A Companion to Joyce Studies is an ambitious undertaking of more than 800 pages with sixteen chapters, each by an established scholar, dealing with Joyce's life and works as well as with the complicated textual history and the vast area of criticism and research.
Such a project faces several problems—the mass of material to be covered, the level of approach, and the inevitability of becoming outdated immediately. What has been achieved is a more than competent survey, often traversing familiar ground, with some omissions and repetitions. It will be of greatest value to one already acquainted with a basic knowledge of Joyce and Joyceana. As to the terminus, it is 1982, though most references to the Ellmann biography are paginated to the earlier text. As the last chapter notes, the book should be supplemented by Thomas F. Staley's essays on Joyce studies in the Modern Language Association's reviews of research in Anglo-Irish literature, edited by Richard J. Finneran, and by current Modern Language Association bibliographies.
A short review can mention only a few findings by the contributors.
Edmund L. Epstein's chapter on biography attributes Joyce's difficulties with Book II of the Wake to the author's anxieties: "Joyce wrote easily of joy and life, and with difficulty of violence and sorrow." Joyce's marital tensions are sensitively presented in the account of the correspondence by Mary T. [End Page 347] Reynolds. Michael Groden's "Textual and Publishing History" is a masterful feat of condensation. Nothing here is simple; even the two slight volumes of verse have variant sequences. Groden notes that the major stylistic shift is from "centripetal writing" (a Joyce phrase of 1904) to the centrifugal manner begun in the midst of Ulysses.
Chapters on the works defy summary. Chester G. Anderson gives detailed analyses of several poems. Florence L. Walzl (Dubliners), Thomas E. Connolly (Stephen Hero), and James F. Carens (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) present reliable accounts, with some interesting insights, as is Walzl's comparison of Dubliners with the Portrait: "They are like the two faces of some ancient coin; on one side is the picture of the city, and on the other is the profile of the hero." Connolly warns against premature reading of the Stephen Hero "sketchbook." Carens notes that Seumus O'Sullivan alluded to Daedalus in 1911 under the pseudonym "J. H. Orwell," as had D'Annunzio, according to Jackson I. Cope, whose book Joyce's Cities (1981) is one of the most recent studies cited in this volume.
The reverberations of Joyce texts are shown in Bernard Benstock's discussion of Exiles and even more dramatically in Vicki Mahaffey's investigation of the few pages of Giacomo Joyce, where about fifty references and as many notes are devoted to themes and roles, images, literary models, and echoes. Comparable coverage of Ulysses or of the Wake would fill a library, a not unlikely possibility.
Treatment of these major, much studied works contrasts with that found in other essays, as they are more reader's guides than surveys of background and criticism. Zack Bowen's "Ulysses" is largely summary, with comment on Joyce's allusions, narrative techniques, realism, humor, and ambiguity. The three pages of notes and bibliography are only a fraction of those for other writings; they must be supplemented by the relevant section in the chapter on Joyce criticism.
The Wake is analyzed in considerable detail in three chapters by Patrick A. McCarthy, Michael H. Begnal, and Barbara DiBernard. McCarthy provides a good overview, Begnal shares his delight in the linguistic riches, and DiBernard shows how correspondences, repetitions, and allusions express "a dynamic fluid reality." By avoiding extravagant claims these authors make a convincing case for the book.
Treatment of aesthetic theory (Robert Scholes and Marlena G. Corcoran) shows how Stephen applied Aquinas and how Joyce pointed toward "criticism as the new theology." Morris Beja defends the often disputed concept...