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Ulysses in FocusGenetic, Textual, and Personal Views$

Michael Groden

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780813034980

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813034980.001.0001

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From Monument to Mobile

From Monument to Mobile

Genetic Criticism and Ulysses

(p.53) 3 From Monument to Mobile
Ulysses in Focus

Michael Groden

University Press of Florida

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents an account of genetic criticism and its relevance to Ulysses. Ulysses alone does not account for readers' indifference to Joyce's revisions or to variations among the printed versions. Textual critics, who study such matters, have long bemoaned the tendency of other critics to ignore textual matters completely. Despite claims like Wellek and Warren's, interest in how Joyce wrote Ulysses is as old as the work itself. Early academic work on the Ulysses manuscripts focused on Joyce's writing of specific episodes or on particular stages in the book's development, such as the proofs.

Keywords:   genetic criticism, Ulysses, textual critics, academic works, manuscripts, printed text

As the “Aeolus” episode of Ulysses nears its conclusion, Stephen Dedalus comes to the end of his short vignette about two old ladies who have climbed to the top of Nelson’s Pillar. Feeling dizzy from the height, the women “pull up their skirts” and “settle down on their striped petticoats, peering up at the statue of the onehandled adulterer.” The text continues:

Dames Donate Dublin’s Cits Speedpills Velocitous Aeroliths, Belief

—It gives them a crick in their necks, Stephen said, and they are too tired to look up or down or to speak. They put the bag of plums between them and eat the plums out of it, one after another, wiping off with their handkerchiefs the plumjuice that dribbles out of their mouths and spitting the plumstones slowly out between the railings.

A few lines later, the focus shifts briefly from Stephen’s oral story to Dublin’s tram system:

Hello There, Central!

At various points along the eight lines tramcars with motionless trolleys stood in their tracks, bound for or from Rathmines, Rathfarnham, Blackrock, Kingstown and Dalkey, Sandymount Green, Ringsend and Sandymount Tower, Donnybrook, Palmerston Park and Upper Rathmines, all still, becalmed in short circuit. Hackney cars, cabs, delivery waggons, mailvans, private broughams, aerated mineral water floats with rattling crates of bottles, rattled, rolled, horsedrawn, rapidly.

(p.54) Finally, as “Aeolus” draws to a close, Stephen names his tale “A Pisgah Sight of Palestine or The Parable of The Plums.” One of his listeners, Professor MacHugh, reacts (“We gave him that idea”) and then, like the trams, stops his motion:

He halted on sir John Gray’s pavement island and peered aloft at Nelson through the meshes of his wry smile.

Diminished Digits Prove too Titillating For Frisky Frumps. Anne Wimbles, Flo Wangles—Yet Can You Blame Them?

—Onehandled adulterer, he said smiling grimly. That tickles me, I must say.

—Tickled the old ones too, Myles Crawford said, if the God Almighty’s truth was known. (U 7:1013–75)

Critics have analyzed this short scene in many different ways. First, it parallels one in the Odyssey: Odysseus and his men are stuck on Aeolia after Aeolus’s winds blew them almost home to Ithaca but then back to the island, and in Ulysses the women are motionless and silent, the men have stopped walking, and the trams are short-circuited. At the end of an episode full of noise and movement, almost everything is quiet and motionless.

Second, Stephen’s parable calls out for interpretation. His short tale is full of realistic detail and strong language, and, unlike his anemic vampire poem from a few pages earlier (or the villanelle in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), it obeys Myles Crawford’s request that he produce “something with a bite in it. Put us all into it” (U 7:621). Stephen weaves several details from Ulysses into his narrative: the two midwives with their umbrellas whom he saw on Sandymount Strand (U 3:29 ff); Fumbally’s lane, where, he recalled on the strand, he once met a prostitute (U 3:379) and where his two climbers live; Garrett Deasy’s “little savingsbox,” which finds an echo in the women’s “red tin letterbox moneybox” (U 2:218, 7:932); Nelson’s Pillar, toward which Stephen and Professor MacHugh walk after they leave the newspaper office; Buck Mulligan’s song about Mary Ann “hising up her petticoats” (U 1:384, 3:462), clothing that becomes part of Stephen’s story; and, in his title, Seymour Bushe’s speech about Michelangelo’s statue of Moses (U 7:768–71) and John F. Taylor’s about “the youthful Moses” (U 7:833), which provokes J. J. O’Molloy’s remark that Moses “died without having entered the land of promise” (U 7:873; C. H. Peake discusses these and other echoes in James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist).1

