Doubtful Points: Joyce and Punctuation 9042039019, 9789042039018

As unusual or esoteric as the subject might seem, Joyce's punctuation offers a way to study and appreciate his styl

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Table of contents :
Doubtful Points: Joyce and Punctuation
Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses
espacement, the final frontier
In Between the Sheets: Sexy Punctuation in American
Marking Realism in Dubliners
The Poetics of the Unsaid: Joyce’s Use of Ellipsis between
Meaning and Suspension
“By Dot and Dash System”: Punctuation and the Void in
“(hic sunt lennones!)”: Reading and Misreading the Wake’s
“Signs of Suspicion”
Fullstoppers and Fools Tops: The “Compunction” of
Punctuation and Geometry in Finnegans Wake
Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters: Alphabets and
National Identities in Joyce’s Europe
Punctuated Equilibria and the Exdented Dash
“Tuck in your blank!”: Antiaposiopetic Joyce
Notes on Contributors
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Doubtful Points Joyce and Punctuation


Founded by Christine van Boheemen-Saaf, in association with Fritz Senn General Editor Geert Lernout, Universiteit Antwerpen Editorial Board Valérie Bénéjam, Université de Nantes Teresa Caneda, Universidad de Vigo Anne Fogarty, University College Dublin John McCourt, Università Roma Tre Erika Mihálycsa, Universitatea Babes-Bolyai Cluj Katherine Mullin, University of Leeds Fritz Senn, Zürich James Joyce Foundation Dirk Vanderbeke, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena

Doubtful Points Joyce and Punctuation

Edited by

Elizabeth M. Bonapfel and Tim Conley

Amsterdam - New York, NY 2014

The paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of “ISO 9706:1994, Information and documentation - Paper for documents Requirements for permanence”. ISBN:978-90-420-3901-8 E-Book ISBN: 978-94-012-1183-3 ©Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam – New York, NY 2014 Printed in The Netherlands




Introduction Elizabeth M. Bonapfel and Tim Conley


Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses Fritz Senn


espacement, the final frontier Sam Slote


In Between the Sheets: Sexy Punctuation in American Magazines Amanda Sigler


Marking Realism in Dubliners Elizabeth M. Bonapfel


The Poetics of the Unsaid: Joyce’s Use of Ellipsis between Meaning and Suspension Annalisa Volpone


“By Dot and Dash System”: Punctuation and the Void in “Ithaca” Teresa Prudente


“(hic sunt lennones!)”: Reading and Misreading the Wake’s “Signs of Suspicion” Paul Fagan


Fullstoppers and Fools Tops: The “Compunction” of Punctuation and Geometry in Finnegans Wake Federico Sabatini


Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters: Alphabets and National Identities in Joyce’s Europe Tekla Mecsnóber


Punctuated Equilibria and the Exdented Dash Erik Bindervoet and Robbert-Jan Henkes


“Tuck in your blank!”: Antiaposiopetic Joyce Tim Conley


Notes on Contributors



References in the text to works by James Joyce employ the following standard abbreviations: OCPW

James Joyce: Occasional, Critical and Political Writing, ed. Kevin Barry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

Letters I, II, III

Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, ed. Stuart Gilbert (New York: Viking Press, 1957; reissued with corrections 1966); vols. II and III, ed. Richard Ellmann (New York: Viking Press, 1966)


Selected Letters of James Joyce, ed. Richard Ellmann. (New York: Viking Press, 1975)


Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 2nd edn. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982)


The James Joyce Archive, ed. Michael Groden, et al. (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1977-79)


Dubliners, ed. Terence Brown (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993)


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. Seamus Deane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992)


Stephen Hero, ed. John J. Slocum and Herbert Cahoon (New York: New Directions, 1944, 1963)


Finnegans Wake (London: Faber and Faber, 1939)


Ulysses, ed. Hans Walter Gabler, et al. (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1984, 1986). References give chapter and line numbers.


Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition, ed. Hans Walter Gabler, et al. (New York and London: Garland, 1984)


Ulysses, ed. Danis Rose (London: Picador, 1997)



Punctuation has its discontents: we call such people writers. The sometimes wild variations in ways that literary authors deploy commas, colons, and question marks may very well suggest a common resistance to the standardization of methods that punctuation is supposed to represent. Writing to his publisher, who had dared to adjust the sometimes eccentric punctuation of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson affirmed: “I must suppose my system of punctuation to be very bad; but it is mine; and it shall be adhered to with punctual exactness”.1 Stevenson’s possessive sense of his own manner of punctuation resonates with that of many other authors. One could easily suppose this statement to have been drawn from a letter by James Joyce to any of his publishers (Joyce, perhaps with some uncertain measure of irony, refers to Stevenson as his “stylemaster” in a 1927 letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver (LI 255)), but one could also imagine this statement to typify any writer so confident of his or her idiosyncrasies or deviations from some formal norm as to identify him- or herself with them. Stevenson – the distinct style, the author as his readers recognize him – is his punctuation. There is a good reason why even those who have not read Ulysses know something about the last chapter not having any commas or periods. This is their conception of “Joyce”: the name bespeaks an extraordinary style directly defined by his punctuation. And who can call this perception altogether inaccurate? Modernism’s expanding awareness of the materiality of artistic and literary production, which freed writers to envision the “destruction of syntax” and “words in freedom” (in Marinetti’s formulation),2 effectively demanded careful inspection and sometimes                                                              1. Quoted in Matthew Bevis, “Kids Gone Rotten”, London Review of Books 34.20 (25 October 2012): p. 26. 2. F.T. Marinetti, “Destruction of Syntax — Wireless Imagination — Words in Freedom (May 1913)”, trans. Lawrence Rainey, in Modernism: An Anthology (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), pp. 27-34.

Bonapfel and Conley    refutations of the history, institutions, and standards of writing. Sprawling, unmetrical poems ignored margins, deployed nontypographical marks, let the letters dance with ampersands across the page. Pointedly un-genteel manifestoes thundered in the prose and fonts of newspaper headlines. Novels in warped grammar refused consistency in typeface and puzzled readers with ambiguities as to what was dialogue and what was not. While Joyce must not be denied his particular peculiarities in such experiments, the historical context that he shares is important. Modernism’s rebellion against the niceties of aesthetic and social conventions and its attraction – even obsession – with the unsaid and unsayable meant that punctuation, like the constrictive grammar previously decried by Blake and Nietzsche, would no longer enslave expression, and would itself be liberated. Joyce’s own punctuation foibles, though distinctive, may be seen as part of a larger modernist campaign to challenge authority and enforced conformity by widening the range of references and allusions while simultaneously problematizing mechanisms of attribution and citation, punctuation among them.3 In the fourth chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen wonders about what it is in language that so attracts him:


Words. Was it their colours? . . . No, it was not their colours: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and colour? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language manycoloured and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose? (P 140)

These are good questions to put to Joyce himself. In addition to calling to mind Joyce’s tendency to draw upon and parody the works                                                              3. See Edmund Wilson, Axel’s Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931), p. 109; Claudette Sartiliot, Citation and Modernity: Derrida, Joyce and Brecht (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993); and Peter Nicholls, “The Elusive Allusion: Poetry and Exegesis”, in Teaching Modernist Poetry, eds. Peter Middleton and Nicky Marsh (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp.1-10.


of Walter Pater,4 the word “periodic” and the earlier insistence on “the period itself” should give us pause: the suggestion that the writer known for reveling in the combinations of polylinguistic vocabularies might take greater pleasure in the study of “periodic prose” flies against many admiring commonplaces. Moreover, the withdrawal from diffractions of “the glowing sensible world” to reflections of (and on) the “inner world” traces Joyce’s own trajectory from the “richly storied” realism of Dubliners to the idiomatic and idiomdeconstructing “contemplation” of Finnegans Wake: it showed no signs of punctuation of any sort. Yet on holding the verso against a lit rush this new book of Morses responded most remarkably to the silent query of our world’s oldest light and its recto let out the piquant fact that it was pierced butnot punctured (in the university sense of the term) by numerous stabs and foliated gashes made by a pronged instrument. (FW 123.34-124.03)

The unknown document described here – the Wake itself to some extent, ever its own confused subject5 – seems to lack the kind of structural constraints and systems that would allow it to be recognized as sensible, or even literary, but the marks come to light if the reader is not too dismissive. The “paper wounds” (FW 124.03) by which the detective discerns that this is no natural death, the silent symbols in which the telegraphist hears and even touches the new scripture according to Morse Code (“what hath God wrought?”), and the flatulence or the reaction to an open flame against one’s backside that belies the inertness of the subject under examination. Punctuation here is an occult mystery, concealed and concealing, not to mention a violent means of inserting time into space on the page. Unlike the unpunctuated and “unbrookable” script described in the Wake passage above, Joyce’s texts are full of punctuation. The reader who begins Dubliners finds in its first paragraph three colons,                                                              4. See Frank Moliterno, The Dialectics of Sense and Spirit in Pater and Joyce (University of North Carolina at Greensboro: ELT Press, 1998) and Perry Meisel, The Myth of the Modern: A Study in British Literature and Criticism After 1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). 5. See David Hayman, Re-Forming the Narrative: Towards a Mechanics of Modernist Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987): “The principal or prime node of the Wake may be the ALP Letter, which stands not only in the place of the Word in the universe but also in the place of the Wake itself” (p. 101). See also Jed Rasula, “Finnegans Wake and the Character of the Letter,” JJQ 34.4 (1997): 517-30.


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six commas, nine periods, and one pair of brackets. A random page of Ulysses (219; 11.390-434) contains fifty-one periods, forty-three commas, fifteen tirets to mark dialogue, nine apostrophes, nine exclamation marks, four ellipses, three question marks, two hyphens, one colon, and one pair of brackets. A Portrait boasts four hundred and thirty-seven exclamation marks, an average of just over two per page. Yet the notion that Joyce’s works lack punctuation persists. As the American novelist Cormac McCarthy informed the many thousands of television viewers who watched his interview with Oprah Winfrey, “James Joyce is a good model for punctuation. He keeps it to an absolute minimum... There’s no reason to, you know, block the page up with weird little marks.”6 This view of Joyce’s minimization of punctuation seems confirmed by the author’s own statements in a 1928 letter to Valery Larbaud: I think the fewer quotation marks the better. We would not write the phrase – the best of all possible worlds – in English between “ ”. Or in the French version “M. de la Palice was alive etc”. And when the words half quoted are from an obscure writer p.e. ‘orient and immortal wheat’ (from Thomas Traherne) what does it help a French reader to see “ ” there. He will know early in the book that S.D.’s mind is full like everyone else’s of borrowed words. The “ ” are to be used only in the case of a quotation in full dress, I think, i.e. when it is used to prove or to contradict or to show etc. (LI 263)7

As the essays collected in this volume show, however, this is not the whole story. In the passage above, Joyce refers to only one form of punctuation – quotation marks – and it ought not to be extrapolated from this one point (or from that oft-cited lack of punctuation in “Penelope”) that “an absolute minimum” is the author’s aim, or that he has no interest in the performative possibilities of those “weird little marks”. Joyce’s use of punctuation is more complex and contradictory than McCarthy (who doesn’t seem to be thinking of 6. Oprah’s website includes an online archive: 7. Joyce’s inconsistent use of single and double inverted commas in this letter (reproduced as an illustration of his handwriting in LI) is effaced in Gilbert’s printed transcription, which gives all single inverted commas.


Finnegans Wake as his “model”) suggests. Doubtful Points marks a long-overdue intervention in focusing attention on the importance of punctuation as a literary strategy in Joyce’s work. Punctuation draws our attention to questions of citationality, authority, individuation of identities, irony, sequentiality, narratology, readability, and what Pound called the phanopoetic dimension of literary texts. It is also a valuable link between such broad but ever-present hermeneutic concerns and the expanding scholarly discussion about the significance we attach to textual revisions and the differences between notebooks, manuscripts, proofs, etc., and published works – differences that are sometimes a matter of a comma or semi-colon. This volume seeks to explore exactly how punctuation works in Joyce’s texts: why it is there and what it does. These essays are the fruits of a workshop held in the summer of 2011 at the Zurich James Joyce Foundation. As the essays demonstrate, an examination of punctuation brings to light a range of questions: Where does punctuation belong? What is its role? What does punctuation tell us about the composition of a text, or about an author’s relationships with editors, compositors, or publishers? How does punctuation contribute to textual meaning? Among the signs and symbols studied here are periods (Sabatini), parentheses (Senn, Fagan), colons (Fagan, Prudente, Senn), ellipses (Conley, Senn, Sigler, and Volpone), accents and diacritics (Mecsnóber), dashes (Bindervoet and Henkes, Bonapfel), exclamation points (Conley), quotation marks or the lack thereof (Bindervoet and Henkes, Bonapfel, Sigler), and even the spaces between words (Slote). Behind all of these essays is an attempt to take punctuation seriously as an intentional strategy with literary effect, no longer an “accidental”, in W.W. Greg’s terms, but as “substantive”, equally capable of transmitting meaning during the act of reading, even if this meaning falls outside of the reader’s conscious awareness. The link that Colin MacCabe has made between an “unwritten prose (or metalanguage)” and the use of “inverted commas”8 is magnified by the scholars gathered here, and in punctuation they find an even more complex “metalanguage” in operation. Punctuation historically emerged as a site of struggle among                                                              8. Colin MacCabe, Tracking the Signifier (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), p. 35.


