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James Joyce's Ulysses was plagued from the outset by hundreds of printing errors. The 1922 first edition, published in Paris by Sylvia Beach through her bookstore "Shakespeare and Company," contained an insert apologizing "for typographical errors unavoidable in the exceptional circumstances." During the course of eleven printings and two editions between 1922 and 1930, Shakespeare and Company attempted to correct their errors without achieving a reliable text. Subsequent editions by other publishers fared little better. Random House, for example, mistakenly set its first American edition in 1934 from an exceedingly corrupt (and cleverly disguised) pirated version. Although Random House tried to make things right by completely resetting the text of Ulysses for their 1961 reprinting, specialists agree that the 1961 edition is marred by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of errors. From 1922 to 1961, then, most efforts to establish a correct text of Ulysses appear to have added as many mistakes as they eliminated.

In 1977, Hans Walter Gabler, a German scholar who had done post-doctoral work under Fredson Bowers at Virginia, undertook to establish an authoritative text of Ulysses. Financially supported by a $300,000 grant from the German government and encouraged by the trustees of the James Joyce estate, who welcomed a substantially changed text of Ulysses as an opportunity to extend the soon-to-expire copyright, Gabler and his assistants worked at re-editing Ulysses for seven years. Their new, computer-generated Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition was published by Garland Publishing on June 16 ("Bloomsday") 1984. The new Ulysses was not, however, merely a corrected reading text. It was a three-volume critical edition with a genetic display of the history of the text's composition on the left-hand pages, the established reading text on the right-hand pages, and some two hundred pages of textual apparatus.

Moreover, in preparing his edition Gabler eschewed orthodox methods of "copytext editing," which probably would have yielded a corrected version of either the 1922 first edition or the 1961 Random House edition. [End Page 98] Instead of correcting an existing edition, Gabler undertook a complete, genetic reconstruction of Joyce's text from the existing manuscript materials. Beginning with the so-called Rosenbach manuscript, which is the fullest extant version of the early text in Joyce's own hand, Gabler traced the processes of Joyce's subsequent deletion, revision, and expansion. The result was a wholly new version of Ulysses that differed in some 5,000 details from the version that Joyce himself saw through the press in 1922, and in nearly as many for the 1961 Random House edition.

Because of the magnitude and importance of the editing task, Gabler's bold editorial theories, and the novel (at the time) application of computer technology to the humanities, the Gabler Ulysses captured extraordinary attention even as work-in-progress. Upon publication, it achieved instant success in the popular press, with front-page coverage in the New York Times, a major review in Time magazine, and wide coverage in numerous lesser journals. Like the commentary in the popular press, most of the early academic reviews glowed with admiration for Gabler's achievement. The new Ulysses did not receive its first sustained and serious critical scrutiny until John Kidd presented a paper, "Errors of Execution in the 1984 Ulysses," at the Society for Textual Scholarship in New York City in April, 1985. There, Kidd ignited a controversy that has raged for five years. Gabler, Kidd, and a host of other commentators have battled in the pages of The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement; Kidd has published a 175-page monograph in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America (1989) attacking the new Ulysses; a hard-cover volume called Assessing the 1984 ULYSSES appeared in 1986; and two international conferences—one in Monaco in 1985, another in Miami in February 1989—have been devoted to its evaluation. Most recently, Philip Gaskell and Clive Hart, two distinguished scholars who are cited on the edition's title page as members of its Academic Advisory Committee (along with Richard Ellmann) have published Ulysses: A Review of Three Texts (1989). Attacking the edition that they helped to prepare and lent their names to upon publication, Gaskell and Hart dispute much of Gabler's editorial theory and offer a list of 483 specific instances where they disagree with his word choices.