(p.55) Harry Blamires discusses Stephen’s story as a study in frustration and disappointment; Daniel Schwarz considers it a metaphoric presentation of a sterile Ireland in which two old women “spit potential seeds upon concrete where they cannot grow” and Paul Schwaber a picture in which the women are “representative of sterile Ireland and [Stephen’s] own self-censure”; and Peake emphasizes the linking of politics and sex, since the Irish women are transfixed and paralyzed by the English conqueror Nelson, a man who, even without an arm, can still tickle them (and MacHugh, too, who admits that “the onehandled adulterer,” as Stephen refers to Nelson, “tickles me”) and whose reputation remained unharmed even though, as an adulterer, he committed the act that later ruined the Irish Parnell.2 The story’s plumstones evoke the name Plumtree, the company whose ad for potted meat remains in Leopold Bloom’s mind all day (U 5:144–47), and like the potted meat they serve as a marker of sexual frustration and satisfaction. Finally, as Stanley Sultan notes, Stephen’s story ironically inverts and refutes Taylor’s Romantic identification of the “youthful Moses” and the “youth of Ireland” (U 7:833, 829) and can inspire such postcolonial readings as those by Enda Duffy, who points out that in various ways, including Stephen’s parable, “a gendered division of labor in the colony is implicitly posited early in the novel,” and by Patrick McGee, who notes that Stephen has identified with “the woman who labors” and thereby “has aligned himself with the figure of the subaltern, the bondwoman.”3

Third, the bold interpolations in the passage—critics variously describe them as newspaper headlines, subheads, captions, crossheads, or simply heads—break up any traditional narrative momentum. These interruptions include a sensationalistic restatement of the women’s actions (“DAMES DONATE DUBLIN’S CITS”), a colloquial phone call seeking help for the tram system (“HELLO THERE, CENTRAL!”), and alliterative descriptions of Nelson (“DIMINISHED DIGITS”) and the old women (“FRISKY FRUMPS”).

Readers might understandably think that responding to the words in the printed Ulysses is a sufficiently large task. They might be forgiven for not knowing that when Joyce first considered “Aeolus” finished and sent it to his typist and then to the printer of The Little Review (the New York magazine that was serializing Ulysses), no newspaper heads or trams were in the episode, Stephen’s name for his narrative was simply “A Pisgah Sight of Palestine,” and the last words were slightly fewer. (Here is how it happened: Joyce added the heads to the first set of placards, although the first one in our passage contained only its first line, and in the last one “ANNE WIMBLES” (p.56) was “ANNE SIGHS.” On the same proof page on which he wrote “HELLO THERE, CENTRAL!” he also added the paragraph about the short-circuited tramcars, but the destinations were slightly shorter and in a different order. In the list of moving non-electric vehicles he first wrote “delivery cars” before changing “cars” to “waggons.” Another addition makes Myles Crawford refer not to simply “the truth” but to “the God Almighty’s truth.” On the second set of placards Joyce corrected several printing mistakes, especially but not only in the names of the tramcar destinations, expanded “Sandymount” to “Sandymount green and Sandymount tower,” and then made an addition to an addition when he inserted “Ringsend” after “green.” He also added the second title for Stephen’s narrative, “The Parable of The Plums,” and in the final head changed “ANNE SIGHS” to “ANNE WIMBLES”—using as a verb an archaic word for a tool used to bore holes. On the first set of page proofs he added the first head’s second line, “SPEEDPILLS VELOCITOUS AEROLITHS, BELIEF,” capitalized the “g” in “green,” and reinserted a question mark after “THEM” at the end of the final head that the printer neglected to include. All his other activities on the three sets of page proofs for this passage involved correcting printer’s errors.)4

Readers might also be unaware that “Sandymount Tower” was “Sandymount tower” in the printed editions until 1932 and that in all the printed editions from 1922 through 1968, Professor MacHugh said “Onehandled adulterer” only “grimly.” Not until Hans Walter Gabler’s edition in 1984 did he speak “smiling grimly.” (The details: Joyce wrote “tower” on the second placards and never changed it, but the word appeared as “Tower” in the 1932 Odyssey Press edition, the version corrected by Stuart Gilbert by comparing the proofs with the earlier printed texts and by occasionally consulting with Joyce. For the earlier appearance of “Sandymount Tower” at U 7:6, Joyce wrote an uppercase “T” on the third placards, and it was printed that way in all editions.5 Joyce wrote “smiling grimly” on the Rosenbach Manuscript, but the typist—who probably worked from another, now lost, handwritten manuscript from which both the typescript and the extant Rosenbach Manuscript derived—did not include “smiling” on the typescript, and the word never appeared on any proofs or in print until Gabler included it in his edition.)6