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authors, editors, translators, and readers – a struggle of which the participants may not be altogether conscious. Essays in this volume explore how punctuation operates as a battle ground over control, exploring the question of authorial or editorial control (see Senn, Bonapfel, Sigler, Sabatini, Bindervoet and Henkes) as well as the effect of the commercial and conventional constraints in publishing. Amanda Sigler’s essay draws our attention to the publication and reception history of little magazines, and thus situates Joyce in relation to contemporary experiments in punctuation. Sigler shows how writers adapted practices typical of advertisement and how magazine editors used punctuation as a graphic technique to bolster sales, while Elizabeth M. Bonapfel demonstrates that Grant Richards’s refusal to print Joyce’s em-dashes to represent dialogue resulted partly from a fear of isolating readers who would (Richards imagined) be dismayed and confused by such a departure from accepted traditions. Tekla Mecsnóber’s essay broadens our conception of visual cues beyond commas and semi-colons to consider the similar function and complexity of linguistically-specific accents. Her examination of the role of such diacritics in the generation of, and disputes about, typographic standards ingeniously connects nationalism to both characterization and textual production. As a marker of rhythm, tone, and grammatical clarification, punctuation literally creates spaces on the page. An examination of punctuation brings to light assumptions that we take for granted in literary studies more broadly, mainly what we think about cognition and what happens when we read. The essays point to the way in which punctuation shapes the construction of the text as a protocol reading, whether by inserting rhythm, serving as a subliminal marker to guide reading, or contributing to an act of deferral. For example, Annalisa Volpone’s essay on the “poetics of the unsaid” suggests that the boy in “The Sisters” cannot complete his thoughts, but can only establish a rapport of proximity. By contrast, Fritz Senn shows that the ellipses indicate the thoughts of the mature narrator, and not the boy.9 Behind 9. For more on the ellipsis in “The Sisters”, see R.B. Kershner, Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature: Chronicles of Disorder (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989), p. 26; Margot Norris, Suspicious Readings of Dubliners (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), pp. 19-21; and Fritz Senn, “Dubliners: Renewed Time after Time” in New Perspectives on Dubliners, eds. Mary Power and Uli Schneider, European Joyce Studies Series 7 (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi Press, 1997), pp. 23-26. 


these questions about how punctuation contributes to the construction of characters or narrators is a further question about the role of mimesis and the politics of representation. Can punctuation represent thought?10 Psychology is only one possible logic (or illogic) to punctuation. Senn refers to ellipses as “vibrant mini-voids”, a phrase that resonates with Volpone’s statement about the “poetics of the unsaid” and Teresa Prudente’s discussion of the void as simultaneously an element of the visible and invisible. Prudente explores how the connections enacted by colons seem to lack logic, ultimately to discern the empty foundations of causal association in “Ithaca”. In his essay about the intellectual history of the full stop (which he shows is just as contradictory in Finnegans Wake as colons are in Ulysses), Federico Sabatini argues that punctuation translates geometrical space onto the page, where time and space become (sometimes bewilderingly) conflated. Punctuation might be an epistemological matter, as Prudente would have it, or ontological, as Paul Fagan attests. If, as Sam Slote argues, “Reading the Wake is not often a continuous reading experience”, then Fagan suggests that punctuation intimates an underlying syntactic ordering device that stages a particular tension between “reading and looking away”, in Fagan’s words: thus punctuation offers readers surprisingly fertile grounds for consideration of the Wake’s ethics of reading. But how does one “read” punctuation? Different effects of Joyce’s use of its devices are traced in these essays. Volpone claims that punctuation contributes to a creative process that creates meaning                                                              10. To date, most critics make a mimetic argument about the use of punctuation to create the impression of thought. See Leon Edel, who argues that only the absence of punctuation in Penelope can “give the reader the sense of mental flow and of being an eye-witness to the unharnessed libido of Molly Bloom” (The Psychological Novel, 1900-1950 (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1955), p. 89) or Suzette A. Henke: “her unpunctuated soliloquy flows out of Joyce’s fictional representation of a rich and capacious stream of consciousness that draws freely on those preverbal, prediscursive dimensions of language described by Julia Kristeva as semiotic” (James Joyce and the Politics of Desire (London: Routledge, 1990), p. 127); or Derek Attridge, who argues that Molly has a greater degree of “syntactic correctness and explicitness that convey the sense of smooth transitions from subject to subject, whereas the jumps and ellipses of Leopold’s thoughts disclose a more eccentric and unpredictable mind” (“Molly’s Flow: The Writing of ‘Penelope’ and the Question of Women’s Language”, Modern Fiction Studies 35.3 (1989): p. 546).



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during the act of reading. Bonapfel suggests that Joyce’s departure from the conventional use of inverted commas proves unfamiliar to most contemporary readers, and thus, offers a new system of representation and narration (in effect, a new kind of “realism”). Tim Conley contemplates how Joyce’s texts subvert the common understanding of punctuation as a guide to pronunciation – that is, as a means to facilitate the transition from text to speech – and thereby reveal how repressive punctuation is. Succinctly agreeing that “that which facilitates legibility also impedes it”, Slote contends that the act of reading is itself an act of punctuating. Joyceans do not lack for variant texts, and thus for variant punctuations, and these pages contain a good deal of comparing between editions and translations. Commas come and go between different editors, and parentheses expand or (rather less often) contract as the language of the text changes. Dutch translators Erik Bindervoet and Robbert-Jan Henkes take up the combined problem of reproducing Joyce’s pages in (1) published form, where the demands of printers may conflict with the author’s conception of the page, and (2) in another language by focusing directly on the “exdented dash” and reinstating Joyce’s insistence on his own punctuation (“Leave my periods alone. Period.”, in Bindervoet and Henkes’s words). Senn studies those instances where “clarification” is the goal of this or that amending editorial hand, while Conley questions the discrepancies between the length/duration of ellipses between soi-disant “corrected” and “remastered” texts. Editorial use of punctuation can even stoke controversy and the illicit desires of readers, as Sigler demonstrates in her examination of such use in the Little Review and Two Worlds Monthly. Amidst Finnegans Wake’s various joustings between time and space are acute ironies about the failures of mapping, charting, scoring, and all related efforts to quantify or translate in writing what is not written – including, of course, those “weird little marks” that “block the page up”. Joyce’s reader sees, as through a glass darkly, that textual constraints such as punctuation are as arbitrary, as fictional, and as contestable as the schematic signs, lines, and symbols of cartography (and Cartesian space): These ruled barriers along which the traced words, run, march, halt, walk, stumble at doubtful points, stumble up again in comparative safety seem to have been drawn first of all in a pretty


checker with lampblack and blackthorn. Such crossing is antichristian of course, but the use of the homeborn shillelagh as an aid to calligraphy shows a distinct advance from savagery to barbarism. (FW 114.07-13)

Punctuation, which might be characterized as a system of “doubtful points” (distinguished from “cardinal points” (FW 114.07)), seeks to coordinate the reader’s movement through the text (running, marching, halting, walking, and stumbling). Yet the “distinct advance”, a phrase which recalls the very nature and definition of prose, is neither all that distinguishable nor so very far advanced as the mavens of organizational and orienting tools like maps and punctuation would have us believe.11 Joyce’s assessment of these systems as “a distinct advance from savagery to barbarism” is reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s famous remark that “there is no document of culture [Kultur, sometimes translated as “civilization”] that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”12 Samuel Beckett’s unusual claim that the Wake “is not written at 13 all” might be understood to mean that the Wake resists being written, and thus in a sense resists punctuation, at least as a universal. The essays collected here effectively study how Joyce’s “vocable scriptsigns” (FW 118.27-28) are and aren’t written. They exclaim at the hazy distinctions between the said and unsaid, and interrogate whether something said can be made visible (and vice versa). They also invite us as readers to rethink, with Joyce, what we do when we think about, write, and listen to punctuation.

                                                             11. According to Lynne Truss, self-declared “stickler” for correct punctuation and the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, in a preface to a later edition of that bestseller (New York: Penguin, 2003), “standards of punctuation in general in the UK are indeed approaching the point of illiteracy” and “self-justified philistines . . . are truly in the driving seat of our culture” (p. xix), which agonized pronouncements do make one wonder precisely how standards approach an illiteracy point, whether cultures have driving seats, and how one could be in that seat other than “truly”. 12. Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History”, trans. Harry Zohn, in Selected Writings, Volume 4: 1938-1940, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 392. 13. Samuel Beckett, “Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce,” in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (New York: New Directions, 1972), p. 14.



Abstract: Joyce early on took control over his punctuation; that is, the rhythm, the pauses and the structure of his prose. The focus of this essay is, first, on Joyce’s idiomatic and not necessarily consistent use of commas that were at times subject to officious editorial amendments. Such efforts reveal what Joyce might have done, following conventions, but for manifold reasons departed from. Then parentheses are examined, in their rare but potential use in the interior monologue and their different applications mainly in the parodic, “written”, episodes, as in the orchestration of “Sirens”, or in catalogues with internal comments in various and intricate relations between outside and inside. All in all, as comparison with translations show, Joyce uses punctuation sparingly but judiciously and seems to have relied on his readers’ sense for nuances. 1 Introduction A sketch on Joyce’s punctuation might as well set off with a passage where the focus is on it, the description of a written document found in Bloom’s first drawer: an infantile epistle, dated, small em monday, reading: capital pee Papli comma capital aitch How are you note of interrogation capital eye I am very well full stop new paragraph signature with flourishes capital em Milly no stop (U 17.1791)

The passage contains no punctuation marks, but it spells them out in words. Punctuation, it already tells us, cannot be spoken, only described: it essentially belongs to writing. It evolved slowly and relatively late; it is not necessary but is of assistance as a guiding and structuring device. It can indicate modulations of the speaking voice, stress, intonation, pauses.



Milly’s letter with its emphasis on the comma, note of interrogation, and full or no stop may indicate her young concern with punctuation, and some incipient skill, not unlikely a result of Bloom’s paternal instruction.1 Capitalisation is also highlighted. The reference to “full” or “no stop” clearly points forward to a characteristic of Molly Bloom’s monologue and its occasional, erratic capitalisation. The infantile script seems to put a moderate finger on idiosyncrasies of Joyce’s typographical devices. That the capital pronoun is spelled in homophonic variation, “eye”, shows what distinctions the spoken voice cannot express; it moreover appears to echo the phonetic coincidence of “I” and “eye” in “Cyclops”. In “Cyclops”, the hangman’s application letter that is being read out aloud is not a model of orthographical niceties. It consistently spells the pronoun (“i”) in lower case, and so decapitates it; as it happens capital punishment will be the first topic in the conversation that follows. In one instance an absent comma has a misleading effect: “i have a special nack of putting the noose once in he can’t get out hoping to be favoured i remain, honoured sir, my terms is five ginnese” (12.427). It diverts favour to the poor victim. The spelling “nack” is a further appropriately decapitated word. How, incidentally, can the typographical oddities in the written letter (“i”, “nack”) be pronounced for those listening? Speaking and writing, events in sound or else an arrangement of written signs, complement and occasionally exclude each other. Milly at the age of exactly fifteen composed a more elaborate letter which is given in full, but with proportionately less punctuation. It is entirely free of commas (even after “Dear Papli”), particularly in its hurried P.S.: “Excuse bad writing am in hurry” (4.397-414). But, perhaps surprisingly, it features one parenthesis as it is commonly used for an aside or an afterthought, though its impact must have the opposite effect on Bloom: “Boylan’s (I was on the pop of writing Blazes Boylan’s) song” (4.408); somehow Blazes Boylan tends to “pop” up unbidden and against Bloom’s manifest endeavours.

1. “… he always tells me the wrong things and no stops” (18.729) seems to say that Bloom criticizes Molly’s lack of punctuation in writing.

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  2 Initiation The first version of “The Sisters” was reticent in punctuation except for recurrent ellipses for thoughts or opinions not expressed or for euphemistic silences. The revised version, however, at its very beginning contains elements that have often been seen as programmatic, notably the three salient terms “paralysis”, “gnomon”, and “simony”. Possibly Joyce also transmits something in the muted volley of punctuation in the opening, muted because few readers will give much thought to it. Punctuation is generally least noticed. There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. (D 9)

Already there is that unsettling Joycean colon which seems to signal an implicit but not obvious logical connection. The first one seems to have a haunting air to it (the fact that its impact is hard to specify may be part of the meaning). The second one (“: and …”) in conjoining two sentences is equally unconventional. Then there is the parenthesis “(it was vacation time)” for additional information, aside or afterthought. All in all, what with the repetition of “Night after night”, two unusual colons, and one parenthesis, it looks as though an author wanted to ensure tight control right from the outset. Punctuation implies mastery over structure and rhythm. Just imagine possible alternatives for Joyce’s pristine colon and what the effect would be: there could be two separate sentences, or else a comma, a semicolon, or a conspicuous dash might have served. (Incidentally the colon as it has just been used here is the conventional one: it introduces a list, as above, or generally announces a dialogue). The story with its multiple lacunae is still characterized by a high incidence of ellipses, it even ends with a conspicuous one: “So then, of course, when they saw that, that made them think that there was something gone wrong with him. …” (D 18). The last sentence in fact consists of nothing but an ellipsis – the absence of something that ought to be present. Ellipses can be vibrant mini-voids. It is clear that an author here takes scrupulous control of minutiae right from the outset. Punctuation indicates control and, in this case, a sophistication which belongs to the mature narrator looking back, and not the boy whose experience is detailed.



