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At Conference Saturday, Students Can Explore Joyce Through Virtual Reality

Joseph Nugent, a Boston College English professor, and the students enrolled in his course,  Joycestick: A Gamification of Ulysses, created a virtual reality game called Joycestick. On Saturday, Nugent and his students will invite BC students to experience James Joyce’s Ulysses and 20th-century Ireland using the virtual reality game.

The event, which starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Connolly House, will celebrate the literary movement of  modernism by looking at Joyce through the means of virtual reality.

Participants will wear a giant black eyepiece and will hold a gaming device in their hands. As soon as the player moves his or her head, the glasses will show three-dimensional images that enhance the experience and will make the user forget his or her physical surroundings. In the blink of an eye, viewers will find themselves walking through the Martello Tower in Dublin, surrounded by mountains on one side and the sea on the other.

“You will walk up to the top of the tower, and when you’re at the top, you can walk and look down at the sea, but make sure not to jump if you don’t want to fall,” he said.

The event Saturday will also be an opportunity to learn about Joyce. The afternoon will start with an introduction by Fionnuala Quinlan, the consul general of Ireland. She will be followed by five Joyceans, including Enda Duffy, an English professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Michael Wood, an English professor at Princeton University.

A group of actors will perform “Ithaca, one of the last scenes from Ulysses. A group of students from BC, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Stony Brook University, and the University of Toronto will then read a fragment of Joyce’s comic novel Finnegan’s Wake.

The event will conclude with a book launch of Modernist Afterlives in Irish Literature and Culture, written by Paige Reynolds, a professor in the English department at the College of the Holy Cross.

Nugent invites students to experience his virtual reality game and to explore the wonders of modernism and Joyce’s literature. Although registration is not necessary, students who are interested in attending the event can register online.

Nugent’s course integrates multiple academic disciplines, from English to computer science, to bring Joyce’s novel to life.

In order for the viewers to effectively interact with Joyce’s novel through virtual reality, Nugent and his team of students created three-dimensional designs of the main settings and 100 of the most symbolic objects in the book, including a pork kidney and a chandelier. Viewers can directly experience the world of Ulysses by interacting with objects and listening to character dialogue with a press of a button.

The class received funding for Joycestick through an Advanced Technology Innovation Grant from the Academic Technology Advisory Board and a Teaching and Mentoring Grant from the Office of the Provost.

“Virtual reality is going to change everything,” Nugent said. “I want this to continue.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

November 10, 2016

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