- How Geen Is the Portrait?Joyce, Passive Revision, and the History of Modernism
Twenty-five-plus years on, the so-called scandal of Ulysses remains an extraordinary literary event, spectacular, in no small part, because it involved editing, a subject that remains below the radar of most literary scholars. Gabler's edition, Kidd's jeremiad, and the scores of Joyceans who took sides, took offense, and took the occasion to comment on Joyce, textuality, and editorial practice: All this came to the attention of a public beyond the university. Exhausting as the controversy was, it is no surprise that most Joyce scholars have tacitly settled on a moratorium with respect to the correct text of Ulysses. If anything, much of the excitement and energy in Joyce scholarship since then has moved away from the creation of critical editions and critically established reading texts altogether, as genetic scholarship has put Joyce's avant-textes in the spotlight.1 Luca Crispi sums up the shift nicely, explaining that for "genetic readers, the published editions of Ulysses and of Finnegans Wake . . . are mere moments in a much richer and more complex reading experience that is founded on the texts' extensive pre-history as is manifest in their manuscripts."2 While early generations of Joyce scholars pored over schema for Ulysses, trying to shrink the novel down to size, genetic critics have turned to the avant-textes in order to explode not merely reductive understandings of Joyce's epic but the very concept of a unitary text itself.
Genetic criticism has been salutary in many respects, but it has also pushed both Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man further from the center of Joyce Studies, even as it has pulled Finnegans Wake into it. Because of the relative paucity of manuscripts, drafts, and other documents connected to Joyce's first two books, genetic critics have little to say about them.3 The neglect of Portrait has led much of the Joyce [End Page 64] community to miss an editorial event less momentous than Gabler's Ulysses but still significant for our understanding of the novel, of Joyce, and, I shall argue in this essay, of modernism. I am talking about Gabler's 1993 text of Portrait, which until recently was available in a prohibitively expensive Garland edition complete with editorial apparatus and in a Vintage International imprint, without any apparatus.4 In 2008, Jean-Paul Riquelme chose Gabler's Portrait as the text to reprint under the deservedly popular Norton Critical Edition imprimatur.5 This is no small event. Gabler's text will become the one that many high school and university students read in the classroom, and so it is important to consider the difference this new text makes. This essay takes up Gabler's Portrait, looking at one major emendation in particular, in order to argue, first, that Gabler's "correction" is misguided, and second, that this seemingly minor change speaks to a whole mode of thinking about the history of modernism that is at odds with Joyce's own evolving understanding of textuality and revision.
Gabler's Portrait is edited according to aesthetic principles closer to Stephen Dedalus's than to Joyce's, principles that he formed in the process of writing and revising Portrait. Joyce's aesthetics anticipate a more contemporary materialist and genetic approach to modernism, in which the history of modernism is as much the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century developments in print culture as it is the old story of spiritual crises, political and military catastrophes, and philosophical revolutions.6 The aim of this essay is not so much to shove those familiar narratives aside, as to nudge them over enough to make room for an account of modernism based on events more quotidian but no less extraordinary in their effects. Cheap paper, for instance, had a greater impact on literature than Nietzsche or the Great War did, because it made for a vastly expanded literary marketplace, and it was within that market that modernism became possible and works such as Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man became printable.