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Textual Awareness: A Genetic Study of Late Manuscripts by Joyce, Proust, and Mann (review)

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 44, Number 2, Winter 2007
pp. 388-391 | 10.1353/jjq.2007.0033

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Reviewed by
Textual Awareness: A Genetic Study of Late Manuscripts by Joyce, Proust, and Mann, by Dirk Van Hulle. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004. 219 pp. $55.00.

This relatively small book (219 pages counting the index and bibliography) has an amazingly rich content. It examines German editorial theory, Anglo-American textual criticism, and French genetic criticism, dealing with editions, printed and electronic, manuscripts, and the writing process. It gives us an overview of the genesis of three major twentieth-century works—A la recherche du temps perdu, [End Page 388] Finnegans Wake, and Doktor Faustus—and discusses the status of intertextual references in modernist texts and Marcel Proust's, James Joyce's, and Thomas Mann's relations to their own manuscripts.1 About all these things, it has interesting, subtle, often new things to say, which could, and perhaps should, be developed into a series of book-length studies. More than a collection of juxtaposed essays, however, it presents itself as a discursive continuum (revolving around the question of textual instability), and Dirk Van Hulle, with a characteristic elegance of demonstration, draws fresh links between these diverse topics. One cannot quite say, however, that the various parts of the book are totally integrated into an organic whole. We should consider that this volume contains several overlapping works, all of them excellent, but one of them outstanding. Although none of its content is superfluous, it is a pity that more space is not devoted to what is really unique.

The first three chapters, "Editionwissenschaft," "Textual Criticism and Scholarly Editing," and "Edition Critique and Critique Génétique," confront three parallel national traditions. Actually, one could question the relevance of national traditions in this field: critique génétique certainly owes more to German philology than to the French editorial tradition, while the first example that springs to the mind of Joyceans is the work of Hans Walter Gabler, which would have to be described as an inventive hybrid of the German and Anglo-American approaches, with clear signs of an evolution towards the positions of genetic criticism. One could also question the idea that these traditions are indeed parallel: the central concern of Editionwissenschaft and textual criticism is to produce editions, while the purpose of critique génétique is to study the writing process insofar as it can be reconstructed from manuscripts. In practice, however, the distinction is not so radical: a number of German and Anglo-American editors provide editions of manuscripts in ways that reflect the genesis of the text, and genetic critics must present in one way or another the documents on which their reconstructions are based so they cannot avoid editorial problems. Finally, one wonders why these three "traditions" have been singled out and why there is no chapter on two others that have a lot to say about the questions debated in this book—Italian variantistica and Russian textology—but this last remark is not intended seriously. Van Hulle shows such amazing linguistic proficiency in mastering the theoretical bibliography (as well as in deciphering the most difficult manuscripts) in French, English, and German that one can hardly require more.

This part of the book is concluded by a chapter called "Interactions: Textual Nominalism and Editorial Realism," which discusses with great subtlety the relation of a text to its versions: does a text have an independent existence, separable from the documents through which [End Page 389] it manifests itself? After the controversies that surrounded the publication of a corrected text of Ulysses twenty years ago and the subsequent tendency to fall back on a photo-reprint of the 1922 edition, Joyceans ought to be concerned by such a problem. But in spite of what is suggested at the beginning and at the end of the chapter, it is not the same difficulty as the relation of the successive genetic states to the finished work. The two questions are not unrelated (indeed, Jerome McGann has famously brought them together2 ), but they are clearly distinct: the Linati schema, for instance, can hardly be counted among textual versions of Ulysses and is useless from the point of view of textual criticism, but...