Ulysses alone does not account for readers’ indifference to Joyce’s revisions or to variations among the printed versions. Textual critics, who study such matters (textual criticism investigates how texts are produced (p.57) and transmitted and applies that investigation to scholarly editing), have long bemoaned the tendency of other critics to ignore textual matters completely. But faced with remarks like one from Fredson Bowers in 1959—“Every practising critic, for the humility of his [sic] soul, ought to study the transmission of some appropriate text”—who wouldn’t stay away? (Bowers also noted that “many a literary critic has investigated the past ownership and mechanical condition of his secondhand automobile, or the pedigree and training of his dog, more thoroughly than he has looked into the qualifications of the text on which his critical theories rest.”)7 Furthermore, the dominant critical attitudes during most of the twentieth century restricted attention to the final printed text. In their influential Theory of Literature from 1948, René Wellek and Austin Warren argued for an “intrinsic study of literature,” an approach in which textual study and establishing accurate editions are “preliminary to the ultimate task of scholarship,” and drafts and other evidence of a work’s development are “not, finally, necessary to an understanding of the finished work or to a judgement upon it. Their interest is that of any alternative, i.e. they may set into relief the qualities of the final text.”8

Critical assumptions based upon statements like these were ubiquitous, even in specific considerations of drafts. In a 1948 essay called “Genesis, or The Poet as Maker,” for example, Donald A. Stauffer asked, “What light…does the composition of a poem throw upon its meaning and its beauty? What difficulties in a finished poem may be explained, what pointless ambiguities dispelled, what purposeful ambiguities sharpened, by references found in its earlier states?”9 The situation did not change as New Criticism (of which Wellek and Warren are prime theorists) faded and was supplanted by deconstruction and poststructuralism, whose practitioners emphasized the indeterminacies and instabilities of texts but only in relation to meaning and interpretation and not to the state of the texts themselves. (See G. Thomas Tanselle’s “Textual Criticism and Deconstruction” for an analysis of the uses of the word “text” in the essays by Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller in Deconstruction and Criticism. See also Jerome McGann’s discussion of how, in seeking to demonstrate that “textual indeterminacy is a function of the ‘reader’ rather than of the ‘text,’” Stanley Fish in his reader-response criticism “wants to take the text as physical object at face value.”)10

And yet, fifty years after Bowers, Wellek and Warren, and Stauffer, in a (p.58) complete turnaround, Jean-Michel Rabaté called for an “ideal genetic reader” of Joyce.11 How did such a reversal come about?

Despite claims like Wellek and Warren’s, interest in how Joyce wrote Ulysses is as old as the work itself. Even before Ulysses was published in 1922, Valery Larbaud described “abbreviated phrases underlined in various-coloured pencil” on Joyce’s working papers, and other observers referred to the unusual appearance of Joyce’s notes and drafts.12 The most prominent and fullest description came from Frank Budgen, who described Joyce’s working documents in his 1934 book, James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses”:

In one of the richest pages of Ulysses Stephen on the sea shore, communing with himself and tentatively building with words, calls for his tablets. These should have been library slips, acquired by the impecunious and ingenious poet from the library counter. On that occasion he had forgotten to provide himself with this convenient writing material, and was forced to use the fag-end of Mr. Deasy’s letter. As far as concerns the need for tablets, the self-portrait was still like, only in Zürich Joyce was never without them. And they were not library slips, but little writing blocks especially made for the waistcoat pocket. At intervals, alone or in conversation, seated or walking, one of these tablets was produced, and a word or two scribbled on it at lightning speed as ear or memory served his turn. No one knew how all this material was given place in the completed pattern of his work, but from time to time in Joyce’s flat one caught glimpses of a few of those big orange-coloured envelopes that are one of the glories of Switzerland, and these I always took to be storehouses of building material. The method of making a multitude of criss-cross notes in pencil was a strange one for a man whose sight was never good. A necessary adjunct to the method was a huge oblong magnifying glass.13

Joyce referred to the physical appearance of his papers in Finnegans Wake when he describes the manuscript of Anna Livia Plurabelle’s “untitled mamafesta” as “writing thithaways end to end and turning, turning and end to end hithaways writing and with lines of litters slittering up and louds of latters slettering down” (FW 104:4, 114:16–18), as “not a miseffectual whyacinthinous riot of blots and blurs and bars and balls and hoops and wriggles and (p.59) juxtaposed jottings linked by spurts of speed: it only looks as like it as damn it” (FW 118:28–31), and as “engraved and retouched and edgewiped and puddenpadded…all those red raddled obeli cayennepeppercast over the text, calling unnecessary attention to errors, omissions, repetitions and misalignments…flinging phrases here, there, or returns inhibited, with some half halted suggestion, , dragging its shoestring”” (FW 120:10–16, 121:6–8 [my ellipses]). The Wake narrator recommends that the manuscript’s students “see all there may remain to be seen” (FW 113:32–33).

