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Influence and Indeterminacy: A Report on the Fourteenth Annual Trieste Joyce School, Trieste, 27 June-3 July 2010

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 47, Number 3, Spring 2010
pp. 337-340 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0020

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For the latest news about Joyce and the world of Joyce studies, visit the JJQ blog "Raising the Wind" at <http://jjqblog.wordpress.com>.

It is a truism that all artists are inspired by something. Given that Joyce relied on diverse experiences and documents for his source material, the question of what influenced him—and how he integrated those contexts into his writing—remains an important one for Joycean scholarship. Trieste is a city with a mixed Austro-Hungarian, Italian, and Slavic heritage, and it shaped Joyce's perceptions, as the research of Joyce School Director John McCourt has established. Even the air of the city seems to ask what constitutes a real or imagined inheritance, and, indeed, many talks from the 2010 Trieste Joyce School posed this very question.

Speakers explored the influences on Joyce's writing—whether it was Italy (Joseph Hassett), William Shakespeare (Laura Pelaschiar), a serialization format (Eric Bulson), urban design (Liam Lanigan), or journalism (Terence Killeen)—and discussed the way that Joyce affected the next generation of Irish writers (McCourt). Fritz Senn's provocative question, "What language are you going to translate Finnegans Wake from?" reminded us not only that Joyce played with many languages but also that language is a question of position and translation (as explored in talks by Ira Torresi and Erika Mihálycsa).

One constellation of papers asked how intertextuality functions in Joyce. Joseph Hassett jump-started the week by discussing place, observing that W. B. Yeats was more persuaded by the Italy of his reading than the Italy he visited, whereas Joyce was inspired not only by Dante but especially by living in Trieste. Pelaschiar and McCourt both cited Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence with Pelaschiar using it to ground a talk arguing that Joyce's texts would be completely different without his "competitive relationship" to Shakespeare.

If Joyce worked through his anxiety by integrating references to Shakespeare into Ulysses, then Flann O'Brien felt "paralyzed his whole life" by Joyce, according to McCourt. A key word in McCourt's talk about Joyce's reception history in Ireland was "ambivalence," in that Joyce's strongest promoters were also his harshest critics, as The Dalkey Archive vividly illustrates. McCourt's talk raised provocative questions about the anxiety of influence, temporal distance, and genre in twentieth-century Irish literature.

Another question that some of the 2010 Trieste speakers raised is whether publication formats (Bulson) or compositional practices (Luca Crispi) affected Joyce's writing. For Bulson, format shapes form so that the serialization format of the Little Review determined how Joyce wrote the early episodes of Ulysses. In exploring the way interruption functions, Bulson drew on his extensive archival work to analyze Ezra Pound's role as an editor who arbitrarily framed episodes for the Little Review. Bulson also speculated about whether another form of interruption, the censorship trials, gave Joyce the freedom to expand his writing, as seen in "Circe" and later episodes.

For Crispi, manuscripts are evidence of Joyce's writing processes and, hence, aesthetic strategies. He used an early "Sirens" manuscript to show how Joyce incorporated "parameters of factual detail" from newspapers into the novel. Bloom's and Molly's "kernel stories" include certain "facts" that evolve throughout the writing of Ulysses. The most speculative part of Crispi's new work is its positing of broader questions about narrative temporality: how "facts" integrate into fiction to construct a character's biography in genetic time versus when a reader encounters these stories in readerly time. First arguing that we must absorb genetic and readerly time axes simultaneously, Crispi then proposed that an understanding of Bloom's and Molly's "kernel stories" would be the best way to grasp the overall "narrative presentation" of Ulysses.

Papers by Killeen, Lanigan, and Claire Culleton posed crucial questions about the way sociohistorical contexts translate into fiction. Killeen showed how "Aeolus" reflects Joyce's engagement with contemporary journalism, suggesting that the "first disruptive [reading] experience" in Ulysses occurs through the "cross-heads," or headlines, in this episode. Particularly intriguing was Killeen's argument that not only is Ulysses thematically and stylistically influenced by print culture but that the book resembles a newspaper because it...

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