3 “mistakenly dropped a comma” Outside of creative literature, punctuation is often the domain of typesetters, editors or proofreaders, whose duty it is to abide by the rules, or to impose house styles. Joyce, for all his insistence on his own procedures and the license that Shakespeare & Company granted him, was not immune from their interference. This is demonstrated in a passage of an uninterrupted series as it was in the typescript of “Lestrygonians”: After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth garlic of course it stinks Italian organgrinders crisp of onions mushrooms truffles. (JJA 12, 314)

This is identical with the version in H.W. Gabler’s edition, which also inserts “after” before “Italian organgrinders”, a word that was rescued from the original handwriting (8.720). In the galleys, however, commas had been added: After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth garlic, of course, it stinks Italian organgrinders, crisp of onions, mushrooms truffles. (JJA 23, 195, and 213)

The commas nowhere appear in Joyce’s hand, the basis of Gabler’s Critical and Synoptic Edition, which treats “transmissional departures” (the intervention of typists, typesetters, proofreaders, etc.) as non-authoritative. Punctuation marks, in other words, lead a precarious existence. Further evidence is offered by Danis Rose’s well-intentioned, officious amendments in his Reader’s Edition (London: Picador, 1997). He took charge of Joyce’s punctuation where it, presumably, had gone astray and rectified it for the benefit of his readers. The sentence shows even more commas (as well as the restoration of the article “the” from the Rosenbach version): After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian, the fine flavour of things from the earth: garlic, of course it stinks after, Italian organ grinders, crisp of onions, mushrooms, truffles. (U-RE 163)

There is even a colon after “earth” to introduce an enumeration. The effect is less a rush of associations than an orderly series, and the original flow is under meditative control.

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  The point here is not to evaluate an editor’s interference (most likely in the interest of clarification) but simply to demonstrate that punctuation might have been more conventional and perhaps helpful. It also shows in how many ways parts of a sentence (if interior monologue passages in fact consist of sentences) could be linked or simply juxtaposed. Rose similarly splits up Bloom’s associations about how an imaginary crowd might throng around a “communal kitchen”. Joyce’s wording is a long string of thought: “John Howard Parnell example the provost of Trinity every mother’s son don’t talk of your provosts and provost of Trinity women and children cabmen priests parsons fieldmarshals archbishops …” (8.706). This becomes fragmented for more facile consumption: “John Howard Parnell, example, the provost of Trinity, every mother’s son. Don’t talk of your provosts and provost of Trinity. Women and children, cabmen, priests, parsons, field marshals, archbishops” (U-RE 162). The words of the song about Father O’Flynn, unfamiliar to modern non-Irish readers except through annotation, are isolated and marked in italics as a separate unit, which results in a gain in comprehension, but the overall effect is that it de-throngs the rush of an imagined jostling crowd. What Joyce left to our sense of nuance is parceled out into small units. Joyce admittedly does not smooth the rocky way of reading, in particular when remote echoes come into play. For example, when Bloom for one fleeting moment wonders about his homecoming: Suppose she was gone when he? I looked for the lamp which she told me came into his mind but merely as a passing fancy of his because he then recollected the morning littered bed etcetera … (16.1470)

This must be cryptic for the uninformed reader: Why would Bloom look for a lamp and why should something “she” told him come into his mind? Such, at any rate, are possible questions for everyone not aware of a poem by Thomas Moore, “The Song of O’Ruark”, about a returning husband who finds his wife gone. Lines from this poem are woven into the passage as unmarked quotation: “I looked for the lamp, which she [the wife] told me, / Should shine when her pilgrim return’d”. It is the fragment from the song that came to Bloom’s mind, not a real lamp. Readers can easily get lost in the convolutions of Eumaeus; which shows in the fact that most of the older, uninformed,



translations make little sense either. The Reader’s Edition disentangles the muddle by italicizing the quotation: “I looked for the lamp which she told me came into his mind …” (U-RE 567),2 without however importing the commas of the original quotation (“which, she told me, …”). Danis Rose discloses his intention to rectify what he judges to be “textual faults”. He showcases Bloom’s imagined perspective as a waiter in a swell restaurant: “Lady this. Powdered bosom pearls” (8.877), with the comment: “What is a ‘bosom pearl’? and why should bosom pearls be powdered? The logical explanation is that Joyce mistakenly dropped a comma after ‘bosom’”. So the comma is editorially inserted: “Powdered bosom, pearls” (U-RE xviii, 167). Did Joyce, intentionally or inadvertently, “drop” a comma? It is possible, in fact probable, that Bloom’s perception or association unreflectedly moves from Lady to powdered to bosom and then to pearls; the verbal presentation is not logical or grammatical but perceptional and psychological. In the interior monologue a lot of jostling impressions are often strung together (as in the passage quoted above). “Powdered bosom pearls” is a glide more than a series. Joyce might have facilitated grammatical orientation (but often did not) by explanatory punctuation. A model phrase is “Curious mice never squeal” (U 4.27), which patently is not a comment on the effects of curiosity on the behaviour of mice, as one might think at first blush, but shortmind for “[It is]curious [that] mice never squeal”, which is how most readers would accommodate the sequence almost without being aware. It is a fair summary that Joyce tends to use commas sparsely, as means of orchestration. Their absence (from the point of view of traditional rules) can be effective as in “Nausicaa”, which at one point features “[h]ow moving the scene” is (13.624). The scene is in fact moving almost cinematographically when one long breathless sentence starts on the beach without any typographical mark of transition: 2. As for clarification, it is interesting to note that in the first version of “The Sisters” Joyce italicized (that is, underlined in his handwriting) the distillery terms “faints” and “worms”, thus marking them as unfamiliar, but he did not thus highlight them in the revision (JJA 4:333, D 10). This indicates an intention away from overt typographical signaling, nuances are increasingly consigned to the discrimination of the readers, an implicit compliment to them.

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  Edy began to get ready to go and it was high time for her and Gerty noticed that that little hint she gave had had the desired effect because it was a long way along the strand to where there was the place to push up the pushcar and Cissy took off the twins’ caps and tidied their hair to make herself attractive of course

then sweeps over to the nearby church and Canon O’Hanlon stood up with his cope poking up at his neck and Father Conroy handed him the card to read off and he read out Panem de coelo praestitisti eis

and returns to the girls on the beach and Edy and Cissy were talking about the time all the time and asking her but Gerty could pay them back in their own coin and she just answered with scathing politeness when Edy asked her was she heartbroken about her best boy throwing her over. (13.568-77)3

The two locations (and Gerty MacDowell’s mind as a third one) are joined by simple “ands” without pause or punctuation in pure unmarked montage fashion. The sweeping translocations might conceivably be heralded by signposts. Joyce is following his mythological prototype, Daedalus, the old artificer, who in constructing the Labyrinth, “confounded the marks of distinction”                                                              3. Preserving the original punctuation is not necessarily a requirement in translation, since each language has its own conventions that often override those of the original. Hans Wollschläger for example imposes strict German rules, which breaks the whole uninterrupted sentence into small units. There are no fewer than seventeen commas: “Edy machte sich langsam zum Aufbruch fertig, und es war auch hohe Zeit für sie, und Gerty merkte, daß die kleine Andeutung, die sie gemacht, die gewünschte Wirkung gehabt hatte, denn es war noch ein langer Weg am Strand entlang bis zu der Stelle, wo sie den Kinderwagen hinaufschieben mußten, und Cissy nahm den Zwillingen die Mützen ab und ordnete ihnen das Haar, bloß um sich selbst in Positur zu setzen natürlich, und Kanonikus O’Hanlon stand auf in seinem Chormantel, der ihm hochrutschte im Nacken, und Pater Conroy reichte ihm die Karte zum Ablesen, und er las laut Panem de coelo praestitisti eis, und Edy und Cissy redeten die ganze Zeit über die Zeit und fragten sie, aber Gerty konnte ihnen mit gleicher Münze heimzahlen, und sie antwortete schlicht mit verletzender Höflichkeit, und da fragte Edy sie, ob ihr vielleicht das Herz gebrochen wäre, weil ihr Liebster sie sitzengelassen hätte” (504). This results in an entirely different, chopped up, effect.



(“turbatque notas”, Ovid, Metamorphoses, VIII, 160), or he left them out completely. 4 Parenthesized (16.1841) This sketch limits itself to some uses of parentheses in Ulysses; for Finnegans Wake a much more extended examination would be necessary. Of course we find that parentheses in Joyce serve most of their habitual functions by separating extra information inside a sentence. Their functions have hardly changed since the times of Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (c. 35 – c. 95 A.D.).4 Even more perhaps than all punctuation marks they are essentially visible, written devices. They cannot be spoken: in the Aeolian headline “HOUSE OF KEY(E)S” (7.141) the parenthesis is inaudible and can only be referred to, as unpronounceable as are the three question marks that form another headline: “???” (7.512). They do not occur in speech, but they can be added once speech is recorded. Not surprisingly parentheses occur more frequently in the later, parodic episodes than the earlier, more realistic ones. The thinking mind in particular does not feature parentheses, commas, colons, and other marks (their complete absence in “Penelope” is the best known instance). When thought, in the form of interior monologue or “stream of consciousness”, is transposed into written signs distinctions can be introduced. In the first extended run of interior monologue Bloom wonders why black clothes attract warmth: “Black conducts, reflects (refracts is it?), the heat” (4.80). Such a device for associative asides (can there be “asides” in a “stream” of consciousness?) might have been employed, but Joyce used it only exceptionally, in one instance for an internal question: “He [a priest] stopped at each, took out a communion, shook a drop or two (are they in water?) off it and put it neatly in her mouth” (5.345). They are equally rare in recorded speech so that they are conditioned to the interpolations of “Cyclops” but would not fit its continuous oral report, and they are naturally frequent in the borrowed 4. He defines Greek “parenthesis” or Latin “interpositio” as what ”consists in the interruption of the continuous flow of our language by the insertion of some remark” (The Institutio Oratoria of Quintillian with an English translation by H.E. Butler, IX, iii, 26, Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1921, vol. III, 459).

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  styles of “Oxen of the Sun”, and then again in “Eumaeus”. In “Nausicaa” they turn up in Gerty MacDowell’s half only, but not in Bloom’s extended interior monologue.5 Before the transition over to Bloom’s perspective a pompous parenthesis, as though in farewell, surrounds a vibrant superfluity with neon: “Leopold Bloom (for it is he) stands silent, with bowed head before those young guileless eyes” (13.744). A few episodes deserve special attention. “Wandering Rocks” sparingly uses parentheses for casual supplication: “The reverend T.R. Greene B.A. will (D.V.) speak”, “…human souls … to whom the faith had not (D.V.) been brought” (10.69, 150). In one passage echoes from Sweets of Sin invade Bloom’s sensual imagination: “Melting breast ointments (for him! for Raoul!)… Fishgluey slime (her heaving embonpoint!)” (10.621). Here imagination is interrupted or reinforced by erotic snatches. It would have been possible for Joyce to use marks like parentheses on a grand scale for the characteristic translocations (or interlocations) of “Wandering Rocks” which link different places at, presumably, the same time. The first parentheses occur in “Proteus”, and only in two successive paragraphs: A garland of grey hair on his comminated head see him me clambering down to the footpace (descende!), clutching a monstrance … And at the same time perhaps a priest round the corner is elevating it. And two streets off another locking it into a pyx. And in a ladychapel another taking housel all to his own cheek. … Bringing his host down and kneeling [Dan Occam] heard twine with his second bell the first bell in the transept (he is lifting his) and, rising, heard (now I am lifting) their two bells (he is kneeling) twang in diphthong (3.115-25)

                                                             5. A single parenthetical comment does occur in the second half of “Nausicaa”, though not in Bloom’s imagination but in a passage where the perspective is lifted to a bird’s eye (or rather rocket-in-the-sky panoramic) view with a reversal to the earlier parodic style, in poetic personification: “Howth settled for slumber, tired of long days, of yumyum rhododendrons (he was old) and felt gladly the night breeze ruffle his fell of ferns” (13.1777).



Bells are heard and lifting and kneeling is going on at the same time in different locations as though in preparation for the scenic shifts in “Wandering Rocks”. Parentheses, or similar typographical marks could have served as guides for initially perplexed readers, who would then have been notified that the paragraph Mr Denis J. Maginni professor of dancing &c, in silk hat, slate frockcoat with silk facings, white kerchief tie, tight lavender trousers, canary gloves and pointed patent boots, walking with grave deportment most respectfully took the curbstone as he passed lady Maxwell at the corner of Dignam’s court. (10.55)

turns out to be an interpolation, outside of the range of Father Conmee through whom everything up to that point has been filtered. Without textual guidance it takes familiarity with Dublin’s locations and a fair awareness of Ulyssean details to recognize simultaneous geographic transfers. So the irony that the flashy, colourful appearance of Maginni is the first thing that Father Conmee does not see in the section may well be unremarked. Joyce left such differentiation to his readers’ discretion, perspicuity or to commentaries supplying outside knowledge.6 In dialogue parentheses are limited to the more sophisticated characters like the cast of “Aeolus”, an episode that also draws on the traditional techniques of oratory. The Roman […] brought to every new shore on which he set his foot (on our shore he never set it) only his cloacal obsession. (7.491) He [Taylor] wore a loose neckcloth and altogether he looked (though he was not) a dying man (7.817)

These speakers, like the whole episode, are concerned with rhetorics and their speech shows subtle modifications of tone or stress. Stephen of course is similarly articulate and in full vocal control, especially in 6. It is conceivable that, with the relief of copyright restrictions, further editions will resort to more manifest typographical guidance, following in the wake of the Reader’s Edition.

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


his tour de force in the Library where he is able to enunciate impeccable intricate sentences sparkling with allusions and echoes: a ghost by death, speaking his own words to his own son’s name (had Hamnet Shakespeare lived he would have been prince Hamlet’s twin), (9.175). What he learned from his other wife Myrto (absit nomen!) Socratididion’s Epipsychidion, no man, not a woman, will ever know. (9.276) He was overborne in a cornfield first (ryefield, I should say), … (9.456) The christian laws which built up the hoards of the jews (for whom, as for the lollards, storm was shelter) bound their affections too with hoops of steel (9.784).

