irish literature, and postcolonial theory. He is currently working on a book manuscript on the cartographic origins of Irish modernist literature.

The Dead is a gentle, warm, yet finally frighteningly clear-sighted vision of middle-class Irish life, its pleasures and its terrors. In it Joyce produces one of the most compelling accounts of the alienation of modernity, and the psychological effects of colonisation. This story is truly one of the great masterpieces of modern writing, which cannot fail to reproduce in the reader the feeling of emptiness that engulfs these characters, adrift from their cultural moorings. The final paragraphs alone have become a classic statement of the sublime nature of modern life,” said Parsons.

UCT’s Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA) was established to enhance the arts within the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the broader community, whilst facilitating a broad range of collaborative and interdisciplinary projects. The Great Texts / Big Questions lecture series aims to engender a culture of exchange of ideas, opinion and conjecture.

The next Great Texts / Big Questions lecture of 2 September features musicologist Michael Steinberg, who will discuss ‘Is Richard Wagner (still) dangerous? Reflections on race, politics and ‘The Ring of Nibelung’

For more information, and up-to-date Great Texts / Big Questions dates and speakers visit contact 480 7156 or

Coilin Parsons audio recording available for download.

Coilin Parsons video recording:

Start: 26 Aug ’10 5:30 pm

End: 26 Aug ’10 6:30 pm

Cost: Free


Organizer: GIPCA


Venue: Hiddingh Hall 

Phone: +27 21 480 7156 

Address: Google Map UCT Hiddingh Campus, 31-37 Orange Street, Cape Town, 8001, Cape Town, Western Cape, 8001, South Africa