James Joyce
Louis Armand

What could there be left to say on the subject of Technology, Archives and Authorisation vis-à-vis Joyce? In particular, what could there be left to say about Joycean genetics and copyright? We seem to be caught in an on-going anachronism, confronted on the one hand with the uncanny sense of déjà-vu that inevitably surrounds any of our dealings with the Joyce Estate on the subject of copyright permissions—of “authorisation,” especially in the area of the manuscripts and notebooks—and on the other hand by the recurrent amnesia and re-invention of the genetic project within the mainstream of Joyce studies.

The history of textual genetics comprises an archive of its own which at times has come to resemble a type of unconscious of the system of scholarship, academic publishing and intellectual property within which it itself is viewed, when at all, as something of an eccentricity, an aberration. Indeed, geneticists have at times been treated both as parasites on the Joycean corpus and as plagiarists, distorting the very fabric of Joyce’s writing in order simply to make a name for themselves, in Joyce’s name (names like John Kidd and Danis Rose come to mind). We might go so far as to say that the project of textual genetics has raised issues not only of the legal status of Joyce’s work and the copyright that regulates the authorisation of its use, but that it has raised issues of moral, cultural, symbolic and filial entitlement, one which has always been at the heart of organised Joyce scholarship, its Foundations and Symposia, but has rarely—at least until very recently—been adequately debated. Yet here too the status of Joyce’s text and its various authorisations risks being overshadowed by mere controversy, perhaps nowhere better exemplified than in the current efforts of Lawrence Lessig to represent the interests of Lucia Joyce’s biographer, Carol Shloss, against the Estate. A more profound issue remains to be addressed, and one which has potential legal ramifications, and that is Joyce’s own Shem-like plagiarist methodology—or what Claudette Sartiliot politely refers to as “citationality.”

But to return to my original point. What could there be left to say on the subject of Joycean genetics? Or rather, why does it still seem necessary to have to draw attention to textual genetics? In his preface to Sam Slote and Luca Crispi’s recent anthology How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake, Mike Groden has the following to say:

To a certain kind of critic “genetic criticism” is a misprint for “generic criticism.”

And yet, as Groden points out, “genetic criticism,” in one form or another, has flourished for over 50 years. Why is there, then, a sense of this particular wheel being newly reinvented; with the publication of Gabler’s Ulysses in 1984; the keynote at the Brown University conference in 1995; the “parallel” 2002 Trieste Symposium, and again with the publication of the Buffalo Wake Notebooks? I have chosen these dates intentionally, as they refer to key transitional moments in the re-invention and reception of Joycean genetics—distinct from those events that mark the pre-history of what the French, since the late 1970s, had begun to refer to as critique génétique (for example the publication of Hayman’s First Draft Version of Finnegans Wake and Hart’s Concordance in 1963, the Joyce Archive in 1977, McHugh’s Annotations in 1980), or which mark highlights in the public’s interest in the acquisition of Joyce’s letters, notebooks and manuscripts. I could, of course, have suggested other dates, such as the trial dates of Danis Rose’s “Reader’s Edition” Ulysses or of the failed copyright negotiations over Mike Groden’s Digital Ulysses. In practical terms, it is these events that have driven public and scholarly interest in what we might loosely term “genetic” criticism—an interest which is inherently fickle—but also which have impacted upon the viability of achieving publishable outcomes in the area of genetic criticism as such, and increasingly so as genetic criticism itself has undergone a more and more empirical turn towards the design of genetic models that draw directly on the Joyce archive. By this, I mean the publication of notebooks and other archival materials in both print and digital form—a project which, in certain respects, marks a return to a more traditional philology concerned with tracking not only the transmission of avant-texts but, as Jed Deppman puts it, with providing the material basis for an “inquiry into [Joyce’s] intentions.”

Very little distinguishes this last brand of “genetic” criticism from earlier skeleton-key approaches to Joyce’s texts—an approach which, in part, achieved its apotheosis in Gabler’s synoptic Ulysses, and which was transformed by the technological basis of Gabler’s project (the use of a computerised hypercard system) into a project focused upon the structural dynamics of textual transmissions through the various “layers” of avant-text and so on. Two points are worth mentioning here. Firstly, the transformation of manuscript studies by means of new information technologies and the invention of electronic archives. Secondly, the fortuitous encounter—in part prompted by this transformation and in part anticipating it—between manuscript studies and textual theories drawn from the work of Freud, Lacan, and Derrida (in particular). In many respects, the work of these thinkers laid the foundations for a type of textual materialism, one which permitted a robust engagement between empirical “methods” and (interpretive) theoretical “models”—above all in the treatment of hypertext as a critical apparatus, and not simply as a presentational instrument—and so gave rise to a properly genetic textual criticism. This phase in the history of Joycean genetics is exemplified in the work, on one hand, of Louis Hay, Claude Jacquet and Daniel Ferrer and those often associated with ITEM in Paris in the 1980s, and on the other of Geert Lernout and the Antwerp group. This phase culminates, in some ways, with the Brown conference in 1995, with the keynote presentation of Ferrer’s hypertext model for parts of Finnegans Wake, an event which also corresponded to the first discussion panels on Joycean hypertext and with the publication of Don Theall’s James Joyce’s Techno-Poetics.