A severe blow to the edition's reputation occurred in June 1988 when, as a result of Kidd's persistent criticism, Random House announced it was setting up a committee chaired by G. Thomas Tanselle to advise them whether Gabler's edition should be withdrawn from the market. That committee has not yet issued its report, nor has Gabler offered his own, long-awaited, full response to the growing criticism of his work. As of this writing—late February 1990—a lull in the controversy has set in as the world of Joyceans waits. The next phase of the dispute is plain. Gabler must make his detailed rejoinder to Kidd's PBSA piece, which also served as Kidd's report to the Random House committee. Then the Random House committee can act. And then, the future of Ulysses is up to the publishers and the Joyce estate. [End Page 99]

There is, of course, no certainty that either the publishers or the Joyce estate will publicly respond in any way to Kidd, Gabler, or the Random House committee. They could, for example, simply table the report and do nothing. After all, they have obtained their new copyright and, if they choose, could restore the status quo ante bellum. Or the publishers, with the estate's blessing, could simply incorporate into Gabler's text some or all of the revisions proposed by Kidd and/or Gaskell and Hart, ignoring altogether matters of editorial theory. (Clive Hart is now a trustee of the estate and will play a crucial role in any decision.) To be sure, that would make a travesty of Gabler's edition because it would repudiate the complex and daring editorial theory upon which Gabler based both his genetic and reading texts. On the other hand, although such an amalgam would be another in a long line of patched-up editions without a coherent rationale, it might provide a reading text that gained broad acceptance.

Ideal, perhaps, would be the following scenario: Gabler would continue to modify his texts, both synoptic and reading, in response to new evidence that a given reading is wrong; another version of a "genetic" text would be produced according to more cautiously conceived principles; Kidd would edit the 1922 first edition; a facsimile reproduction of the original 1922 edition would be published. Whatever one thinks of the Gabler text, it is indubitable that in a "free marketplace" of ideas, where publishers and estates served the interests of art as passionately as those of commerce, Gabler's edition would not be the only reading text of Ulysses available.

While the Random House committee deliberates, one of the most intriguing literary dramas of our time continues to stage itself. At issue is nothing less than the very language that constitutes the major work of English literary modernism—Ulysses. An edition of Ulysses derived from different editorial principles, it is now clear, would result in a quite different text.

But the significance of this debate extends well beyond the establishment of a "best text" of Ulysses. First, it has attuned a world of critics—who had until now merely presumed the texts that engaged their critical faculties—to the circumstances of contingency and indeterminacy that shape a specific text. Thanks to the Gabler/Kidd dispute, Joyceans are aware that any version of Ulysses is an edited version, that Joyce's unmediated words are simply not accessible. Scholars who had never read W.W. Greg, or who had long forgot him, are now weighing competing notions of copytext and debating the principles of emendation.

Second, as the corollary to the new conception of the text as a product of editing, is the more inclusive awareness of editing as one of many social and historical forces, besides the author, that determine a text. Regarding the 1922 first edition of Ulysses, for instance, the influences of amanuenses, typists, and printers left indelible traces on the text. Neither Gabler nor any other modern editor can easily "correct" the 1922 edition. For example, a typesetter's error in [End Page 100] proof might occasion an entire passage of fresh creativity for Joyce, predicated on the error. In that event, an editor who "corrects" the typesetter's error must also excise Joyce's new writing. On the other hand, an editor who retains Joyce's new writing admits the typesetter as Joyce's collaborator.

Regarding Gabler's newly edited Ulysses, a whole new cluster of social and historical determinants enters the scene. At the outset of the project, for example, stand two decisive, enabling acts: (1) the estate's desire for new copyright, which induced it to make an agreement with Gabler, and (2) the generous funding that Gabler received from the German government to pursue his project. Then, the editing itself proceeded according to Gabler's own innovative editorial methods, which yielded a unique and controversial text. The mere fact that Gabler is a man of strong will accounts for hundreds of specific wordings in the new Ulysses. For instance, during the course of preparing the edition, Gabler had a serious falling out with two of his academic advisers—Philip Gaskell and Clive Hart—over his editing procedures. The dispute was so intense that Gaskell and Hart actually withdrew from the project for several months.1 Ultimately, Gabler prevailed. If, instead, Gaskell and Hart had prevailed, the "new Ulysses" might already incorporate the 483 verbal alterations that they now propose in their recent book, Ulysses: A Review of Three Texts.

