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  • Joyce’s Creative Process and the Construction of Characters in “Ulysses”: Becoming the Blooms by Luca Crispi
  • Michael Groden (bio)
JOYCE’S CREATIVE PROCESS AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF CHARACTERS IN “ULYSSES”: BECOMING THE BLOOMS, Luca Crispi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 336xix + pp. $99.00.

It is time to re-evaluate our sense of how Joyce wrote Ulysses, Luca Crispi claims in Joyce’s Creative Process and the Construction of Characters in “Ulysses”: Becoming the Blooms. The new documents that have come to light since the beginning of this century call into question the prevailing forty-year-old model of Joyce writing his novel episode by episode and, as I posited in “Ulysses” in Progress, in three broad stages (3-4).1 Crispi argues instead for a genetic criticism that dispenses with both the idea of stages and the concentration on individual episodes in order to trace “the construction of the central characters of Ulysses” by studying “the genesis and evolution of their [End Page 131] life-stories across all the relevant episodes in all of the relevant surviving manuscripts and note repositories” (3). The book aims to show “how the study of the often multiple, usually tentative stages in the gestation of the stories about the Blooms can inform our understanding of how the characters became the ones we ‘know’ in the published work” (1).

Crispi organizes his book in eight chapters. An introductory one outlines his methods and central arguments and discusses genetic approaches to Ulysses and, especially, concepts of fictional characters. The second chapter, the book’s first substantive discussion of the manuscripts, focuses primarily not on either of the Blooms, but rather on Blazes Boylan, who is important for Crispi not just because he is the catalyst for the events in Leopold Bloom’s and Molly Bloom’s lives on 16 June 1904, but also because, looked at genetically, “Joyce’s conception of Boylan was fixed from start to finish” (39). Following this are six chapters tracing Leopold’s and Molly Bloom’s lives in chronological order: first Leopold and then Molly before 1886, their courtship between 1886 and 1888, their early married life from 1888 to 1893, their later life together from 1893 to 1902, and finally their lives on 16 June itself and in the early hours of 17 June. Four detailed and useful appendixes that describe the kinds of Ulysses documents that survive, list the extant manuscripts by episode, list the manuscripts chronologically, and list the proofs for the novel chronologically complete the book.

The strengths are considerable. The book successfully demonstrates the possibility and the value of examining the notes and manuscripts in an outside-the-box way. Such an approach would be impossible without a wide-ranging knowledge of not just Ulysses but also its avant-texte, and Crispi reveals both throughout. He is especially strong on the manuscripts that the National Library of Ireland acquired in 2002—the Boylan chapter is largely based on the NLI’s early “Sirens” draft and the chapters dealing with Molly on its “Penelope” draft. Crispi is able to reveal patterns in Joyce’s work on Ulysses that are not obvious from other approaches to the novel, even genetic ones, as he offers some fascinating details. Boylan was in the novel in one of its earliest surviving drafts, and his characterization and presentation remained mostly unchanged throughout the entire writing process. In contrast, Joyce added the scant information that Molly Bloom offers in her monologue about Lunita Laredo—including the tantalizing and much-discussed detail that she is “jewess looking after my mother” (U 18.1184-85)—only on the final page proofs for “Penelope” during the week or two before Ulysses was published [End Page 132] (108-10). He also inserted most of the novel’s details about Leopold Bloom as a young man quite late in his work on it (84). As Crispi talks about Bloom’s courtship of Molly, he quotes Molly’s recollection that she had to encourage Bloom in his advances towards her because “he had been keeping away from the house he felt it was getting too warm for him” (U 18.301-02) and notes that...


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pp. 131-135
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