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  • 18th International James Joyce Symposium
  • Jolanta Wawrzycka
Sebastian D. G. Knowles, Geert Lornout, John McCourt, eds. Joyce in Trieste: An Album of Risky Readings. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007. xii + 254 pp. $59.95

Joyce in Trieste offers a thematic cross section of some 450 papers from the 2002 Eighteenth International James Joyce Symposium in Trieste, a prominent spot on the map of Joyce studies, a home of the annual International James Joyce Summer School, and a subject of numerous book-length publications. Sixteen Joyce scholars are featured in the four sections of this wide-ranging volume; they add yet another celebratory chord to the polyphony of Joycean scholarship. Aptly subtitled “An Album of Risky Readings,” the book’s introduction contains thoroughly risky readings of “e-mails of regret” that Sebastian Knowles had received as a program director from participants who had to withdraw from the program. The messages are classified into seven kinds of regret: Regret Formal, Physical, Paralytic, Inexplicable, Metaphysical, Apocalyptic, and Bogus. But Joycean context is the saving grace for Knowles’s “somewhat malicious” parodistic vein: all seven rhetorical e-structures are hilariously echoed by textual examples from Joyce himself. There is more humor in the book, especially from Zack Bowen and Austin Briggs, and Hugh Kenner, too, offers some serenely humorous musings.

Section one features three essays on “Reading Joyce: Text, Meaning, and Language” by Michael Groden, Margot Norris and Zack Bowen. Groden presents a captivating account of his involvement in authenticating and evaluating for the National Library of Ireland newly surfaced manuscripts, notebooks and other documents in Joyce’s [End Page 345] handwriting; they were officially unveiled on 30 May 2002, just two weeks prior to the symposium. Margot Norris’s essay, “Risky Readings of Risky Writings,” is a poignant account of the kinds of overdetermined readings that readers of Joyce are likely to perform based on Joyce’s writing style. “The gaps, occlusions, and mysteries in the Joycean texts,” states Norris, “function as performatives,” not because they “say nothing: they actually do things.” Joyce’s gnomic and elliptical stylistic that at once implies and withholds invites determined readings without affirming their validity. Zack Bowen’s essay promises “Plato, Homer, and Joyce: Involving Orientalism, a Smidgeon of Smut, and a Pinch of Perverse Egotism” and, of course, delivers. Bowen discusses the comic dimensions of selected Joycean characters and situations. For instance, Duffy’s “righteous mentality is played off against the railway’s propagandistic news story that reads like George ‘Dubya’ Bush’s protestations of ‘compassionate conservatism.’” Bloom’s complacency is presented vis-à-vis Odysseus as a “scurrilous character” who, “were he alive today, would be sitting in the White House or acting as a CEO of Enron.” And there is enough “smut” and “egotism” to make the essay delightfully readable.

Section two centers on “Text: Genetic Readings” and features contributions by André Topia, Nick De Marco, Dirk Van Hulle, and Hugo Azérad. In “Narrative as Potential: The Virus and the Program,” Topia discusses Joyce’s writing technique in terms of “modelization or simulation, almost in the cybernetic sense of the term.” Sentences are actualized as outcomes of silent processes of cognition. Joyce readers are drawn to both actively participate and wholly depend on processes that are “already completed,” making the reading process “both extraordinarily stimulating and deeply frustrating.” Nick De Marco illustrates these points very well by tackling a singularly stimulating and frustrating chapter of Ulysses in his essay “Oxen of the Sun and the Gestation of the Word.” De Marco delineates stages of development of fetus and language by tracing dual gestation of Logos mocked by the Gnostic demiurge. The subject of writing process is also at the center of Dirk Van Hulle’s contribution. His essay, “Dame Plurabelle: Joyce’s Art of Decomposition and Recombination,” attempts to “reconstruct the course of ALP’s genesis both up- and downstream, in order to discover the nominalist principle underlying Joyce’s poetics of process,” as it also demonstrates the significance of genetic studies for interpretive ends. Such fundamental aspects of Finnegans Wake as “its archetypal character amalgams may have been inspired by Proust” and Joyce’s [End Page 346] notebooks support that claim. Finally...


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