We are likely to think of writing as a peculiarly solitary act, leading to a work that uniquely embodies the intentions of a controlling author. Modernist writing, above all, evokes the conception of the text as a discrete and self-contained art-object, created by an isolated writer whittling and planing his words in his workshop.2 This is the view of writer and text affirmed by Gaskell and Hart, for example, in Ulysses: A Review of Three Texts. Axiomatic to their method of editing is a conception of the artist as one who controls a text that, in turn, reflects the unified consciousness of the artist. The Gabler/Kidd conflict has augmented our conception of Ulysses—that most sublime of modernist literary artifacts—by revealing to us the social and historical dimension of any text of Joyce's words that might be published. That does not mean that recent history has rendered obsolete Gaskell's and Hart's editorial ideal, only that it has become more problematic and elusive. Nor does it imply that, in the name of indeterminacy, all versions of Ulysses, being necessarily provisional, are therefore equal. Any version must be methodical in its treatment of the evidence, and any version can be edited well or poorly—as judged both by its own intentions and by external standards of logic and adequate theory. But the lessons gleaned from the Ulysses controversy do require us to look past the text as it presents itself, past the illusory certainty of its margins, capital letters, punctuation, and words. To paraphrase Stephen Dedalus, every established text is an imposture—a usurping presence that dislodges and conceals alternatives that only await their own actualization in order to seize the reader's attention and, perhaps, claim equal authority. [End Page 101]

The Summer 1989 issue of Studies in the Novel contained my own essay charting the history of the dispute over the Gabler Ulysses through September 1988, "The Critical Reception of the 'Gabler Ulysses': Or, Gabler's Ulysses Kidd-napped." The original hope had been to accompany that essay with a group of articles treating issues related to the Gabler edition. It proved impossible to assemble such a body of scholarship within the time available, however, and "The Critical Reception of the 'Gabler Ulysses'" was published alone.3 This issue of Studies in the Novel represents the realization of that initial plan. It contains an assortment of diverse materials, ranging from notes to extended articles, treating such matters as editorial theory (Amiran, Gillespie, McGee), concrete editorial practice (Nadel, Senn, Vogler), and the history of the controversy (Bates). Bates's essay deserves a word of explanation because it is an unusual genre to appear in a scholarly journal. Bates is an Emmy-award winning television producer (for Nova) who has written an article for Smithsonian magazine about the Kidd/Gabler dispute (published in March 1990). The material included in his article here might be regarded as the scholarly "outtakes" for that more popular article. Also deserving special explanation is the section called "The Historical Record," which prints for the first time the exchange that initiated the dispute: John Kidd's paper from the 1985 session of the Society for Textual Scholarship and Hans Gabler's reply delivered at the same meeting. To assist readers who want to discover more about the "Gabler Ulysses" or to retrace aspects of the Kidd/Gabler controversy, this special number concludes with an annotated bibliography of all significant items written in English about Gabler's edition.

Finally, a word of explanation is necessary about the method of citation to Ulysses employed in this issue. Gabler's 1984 Garland edition introduced episode- and line-numbers into the text of Ulysses. That practice has been continued in the United States by both the Random House trade edition and the Vintage paperback reprint, and in England by the Bodley Head hardcover edition and the Penguin student edition. Accordingly, Joyce scholars have adopted the habit of citing lines from Gabler's Ulysses, without specifying publisher or pagination, merely to these numbers. Thus a citation to "16.370" refers to episode sixteen in Ulysses ("Eumaeus"), line 370, for all printings of the Gabler edition.

Occasionally, contributors use without explanation a few other conventions of Joyce citation: JJA refers to the James Joyce Archive, published in 63 volumes by Garland Publishing in 1977-79; P refers to the Viking edition of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which has retained the same pagination in all printings since the first edition in 1964; U refers, of course, to Ulysses, with the edition specified either by context or in a note. [End Page 102]

Charles Rossman
The University of Texas at Austin

NOTES

1. For an account of the dispute between Gabler and the academic advisers, see Charles Rossman, "The New Ulysses: The Hidden Controversy," The New York Review of Books (December 8, 1988): 53-58.

2. For an engaging critique of this romantic view of the act of modernist writing, see Linda Brodkey, Academic Writing as Social Practice (Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1987): pp. 54-81.

3. That essay traced the Ulysses controversy through the appointment of the Random House committee. Subsequent developments will be treated in a follow-up essay, "The Critical Reception of the 'Gabler Ulysses': Or, Gabler's Ulysses Kiddnapped: Part Two," to appear in the next issue of Studies in the Novel.

Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1512
Print ISSN
0039-3827
Pages
98-103
Launched on MUSE
2019-03-21
Open Access
No
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