Scholars predictably tried to “see all,” looking more systematically at the documents that Larbaud, Budgen, and others described anecdotally. Early academic work on the Ulysses manuscripts focused on Joyce’s writing of specific episodes or on particular stages in the book’s development, such as the proofs. A pioneering study was A. Walton Litz’s 1961 The Art of James Joyce, which studied the Ulysses notesheets and proofs and demonstrated how Joyce’s notesheets led to his revisions of his novel. Litz also sketched out the process by which Joyce moved from a concept of revision as compression to one of revision as expansion. My book “Ulysses” in Progress (1977) built on previous work, including Litz’s, and established two important aspects of Joyce’s writing. First, it worked out a stemma, or family tree, of the Ulysses manuscripts, placing the documents in relation to each other. Second, it showed that Joyce’s conception of Ulysses evolved as he moved from an “early stage” (the first nine episodes) to a “middle stage” (“Wandering Rocks” through “Oxen of the Sun”) and then to a “last stage” (“Circe” to the end), with each stage featuring writing styles and techniques that seemed to come into being only as he worked. Joyce left traces of his early ideas and plans as he moved beyond them rather than eradicating them.14 “Aeolus” was my main example of Joyce revising at this late stage: the newspaper heads were grafted onto an existing text, but that existing text was basically like the episodes that precede it. (I discuss Joyce’s work on “Aeolus” more fully in chapter 8.) In presenting Ulysses as a “palimpsest involving all three stages,” Joyce made it possible to read any passage in his book vertically—as the result of an elaborate composition process and a series of choices—as well as horizontally—as part of an unfolding text in the published novel.15

These early manuscript studies shared certain features. For one thing, they took it for granted that the study of manuscripts and the writing process made sense only in relation to the published work. As I wrote in “Ulysses” in Progress, “Once [Joyce] finished the book…the tasks of interpreting and (p.60) assessing the complete work necessarily take precedence over any questions about the methods of composition.”16 Second, these studies looked at the manuscripts in order to interpret the works rather than to establish accurate texts of them. Third, the manuscript studies operated pragmatically and untheoretically: the scholar saw a specific problem and looked to the documents for possible answers. Like many other manuscript critics, Litz once hoped, as he says in The Art of James Joyce, that the manuscripts “would ultimately provide me with a thread for the labyrinth,” but, he goes on to admit, “somehow the controlling design that I sought eluded me, and I have long since relinquished the comforting belief that access to an author’s workshop provides insights of greater authority than those provided by other kinds of criticism.” (Elsewhere, Litz suggests that every scholar approaching Joyce’s manuscripts should be forced to read “The Figure in the Carpet,” Henry James’s marvelous short story about an obsessive and ultimately doomed quest for an authorially sanctioned key to a writer’s works.)17 Manuscript scholars now are more likely to share the assumption of Luca Crispi and Sam Slote, who, in their introduction to How Joyce Wrote “Finnegans Wake,” remark that genetic criticism cannot provide an answer or a key to the works but “should help make the questions more interesting.”18

I am focusing mostly on Ulysses here, but I want to briefly consider Finnegans Wake. Litz studied the manuscripts for the Wake as well as for Ulysses in The Art of James Joyce, and at about the same time, other scholars produced editions of the manuscripts for individual Wake chapters and notebooks. In 1958 David Hayman published “From Finnegans Wake: A Sentence in Progress,” a full-length article on the thirteen composition stages of one Wake sentence, and in 1963 he produced A First-Draft Version of “Finnegans Wake,” an edition containing the earliest available state of each passage in the Wake. The Finnegans Wake materials occupy thirty-six of the sixty-three volumes in The James Joyce Archive, and the Archive has inspired a great deal of scholarship primarily focused, it has turned out, much more on the notebooks than on the drafts. This work has culminated in the “Finnegans Wake” Notebooks at Buffalo project, an enormously ambitious edition of the forty-nine notebooks, including photoreproductions and transcriptions of each notebook page along with an identification of every note’s source that the editors are able to identify and indications of Joyce’s use of each note that found its way into a draft or into the published text of the Wake; twelve volumes have appeared so far.

(p.61) Even though manuscripts were used by critics more than by textual editors, scholarly editions were produced. William York Tindall edited the poems in Chamber Music in 1954, and in the 1960s Robert Scholes edited Dubliners and Chester Anderson A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Then, in 1984, Hans Walter Gabler, with Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior, published his Critical and Synoptic Edition of Ulysses in three volumes (a one-volume reading text appeared in 1986), and this was followed in the 1990s by Gabler’s editions, with Walter Hettche, of Dubliners and Portrait. In March 2010 the first edited edition of Finnegans Wake, edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon, was published. No editions of Exiles have appeared, although in 1979 John MacNicholas produced a “textual companion” to Exiles that shows how to mark up an existing text to produce a more accurate one.

