- “Giacomo Joyce”: Envoys of the Other
This book, a revised edition of a volume already published in 2002 by the Academica Press in the United States, is a collection of important essays entirely devoted to Giacomo Joyce. Here, Joyce’s short, complex text is discussed by recognized Joyce scholars: Fritz Senn, Vicki Mahaffey, Murray McArthur, Michel Delville, Kevin Nolan, Joseph Valente, John McCourt, Sheldon Brivic, M. E. Roughley, Renzo Crivelli, Richard Brown, and the editors themselves, Clare Wallace and Louis Armand. The essays are authoritative, show a high degree of analytical skill, and are held together by a shared web of references and a common critical background. In such a brief space, it is difficult to discuss the merits of each single contribution, some of which are particularly wide-ranging and profound. This is particularly the case for the essays by Mahaffey and McArthur and for Valente’s “(M)othering Himself: Abjection and Cross-Gender Identification in Giacomo Joyce.”
The impetus behind Armand and Wallace’s edition is the recent need to read a “minor” text—one on the margins of the Joycean corpus and canon—as a work in its own right. It seeks “to see the object as in itself it really is,” as Matthew Arnold says in The Function of Criticism at the Present Time.1 For this reason, the two editors present a vast panorama of what has been written on Giacomo Joyce, from the first mention of the text and its 1968 publication by Richard Ellmann for the Viking Press to the 2006 second edition of Armand and Wallace’s book. The recent work by Lia Guerra, Fogli Triestini, also bears witness to the difficulties posed by Giacomo Joyce, as well as to its current relevance.2 [End Page 584]
The explicit aim of this collection, therefore, is not to treat Giacomo Joyce as an inexplicable curiosity, a transitional and marginal work, or an eccentric stage in the evolution of Joyce’s principal oeuvre, but to feature it “as a work deserving of critical attention in its own right” (viii). The two editors emphasize their desire to establish a more extensive and comprehensive approach to the text, one that goes beyond biographical criticism and faces the complexities of works directly. The essays collected here are indeed readings inspired by various and divergent literary theories, and the editors respect this diversity in order to reflect the provocative nature and, at the same time, the rich potential of Joyce’s text. Three specific articles are reproduced in the Appendices: Hélène Cixous’s “Giacomo Joyce: The Ironic Sobs of Eros,” a translation of her 1968 review in Le Monde; Fritz Senn’s “Some Further Notes on Giacomo Joyce,” an addition to Ellmann’s notes on the text, which first appeared in the JJQ; and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “Love Me, Love My Ombre, Elle” on Jacques Derrida’s The Post Card.3 Indeed, according to the editors, Derrida deserves particular mention since he provides the necessary theoretical background for the reading of some of the essays. He offers the reader a means to appreciate Joyce’s allusive and subtle text through that process of “sublimation” and “deconstruction” put forward in The Post Card.
From the very beginning, Armand’s “Introduction” presents the interrelated images of the mirror—with an allusion in the title to a work by Sheridan Le Fanu—and the “[o]ther Joyce” (1). This sense of otherness is immediately underlined by the quotation from King Lear in which Edmund questions himself about what it is to be an illegitimate son while reflecting upon his own intellectual and physical qualities which are in no way inferior to those of the legitimate Edgar.4 The reader is therefore encouraged to associate Edmund with Giacomo Joyce; Joyce’s short text is “an uncanny double, a doppelgänger, a shemblable, a bastard self” (1). Indeed, according to Armand, the critical reception of Giacomo Joyce is concentrated on biographical and autobiographical elements, on the evolution of Joyce’s style, and on the...