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Reviewed by:
  • Renascent Joyce ed. by Daniel Ferrer, Sam Slote, and André Topia
  • John McCourt
Renascent Joyce. Daniel Ferrer, Sam Slote, and André Topia, eds. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2013. Pp. 172. $74.95 (cloth); $19.95 (paper).

Volumes containing collected contributions from Joyce symposia are, almost inevitably, mixed bags struggling to contain a variety of material within necessarily broad umbrellas. The beautifully produced Renascent Joyce, edited by Daniel Ferrer, Sam Slote, and the late André Topia, is a little different. Although it is the somewhat belated offspring of the 2008 Joyce symposium held in Tours, there is nothing belated about its contents. Loosely gathered under a call to reconsider Joyce in terms of his connections with and debt to the Renaissance, the essays collectively offer convincing evidence of the energy which continues to pervade Joyce Studies, and they substantially fulfil the editors’ claim of seeing both “the Renaissance spirit in Joyce” and “a renascent Joyce through a Renaissance Joyce” (2). The former is defined as “the refusal of dogmatic thinking, the drive toward universality, the belief that language is not a transparent medium, and that form should reflect content, and a writing informed by sheer exhuberance” (2). The renascent/Renaissance distinction, on the other hand, is no mere pun; instead it signals in part a series of studies of the Renaissance’s influence on Joyce. Among the individual essays seeing Joyce in dialogue, Tracey Eve Winton entertainingly traces the parallels with François Rabelais and more specifically with his 1499 Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, which she reads alongside the Wake as (troublingly) two novels, but more convincingly as two “cosmogonic dreams, journeys through an underworld tracing the restoration of order in the absence of the sun,” with Polia also being seen as a Plurabelle figure and a watery spirit like ALP (53). Federico Sabatini draws attention to Giordano Bruno’s conception of an “intermedial” writing that crosses the arts—his “filosofia-pittura” (34)—seems to pre-empt Joyce’s “poetographies (FW 242.19) and [End Page 842] his verbivocovisual” (FW 341.19) writing while, inevitably, William Shakespeare is the focus of several essays. François Laroque explores how Joyce, like Shakespeare, “places language at the center of his ‘worldstage’” (60) and illustrates how “the word machine of the Wake literally recycles an almost infinite number of name games in Shakespeare” (59) so that his works enjoy a renascent second life in Joyce’s final work; Jim Le Blanc connects Bottom’s dream in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Book III of Finnegans Wake in terms of “obscurity” and argues convincingly that Freud’s notion of nodal points, and especially the language he uses to describe dream phenomena, might be particularly useful in dealing with the night language of the Wake; Maria-Daniella Dick sees the lost Hamlet lectures, alluded to in Giacomo Joyce, as the missing heart of what will become the “Scylla and Charbydis” episode of Ulysses. Collectively, these Shakespeare essays expand a field of enquiry that continues to thrive and will usefully be read in tandem with the recent Joyce/Shakespeare volume edited by Laura Pelaschiar (Syracuse 2015).

If, as the editors write, the Renaissance was “a crucible for the rebirth and re-gestation of earlier ideas” (4), then it is somehow fitting that this volume concludes with two very useful, if somehow unexpected, essays on Joyce’s Ulysses being reborn in French translation in 1929 and 2014. The first, “Joyce’s Hand in the First French Translation of Ulysses” by Liliane Rodriquez, is a real gem which cleverly draws on the Renaissance theme by using the translation theories of sixteenth-century humanist Étienne Dolet, as expressed in his La manière de bien traduire d’une langue en aultre (1540). It carefully chronicles Joyce’s involvement in the translation process where he consistently interacted with Larbaud, Morel, and Stuart Gilbert but perhaps even more revealingly traces his decisive commitment to the project, his understanding of the crucial centrality of this French version in his critical reception in France. Rodriguez worked through a considerable corpus of correspondence between Joyce, Larbaud, Morel, Jean-Aubry, Marcel Ray, Monnier, and a dozen others (helpfully letters in French are printed...


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