Such parentheses are signs of discernment, like embedded footnotes or comments and show mastery of articulation, emphases and graduations. 5 Frequency The highest incidence of parentheses is in “Circe” and “Ithaca”, not alone because these are the longest episodes. “Circe” has both most parentheses statistically and yet functionally fewest of them, because the theatrical layout follows the convention of putting stage remarks between them. So in one way they do not count and their study is relatively unrewarding. “Ithaca” distinguishes two kinds of stage instructions; both of them are between parentheses and use italic type. The majority follow the convention of stage directions by describing gestures, the way of expression (often in adverbs), apparel, etc. They are flush left in both in the 1922 first and H.W. Gabler’s edition (while some publishers prefer their own layout) and they are followed by speech in the same line: THE IDIOT (lifts a palsied arm and gurgles) Grahute! (15.20)



The second category, usually for setting the scene or carrying the action forward, uses indentation and occupies a separate paragraph. These parentheses are narrative in essence, often longer and thus set off from the rest. (A deafmute idiot with goggle eyes, his shapeless mouth dribbling, jerks past, shaken in Saint Vitus’ dance. A chain of children’s hands imprison him.) (15.14)

Some of these passages get out of hand and take on an life of their own, especially the one describing Bloom’s actions in court. It sets out simply as a conventional stage direction, but already with narrative extensions: “(Bloom, pleading not guilty, and holding a fullblown waterlily, begins a long unintelligible speech).” But then the speech is summarized and reported indirectly: “They would hear what counsel had to say […]”. The sequence is then freewheelingly deflected into “glimpses, as it were, through the windows of loveful households in Dublin city and urban districts of scenes truly rural”, till it all ends inconsequentially with an “organtoned melodeon […] greatest bargain ever …”). The whole amounts to a flight of randomlooking associations. Danis Rose’s Reader’s Edition also separates what the editor considers true stage directions from the narrative blocks. Stage directions like Private Compton (jerks his finger) — Way for the parson.

(with character in bold face, stage direction in italics between parenthesis), are treated differently from Stephen, flourishing his ashplant, lifts his left hand, chants … (U-RE 409, U 15.64, 74)

These narrative passages are consistently printed in normal Roman type.7 The editor also interposes spaces between the story line and the dialogue. 7. No comment on the advisability of such layout changes is attempted: the display merely serves to indicate that alternative presentations are possible. In “Circe” the preponderant typographical parentheses do not necessarily have their habitual

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  6 “Ithaca” The catalogue structure of “Ithaca” makes the episode the appropriate domain of parentheses,8 especially in their orderly or explanatory capacities. They become the locus for supplementary information, clarification, bibliographical, expansive details. That the systematic arrangement attempted in “Ithaca” is often spurious and far from uniform, in spite of its appearance, shows in the contents of some parentheses like the listing of places abroad: Ceylon (with spicegardens supplying tea to Thomas Kernan, agent for Pulbrook, Robertson and Co, 2 Mincing Lane, London, E.C., 5 Dame street, Dublin), Jerusalem, the holy city (with mosque of Omar and gate of Damascus, goal of aspiration), the straits of Gibraltar (the unique birthplace of Marion Tweedy), the Parthenon (containing statues of nude Grecian divinities), the Wall street money market (which con-trolled international finance), the Plaza de Toros at La Linea, Spain (where O’Hara of the Camerons had slain the bull), Niagara (over which no human being had passed with impunity), the land of the Eskimos (eaters of soap), the forbidden country of Thibet (from which no traveller returns), the bay of Naples (to see which was to die), the Dead Sea. (17.198090)

The parenthesized expansive reminiscences start as matter-of-fact associations but then get out of hand when chance rumours, a Shakespearean echo, and an illogical extrapolation from a common saying intrude. Ithacan catalogues are evidence of the rational controls the episode strives to impose, but even in catalogues the intended rigid impassive controls tend to slacken in mounting incongruity. One long list, the recapitulation of Bloom’s long day, but also of the episodes in which he appears, and therefore a self-reflexive display of the internal composition of Ulysses, adds expansive tags which in their totality amount to an alternative possible schema, alongside the well-known Homeric one – or potential erratic chapter titles:                                                                                                                                  intrinsic functions. During the 2011 Zurich workshop on punctuation, Jean-Paul Riquelme dealt extensively with the parentheses as parentheses in “Circe”. 8. A digital count shows 338 parentheses in the episode, which amounts to one for every 66 words.


Senn  The preparation of breakfast (burnt offering): intestinal congestion and premeditative defecation (holy of holies): the bath (rite of John): the funeral (rite of Samuel): the advertisement of Alexander Keyes (Urim and Thummim): the unsubstantial lunch (rite of Melchisedek): the visit to museum and national library (holy place): the bookhunt along Bedford row, Merchants’ Arch, Wellington Quay (Simchath Torah): the music in the Ormond Hotel (Shira Shirim): the altercation with a truculent troglodyte in Bernard Kiernan's premises (holocaust): a blank period of time including a cardrive, a visit to a house of mourning, a leavetaking (wilderness): the eroticism produced by feminine exhibitionism (rite of Onan): the prolonged delivery of Mrs Mina Purefoy (heave offering): the visit to the disorderly house of Mrs Bella Cohen, 82 Tyrone street, lower and subsequent brawl and chance medley in Beaver street (Armageddon): nocturnal perambulation to and from the cabman’s shelter, Butt Bridge (atonement). (17.2044)

The so much better known Homeric framework is supplemented by one that is based on the Old Testament, and the various labels add a new (potential) dimension and new coordinates. Complementarily the list includes an event which was not covered by a separate episode: “a blank period of time including a cardrive, a visit to a house of mourning, a leavetaking (wilderness)”, that is the time between 6 and 8 p.m. In “Ithaca,” Joyce offers several last-minute additions or alternatives and new coordinates for the whole book. The expansive pointers were added late in the composition of the episode and at least some of them tend to be less than serious, in part also based on jocular associations (“holy of holies”). A term like “troglodyte” is uncharacteristically loose and imprecise (and squints at the Homeric Kyklops in his cave). Again the Ithacan attempt to systematize and categorize is both reinforced and undercut.9 An earlier occurrence of “the wilderness of inhabitation” refers to Bloom’s back garden in geographical reality. Intriguingly, the wilderness of the later listing is uninhabited by narration, the unrecorded visit to the Dignam family. The compulsive tendency towards systematic order is thus at the other extreme from interior monologue passages like the one where

9. A biblical phrase is also hovering behind the scene: “the habitations of the wilderness” (Jer. 9:10). See also Fritz Senn, “Weaving, unweaving” in A Starchamber Quiry, ed. E.L. Epstein (New York & London, Methuen, 1982), pp. 57-59.

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  Bloom intersperses Martha Clifford’s letter on a second reading with floral associations: Then walking slowly forward he read the letter again, murmuring here and there a word. Angry tulips with you darling manflower punish your cactus if you don’t please poor forgetmenot how I long violets to dear roses when we soon anemone meet all naughty nightstalk wife Martha’s perfume. (5.262-66, bold emphases)

The flowers are literally parenthetical – they were “put” (thesis) “in” (en) “alongside” (par) as insertions at a later stage (30 June 1921, JJA 22, 245), but are not typographically set off from the main stream. If real parentheses had been used Bloom would have come through more distantly observant or editorially conscious. 7 Orchestration in “Sirens” Perhaps parentheses are most intricately modulated in “Sirens”. As insertions “besides” or “alongside” the main drift, they express simultaneous happenings. Physical responses can be mixed with aural exclamations: “All flushed (O!), panting, sweating (O!), all breathless” (11.178). Miss Douce has just exposed herself to Boylan and Lenehan but is recovering her dignity: She smilesmirked supercilious (wept! aren’t men?), but, lightward gliding, mild she smiled on Boylan. (11.416-17)

While smiling, her thoughts comment on the other sex. But “(wept! aren’t men?)” also – and perhaps secondarily – looks back on her exclamation some time ago: “Aren’t men frightful idiots?” (11.79). Parentheses can thus mark internal links within the chapter. “You horrid thing!” is immediately followed by an echo: “And flushed yet more (you horrid!), more goldenly” (11.183). Similar reactions, like those of the two barmaids to Boylan’s appearance, are connected in a parallactic fashion: “Shebronze, dealing from her jar thick syrupy liquor for his lips, looked as it flowed (flower in his coat: who gave him?), and syrupped with her voice” is equivalent to but slightly different from “Miss Kennedy passed their way (flower, wonder who gave), bearing away teatray” (11.365, 380). Bloom’s awareness of heat – “How warm this black is.



Course nerves a bit. Refracts (is it?) heat” (11.446) – calls up his observation from the morning, almost, but not quite verbatim: “Black conducts, reflects (refracts is it?) the heat” (4.80). Some parentheses in “Sirens” function similarly to the translocations in “Wandering Rocks”, only they no longer mark contemporaneous actions but serve more as a textual memory. Text itself begins to recollect its own past. Ben Dollard’s entry in the Ormond bar refers back to “Wandering Rocks”: He ambled Dollard, bulky slops, before them (hold that fellow with the: hold him now) into the saloon. (11.450)

The interposed “hold that fellow with the: hold him now” is a carryover from — Hold that fellow with the bad trousers. — Hold him now, Ben Dollard said. (10.915)

In “Wandering Rocks”, transversal shifts are a conspicuous feature for concurrent events; in “Sirens”, they point back to what happened before and draw attention to details of the textual composition. “At each slow satiny heaving bosom’s wave (her heaving embon) red rose rose slowly, sank red rose” (11.1106) includes a vibrating echo of Sweets of Sin from “Wandering Rocks” (10.622), perhaps both Bloom’s and the text’s own memory. Sirens resoundingly flaunts an arrangement of repetitions10 generally without tucking them into parentheses. When the execration of the blind stripling, “God’s curse on you … you’re blinder nor I am, you bitch’s bastard” (10.1119), is echoed in “Sirens,” usually associated with cursing, it is not set apart from the even texture as an intrusion: “God’s curse on bitch’s bastard” is a paragraph of its own (11.285); “You bitch’s bast” an independent sentence (11.1041); in “the yeoman cursed, swelling in apoplectic bitch’s bastard” (11.1098) it is incorporated in a new context. Repetition with variation is a feature of the “Sirens” episode. Parentheses can have quite different uses, as in three that occur in close sequence:

10. Most notably so in back-references like “as said before” (11.519, 569, 761).

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  Pensive (who knows?), smitten (the smiting light), she lowered the dropblind with a sliding cord. She drew down pensive (why did he go so quick when I?) about her bronze, over the bar (11.461-63)

Here “Why did he go …” is clearly Miss Douce’s regretful sigh of abandonment, “the smiting light” looks like an internal comment on the ambiguous preceding “smitten”; “who knows” might be attributed either to a thought or else to a textual note. Some parentheses serve as self-reflexive pointers on a meta-level that introduces an awareness of the chapter as a composition or artefact that can comment on its own being. Upholding the lid he (who?) gazed in the coffin (coffin?) at the oblique triple (piano!) wires. He pressed (the same who pressed indulgently her hand), soft pedalling a triple of keys to see the thicknesses of felt advancing, to hear the muffled hammerfall in action. (11.291-94)

This looks like a supportive author caring for confused readers and annotating an otherwise obscure text. Links can be indirect, that is to say refracted. Bloom thinks how the noise of the organ affects the “fellow blowing the bellows” who is exposed to it: Growl angry, then shriek cursing (want to have wadding or something in his no don’t she cried), then all of a soft sudden wee little wee little pippy wind. (11.1200-02)

A tangent parenthetical thought, “Want to have wadding…” takes an abrupt unexpected turn “… in his no don’t she cried”, which does not make sense in itself but links to an earlier occurrence: Sweet tea Miss Kennedy having poured with milk plugged both two ears with little fingers. — No, don’t, she cried. (11.129-31)

In a circuitous way the earlier passage supplied the expected word “ear” of Homeric appropriateness. “Sirens” points to itself as an artefact made up of parts that can be repeated, varied, or shifted. On occasion the interested comments may indicate an aside or underline a banality:


Senn  A stripling, blind, with a tapping cane, came taptaptapping by Daly’s window where a mermaid, hair all streaming (but he couldn’t see), blew whiffs of a mermaid (blind couldn’t), mermaid coolest whiff of all. (11.1234)

But again, this is only formally, not substantially, different from a similar treatment of an internal comment without parentheses: An unseeing stripling stood by the door. He saw not bronze. He saw not gold. Nor Ben nor Bob nor Tom nor Si nor George nor tanks nor Richie nor Pat. Hee hee hee hee. He did not see. (11.1281-83)11

One could imagine a sentence that mixes reporting with interior monologue and juxtaposes multiple grammatical subjects supported by the typographical guidance that Joyce withholds: Two sheets cream vellum one reserve two envelopes when I was in Wisdom Hely’s wise Bloom in Daly’s Henry Flower bought. (11.295-96)

The interspersed memories (”one reserve”, “when I was …”) could conceivably have been placed between parentheses, which of course here is not put forward as an improvement but merely an alternative possibility in accordance with practices elsewhere. The samples show that Joyce most likely did not employ his devices consistently or systematically but dealt with each case on its merits and independent of mechanical rules. 8 Interposition Parentheses can neatly separate interjections from the main narrative current, as when Bloom is reading an account of Dignam’s funeral in the evening newspaper: —This morning (Hynes put it in, of course) the remains of the late Mr Patrick Dignam were removed from his residence, no 9 11. After this emphasis on not seeing, it is interesting that the next word in the next paragraph uses a homophone, not “see”, but “Seabloom, greaseseabloom”, a compositorial link to “Married to Bloom, to greaseabloom”, “Greaseabloom” (11.180, 185; in such echoes text passages are “married”).