Two important developments occurred in the 1970s and 1980s to change the picture. First, the attention Gabler’s edition of Ulysses received on its release and the “Joyce Wars” it provoked a few years later made all Joyce’s readers, critics, and scholars, and even the general reading public, aware of textual matters. (See chapter 5 for a more extensive discussion of Gabler’s edition and its aftermath.) Second, during the age of theory, manuscript study and other kinds of archival work remained a fringe activity in North America, but in France, where much of the structuralism and poststructuralism imported into English-speaking countries originated, scholars thoroughly conversant with the theoretical texts, in several cases students of the writers themselves, formalized manuscript study and even institutionalized it as critique génétique, or genetic criticism. We continue to work in exciting ways with the consequences of these two events.

Early American and English manuscript studies—concerned more with studying the documents as evidence of writing processes than with establishing accurate texts; operating pragmatically, looking at the papers to see what they could find without any overriding plan or theoretical perspective; and viewing the study as valuable only if it shed light on the final, published works—based themselves on powerful models. If you consider the finished work to be an organism or an icon or a monument, then anything that did not end up in the work will be secondary, a discard, a reject, or (in film terminology) an outtake. In Wellek and Warren’s conception, it will be “extrinsic” to the “actual work.”19 The metaphors Henry James used in his 1907–1909 (p.62) prefaces to the New York Edition of his novels all assume the works to be organic wholes: he “remount[ed] the stream of composition”; he sought the “germ” of a story, by which he meant the “virus of suggestion” or the “prick of inoculation” that instigated a work; and he followed “the growth of the ‘great oak’ from the little acorn.”20

At the same time as the age of theory ended the dominance of New Criticism and its view of a literary work as an organism or icon, a new kind of criticism and scholarship centered around manuscripts began to develop in France, especially at the Institut des Textes et Manuscrits Modernes (ITEM), part of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris.21 Earlier French manuscript scholars shared many of the assumptions of their English-language counterparts, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s this new scholarship began to look at manuscripts in relation to the final work in two different ways. One was the traditional teleological view, in which the drafts and other documents are seen as leading to the final work. The other was an opposite view in which every moment in the writing process that can be documented in surviving manuscripts reveals a series of possibilities, dilemmas, and choices, and these options—seen more as a series of variant possibilities than as rejects—are fascinating in their own right. (The English term “genetic criticism” is not as new as it might seem. Donald Stauffer used it, for example, in his 1948 essay in Poets at Work, a set of four essays based on and introducing the new collection of manuscripts, called “worksheets” for want of a better name, in the University of Buffalo’s Poetry Collection.)22 Almuth Grésillon speaks of metaphors of “the road…: travelling, course, path, way, march, route, tracks, trails, progression, movement,” as well as “forks…, junctions, losing one’s way, clearing the way, diversion, detours, short cuts, retracing one’s steps, dead ends, accidents, false starts, taking a wrong turn,” and she suggests balancing metaphors “borrowed from organicism” with “those borrowed from constructivism.” She cites the conclusion of Charles Baudelaire’s introduction to his translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1846 essay “The Philosophy of Composition” (a seminal text for genetic critics, which Baudelaire translated under the title “Genèse du poème,” or “Genesis of a Poem”): “We shall now see behind the scenes, the workshop, the laboratory, the inner workings.”23 (Conveniently and probably not coincidentally, these two views of literary creation—James’s stream and Grésillon’s road—parallel the dualism often evoked in the digital age of the line and the network.)

To genetic critics, the final work does not appear as the result of pruning (p.63) the work-in-progress to let the rejected dead leaves fall away and the beautiful great oak, the final work, remain as one possibility chosen and singled out among many others. Rather, as Pierre-Marc de Biasi claims, the drafts reveal “a mobile image, far more hypothetical and often richer than the one the published text will eventually give us to be read as its truth after many reworkings”—the work, once seen as a monument, has evolved into a mobile. As the editors of Drafts, an issue of Yale French Studies, put it, “Whatever autonomy and internal logic formal analysis may reveal in a work of art, the actual work is only one among its multiple possibilities…. [T]he work now stands out against a background, and a series, of potentialities. Genetic criticism…attempts to reinscribe the work in the series of its variations, in the space of its possibilities.” Louis Hay provocatively argues that “perhaps we should consider the text as a necessary possibility, as one manifestation of a process which is always virtually present in the background, a kind of third dimension of the written work.”24 Readers of Ulysses will probably find the thrust of these arguments familiar, because Stephen Dedalus considers them in a very different context in the “Nestor” episode:

Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a beldam’s hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death. They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass?…It must be a movement then, an actuality of the possible as possible. (U 2:48–52, 2:67 [my ellipsis])

In “Ulysses” in Progress I claimed that Joyce “presented Ulysses as a palimpsest of his development from 1914 to 1922,” and if this statement is even partially true, then Ulysses is an example of those works that the editors of Drafts describe as having “managed to retain something of the aura of their potentialities.”25 In such works, the various relationships between the text’s past and present—the ways in which the process leads to the text and the ways in which the text affects our sense of the process—are visible or at least implicit in the text itself.