Very little of the promise demonstrated in the mid-90s came to be realised, however, for both logistical, legal and methodological reasons. By the time of the Trieste Symposium in 2002, much of the extensive genetic work that had been accomplished was empirically-based, and the Freudian and poststructuralist framework of Ferrer and others had mostly ceded to the pragmatics of Lernout’s “radical philology.”

Coupled with the exhibition of highly advanced work by Daniel Ferrer, Geert Lernout, Dirk Van Hulle, Mike Groden, Sam Slote and Luca Crispi, the “rehabilitation” of Hans Gabler and the recent “discovery” of previously unknown Joyce manuscripts lent the Trieste symposium the air of a genetic renascence—despite the fact that almost all discussion of Joycean genetics took place, over the period of the entire symposium, at a separate venue. This uncanny doubling in its own way seems to have prefigured the ambivalent status of genetic criticism in the years since 2002. Alongside the discovery of even more unknown Joyce manuscripts and notebooks, with the attendant surge in public interest and investment in the Joyce archive (superficial though this may be), we have witnessed a return to litigation over copyright and the increased aversion of academic presses to support scholarly claims to “fair use.” With regard to individual projects, in recent years we have seen the publication of the Buffalo Wake notebooks virtually come to a standstill, while the University Library at Buffalo itself has discontinued the highly significant post of Joyce Scholar-in-Residence; the Digital Ulysses project has come unstuck due to problems with authorisation but also with logistics; while in general many geneticists have redirected their primary research towards authors whose estates are less obstructive than Joyce’s when it comes to granting copyright permission. We have seen, for example, a flourishing of genetic criticism in the area of Beckett Studies, while the archives of writers like Georges Perec, Virginia Woolf, Gustave Flaubert, Francis Ponge and Georges Bataille have all become the venue for extensive genetic research.

So what could there be left, today, to say on the subject of Joycean genetics? In 2003, in this room [in the Philosophy Faculty of Charles University, home of the Prague Linguistic Circle], the first Prague James Joyce Colloquium took place. It was a fairly well-kept secret. Not well enough kept, however, to prevent threats from the Joyce Estate. But the discussion that took place at that time was wide ranging and dynamic, and bore witness to the fact that there is much, indeed, still to be said about Joycean genetics, even if at times it seems that much also needs to be repeated or re-attempted. Ezra Pound once said that the business of the avant-garde is to make it new. I have said before, and I will repeat myself now, that it is my conviction that the only genuinely innovative work taking place within Joyce Studies, and evolving directly out of an engagement with Joyce’s texts, is that which has brought together genetic criticism and hypermedia, or what are sometimes also called Joycean genetics and Joycean hypertext. In a sense, genetic criticism has constituted a critical avant-garde emerging from poststructuralism and the new media. To paraphrase Pound, it’s news that has stayed news. But by the time the news finally gets out, once and for all, it will already have become history. It remains to see what the critics of the future will make of this history. Four years ago, we collected and published the papers present at the first Prague colloquium (an event, by the way, that sought to make up for the loss of the Paris colloque and to act as a modest counter-balance to the almost complete indifference to genetics at the recent North American Joyce conferences).

The publication of the proceedings of our first colloquium was entitled Joycemedia—echoing Derrida’s term Joyceware, but specifically focused on the interface between genetics and hypermedia. I was gladdened to see that in Autumn last year Joycemedia was finally reviewed in the JJLS (it still hasn’t been reviewed in the JJQ). The reviewer was flattering, in a way. This anthology, he wrote, “exists on the cutting edge of Joyce studies and will no doubt, whether it seems paradoxical or not, remain there for some time.” So far, so good. But he also says the following: “I make no claims at having understood anything beyond the elementary aspects of the anthology.” And there we have that paradox all in a nutshell.

So, having given you this abbreviated, incomplete, and potentially unreliable account of the evolution of the theme of our colloquium today—that being literate technologies, archives and authorisation—you may still be wondering about the title we have chosen. From “memex” to gttrdmmrng. The explanation is simple enough. For while, as Mike Groden says, we may want to see Joyce himself as the first truly Joycean geneticist, the conceptual foundations for the computational tools geneticists employ lie in the post-War research of the American science administrator Vannevar Bush, who coined the term “memex” to refer to a non-linear, information retrieval system (a type of mechanical memory)—one which has entered the mythology of cyberculture as the major prototype of today’s hypermedia. “Gttrdmmrng,” which as you know is a quotation from the Wake, because of the manner in which the apparent intervention of new technologies into traditional literary scholarship has represented, and continues to represent for many, a crisis of faith and a threat to the old philological pieties that, having survived the death of theory have recently begun again mourning the death of the book. As Theall, McLuhan and even Joyce himself have pointed out, however, it is rather a twilight of false gods that we are experiencing in the work of textual genetics; of the deities of a type of Ur-criticism that speaks in the name of authorial intentions, whereas the “new” critical technologies represent not the end of the “culture of the book” but its radical extension by way of a “universal” cultural archive—such, at least, is the more utopian version of this story.

However this may be, it is my pleasure to welcome our speakers today—Sam Slote (TCD), Finn Fordham (Nottingham), and David Spurr (Geneva). I would like to extend my thanks to Ondrej Pilný for organising this event, and to the Centre for Irish Studies and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin for hosting and supporting it. I would also like to thank David Vichnar, the editor of Hypermedia Joyce Studies, and Maciej Ruczaj, for their assistance.