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  Newbridge Avenue, Sandymount, for interment in Glasnevin. …The obsequies, at which many friends of the deceased were present, were carried out by (certainly Hynes wrote it with a nudge from Corny) Messrs. H.J. O’Neill & Son, 164 North Strand Road. The mourners included: Patk. Dignam (son), Bernard Corrigan (brother-in-law), Jno. Henry Menton, solr., Martin Cunningham, John Power .)eatondph 1/8 ador dorador douradora (must be where he called Monks the dayfather about Keyes’s ad) Thomas Kernan, Simon Dedalus, Stephen Dedalus, B.A., Edw. J. Lambert, Cornelius Kelleher, Joseph M’C. Hynes, L. Boom, C.P. M’Coy,-M’Intosh, and several others. (16.1248-61)

The clarifications “(son)” and “(brother-in-law)” are part of the report and therefore italicized, Roman type is used for Bloom's observations about composition of the paragraph and what may have caused an erroneous botched line. The two kinds are neatly distinguished. The comments show in a few details “HOW A GREAT DAILY ORGAN IS TURNED OUT” (7.84) by the chancy accumulation of information and typographical letters. One hilarious passage within its spoken report is studded with complementary parentheses when the narrator leaves to bar room to relieve himself and we are treated to a jerky multilayered interior monologue. Goodbye Ireland I’m going to Gort. So I just went round the back of the yard to pumpship and begob (hundred shillings to five) while I was letting off my (Throwaway twenty to) letting off my load gob says I to myself I knew he was uneasy in his (two pints off of Joe and one in Slattery’s off) in his mind to get off the mark to (hundred shillings is five quid) and when they were in the (dark horse) pisser Burke was telling me card party and letting on the child was sick (gob, must have done about a gallon) flabbyarse of a wife speaking down the tube she’s better or she’s (ow!) all a plan so he could vamoose with the pool if he won or (Jesus, full up I was) trading without a licence (ow!) Ireland my nation says he (hoik! phthook!) never be up to those bloody (there’s the last of it) Jerusalem (ah!) cuckoos. (12.1561-72)

This looks like an elaboration of the technique of Bloom’s simple “reflect (refract is it?)”, and does in fact amount to a refraction. The relation between what is inside and outside the parentheses seems to change midway. In the first part the physical act of urination is



interrupted by thoughts, though not consistently so, and then meditations are disrupted by short exclamations that accompany the end of the act itself. The parentheses also diminish in size. The technique is not unprecedented. There is at least one stanza by Lord Byron that achieves a similar effect of oscillation between mental and more bodily concerns: Sooner shall heaven kiss earth—(here he felt sicker) “Oh, Julia! what is every other woe?— (For God’s sake let me have a glass of liquor; Pedro, Battista, help me down below.) Julia, my love—(you rascal, Pedro, quicker)— Oh, Julia!—(this curst vessel pitches so)— Beloved Julia, hear me still beseeching!” (He grew inarticulate with retching.) (Don Juan, C.II, st.xx)

Sublime thoughts are brought down to earth by physical reactions.12 *** Joyce might have used parentheses for differentiation in the interior monologue. A pristine parenthesis, already quoted, appears in the Rosenbach version: “Black conducts , reflects ,(refracts is it ? ) the heat” (Ulysses Rosenbach, 4 Calypso, 3).13 The typescript follows with slightly different spacing: “Black conducts , reflects , (refracts is it?, the heat.” The placard reads “Black conducts , reflects (refracts is it?), the heat” (JJA 17, 65 = 4.80), Reader’s Edition: “Black conducts, reflects (refracts is it? the heat.” (U-RE 55) The options are: spaces, comma before or after the parenthesis, or none. Arbitration will be subjective, but there are possibilities for differentiation that Joyce did not choose to utilize. As the examples show, Joyce’s use of at least some punctuation marks was hardly methodical or systematic. He seems to have dealt with each issue on its own merits. Commas are a matter of nuanced 12. No claim is made that Joyce refers to Byron’s particular use of the device or any other literary precedent. 13. James Joyce, Ulysses, A Facsimile of the Manuscript. With a critical introduction by Harry Levin and a bibliographical preface by Clive Driver (London: Faber & Faber, in ass. with the Philip H. & A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation, Philadelphia, 1975).

Errant Commas and Stray Parentheses


  orchestration. There is a difference, possibly hard to express in words, between “Like that something” (5.48) and “Like that, something” (URE 69), one of pause, tone, modulation, so that editorial improvement is hazardous. It is probably impossible to decree where commas should go in “Eumaeus”: in gross simplification, the situation is that Joyce used them sparingly, a typist put many in according to the rule book, Joyce first left them, then started to delete many, not all, of the inserted ones with weakening determination. The Critical and Synoptic Edition “returns radically to the ‘fair-copy styling’” (III, 1749) while the Reader’s Edition tends to reinsert them. With the end of restrictive copyright, chances are that editors, guided possibly by the best motives, will take the harm out of Joyce’s text in order to bring it nearer to the common reader. As this probe goes to press, a revised Ulysses has come out, too late, for inclusion – unfortunately as it tends to bring many of the issues that have been raised here into focus: “Ulysses, Remastered by Robert Gogan.”14 “In Ulysses, the representation of dialogue is incomplete and the punctuation and structure within the sentences can be sparse and vague”, the editor writes in his Introduction. “To alleviate some of the confusion I have introduced modern user-friendly formatting into this edition of Ulysses by applying additional punctuation where necessary to allow for easier reading, but without changing a single word or syllable of the text, or its sequence, thus preserving the integrity and authenticity of Joyce’s creation while at the same time offering a better reading experience.” Interior monologue is consistently rendered in italics, a procedure which burdens the editor with numerous decisions as to what really is or is not, or not quite, interior monologue. Whatever is recognized as quotation is put between inverted commas. Dialogue is also put between quotation marks that thereby replace the dashes. Cyclopean interpolations are set off by spaces so that for example the “Mr Dennis J. Maginnis …” passage (quoted above) neatly stands out as a separate item. The Homeric designations, never intended to be part of any publication, are used as titles for the episodes and have become                                                              14. James Joyce, Ulysses, Remastered by Robert Gogan (Straheens, Achill Island, Co Mayo, Ireland: Music Ireland Publications, 2012). This edition departs from Joyce’s practice, to italicize quotations, titles and foreign words, but instead uses italics solely for interior monologue. Some copies on sale, incidentally, are “Signed by the Author”.



running heads. Interior monologue passages are in italics and set off in paragraphs of their own. Accordingly all of “Penelope” is in italics and split up into sentences or grammatical units; Joyce’s long paragraphs are divided into manageable chunks, the apostrophes are back in; and all recognized quotations are marked. The famous ending is now perhaps the most intensely punctuated part in the whole book: “… and, yes, I said ‘yes, I will’. ‘Yes.’” (8 words, 3 commas, one period, 2 pairs of quotation marks, page 614). Robert Gogan’s interference is far more extensive than that of Danis Rose’s Reader’s Edition. Comments are sure to arise and barricades will be mounted. For present purposes it is more rewarding to use the “remastered” text as a control group where the finger is put on Joyce’s patently unorthodox techniques and alternative devices avoided by Joyce are offered. Apart from the notion that punctuation does not affect “the integrity and authenticity of Joyce’s creation”, what drastically emerges is an underlying assumption that punctuation (and along with it hyphens, italics, spaces, quotation marks present or absent) has an important, significant, functional impact and is potentially controversial. All beneficially intended modifications are vibrant proof of Joyce’s highly individual way of structuring his composition and orchestrating subtle nuances. Zurich James Joyce Foundation




Abstract: Like punctuation, complexity imposes a pace or rhythm upon the reader. In some ways, the experience of reading Finnegans Wake has some affinities with undivided script, or scriptura continua, in that the text forces the reader to proceed very slowly and carefully. However, the Wake’s difficulties occasion more than just a simple deceleration of reading. Instead, the Wake’s multi-layered complexities invite the reader’s own initiative into a textual negotiation, in effect requiring the reader to provide her own punctuation to her individual act of reading. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Finnegans Wake is a challenging book to read. Although there is more to it than a kind of odious postmodern self-referentiality, the Wake does, nonetheless, thematise its difficulty. There is something analogous at the beginning of “Proteus”, one of the notorious stopping places in Ulysses, with the not-immediately comprehensible line “Ineluctable modality of the visible” (U 3.1). Since Stephen is at this moment thinking about the phenomenology of intelligibility, it is perhaps appropriate that his thoughts are presented in a less-than-intelligible manner. The difficulty of the form relates to and complements the content of the thought. And, in this way, Joyce’s difficulty and obscurity act as a subliminal marker to the reader to slow down and pause and reflect on the passage, thereby acting in a manner analogous to punctuation. Obscurity thus provides its own kind of syntax. “(Stoop) if you are abcedminded, to this claybook, what curios of signs (please stoop), in this allaphbed! Can you rede (since We and Thou had it out already) its world? It is the same told of all. Miscegenations on miscegenations” (FW 18.18-20). The curios of its signs, multiple and



overlaid, arrest and resist ready comprehension. Complexity, as such, is analogous to punctuation in that it pauses and arrests the act of reading; complexity has rhythm. The slowness of reading required for Finnegans Wake has some general affinities with the difficulties afforded by scriptura continua, that is, continuous script or writing bereft of wordspace, which, with various exceptions, was the dominant mode of writing in the West through the Middle Ages. The cognitive skills required for reading scriptura continua are very different from the experience of reading modern divided or spaced text. For example, scriptura continua would almost invariably be read aloud in order to facilitate the recognition of distinct words. That is, the written text was much like a musical score in that it would only be activated, as it were, through performance. The written text is a protocol for an act of reading. Furthermore, the reader would experience a kind of tunnel vision since she could only focus on small chunks of text at a time as she attempted to parse it. According to Paul Saenger, the reader, or successful reader, of scriptura continua would need to know a nearcomplete range of licit syllables, syllable divisions and syllable combinations as well as syntactical, morphological and contextual constraints in order to control “all the phonetically plausible but inappropriate points for dividing a stream of continuous letters”.1 The final step in this complex ballet of ocular regression and memorisation of word-forms and syntax would be context: does the deciphered passage make any sense? Such staggered comprehension is where the parallel to reading the Wake is most clear. Besides the old commonplace of reading aloud, the reader has to bring to the text a certain range of linguistic thoroughness and background knowledge as well as the nous to restrain oneself when things just don’t add up; what Fritz Senn called the “ethics of Wakian [sic] glosses”.2 One key difference between reading the Wake and reading scriptura continua is that when reading the Wake one often pauses in order to consult sundry reference works (at least I do). Reading the Wake is not often a continuous reading experience.

1. Paul Saenger, Space between Words (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 7. 2. Fritz Senn, “Being a Sommerfool”, A Wake Newslitter, new series VII.5 (October 1970): 74.



Another affinity is that with scriptura continua the reader often marks the text, making for something like our own heavily-annotated and personalised Wakes. In ancient manuscripts one often finds what are called prosodiæ – clusters of signs, usually points or interpoints – added to the manuscript in order to facilitate comprehension and guide reading. These would either be added by grammarians for the benefit of inexperienced readers or by the readers themselves.3 With these reader-added markings and interpolations, the hermeneutic task is inscribed onto the text and, in many cases, texts bear the traces of multiple readers. Texts are thus palimpsested with their readers’ attempts to decipher and understand them. The wonderfully named “Tremulous hand of Worcester” was one such relentless glossator, known for not just his shaky hand but also for his repunctuation of various texts.4 The Book of Kells has several additions perpetrated through the ages including a series of marginal notes proudly signed by one Gerald Plunket in 1568.5 Likewise, William Blake was notorious for mercilessly annotating the books he owned.6 And with the Wake, Arno Schmidt’s own heavily-annotated copy has been reproduced in painstaking and lavish facsimile.7 The first separated Latin texts in Western Europe were Irish, namely the Book of Mulling from the 7th century.8 The introduction – or more precisely, reintroduction – in the early Middle Ages of space within text to signify word division “corresponded to a precipitous expansion of scribal punctuation and the birth of a more rigorous effort to relate punctuation to units of sense”.9 Although punctuation does not get standardised until the 18th or even 19th centuries with the refinement of printing technologies,10 modern punctuation could be said to begin with the reappearance of word space as a way of articulating the spaces around words, to give distinction, hierarchy,                                                              3. Saenger, Space between Words, pp. 53, 72. 4. See Christine Franzen, The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991). 5. Edward Sullivan, The Book of Kells (London: Studio Editions, 1986), p. 6. 6. See Jason A. Snart, “Recentering Blake’s Marginalia”, English Scholarship paper 38 (2003). 7. Arno Schmidts Arbeitsexemplar von “Finnegans wake” by James Joyce (Zürich: Haffmans, 1984). 8. Saenger, Space Between Words, p. 84. 9. Saenger, Space Between Words, p. 73. 10. D.G. Greetham, Textual Scholarship (New York: Garland, 1994), p. 223.



and value to individual paperspaces. Punctuation marks, or protopunctuation marks such as the diastole did exist along with scriptura continua manuscripts, but these were primarily related to facilitating word or phrase division for the benefit of the reader. More complex hierarchies are made possible because of the spaces between words. Concomitant with the revolution of paperspace was the idea that now these marks are solely made by the scribe or the printer. With standardised paperspace and punctuation, one does not punctuate the text that one is reading and one trusts the writer to provide the basic hermeneutic guides. Of course, editorial interventions in punctuation exist, as evidenced by Danis Rose’s Reader’s Edition of Ulysses11 and Robert Grogan’s “Remastered” edition of the same, which applies additional punctuation to “alleviate some of the confusion” of the text.12 Punctuation thus displaces – or even usurps – one mode of readerly interactivity with the book, that of pacing. The monolithic disposition of a page of scriptura continua forces the reader to create her own rhythm in reading; granted, this rhythm is predetermined by all sorts of lexical and grammatical considerations, but these are negotiated in the act of reading and not just by the writer. I’m going to make a bit of an overstatement here, but there’s a point (I think) to this: with scriptura continua the style of a text comes from the initiative of the reader because he or she has to adjudicate tonality and rhythm from a uniform and imprecisely differentiated block of text (something analogous happens with reading “Penelope” and Philippe Sollers’s novels H and Paradis, both of which are bereft of punctuation but nonetheless elicit a rhythm with just the words themselves). M.B. Parkes characterises scriptura continua as a “neutral text”: “To introduce graded pauses while reading involved an interpretation of the text, an activity requiring literary judgement and therefore one properly reserved to the reader.”13 Conversely, espacement allows the writer to more completely control the text’s style. Espacement, and the punctuation marks it allows for, shift the balance of style back to the writer.                                                              11. James Joyce, Ulysses, ed. Danis Rose (London: Picador, 1997). 12. Robert Grogan, “Introduction” to Ulysses by James Joyce, ed. Robert Gogan, (Sarheens, Co. Mayo: Music Ireland Publications, 2012), p. iii. 13. M.B. Parkes, Pause and Effect (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1992), p. 11.



