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Reviewed by:
  • James Joyce's Correspondence ed. by Dirk Van Hulle et al.
  • Patrick Hastings (bio)
JAMES JOYCE'S CORRESPONDENCE, edited by Dirk Van Hulle, Robert Spoo, Michael Groden, Kevin Dettmar, Ronan Crowley, William S. Brockman, Josip Batinić, and Sabrina Alonso. Antwerp: University of Antwerp, 2021. Online, <>.

Molly Bloom thinks that receiving a new letter "fills up your whole day and life always something to think about every moment and see it all round you like a new world."1 A new world of letters is forthcoming in the edition planned by <> and will eventually double James Joyce's published correspondence. The editorial team of Dirk Van Hulle, Robert Spoo, Michael Groden, Kevin Dettmar, Ronan Crowley, William S. Brockman, Josip Batinić, and Sabrina Alonso have begun releasing Joyce's previously unpublished letters, drawing upon the holdings of nearly seventy institutions as well as private collections. The edition will eventually comprise a total of nearly 2,000 pieces of correspondence, and the online format allows the flexibility to release these in related installments. The first of these installments, available now on <>, principally contains Joyce's letters to Ezra Pound. We can expect further tranches to be published in due course. The project was previously planned as a three-volume scholarly edition scheduled for publication by Oxford University Press in 2017,2 but this new online edition takes full advantage of web-based features, while providing extensive annotations, as well as introductory essays that frame the contents of the letters.

Readers undertaking a study of these new discoveries might feel compelled to review previously published volumes of Joyce's letters3 or, in the case of this first installment, by keeping a copy of Pound/Joyce (which contains Pound's side of the correspondence) open beside the computer.4 Not so. The online edition's annotations, which conveniently appear on a split-screen beside the text of Joyce's letter, helpfully contextualize each of the newly published letters within the larger body of Joyce's correspondence. The notes accompanying each letter range between 1,000-2,000 words, taking advantage [End Page 706] of the expansiveness of an online space to gloss any and all details that might be useful to readers and researchers. Indeed, I cannot imagine such extensive notes appearing in a print edition, whether as footnotes or even on a page opposite from the letter. The annotations prove insightful, such as when they explain Joyce's maneuvers in seeking publication, or when they offer details about how the Italian military attacked Trieste in World War I. They are also illuminating, as when they expand upon Joyce's fear of thunderstorms or when they tell how Joyce's night on the lash with two postal workers inflamed his eye condition of irido-ciclitis (and when they explain what iridociclitis actually is). These notes benefit from an interface that intuitively meets the reader's needs; clicking a superscript numeral within the letter automatically scrolls through the side-bar of notes to the corresponding annotation. Furthermore, the functionality of hyperlinks within the notes allows readers quickly to access related letters and other relevant annotations, including stand-alone biography pages that introduce the people mentioned by Joyce in the letters. The notes for each letter effectively engage the full body of Joyce's correspondence and may be the closest de facto substitute for a single index to all of Joyce's letters (although the possibility of a comprehensive index remains appealing).

The first installment of correspondence released to the edition features eighty-seven letters from Joyce to Pound, which expands the correspondence between Joyce and Pound by more than 75 percent. Most of these letters were composed during the era when Joyce was struggling to get his work published; accordingly, this group features annotations that provide helpful context regarding various figures in the avant-garde publishing environment as well as the legal constraints facing those publishers. Furthermore, Robert Spoo's lively introductory essay describes the complexity of Joyce's interests and unfolds a closely studied narrative of the relationship between Joyce and Pound, pointing to relevant letters within the edition that give contemporaneous voice...