Finnegans Flotsam: What is a Modernist Text? A Special Collections Exhibition
The following text is from an exhibit curated by Dr. J. Matthew Huculak in Special Collections at the University of Victoria. You can view the exhibit during these hours:
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (September-April)
10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (May-August)
Did you know that Special Collections at the University of Victoria has a rich collection of James Joyce material?
What makes this collection particularly unique is its gathering of facsimile â€œavant-textes,â€ which comprise the manuscript material of a given work (not shown), as well as its near-complete compilation of periodical and special-edition versions of Joyceâ€™s work.This exhibit highlights some of Special Collectionâ€™s material pertaining to Finnegans Wake (1923-1939). By the time Joyce started writing Finnegans Wake 1923, he was already famous internationally for the â€œScandal of Ulysses,â€ when his magnum opus was banned and declared obscene in the United States and Great Britain.
Joyce was able to capitalize on the attention this scandal garnered, and he became a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre among literary circles around the English-speaking world, which anticipated his next great work after Ulysses. But how exactly did Joyce publish this â€œWork in Progressâ€?
The â€œlittle magazineâ€ became the primary vehicle through which avant-garde authors could publish their work, which was often commercially unviable. They are called â€œlittleâ€ or â€œsmallâ€ magazines since they were opposite to the â€œlargeâ€ (in circulation and size) popular magazines. The little magazines became synonymous with â€œhighâ€ art and â€œdifficultâ€ literature, and advertised themselves as being champions of artâ€”not profit. Many of them failed immediately and some lasted only a few years, but their legacy lives on in the work they published: they preserve the â€œfirst drafts of modernismâ€ in their fragile pages.In 1924, Ford Madox Ford started his influential little magazine, the transatlantic review, in which he published Joyceâ€™s new writing as â€œFragments of a Work in Progress.â€ Joyce adopted the name as the working title of his bookâ€”in fact, the title â€œFinnegans Wakeâ€ would not be used until its final and full publication by Faber and Faber in 1939.
In 1925, Adrienne Monnier, the French partner of Sylvia Beach (who published Ulysses in 1922) included the retitled â€œFrom Work in Progressâ€ in Le Navire Dâ€™Argentâ€”a French-language little magazine.
You will also note that Joyce published his work in special editions and ephemeral publications like the Criterion Miscellany. The allowed Joyce to continue working on his â€œWork in Progressâ€ while stoking interest in his work as well as sustaining his fragile finances.
This is one reason why The Modernist Versions ProjectÂ at the University of Victoria is interested in working with Special Collections to preserve this rich heritage of literary history. Modernism was born in the magazines, and in order to understand the evolution of a great literary masterpiece, we must preserve the pieces that make up its complicated story.
For more information about this exhibit, please contact Dr. J. Matthew Huculak (jhuculak (at) uvic.ca).
For more information about Special Collections’ Joyce holdings email: speccoll (at) uvic.ca
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If you are interested in reading more about modernism and little magazines, you can find these books in our library:
Deppman, Jed, Daniel Ferrer, and Michael Groden.Â Genetic Criticism: Texts and Avant-textes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2004. Print. PN81 G463 2004
Diepeveen, Leonard.Â The Difficulties of Modernism. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print. PN56 M54D54 Â
Hoffman, Frederick John., Charles Albert Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich.Â The Little Magazine; a History and a Bibliography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1946. Print. PN4836 H6 1947
Jaffe, Aaron.Â Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. Print. PR478 M6J25Â
Morrisson, Mark S.Â The Public Face of Modernism: Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2001. Print. PR478 M6M67Â
Rainey, Lawrence S.Â Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1998. Print. PS310 M57R35
Scholes, Robert, and Clifford Wulfman.Â Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction. New Haven: Yale UP, 2010. Print. PN4878.3 S36
 Special Collections also contains a mimeograph of Judge Woolseyâ€™s 1933 decision lifting the ban of Ulysses in the United States. (â€œUnited States v. One Book CalledÂ Ulyssesâ€)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Digital Scholarship, University of Victoria Libraries; Co-Founder, Modernist Versions Project