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‘Fondseeds’: Dublin James Joyce Summer School, 3–9 July 2011
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Dublin James Joyce Summer School, 3–9 July 2011

There is perhaps no better environment for a beginning Joycean to study James Joyce than in the city of his formative years: the city in which he chose, though in voluntary exile, to set all of his published works. Dublin is now recognized as a UNESCO City of Literature, with its fostering of Joyce as one of its qualifying factors. Deirdre Ellis-King, Dublin City Librarian, reflected on the city’s many literary attractions in an address to this year’s participants. Her welcome, given at the School’s opening reception in the National Library, set the atmosphere for a week of intense exploration of Joyce’s foundations in the city that helped make the master. For Ellis-King, public works such as the schools and libraries of Joyce’s childhood played an enormous role. Over the course of the week, we began to think about foundations more broadly: the foundations of Joyce’s texts, in terms of their composition and development; the social, political, historical, and material conditions of their production; as well as how they have served in their turn as the foundations of new [End Page 130] approaches to reading, writing, and language. As a metaphor for the atmosphere of discovery and inspiration advanced by the Summer School, the Wake word ‘fondseed’ (FW 4.31) provides an appropriately organic image. Uniting both the permanence of architectural foundations (Fr. fond) and the diversity of plant life, ‘fondseeds’ suggests a garden in which excavation and cultivation are simultaneous and symbiotic processes.

The Annual Dublin James Joyce Summer School brings together a diverse group of enthusiasts, ranging from ambitious high school students to some of the most established contributors to the field. Lectures take place in the old Physics Theatre in Newman House on St Stephen’s Green. (It is difficult to map this cheerful setting, strewn with sunlight and conversation, onto its quiet, dusty doppelganger in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). The School’s patron, Fritz Senn, and its directors, Anne Fogarty and Luca Crispi, encourage the younger attendees to voice their questions after lectures. This encouragement, along with a group of speakers and seminar leaders who express genuine interest in students’ ideas, facilitates growth and communication among the group, and is the seed of collaboration.

With some of Joyce’s works and manuscripts coming out of copyright at the start of 2012, there was considerable interest at this year’s School in what will become of the unpublished manuscripts, typescripts, notebooks, letters, and other materials. Luca Crispi and Sam Slote, both veteran genetic critics, led workshops on the drafts of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake respectively. Crispi argued that genetic criticism is most valuable when it can tell us something about an author’s creative processes. His workshop set an example: Crispi reconstructed Joyce’s processes of gathering material, transcribing, and revising his text, from notebook to draft to fair copy. Joyce was wont to add to his texts at every new phase of production — even final proofs — and rarely did he make cuts. His careful attention was necessary: when typists, for instance, left blank spaces rather than registering naughty words on the page. But if Joyce ran into textual trouble with Ulysses, the ‘correct’ transmission of Finnegans Wake was an even bigger challenge. Sam Slote began his workshop by pointing out the unprecedented elusiveness of this text, having no standard language, no plot, no fixed characters, and no singular setting. Finnegans Wake, Slote argued, stages the composition process itself. ‘To read genetically’, he said, ‘is to read the unfolding of ambiguation’.

Participants in Terence Killeen’s seminar had the chance to explore the ‘ambiguation’ of Finnegans Wake further, in five detailed sessions. On day one, we reviewed how Finnegans Wake began: as a series of sketches, based on or [End Page 131] echoing Irish legends. Killeen’s account of Joyce expanding and inflating his sketches — at the level of the word — corroborated Slote’s arguments. The group did a close reading of chapter I.6, a semi-expository chapter which functions as an effective window onto other aspects of the text...