As I suggested in this book’s introduction, Paul Valéry goes further than Stephen or the genetic critics I’ve quoted, writing in one of his notebooks that “nothing is finer than a fine manuscript draft…. A complete poem would be the poem of that poem beginning with the fertilized embryo— (p.64) and the successive states, the unexpected interpolations, the approximations. That’s the real Genesis.” And even further when in another notebook Valéry expresses a desire “to transfer the artistry which is placed in a work to its process of production,” and he fully subordinates product to process: “Creating a poem is itself a poem”; “The making, as the main thing, and whatever product is constructed as accessory, that’s my idea”; “To consider composition itself as the principal factor,” and, adding motion to this last desire, “or treat it as a work, as a dance, as fencing, as the construction of acts and expectations.”26

Genetic critics tend to see the two poles inherent in all manuscript stud-ies—the process by which the work came into being and the product that resulted—in oscillation with, not in opposition to, each other. The term “avant-texte,” the central concept of French genetic criticism, stresses a continuity between the manuscripts and the final text. “Avant-texte” designates all the documents that come before a work when it is considered as a text and when those documents and the text are considered as part of a system. Built into the conception of the avant-texte is the assumption that the material of textual genetics is not a given but rather a critical construction—not all documents that survive are part of the avant-texte for a work—elaborated in relation to a postulated terminal state of the work.

As a result, whereas time for traditional manuscript critics involves looking back to see how the present work came into being, time becomes a fascinating multifaceted factor for genetic critics. According to Jean Bellemin Noël, “We must never forget this paradox: what was written before and had, at first, no after, we meet only after, and this tempts us to supply a before in the sense of a priority, cause, or origin.”27 For Daniel Ferrer, genetic critics cannot renounce teleology, which “is inherent in the genetic mechanisms,” no matter how much they might want to, but teleology is ultimately double-edged. “Once the text is declared as such…nothing prevents it from retrospectively engendering its avant-texte,” he claims, and also, “Each genetic state not only depends on all the previous states but also alters their status in a kind of retrospective teleology. Each stage…identifies the relevant documents in the preexisting archive and turns them into the avant-texte leading toward that stage.” We can read the manuscripts as evidence of works-inprogress, even if we remain aware of the end result (like reading a novel for a second time), or from the perspective of the final text. In either case, the genetic materials reveal a richer, fuller set of possibilities than the final text (p.65) alone can provide; as Ferrer puts it, “If the study of manuscripts is necessary, it is indeed because the final text does not contain the whole of its genesis.”28

If earlier manuscript studies follow the implications of Archibald MacLeish’s poem “Ars Poetica”—“A poem should not mean / But be”—genetic critics endorse Frank Paul Bowman’s description of the text as “becoming, not being.”29 The writer stopped writing for all kinds of reasons (he or she considered the work to be finished, got tired of working on it, died; an arbitrary deadline arrived; the publisher snatched the work away), but, set among the rich array of its possibilities, the work no longer appears as a complete, self-contained, finished entity. This concept, too, is built into Ulysses. When Leopold Bloom recalls lying with Molly on Howth Hill eighteen years previously and then thinks, “Me. And me now” (U 8:917), and when Stephen summarizes the changes in his body over time with the phrase “I, I and I. I,” (U 9:212), they are imagining their minds and bodies, and their lives, as something like a text as genetic critics see it.

When studied genetically, even the most monumental works start to move. In “Still Lost Time: Already the Text of the Recherche,” for example, Grésillon studies a draft of what became the opening of À la recherche du temps perdu and concentrates on Proust’s use of the terms encore and dejá (“still” and “already”). Declaring that she “knew nothing of [the draft’s] date or its eventual fate,” she sees Proust’s struggles with temporal markers as an instance of a writer coming to grips linguistically with a crucial problem in an evolving text. Focusing on a conclusion rather than a beginning, Raymonde Debray Genette in “Flaubert’s ‘A Simple Heart,’ or How to Make an Ending” looks at Flaubert’s tortuous path toward the last words of his story. “He goes from expansion to blockages and from blockages to displacements,” she concludes, revealing a writer struggling to delay the ending as much as to reach it.30

Finally, and more directly relevant to this chapter, in “Paragraphs in Expansion (James Joyce)” Ferrer and Rabaté study Joyce’s uses of paragraphs in his writing. “Do they belong to the text or to its layout?” they ask about paragraphs, formulating a version of the distinction between McGann’s linguistic and bibliographical codes.31 For Joyce, paragraphs are internal borders. Rather than dividing the inside of the text from the outside, they separate units of prose from each other, and once Joyce created paragraph divisions, he tended to retain them no matter how much a paragraph grew. Joyce’s addition of the heads in his late work on “Aeolus” does not disrupt the (p.66) paragraph divisions, because, with only one exception, he inserted the heads into already established paragraph breaks. And so his startling overhaul of the appearance of “Aeolus” maintains the paragraph structure intact. Ferrer and Rabaté conclude that paragraphs “play the role of mediation between the book, understood as a formal organization, and the proliferating letter of which they are…the very vessels of expansion.”32

