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Preface

From: Joyce Studies Annual
2012
pp. ix-xiii

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In this time of global economic crisis and strife within the publishing world, Luca Crispi’s “Ulysses in the Marketplace: 1932” seems especially timely. Drawing on unpublished letters by Paul Léon to Sylvia Beach and others, Crispi chronicles a decisive year in Joyce’s life as a professional writer, leading up to the inexpensive Odyssey Press edition of Ulysses. Ten years after Shakespeare and Company’s initial publication, the last copies of the eleventh (and final) re-printing of the novel had been sold, and despite his celebrity, Joyce was beset with inveterate financial worries. Finding that his royalties were insufficient to meet his ever-mounting expenses, Joyce, through Leon, entered into simultaneous negotiations with American, British, and continental publishers with the overriding aims of keeping Ulysses in print and maximizing its future sales. In tracing these exchanges—and the legal battles that ensued—Crispi provides a fascinating analysis of Joyce’s uncertain income, while also revealing the strain that this economic pressure placed on his relationship with Beach, who sought to maintain their friendship while also making sensible business decisions about a book she “admired and loved above everything.”

Two of the most ambitious and highly theorized essays on Ulysses in this volume of JSA take as their starting point the landscape of the human body in states of desire and decay. Joseph Valente’s psychoanalytic study, “Stephen’s ‘Allwombing Tomb’: Mourning, Paternity, and the Incorporation of the Mother in Ulysses,” explores Stephen’s conflicted urges, after May Dedalus’s death, to free himself from the maternal body through gestures of artistic independence and to “encrypt and preserve” the dead mother in his unconscious. In Valente’s provocative reading, Stephen’s largely plagiarized poem fragment is one of several failed attempts to exorcise his impulse to psychic incorporation of the mother. Ironically, the verse becomes an expression of “melancholia in extremis,” re-inscribing [End Page ix] the forbidden desire it seeks to purge as Stephen’s own mouth participates in the vampire kiss. Paralyzed by grief, Stephen seeks to deny the loss of his mother by swallowing the maternal womb in which he had once been swallowed. Bloom, by contrast, while struggling with the death of Rudy, ultimately makes the mourning process a “site of growth” and, in his paternal service to Stephen, becomes “a role model in the art of bereaved substitution.”

Approaching bodily experience in Ulysses through the evolving field of eco-critical studies, James Fairhall’s essay mounts a “trans-corporeal” reading of the “existential shame” that marks Stephen’s and Bloom’s responses to physical corruptibility in “a world of limitations culminating in death.” This shame, Fairhall argues, arises from the characters’ frustrated urge to transcendence, as their “spirit-like minds are tethered to animal-like bodies.” Both of Joyce’s protagonists are haunted by “the scandal of creation”—the cyclical interdependence of birth and mortality, consumption and elimination that converts the body into a “locus of tragedy.” With his rotten teeth, Stephen, the would-be Icarus, feels implicated in the same process of decay that consumed his mother. Bloom, while considerably less squeamish than Stephen about his own biological processes, exhibits shame in his moments of revulsion at imperfect female bodies (from Molly’s menstruation to Gerty’s limp) that simultaneously arouse desire. His museum visit to inspect the posterior of a Greek goddess, Fairhall suggests, is an attempted retreat from the flawed anatomical spectacle of real female bodies into a realm of abstract perfection.

Three of the articles in this collection treat questions of translation and reception. Erika Mihálycsa’s densely textured essay explores the challenges that Italian, German, Hungarian, and Romanian translators faced in rendering the exuberantly experimental passage near the end of “Oxen of the Sun” in which Stephen and his cohort leave the laying-in hospital for Nighttown. Mihálycsa notes that this “coda” presents an “explosion of styles”—polyglot puns, idiomatic expressions, portmanteau words—that “spills over the frontiers of English” and anticipates Finnegans Wake. Through this linguistic play, Joyce raises self-reflexive questions about the instability of language and the signifying presence and author-ity of the “the bleeding awfur.” Comparing the translators’ choices and translating...



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