With the Wake, this balance shifts back to the reader, at least a little bit. Joyce allows his readers to create their own wakes. This is not necessarily a free-for-all where anything goes, but, to take some reasonably reasonable examples, John Gordon’s Finnegans Wake is different from Derrida’s and neither is necessarily any less valid. A more interesting extreme would be John Cage’s Writing through “Finnegans Wake”,14 with its mesostics and punctuation marks divested from phrases and strewn across the blanks of the page like grace notes or dust motes. Through espacement Cage restyles the Wake. I’m not suggesting that we all do this or solicit an edition of the Wake in mesostics or scriptura continua; after all, let’s not make things even more needlessly difficult. But, rather, let us read slowly and pay attention to where we need to mark and re-mark the text. “So why, pray, sign anything so long as every word, letter, penstroke, paperspace is a perfect signature of its own?” (FW 115.06-8). Blanks and the punctuation enable us to style the text. In the Wake, the style and styling of punctuation are described in the scene with the professor deciphering the manuscript at his breakfast table in chapter I.5: The unmistaken identity of the persons in the Tiberiast duplex came to light in the most devious of ways. The original document was in what is known as Hanno O’Nonhanno’s unbrookable script, that is to say, it showed no signs of punctuation of any sort. Yet on holding the verso against a lit rush this new book of Morses responded most remarkably to the silent query of our world’s oldest light and its recto let out the piquant fact that it was but pierced butnot punctured (in the university sense of the term) by numerous stabs and foliated gashes made by a pronged instrument. These paper wounds, four in type, were gradually and correctly understood to mean stop, please stop, do please stop, and O do please stop respectively, and following up their one true clue, the circumflexuous wall of a singleminded men’s asylum, accentuated by bi tso fb rok engl a ssan dspl itch ina, — Yard inquiries pointed out  that they ad bîn “provoked” ay b fork, of à grave Brofèsor; àth é’s Brèak — fast — table; ; acùtely profèššionally piquéd, to =

14. John Cage, Writing through “Finnegans Wake”, Tulsa: University of Tulsa Monograph Series, 1978 (supplement to vol. 15 of the James Joyce Quarterly).


Slote  introdùce a notion of time [ùpon à plane (?) sù ’ ’ fàç’e’] by pùnct! ingh oles (sic) in iSpace?! (FW 123.30–124.12)15

Like any good paleographer, our reader of the document has his ways of uncovering the “unmistaken identity of the persons in the Tiberiast duplex” (FW 123.30-31). This identity “comes to light” precisely because he shines a light on it, a light from a “lit rush” (FW 123.34). Through this intervention of illumination he can discern marks, or “paper wounds,” that have been inflicted on the pages. These marks indicate pauses of varying degrees of imperative and politeness: stop; please stop; do please stop; and O do please stop. Joyce’s minimal punctuation here, a comma, doesn’t help clarify these four requests, but this bit is not particularly difficult. James Atherton was the first to point out that this passage derives from Edward Sullivan’s account of the four different types of full stops in The Book of Kells; these stops were quadrilateral and not round and can be used to date the Book..16 The marks are accentuated by “bi tso fb rok engl a ssan dspl itch ina” (FW 124.07-8), that is, “bits of broken glass and split china” written out in a differently split manner. The espacement here splits the words as if they were bits of broken glass and split china. The paleographic examination takes a turn to a different type of forensic investigation with the invocation of Scotland Yard enquiries, which place the blame on a professor with a fondness for grave and acute accents and other sundry diacritical marks. Joyce even allows himself the “perverted commas” (LIII 99) he almost completely eschews elsewhere. Thus “the unmistaken identity” of the person in the document is that of one of its readers, marking it with his fork in order to introduce a notion of time into space. This professor is literally styling the text through his pronged instrument. As in Nabokov’s Pale Fire, “it is the commentator who has the last word”,17 although here the “last word” is a barely visible puncture. The professor’s fork 15. Joyce’s earlier drafts include more baroque punctuation – including Greek aspiration marks, suspension marks (or overlines), phonetic notation, and proofreader’s marks – than appears in the final text. These were mostly incorporated correctly by the typist and the typesetters for both Criterion and transition, but were mangled by R. MacLehose and Company, the typesetters for Faber (JJA 46: 355-56, 393, 398, 415, 427-28, 438, 450, 467; JJA 49: 467). 16. James S. Atherton, The Books at the Wake (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1959), p. 66; Sullivan, The Book of Kells, pp. 35-36. 17. Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (New York: Vintage, 1989), p. 29.



further styles the document by individuating it; that is, making it with its idiosyncratic punctures, unique. The professor’s breakfast reading activity thus exemplifies the personal style of reading that is negotiated through and by punctuation. Espacement and punctuation introduce and impose upon the page a notion of time, of tempo, spatially arrayed, for the sake of the eye, or “iSpace”, so that reading and comprehension can merge within the same activity; that is, making “soundsense and sensesound kin again” (FW 121.15-16). While prosodiæ and diastoles facilitated the reading aloud of scriptura continua, as if the written page was merely a protocol for an aural performance, something not unlike a musical score (which, in fact, it often was), punctuation marks enable a different range of functions. Beyond simply indicating pauses and tempi, punctuation enables varying degrees of consociation between seemingly disparate clauses. The page thus becomes a space for its own inter-relationships (things like acrostics and more baroque variants, especially prevalent in some strains of troubadour poetry, are good examples of this kind of thing). Of course, these often complex, often hypotactic inter-relationships don’t necessarily translate well when read aloud. Indeed, in the diacritical jumble that ends this passage, in order to read it in a way that makes sense is to ignore the diacriticals and unconventional punctuation just as one ignored the espacement of the broken china. It is a commonplace that the Wakean “sound salse sympol” (FW 612.31) plays between the graphic and the phonic. However, because of issues of espacement and punctuation, the graphic nearly invariably trumps the phonic. It is told in sounds in utter that, in signs so adds to, in universal, in polygluttural, in each auxiliary neutral idiom, sordomutics, florilingua, sheltafocal, flayflutter, a con’s cubane, a pro’s tutute, strassarab, ereperse and anythongue athall. (FW 117.12-16)

This passage is a comparatively simple example of Joycean parataxis or lists, but the logic between the elements set off by commas is not simply sequential and a logic of subordination or hypotaxis is also suggested. This is enabled by the homophony between “so adds to” (which is what is written down) and “so as to”. This phrase’s distinction between the aural and the graphic text perfectly illustrates the tenor of the relationship between the aural and the graphic text:



“sounds in utter that, in signs so adds to”. The graphic sign supplements and subverts the uttered sound. And here the comma is crucial. It separates the two phrases so that the additional clause “so adds to” can only be construed as an additional element on the page as opposed to in the ear. By dividing the elements into clauses the punctuation obscures as much as it clarifies (if not more so). This example of obfuscatory punctuation leads me to my main point about espacement and punctuation: that which facilitates legibility also impedes it. Precisely because words are arrayed granularly with clauses set off by helpful commas, pointed full stops, and plucky colons, a text might seem manageable, comprehensible, even if only in potentia. But even an espaced page, framed within regular margins, is still a place for the reader to create. Consider this passage: every person, place and thing in the chaosmos of Alle anyway connected with the gobblydumped turkery was moving and changing every part of time: the travelling inkhorn (possibly pot), the hare and turtle pen and paper, the continually more and less intermisunderstanding minds of the anticollaborators, the as time went on as it will variously inflected, differently pronounced, otherwise spelled, changeably meaning vocable scriptsigns (FW 118.21-28).

If espacement introduces a notion of time by puncturing or punctuating space (that is, the eye-space of the page), then here the temporalisation results from “the continually more and less intermisunderstanding minds of the anticollaborators”; that is, its readers infect and inflect it as it makes the rounds. Wakean style is plural; not just plural in the sense of a multiplicity of different styles as we had with Ulysses, but plural in the sense that its styles are also contributed by its readers. If, as Daniel Ferrer proposes, a manuscript draft is not a text but a “protocol for making a text”,18 then the text itself is (still) but a protocol for acts of (communal) readings. But this pluralisation entails dissimulation and distortions precisely because the anticollaborators are caught in a web of intermisunderstanding. 18. Daniel Ferrer, “The Open Space of the Draft Page: James Joyce and Modern Manuscripts”, in The Iconic Page in Manuscript, Print, and Digital Culture, eds. George Bornstein and Theresa Tinkle (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), p. 261.



The space and espacement of the white page make us all readers, and bad yet idiosyncratic readers at that. Trinity College, Dublin




Abstract: Though it may at first seem trivial or mundane, punctuation played a vital role in the magazines that serialized Ulysses and Work in Progress. This article, examining the packaging of these serialized works in America, shows how editors strategically used punctuation for many versatile and surprisingly erotic ends. While ellipses and dashes were already key players in Joyce’s works, they also formed important parts of editors’ repertoires as they censored Ulysses. The editors of the Little Review, Two Worlds Monthly, and Two Worlds creatively employed punctuation and related devices to engage readers with Ulysses and what would later become Finnegans Wake. In the magazines, these texts become more interactive, and punctuation becomes more provocative. 1 Initial (re)marks on the serialized pages In the trials that took place after the Little Review serialized as much of Ulysses as it could get away with, two judges declared that passages in Joyce’s novel were incomprehensible. As Richard Ellmann notes, the lawyer representing the Little Review “was glad to agree, since what could not be understood could not be corrupting. He rather lamely attributed the difficulty to the lack of punctuation, which, lamely again, he attributed to the failure of Joyce’s eyesight.”1                                                              1. Richard Ellmann, “Introduction”, in The United States of America v. One Book Entitled Ulysses by James Joyce: Documents and Commentary – A 50-Year Retrospective, eds. Michael Moscato and Leslie Le Blanc (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America 1984), p. xviii. In the citations below, I use LR to refer to the Little Review, TW to refer to Two Worlds, and TWM to refer to Two Worlds Monthly. Even though I am citing from Joyce’s text as it appears in these magazines, for ease of reference I provide the corresponding page and line numbers in the book version of Finnegans Wake and Hans Walter Gabler’s edition of Ulysses. Textual comparisons



As closer scrutiny reveals, punctuation and related textual markers did in fact play a key role in early readers’ perception of the serialized novel. Punctuation and typography also shaped serial readers’ experience of what would later become Finnegans Wake. At first, the lack of traditional punctuation led to confusion and uncertainty, but punctuation marks increasingly became a source of provocative play in the magazines that serialized Joyce’s work. Documenting the evolving uses and associations of textual marks, this essay will examine Joyce’s appearance in three American magazines: Margaret Anderson’s well-known Little Review,2 and Samuel Roth’s marginalized Two Worlds and Two Worlds Monthly. On the one hand, Anderson’s magazine, with its artistically-oriented community of about 1,000 readers, sought to give daring experimental authors a forum for their stylistically innovative work. On the other hand, Roth’s magazines, even while publishing some of the same Modernist authors, catered to readers who sought more plot-driven and erotically-suggestive fare. Examining these New York magazines will reveal how Joyce made a pronounced impact on the American literary scene; how punctuation crucially influenced this impact; and why Roth’s roguish magazines deserve more scholarly attention. Ulysses first appeared in the Little Review between March 1918 and December 1920, though its editors were forced to stop its serialization with the beginning of “Oxen”; after its book publication in 1922, Roth serialized the first 14 episodes in Two Worlds Monthly between July 1926 and October 1927. He had already serialized portions of Work in Progress from September 1925 to September 1926 in Two Worlds, a quarterly publication that functioned as a kind of parent magazine to Two Worlds Monthly.

have also benefited from Ulysses: The Manuscript and First Printings Compared, annotated by Clive Driver (New York and Philadelphia: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, in association with the Philip H. & A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation, 1975). 2. Although Margaret Anderson founded the Little Review, Jane Heap had joined her as co-editor by the time Ulysses began serialization. As Bonnie Kime Scott notes, in an article that aims in part to recover Heap from relative obscurity, Heap was the “lesser-known editor”: “With characteristic self-marginalization and a penchant for brevity, Heap signed her contributions with two unpunctuated lowercase initials, jh” (“‘The Young Girl,’ Jane Heap, and the Trials of Gender in Ulysses,” in Joycean Cultures/Culturing Joyces, eds. Vincent J. Cheng, Kimberly J. Devlin, and Margot Norris (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998), p. 79).