More recently, Rabaté has argued that Joyce’s works—he speaks directly of Finnegans Wake, but his claim applies in many ways to Ulysses as well—call for an “ideal genetic reader,” a “genetic reader,” or a “genreader” (he uses all three terms): “a reader who has to approach the difficult and opaque language less with glosses and annotations than through the material evidence of the notebooks, drafts, corrected proofs reproduced by the James Joyce Archive.” This genetic reader “confronts a new type of materiality and temporality”—a text, like Bloom, is “Me. And me now” (or, depending on the perspective, “Me. And me then”). Joyce’s avant-textes reveal a series of possibilities, many of which Joyce never implemented, as well as his tendency to work with and build on whatever happened, correctly or erroneously, as he wrote, and just as Bloom connects time’s passage with his human limitations and fallibility, so the archive teaches a reader to live amid error. The genetic reader “will have the choice between varieties of error,” because, confronting Ulysses and the Wake, “we keep misreading, missing meanings, producing forced interpretations, seeing things which are not there.” What Ferrer revealed as the avant-texte’s fullness (“the final text does not contain the whole of its genesis”) is for Rabaté an excess that will always overwhelm any single interpretation: “Facing an expanding archive, the ‘genreader’ progresses through an excess of intentions and meanings that never adequately match each other.”33 The genetic reader, like genetic critics studying the avant-texte, faces a “Pisgah sight” of Ulysses.

And what about Stephen Dedalus, the men who listen to his parable, his two old ladies at the top of Nelson’s Pillar, and the stalled tramcars? We left them many pages ago in a tableau that contrasted with the bustle and noise of the preceding pages of “Aeolus.” The trams won’t move again, and the women will remain atop the monument: they are suspended in time. When we look at the passage from the perspective of Joyce’s writing of it, however, all is mobile.

(p.67) The ending of Joyce’s first, provisionally finished version of “Aeolus” contained Stephen, his parable, and his listeners, but when Joyce inserted the trams at the beginning and end, he turned the mechanized Dublin—already important because of the machines in the newspaper office—into a frame for “Aeolus.” With the trams cut off from their origins and destinations, the new words at the end emphasize the breakdown of the mechanized city. When the trams were absent from the episode, they presumably went on their journeys without any interruptions, but after Joyce added them, naming their origins and destinations but declaring them “becalmed in short circuit,” they become simultaneously present and paralyzed, even if paralyzed in calmness. In the trams’ oscillation between absence and presence, their stillness and stasis reveal a text perpetually in motion.

The newspaper heads—those artificial, stunning, and visually loud intrusions, usually considered as breaking the narrative’s flow or interrupting the text’s movement—are aswirl in motion, and Joyce’s revisions after he first inserted them increase the activity. The first head in our excerpt originally described only the two ladies’ “donation” of the plumstones before Joyce added a line emphasizing the falling objects’ speed (“SPEEDPILLS VELOCITOUS AEROLITHS, BELIEF”). The second head—“HELLO THERE, CENTRAL!”—suggests a frantic emergency phone call. The final one is full of motion, with its “TITILLATING” missing fingers and its “FRISKY” women who “WIMBLE” and “WANGLE” (whatever “WIMBLES” might mean, it certainly suggests more motion, although less sadness, than “SIGHS,” the word it replaced). Even the often absent word “smiling” in the last section—as I noted earlier, MacHugh speaks “grimly” or “smiling grimly” depending on the version of Ulysses—appears and disappears like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat’s grin.

In adding the trams and heads (as well as many allusions to wind elsewhere in the episode), Joyce revised “Aeolus” to conform with the kind of writing he had moved into in “Eumaeus,” “Ithaca,” and “Penelope.” No longer writing stream-of-consciousness interior monologues, he was constructing more abstract structures for each episode, and his interpolation of newspaper heads into an episode located in a newspaper office is consistent with this late practice. As critics from as far back as Stuart Gilbert in 1930 have pointed out, the heads themselves progress historically; formal and static at the start, they become loud and colloquial at the end.34 These intrusions make their presence known visually, but they also move in time.

