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  • Serial Encounters: “Ulysses” and “The Little Review,” by Clare Hutton
  • Thomas O’Grady (bio)
SERIAL ENCOUNTERS: “ULYSSES” AND “THE LITTLE REVIEW,” by Clare Hutton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. 264 pp. $80.00.

For seasoned readers of Joyce, the title of Clare Hutton’s study of the serialized publication of Ulysses in the American literary magazine The Little Review should resonate in at least three ways. She describes the most conspicuous one succinctly in her introduction, where she sketches how the installments of the novel, appearing from March of 1918 through the September-December issue of 1920, would have been experienced by readers of The Little Review and also of The Egoist, which published several of the installments in England:

Those readers—who were largely American and usually regular subscribers—encountered Ulysses not as an iconic and finished masterpiece, but as a gradually evolving serial, which gradually provoked controversy. For those readers Ulysses was a work to be continued, to be experienced in a range of serial encounters; a work to be sampled, crucially, alongside writings by other significant authors of the modern era, such as Pound, T. S. Eliot, Yeats, and Dorothy Richardson. They read Joyce not as a lone and isolated pioneer, but as one writer among several who were trying to develop a modern idiom and consciousness for literature during and immediately following the First World War.


But Hutton’s undertaking also speaks to the experience of many latter-day readers of Ulysses—specifically to those devotees, academic or otherwise, who subscribe to “the principle of reflexive reference” that Joseph Frank asserts regarding Ulysses: “Joyce cannot be read—he can only be re-read.”1 According to Frank’s principle, our re-readings of Ulysses are intrinsically serial. And then for the (re-)reader of Ulysses, Hutton’s study adds an extra-textual (if not quite hyper-textual) layer—a palimpsestic effect involving a heightened awareness of how the specific edition being read arrived at its particular state. While Hutton nods several times at Hans Walter Gabler’s “Corrected Text,”2 her principal focus in Serial Encounters is on the genetic relationship between the Shakespeare and Company edition published in 1922 and the fourteen episodes first published in The Little Review.

Interestingly, Hutton gives only a glance or two toward The Most Dangerous Book, Kevin Birmingham’s best-selling account of the legal wrangling surrounding the publication of Ulysses in The Little Review and beyond.3 The reason for this quickly becomes obvious: whereas Birmingham’s strategy is primarily narrative, Hutton’s is decidedly analytical and interpretive. Her telling of the story of Joyce’s dealings, [End Page 197] direct or indirect, with editors Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, as well as with other players in the saga—go-between Ezra Pound, lawyer and benefactor John Quinn, and even New York City printer Dushan Popovich—always involves the literary implications of those dealings. Hutton’s treatment of her subject is thus densely packed with quotations and their variants, presented mostly nacheinander but sometimes nebeneinander, with additions marked in a semibold font to help illuminate Joyce’s process of revision and ongoing composition. Ambitiously conceived, this project coheres impressively thanks to Hutton’s clear, and clearly spelled out, organization: chapters 1 and 2 are “contextual and historicist,” chapters 3 and 4 “textual, genetic, and interpretive” (7).

The “context” is obviously The Little Review itself in its complex cultural moment. Building in part on the scholarly work by Mark Gaipa, Sean Latham, and Robert E. Scholes in The Little Review “Ulysses,”4 Hutton yet takes a step back to warn literary historians “not to over-determine the significance of a journal, given that it is multi-authored, contingent, expedient, and ultimately social, both in origin and intention” (44). Indeed, one of her interests is on the “social” aspect reflected in readerly responses to Joyce’s unfolding narrative. She summarizes the contributions to the “Reader Critic” column in the following:

Readers did not generally comment on specific instalments, engage with the cultural elements of the text, or understand or consider the significance of the introduction of Bloom, and made no attempt to decode the overall evolving...