In Between the Sheets


In all of these magazines, Joyce’s unusually punctuated texts become intertwined with other scandalous items. Punctuation marks – ranging from exclamation points to question marks, from ellipses to asterisks, from dashes to misplaced commas – strengthened the bonds between magazine items and became closely tied to subversion and censorship. Joyce’s signature substitution of dashes for quotation marks subverted readers’ expectations and generated complaints, but his text was not the only serialized item to employ unconventional punctuation. Nor was he the only one punctuating his text. Looking at Ulysses in the Little Review and Two Worlds Monthly, and Work in Progress in Two Worlds, we see how punctuation became a key part of the Modernist movement –  not only for Modernist authors like Joyce who defied norms, but also for magazine editors who strategically used punctuation marks (such as exclamation points) to highlight their subversion even while also using other punctuation marks (such as ellipses) to indicate or perform acts of censorship. In addition to discussing how readers reacted to authorial punctuation marks, then, I will explore how editors used punctuation and typography, even blank spaces, to attract attention to Joyce’s work and its scandalous elements. Concurrently, I will discuss how surrounding artefacts, such as advertisements, editorial notices, and other literary texts, employed punctuation in both provocative and unconventional ways. These surrounding materials alter the magazine reader’s experience of Ulysses and Work in Progress. In magazines, punctuation marks acquire added significance, occasionally even assuming personified form, and the act of reading becomes more interactive. 2 Punctuation in advertisements and notices Shortly before Ulysses began appearing, the Little Review published “Cantleman’s Spring-Mate” by Wyndham Lewis. The short story about a soldier’s intimate encounter with a young girl scandalized the government censors, acting as a prelude to the scandals caused by the erotic encounter in the “Nausicaa” episode of Ulysses. Largely because of Lewis’s story, the Post Office suppressed the October 1917 issue of the Little Review, just as it would later suppress issues containing Ulysses episodes, beginning with “Lestrygonians” (January 1919) and continuing on to “Scylla and Charybdis” (May 1919), “Cyclops” (January 1920), and the culminating “Nausicaa” episode



(July-August 1920).3 In both cases, the Little Review was eager to publicize and advertise its battles with the Post Office censors, and it used punctuation to call readers’ attention to these events. The magazine’s advertising campaign during the Lewis court trials represents in miniature its more extensive battle for Ulysses. In the November 1917 issue, under the headline “TO SUBSCRIBERS / Who did not receive their October issue”, a subhead titled “OBSCENITY!” boldly draws readers’ eyes to this accusation.4 In the surrounding text, however, Anderson makes it clear that the Lewis story is not, in fact, obscene, but rather an honest portrayal of war by a distinguished author. Paradoxically, the exclamation point and capitalized letters emphasize something that is not there, or at least not where we expected to find it. “OBSCENITY!” comes to describe not Lewis’s story but the outrageousness of the censor’s accusation leveled against it. At the same time, as the editors knew, and the exclamation mark betrays, alleged obscenity made for attentiongrabbing advertisement. When, some three years later, the Little Review once again faced censorship trials, the editors returned to inflammatory punctuation marks in their coverage of the event. In “‘Ulysses’ in Court”, Anderson describes her experience sitting “before three judges who do not know the difference between James Joyce and obscene postal cards”.5 Sprinkled throughout her narrative, dashes and ellipses add drama to her account of the trial, which dramatically concludes, “This decision [against Ulysses] establishes us as criminals and we are led to an adjoining building where another bewildered official takes our fingerprints!!!”6 The triplet of exclamation marks underscores Anderson’s outrage, but it also sensationalizes the story for readers, communicating excitement as well as disappointment. Given that Anderson declared the Ulysses trials would be the “making of the Little Review”,7 scholars such as Jackson Bryer have speculated that she actually wanted her magazine to be suppressed. Her punctuation                                                              3. See Mark Morrisson, The Public Face of Modernism: Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920 (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2001), p. 160. 4. LR (November 1917): 43. 5. LR (January-March 1921): 22. 6. LR (January-March 1921): 25. 7. Jackson R. Bryer, “Joyce, Ulysses, and the Little Review”, The South Atlantic Quarterly 66.2 (Spring 1967): 157.

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marks lend credence to this theory, evincing a secret pleasure that competes with her front of resistance. Anderson employed particularly dramatic punctuation marks in the Spring and Autumn 1922 issues, when the Little Review proudly announced its accomplishments under the banner “WHAT THE LITTLE REVIEW HAS DONE!” The list includes printing “all of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ that the U.S. postal authorities would permit”. At the bottom, the Little Review seems at once to ask and proclaim, “WHAT THE LITTLE REVIEW WILL DO!?!” The question mark sandwiched by exclamation points creates a sense of anticipation and excitement about the Little Review’s future – which, incidentally, did not last very long (the last issue appeared in 1929). In fact, the Little Review spent most of its life heroically fighting for survival and desperately trying to increase its subscription list. Its ads would mention Joyce’s work as a reason to subscribe: “And won’t you tell your friends that we are publishing the current works of Joyce, Yeats, Eliot, and other important men in a cheap and convenient format?” an ad of December 1918 pleads.8 The ad is, in fact, structured around a series of question marks that beg for readers’ financial support, motivating them to act on the magazine’s statements about its economic hardships. The bottom of the ad contains rows of dots that readers are invited to complete with their addresses and pledges of financial support. While magazine readers would have been accustomed to writing their personal information on the dotted lines of mail-in forms, what is notable here is that rows of dots were also used in the serialized works themselves, to indicate scandalous words that had been omitted. So readers of the Little Review, as I will discuss in greater detail below, also had to fill in the blanks in the literature that was being printed, not just in ads or order forms. The “fill-in-the-blank” ellipses typically confined to advertisements were here extended to fiction and poetry. Like Anderson and her co-editor Jane Heap, Roth also used punctuation strategically in his ads, and he was particularly fond of the question mark that opened dialogue with readers. One might describe it as a fish-hook approach that addressed readers directly, inviting them to read more and take action. Action here usually entailed buying Roth’s magazines. One typical advertisement in Two                                                              8. Like most other advertisements in the Little Review, usually at the front or the back of an issue, this one was printed on an unnumbered page.



Worlds Monthly asks, in promotion of its parent magazine, “Do You Own Every Number of TWO WORLDS?” Roth then tells his readers why they must obtain these issues, and he uses Joyce’s Work in Progress as a selling point. The first number of Two Worlds contains, among other items, “The First Instalment of The New Unnamed Work by James Joyce”, the second number continues with “more of James Joyce’s new work”, and the third number boasts “a long trenchant instalment of his new work by James Joyce”. Joyce became a regular feature in Roth’s promotional materials, and Joyce usually figured somewhere in the answers to Roth’s fish-hook questions. That Joyce was chagrined rather than pleased with these appearances is indicated by the evidence of his letters, the International Protest of 1927, and a 1928 New York Supreme Court injunction forbidding Roth from using Joyce’s name “for advertising purposes or for purposes of trade”.9 Nevertheless, while his magazine was still rolling off the presses, Roth did much to promote Joyce, even if the author was an unwilling participant in these schemes. Another ad occurring in multiple issues of Two Worlds Monthly asks, “Do you know how to obtain the most fascinating stories in the English language?” The answer, of course, is to buy Roth’s publications, including Two Worlds Monthly, Beau: The Man’s Magazine, Two Worlds Quarterly, and Casanova Jr.’s Tales. The ad prominently announces that Two Worlds Monthly is “publishing serially two great suppressed novels, ULYSSES by James Joyce and A CHAMBERMAID’S DIARY by Octave Mirbeau, besides hundreds of witty and daring short stories”. Joyce, then, is marketed alongside other items suggestive of scandal. If Anderson and Heap could capitalize on what Katherine Mullin calls “Joyce’s commercial potential”,10 then so could Roth. Although the alleged obscenity of Ulysses would prevent the book from being legally sold in the US until Judge John M. Woolsey’s landmark decision in 1933, both Roth and his counterparts at the Little Review were drawn to the daring nature of Joyce’s work, viewing it as an opportunity to attract 9. Qtd. in Robert Spoo, “Copyright Protectionism and Its Discontents: The Case of James Joyce’s Ulysses in America”, Yale Law Journal 108.3 (December 1998): 640. Spoo’s landmark article provides a very well-documented analysis of the International Protest and Joyce’s campaign against Roth, as well as commenting more broadly on the legal battles of Ulysses. 10. Katherine Mullin, “Joyce through the Little Magazines”, in A Companion to James Joyce, ed. Richard Brown (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), p. 383.

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attention to their magazines.11 Roth is often cast as a “scoundrel and thief” because he failed to obtain clear permission to publish Ulysses,12 but he was making Ulysses available to an American audience that did not have access to the book. As Ezra Pound noted in a letter to Joyce, Roth was ‘‘after all giving his public a number of interesting items that they would not otherwise get’’.13 Though Pound elsewhere expressed indignation with Roth, and though Roth’s business methods were certainly questionable, Pound’s letter and the evidence of the advertisements suggest that Roth’s magazines provided an important, albeit frequently disdained, service to underrepresented literature. In his advertisements, the “scoundrelly” Roth promoted Joyce as much as the authorially-sanctioned Anderson and Heap did.14 In addition to using question marks to lure readers, Roth also published ads that were notable for their lack of punctuation. One ad promoting Ulysses as “The Undisputed Masterpiece of Our Time” simply began a new line of type where commas or periods would normally occur, and employed sentence fragments rather than complete sentences.15 Of course, there is nothing unusual about this kind of advertisement. Plenty of other companies used key phrases rather than, or in conjunction with, complete sentences in order to promote their product. But the sentence fragment –  the incomplete idea so typical of human thought –  and unconventional punctuation were also devices employed by Joyce and other Modernists. In the magazines, readers encountered these overlapping advertising and artistic practices simultaneously, in close physical proximity to each other. In some cases, because of magazines’ intrinsic capacity for

                                                             11. Of course, when the Little Review first began serializing Ulysses, the courts had not yet judged the novel, which Joyce was still in the process of writing, to be obscene. But the letters of Pound and the Little Review editors show that censorship was an editorial concern from the very beginning. 12. Jay A. Gertzman, “Not Quite Honest: Samuel Roth’s ‘Unauthorized’ Ulysses and the 1927 International Protest”, Joyce Studies Annual (2009): 34. 13. Qtd. in Gertzman, p. 40. See The Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907-1941, ed. D.D. Paige (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950), p. 206. 14. Gertzman records that Roth sarcastically referred to his own practices as “scoundrelly” in a letter to Pound of 24 December 1925 (pp. 40, 41). 15. See Two Worlds (September 1926).



diverse content, it became difficult to tell whether a given item was an advertisement or a literary work.16 In light of all the recent work on Modernism and commercial culture that has challenged Andreas Huyssen’s Great Divide, it is worthwhile noting that punctuation formed yet another category that blurred the distinction between art and advertisement.17 Parallels between art and advertisement have, of course, been documented by many scholars reassessing Modernism, including Jennifer Wicke, Mark Morrisson, Lawrence Rainey, and numerous others. Much of the reassessment has centered on large-scale patterns and themes, such as the structures of cash flow and patronage, writers’ fascination with advertising, the marketing of literary works, or scenes of consumption within texts. I think it is worth emphasizing that Modernism’s intersection with commercial culture extended to the small details of punctuation. One can see this both in the way little magazines advertised themselves, often appropriating mass-market techniques for their own purposes,18 and in the way literary works adopted punctuation practices typical of advertisement. 3 Ulysses: dashes, ellipses, and censorship Joyce’s substitution of the dash for the quotation mark has long been a signature of his literary style. In the magazines, however, Joyce’s tiret is situated within a broader context of dashes and other forms of nonstandard punctuation. In the Little Review, where he appears alongside other authors fond of the dash, his stylistic eccentricity becomes a little less, well, eccentric. Dashes also appeared in advertisements for Ulysses in the Little Review and for Work in Progress in Roth’s magazines. Sometimes these dashes were used to introduce quotations, whether in Joyce’s work or surrounding materials; other times they indicated a dramatic pause; and on still other occasions they indicated an omission. Hence the function of dashes spilled over into that of ellipses. The versatile forms and                                                              16. See, for example, Morrisson, The Public Face of Modernism, pp. 99-100; 12628. 17. Along similar lines, Johanna Drucker observes, “the forms of graphic design which would become hallmark elements of avant-garde typography were already fully in place in advertising and commercial work by the end of the nineteenth century” in The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 94. 18. See Morrisson, The Public Face of Modernism, p. 6.

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functions of punctuation are accentuated in the magazines, where dashes and ellipses were inserted to censor problematic passages and words. Other times, however, authors used dashes and ellipses as integral parts of the original text. Thus dashes and ellipses were authorial in some cases and editorial in other cases. For early readers of Joyce’s text, the distinction between these two sources was sometimes but not always evident. Even before Joyce wrote “Penelope”, with its omitted apostrophes and scarcity of periods, readers found his unconventionally punctuated prose difficult to navigate. Readers’ responses to Ulysses are preserved in the so-called “Reader-Critic” section at the back of the Little Review, which printed letters to the editor and provided a forum for debate. In the Reader-Critic column of July 1918, when “Lotus Eaters” was being serialized, one reader wrote in to complain, “I cannot see that the drivel that passes for conversation in the Joyce atrocity is improved by the omission of quotation marks.”19 The reader continues, “Joyce’s pleasing habit of throwing chunks of filth into the midst of incoherent maunderings is not at all interesting and rather disgusting.”20 After launching additional complaints against Joyce’s fellow contributors Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, the reader concludes, “What you need is a literary adviser.”21 When this reader accused the Little Review of depending too much on “shock to taste and convention”,22 he was including nonstandard punctuation practices in that assessment. Although the majority of complaints in readers’ letters focus on the magazine’s content, small details such as typography and spelling receive attention as well. Punctuation was something that early readers noticed, and that mattered to them. Notably, Joyce was not the only author who received complaints. In the Little Review, Joyce was accompanied by other authors who defied grammatical and mechanical conventions, sometimes favoring the dash as much as he did. Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, for instance, published numerous poems riddled with dashes, even while making occasional references to Joyce. Dorothy Richardson, whose                                                              19. LR (July 1918): 64. The Little Review attributes the remark to Frank Stuhlman of Vernon, New York. 20. LR (July 1918): 64. 21. LR (July 1918): 64. 22. LR (July 1918): 64.



novel Interim was being serialized alongside Ulysses, also substituted dashes for quotation marks, albeit inconsistently. When one reader complained that Richardson was becoming more and more “Joyceish”,23 Anderson responded that the only thing that Joyce and Richardson had in common was the “bond of unconventional punctuation”.24 Interestingly, Joyce’s dashes themselves underwent a change as serialization progressed. Beginning with “Telemachus” in the March 1918 number, dashes had been indented, and they continued that way until “Wandering Rocks” in the June 1919 number, when they suddenly began to be left-justified. While there seems to be no indication that first readers noticed this, the subtle shift does disturb the usual expectations for consistency in a printed work. (Incidentally, to further compound the confusion, Joyce’s chapter in the June 1919 issue is numbered incorrectly, as episode “IX”, when it should read “X”). Anderson and Roth appear to have been fond of dashes as well. Several of Anderson’s articles employ dashes, and both editors distributed ads that used them. Reading Ulysses in Two Worlds Monthly, serial audiences would have come across an ad promoting Two Worlds as “A TRIUMPH IN THREE ARTS”, “The Painter’s— The Writer’s—and the Printer’s”. The ad serves both to direct readers from Two Worlds Monthly to Two Worlds (thus promoting Roth’s magazines) and from Ulysses to Work in Progress (thus promoting Joyce). In this ad, Roth announces “THE NEW UNNAMED WORK OF JAMES JOYCE” that was “Continuing from Volume One— Tremendous”. The ad, which occurred in multiple issues of Two Worlds Monthly, uses the same formula for several other works: a title or descriptive phrase is followed by a dash and one powerful characterizing adjective. Thus an “UNKNOWN STORY BY LEWIS CARROLL” is similarly advertised as “—Delicious”. These dramatic dashes, used to introduce a memorable word or phrase, are not quite the same as Joyce’s dashes that introduce dialogue, but a flyer distributed in the Little Review of Autumn 1921 actually did use dashes to introduce quotations from critics reviewing Joyce’s work. The flyer is for Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company edition of Ulysses. All of the quotations, save one, substitute dashes for quotation marks. The flyer employs a number of 23. LR (March 1920): 60. 24. LR (March 1920): 62.