(p.68) Crucially, Ulysses itself is reinscribed back into time. A genetic view reveals that Ulysses as a text has its own history, one that became obscured by the book’s publication but is far removed from Stephen’s “nightmare from which I am trying to awake” (U 2:377). This history is also far from Joseph Frank’s influential early approach to Ulysses as “spatial form”: literary works are “apprehend[ed]…spatially, in a moment of time, rather than as a sequence,” with their elements “juxtaposed in space rather than unrolling in time.” “Past and present,” Frank argues, are “locked in a timeless unity.”35 A critic writing in 1945 might understandably want to make the Dedalian move of eradicating time and awakening from the nightmare of history, but time has been restored to Ulysses in many different ways since Frank wrote, most prominently in the view that Ulysses has changed over the years as readers have approached it in their various ways. In that view, Ulysses has changed continuously starting from the moment of its publication, but reinserting Ulysses into the history of its writing gives it an altered past as well. The published text becomes a still point between the teeming histories of its production and reception. Everything suspended at Nelson’s Pillar begins to move again as the monument becomes a mobile.


(1.) Peake, James Joyce, 196–97.

(2.) Blamires, The New Bloomsday Book, 58–59; Schwarz, Reading Joyce’s “Ulysses,” 122; Schwaber, The Cast of Characters, 154; Peake, James Joyce, 197.

(3.) Sultan, The Argument of “Ulysses,” 115–16; Duffy, The Subaltern “Ulysses,” 170; McGee, “Machines, Empire, and the Wise Virgins,” 87.

(4.) First set of placards: Archive 18:67–68, 18:87; second set of placards: Archive 18:95; first set of page proofs: Archive 23:69–71; three subsequent sets of page proofs: Archive 23:69–71, 23:85–87, 23:101–3.

(5.) Archive 18:95; Ulysses, Odyssey Press ed., 152; Archive 18:21.

(6.) Rosenbach Manuscript, “Aeolus,” 32; “Aeolus” typescript: Buffalo TS V.B.5, p. 17; Archive 12:302.

(7.) Bowers, Textual and Literary Criticism, 4, 5.

(8.) Wellek and Warren, Theory of Literature, 137, 57, 91.

(9.) Stauffer, “Genesis,” 43–44 (my ellipsis).

(10.) McGann, “Ulysses as a Postmodern Work,” 185.

(11.) Rabaté, Joyce and the Politics of Egoism, 203.

(12.) Larbaud, “The Ulysses of James Joyce,” 102; also Benco, “James Joyce in Trieste,” 57.

(13.) Budgen, Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses,” 172.

(14.) Groden, “Ulysses” in Progress, 4, 23.

(15.) Ibid., 4.

(16.) Ibid., 200–201 (ellipsis added).

(17.) Litz, The Art of James Joyce, v; Litz, “Uses of the Finnegans Wake Manuscripts,” 103.

(18.) Crispi and Slote, How Joyce Wrote “Finnegans Wake,” 5.

(19.) Wellek and Warren, Theory of Criticism, 73, 91.

(20.) James, The Art of the Novel, 27, 119, 119, 121, 140.

(21.) See, for instance, ITEM’s journal Genesis: Manuscrits/Recherche/Invention, and Deppman, Ferrer, and Groden, Genetic Criticism.

(22.) Stauffer, “Genesis,” 41.

(23.) Grésillon, “Slow: Work in Progress,” 110, 108 (her italics, my ellipses).

(24.) De Biasi, “Horizons for Genetic Studies,” 125 (his italics); Contat, Hollier, and Neefs, “Editors’ Preface,” 2 (my ellipses); Hay, “Does ‘Text’ Exist?” 75 (his italics).

(25.) Groden, “Ulysses” in Progress, 23; Contat, Hollier, and Neefs, “Editors’ Preface,” 1.

(26.) Valéry, “Poetry,” in Cahiers/Notebooks, 2:219; Valéry, “Ego Scriptor,” in Cahiers/Note-books, 2:475 (his italics; my ellipsis).

(27.) Bellemin-Noël, “Psychoanalysis and the Avant-texte,” 31 (his italics).

(28.) Ferrer, “Clementis’s Cap,” 230, 230; Ferrer, “Production, Invention, and Reproduction,” 51; Ferrer, “Clementis’s Cap,” 234 (in all cases, his italics, my ellipses).

(29.) MacLeish, “Ars Poetica,” 1284; Bowman, “Genetic Criticism,” 644.

(30.) Grésillon, “Still Lost Time,” 155 (her bold text); Debray Genette, “Flaubert’s ‘A Simple Heart,’” 93.

(31.) Ferrer and Rabaté, “Paragraphs in Expansion,” 133; McGann, The Textual Condition, 13–14.


(32.) Ferrer and Rabaté, “Paragraphs in Expansion,” 149 (my ellipsis).

(33.) Rabaté, Joyce and the Politics of Egoism, 196, 202, 207, 207.

(34.) Gilbert, Joyce’s “Ulysses,” rev. ed., 179.

(35.) Frank, “Spatial Form in Modern Literature,” 10, 12, 63 (my ellipsis).