These Fragments I Have Shored: Joyce @ UVic
This week I started a new regimen in Special Collections at the University of Victoria. As part of my work for the MVP, I am helping the library create a comprehensive listing of modernist material in Special Collections. I decided to start with a Library of Congress Classification string that I know quite well: PR6019 .O9….
I was immediately stunned by the Special Collections Joyce holdings, which include (but are not limited to) the first English (Shakespeare & Company) and French (La Maison des Amis des Livres) codex editions, as well as the two-volume “definitive” Odyssey Press edition published in 1932, which, according to the bold type on the back cover, was “NOT TO BE INTRODUCED INTO THE BRITISH EMPIRE OR THE U.S.A”
The word “definitive” made me smile as I opened the Odyssey edition. Textual scholars have chased the dream of a definitive edition of Ulysses from its first printing (which, itself, begins with an apology for its typographical errors) to the 1984 Gabler “Synoptic” edition.
Joyce is famous for saying that he “put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality” (Ellmann 521)– he must have been thinking about the typographical errors in his texts as well. One might not be too far off in thinking that the subtitle of Ulysses was “Additional Corrections.”
The University of Victoria’s archive forefronts concerns of “authority,” “genealogy,” and “versions.” Not only does it have a rich sampling from the Ulysses rhizome, it also contains many iterations of Finnegans Wake, including “Fragments” published by Faber & Faber (Criterion Miscellany), Henry Babou and Jack Kahane in Paris, the Fountain Press in New York, and the Servire Press in the Hague. As I saw all of these material objects in front of me, I was struck by Joyce’s choice to “fragment” his work across periodicals, ephemera, deluxe editions, and other media. I was witnessing T. S. Eliot’s phrase from the Wasteland: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
I asked myself, is there something about modernist material production that was advantageous to the fragmentation of print representation, and the first person I thought of was Walter Benjamin, who explores the issues of art “in the era of its mechanical reproducibility.”
Next Post: The Paradox of Aura in James Joyce’s Versions: Always Already Versioned
Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford: 1982.
Post by Matt Huculak, Post-doctoral Fellow with the MVP.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Digital Scholarship, University of Victoria Libraries; Co-Founder, Modernist Versions Project