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Manuscript Genetics, Joyce's Know-How, Beckett's Nohow

Dirk Van Hulle

Publication Year: 2008

By taking the principles of manuscript genetics and using them to engage in a comparative study of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, Dirk Van Hulle has produced a provocative work that re-imagines the links between the two authors. His elegant readings reveal that the most striking similarities between these two lie not in their nationality or style but in their shared fascination with the process of revision.

Van Hulle's thoughtful application of genetic theory--the study of a work from manuscript to final form in its various iterations--marks a new phase in this dynamic field of inquiry. As one of only a handful of books in English dealing with this emerging area of study, Manuscript Genetics, Joyce's Know-How, Beckett's Nohow will be indispensable not only to Joyce and Beckett scholars but also to anyone interested in genetic criticism.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Genetic criticism is an explosive field in modernist studies. Technology has caught up with writers like Joyce and Beckett in its ability to record, research, sift through, and present data on notebooks, archival material, and variant editions: what was previously known to a handful of people who had the time ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

The study of modern manuscripts almost inevitably implies the question of whether it is not inappropriate to enter an author’s workshop and study his drafts. In a conversation with James Knowlson during my first research visit to the Samuel Beckett Archives at the University of Reading, I asked him this question. ...


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pp. xv-xvi

Transcription Conventions

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pp. xvii

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pp. 1-6

Imagine this were a manuscript of “Imagine.” Imagine how much it would be worth. In July 2005, John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for “All You Need Is Love” were auctioned. All you needed was $1 million to become its owner. Similar amounts of money are being paid for manuscripts by authors such as James Joyce or Samuel Beckett. ...

Part I. Genetic Criticism

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pp. 7-8

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1. Genetics and Poetics

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pp. 9-23

Genetic criticism (critique génétique) is a confusing term, often associated with biogenetics instead of literary studies. The relationship between both disciplines may be a vaguely similar fascination with creation or procreation, but the thoroughly different nature of their respective research objects suggests ...

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2. Methodology

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pp. 24-46

In the following attempt to chart the position of genetic criticism within literary criticism, it will be necessary to discuss a few controversial theoretical issues and get past a number of -isms and so-called “fallacies” such as positivism and intentionality, the Scylla and Charybdis of literary theory. ...

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3. Strategies and Typologies

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pp. 47-52

Ratiocination inevitably takes place in what Beckett called the ivory dungeon. But more often than not, a pen and a piece of paper help materialize this thought process. Arthur Schopenhauer called this “thinking with the quill,” a phenomenon he did not exactly admire. He compared it to walking with a cane. ...

Part II. Joyce's Know-How

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pp. 53-54

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4. Introduction: "Work in Progress"

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pp. 55-76

Any attempt to retell the narrative of Finnegans Wake is doomed to create the same effect. The paraphrases are legion, and transformations inevitable. One of the pioneering enterprises in genetic Joyce studies was David Hayman’s 1963 edition of A First-Draft Version of “Finnegans Wake.” ...

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5. Decomposition

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pp. 77-82

“Ex nihilo nihil fit.” Joyce mentioned this line in one of his keys to explain his “Work in Progress” in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver (13 May 1927): “Out of nothing comes nothing” (1975b: 321). Joyce drew on hundreds of exogenetic sources to write his last work. Since genetic criticism can only work with the material traces ...

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6. Recombination: S, M, L

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pp. 83-114

Language only gradually became the main character of “Work in Progress” as Joyce detached his lexical material from its conventional referentiality. The more words he decontextualized, the more opportunities he created for their meanings, associations, and resonances to interact, causing an energetic effect of simultaneity.1 ...

Part III. Beckett's Nohow

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pp. 115-116

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7. Introduction: "Work in Regress"

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pp. 117-127

“In the beginning was the pun. And so on” (Beckett 1957: 65).1 By the time this sentence was finally published as part of Beckett’s novel Murphy, James Joyce was still working on Finnegans Wake. His version of the opening words of the fourth Gospel had not yet been written: ...

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8. Recollection

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pp. 128-161

In his essay “Dante . . . Bruno . Vico . . Joyce,” Beckett described poetry as “the first operation of the human mind”: “Barbarians, incapable of analysis and abstraction, must use their fantasy to explain what their reasons cannot comprehend. Before articulation comes song; before abstract terms, metaphors” (1929: 246). ...

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9. Decomposition: L, M, S

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pp. 162-194

The task of finding a form that could accommodate chaos is defined by Evelyne Grossman as “[é]crire la décomposition pour se fondre enfin dans la poussière des mots” (1998: 46). The “dust of the words” is more or less what Beckett entered in the margin of the bilingual (English/German) edition of Eh Joe used by Rick Cluchey: ...


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pp. 195-206

Works Cited

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pp. 207-226


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pp. 227-230

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About the Author, Series Information

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pp. 231-234

Dirk Van Hulle is associate professor of literature in English at the University of Antwerp. He is editor of Genetic Joyce Studies and maintains the Beckett Endpage (www.ua.ac.be/beckett). His publications include Textual Awareness: A Genetic Study of Late Manuscripts by Joyce, Proust and Mann (2004), ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045665
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813032009
Print-ISBN-10: 0813032008

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Joyce, James, 1882-1941 -- Criticism, Textual.
  • Joyce, James, 1882-1941 -- Technique.
  • Joyce, James, 1882-1941 -- Manuscripts.
  • Beckett, Samuel, -- 1906-1989 -- Criticism, Textual.
  • Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 -- Technique.
  • Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 -- Manuscripts.
  • Criticism, Textual -- Methodology.
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