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ellipses as well, and with varying nuances. In the critics’ selected quotations, ellipses indicate deleted text. Omission here is due to lack of space, a matter of how many words can fit onto a single page, not to lack of official approval. Hence ellipses in this ad function differently than the ellipses injected into the Little Review’s serialized Ulysses. At the same time, Beach’s flyer recalls those censorial ellipses by reminding readers that Ulysses was “suppressed four times during serial publication in ‘The Little Review’”. Of course, the government officials were not the only ones to censor Ulysses; Pound, Anderson, Heap, and Roth censored Ulysses as well. As Paul Vanderham has meticulously documented, the censorship of Joyce’s text in the Little Review made for a substantially different reading experience; similarly, Jay Gertzman has documented the changes Roth made to Ulysses in Two Worlds Monthly.25 I would like to highlight the fact that editorial punctuation, or lack thereof, contributed to readers’ understanding and misunderstanding of events in Ulysses. More comprehensive explorations of censored passages can be found in Vanderham’s and Gertzman’s studies, but I will discuss a few select examples in order to illustrate and analyze several trends. One such trend is the increasing tendency toward playfulness and audacity, observable within the Little Review as it serialized more episodes of Ulysses and found itself more and more suppressed. Initially, the Little Review editors silently amended Ulysses, but they later became much more vocal about their omissions, using elaborate ellipses and starred notes to mark deletions. These notes often functioned like private jokes and became a way of teasing the Post Office authorities. Another trend involves the critical tendency to malign Roth because he failed to obtain explicit permission from many of the authors he published. In recent years, however, Gertzman, Adelaide Kugel, and Paul K. Saint-Amour have all provided cogent reasons for re-evaluating Roth’s contribution to American literature, and for reconsidering his magazine’s position with respect to the Little Review.26 While Roth’s business practices may have been morally                                                              25. See Paul Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship: The Trials of Ulysses (New York: New York University Press, 1998). 26. See Adelaide Kugel, ‘‘Wroth Wrackt Joyce: Samuel Roth and the ‘Not Quite Unauthorized’ Edition of Ulysses’’, Joyce Studies Annual (1992): 242-48; and Paul Saint-Amour, “Soliloquy of Samuel Roth: A Paranormal Defense”, James Joyce Quarterly 37.3-4 (Spring/Summer 2000): 459-77.



suspect, even if legally permissible, he nevertheless censored less than the Little Review and fought to keep daring Modernist works before the public eye. As Vanderham notes, readers of the Little Review would have found it difficult to understand that Bloom was taking a trip to the outhouse at the end of “Calypso”. They would not, I want to argue, have had this problem with Roth’s version. Before the episode reached the Little Review, Pound had censored Joyce’s references to excrement, enraging Joyce when he discovered the corrupt nature of his text. Vanderham documents these deletions in detail, and his appendix, titled “The Censor’s Ulysses”, usefully illustrates the effects of these changes. Although Pound retained the episode’s opening reference to faintly scented urine, the chapter on the whole appears far more refined and far less explicit. For all practical intents and purposes, Bloom’s trip to the outhouse is erased, as Pound whittles away references to “bowels”, reading “at stool”, “the door of the jakes”, and wiping with the pages of Titbits.27 Sometimes, multiple sentences are omitted. In the Little Review, however, no ellipses occur to mark these omissions. (The ellipses in Vanderham’s transcription are his own.) Thus original readers, unless privy to the Pound-Joyce correspondence, would actually have had no idea that anything was being left out. Instead, Bloom’s decision to go out into the garden is unexplained, left to readers’ conjectures. Is it any wonder that, immediately after this episode’s publication, readers should have complained of “incoherent maunderings”?28 The lack of punctuation – in this case, the lack of ellipses to indicate deletion – muddles readers’ comprehension of Ulysses in the Little Review. Vanderham’s “The Censor’s Ulysses” does not document Roth’s excisions, perhaps because Roth was not considered to number amongst the “various governmental and editorial authorities” who expurgated or objected to Ulysses passages “between 1918 and 1934”.29 Roth’s excisions deserve our attention, however, because they certainly caught Joyce’s attention and because they shed light on the way punctuation was historically either used to mark deletions or else omitted in the censorship of Joyce’s work. Joyce, denouncing the

27. Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship, pp. 21-22; 170. 28. See, as discussed above, LR (July 1918): 64. 29. Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship, p. 169.

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“pirating” of Ulysses in Two Worlds Monthly (LIII 145),30 complained bitterly of Roth’s “mutilation of my text” (LI 267).31 Notably, however, Roth left many of the outhouse references in “Calypso” intact. While he did censor some of “Calypso” (also without ellipses to notify the reader), he left enough evidence for readers to discern Bloom’s activities in the outhouse scene. For instance, Roth’s version records Bloom exiting his house “through the backdoor”, walking through the garden, opening another door, undoing “his braces”, and sitting down. “Asquat, he folded out his paper turning its pages over on his bared knees.”32 Roth deletes “on the cuckstool” from this sentence, but the Little Review leaves out the entire sentence.33 In Roth’s version, adverbs like “[a]squat” and phrases like “undid his braces” and “bared knees” indicate that Bloom is sitting on the toilet with his trousers pulled down. In the Little Review’s version, however, Bloom’s location and activities remain undisclosed; it appears that he could still be wandering around in the garden, getting a breath of fresh air and musing over various thoughts. Even for readers who deduced that going out “into the garden”34 meant going to the outhouse, the precise points when Bloom enters and exits the unmentioned outhouse remain impossible to discern. The outhouse and Bloom’s bodily activities therein are never described in the Little Review; they can only be inferred from the fact that Bloom went outside and brought a paper with him.35 So here, in effect, we are dealing with two sorts of omissions: Joyce’s objectionable words are expurgated from the serialized text, and any editorial acknowledgment of censorship is also omitted. In certain other instances, however, the Little Review and Two Worlds Monthly did mark their deletions. “Scylla and Charybdis” serves as a useful illustration of this transition. At one point during the library                                                              30. The quotation occurs in a letter of 5 November 1926 to Stanislaus Joyce. 31. This is in a letter of 20 September 1928 to Harriet Shaw Weaver. 32. TWM (August 1926): 215. 33. Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship, p. 170. 34. LR (June 1918): 51. 35. Strangely, Gertzman claims that in “reprinting Bloom’s visit to the outhouse, Roth leaves out more than The Little Review (‘seated calm above his own rising smell’; ‘and wiped himself with it’)” (Gertzman, “Not Quite Honest,” p. 54; U 4.51213, 537). But these phrases do not occur in the Little Review either. Gertzman continues, “Roth also bowdlerized (‘crazy door’ for ‘door of the jakes’), but Pound left out the entire paragraph in which the offending phrase occurred” (Gertzman, p. 54; U 4.494).



conversation, Buck Mulligan tells Stephen that Synge “heard you pissed on his halldoor in Glasthule” (U 9.569-70).36 Both the Little Review and Two Worlds Monthly were made nervous by the word “pissed” and decided to change it in some way, either by shortening it or by deleting it entirely. In Roth’s version of the passage, we are told Stephen “p—d” on the halldoor.37 In the Little Review’s version, “p— d” dwindles to a set of ellipses.38 Or, to preserve chronological order, we might more accurately say that the Little Review’s set of ellipses became emboldened by the time of Roth’s publication, acquiring bookend letters linked by a dash. Of course, someone might rightly object that by the time of Roth’s publication, the Shakespeare and Company edition of Ulysses had already appeared, without censoring the passage. But Sylvia Beach’s edition was published in Paris, not in New York, precisely because of the stricter governmental controls in the US; Beach’s book and Roth’s magazine were operating on essentially different playing fields. The ever-present New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, which had squelched the Little Review’s Ulysses, continued to loom threateningly on Roth’s side of the Atlantic. The fact that he published a minimally censored Ulysses and got away with it may indicate that societal mores had begun to shift toward greater acceptance of explicit literature, but that acceptance was far from complete. The risk Roth ran was very real.39 36. See Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship, p. 172. 37. TWM (December 1926): 104. 38. LR (May 1919): 19. 39. In 1927 and 1928, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice instigated legal proceedings against Roth, though not because of Ulysses (See Leo Hamalian, “Nobody Knows My Names: Samuel Roth and the Underside of Modern Letters”, Journal of Modern Literature 3.4 [April 1974]: 901). When Roth was caught redhanded producing a book edition of Ulysses in 1929, however, he was “sentenced to sixty days in jail” (Hamalian, p. 897). Another society, the Clean Books Committee of the Federation of Hungarian Jews in America, launched complaints in March 1927 that Roth’s magazines, including Two Worlds Monthly with its Ulysses installments, “were poisoning the minds of their readers. Roth’s trial took place, appropriately enough, in the Jefferson Market Police Court, where Anderson and Heap had been tried eight years earlier. The outcome of the trial is not known, but if Roth’s record in cases brought against him by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice is any indication, it probably ended in conviction” (Vanderham, p. 83). Spoo’s more recent research, however, indicates that Roth was not in fact convicted (see Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013], p. 220). At any rate, Roth continued to publish Ulysses for seven more months, until Two Worlds Monthly folded in October 1927.

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In terms of punctuation, we can establish three basic categories of censorship: changes that are unmarked (as in “Calypso”), changes that are marked but ambiguously so, and changes that are clearly marked. The Little Review’s censorship of “pissed” falls into the second category, and I want to argue that Roth’s choice of the dash does more to aid reader understanding than the Little Review’s choice of ellipses. Initially, it may seem that the dash and the ellipses serve the same basic function. However, a great number of ellipses occur on the same page and on the surrounding pages. Many of these ellipses actually stem from Joyce’s manuscript. How are readers to know the difference? Little Review subscribers would have been left in the dark. Rather than recognizing the editorial interference, they may have attributed the ellipses to Joyce’s elusive style or Mulligan’s reluctance to be specific. On the next page, however, Anderson seems to have recognized this problem when she deleted a longer passage and sprinkled several dots in its place. Then she immediately inserts an asterisk and an explanatory note: “The Post Office authorities objected to certain passages in the January installment of ‘Ulysses,’ which prevents our mailing any more copies of that issue. To avoid a similar interference this month I have ruined Mr. Joyce’s story by cutting certain passages in which he mentions natural facts known to everyone.”40 The strategy of deleting passages and annotating Joyce’s text with explanations had been suggested by Pound, who sprinkled his own letters with stylistic idiosyncrasies: “It might be well to leave gaps, at the questionable points. well marked. Saying ‘until literature is permitted in America’ we can not print Mr. J’s next sentence. [….] He refers here to natural facts, doubtless familiar to the reader.”41 Far from being compliant with government regulations, Anderson’s act of editorial censorship becomes an opportunity to take a stand against the government’s “interference” with literary production. Pound’s tone, adopted by Anderson, mocks the governmental authorities, but the ellipses also play with readers. Here, unlike in “Calypso”, readers are directly told that “natural facts” have been deleted, and the ellipses invite them to                                                              40. LR (May 1919): 21. 41. Pound/The Little Review: The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The Little Review Correspondence, ed. Thomas L. Scott and Melvin J. Friedman, with Jackson R. Bryer (New York: New Directions, 1988), p. 174. The letter is dated 17 January 1918.  



fill in the blanks for themselves. Anderson’s reference to natural facts “known to everyone” reads ironically here, since the words in the deleted passage were in fact known to no one (except, of course, the few insiders with access to Joyce’s manuscript). The creation of meaning thus becomes more interactive, since readers must use their imagination to complete Joyce’s text. In this case, the deleted passage was one of Stephen’s observations: “when he wants to do for him, and for all other and singular uneared wombs, the office an ostler does for the stallion”.42 Just a few pages later, Anderson once again injected ellipses and an asterisk into Joyce’s text, this time to mark the deletion of various erotic pairings: “Sons with mothers, sires with daughters, nephews with grandmothers, queens with prize bulls”.43 On the same page, she also shortens “hell” to “h--l”,44 this time using dashes instead of ellipses. And when “Cyclops” appeared in the November 1919 Little Review, it occurred without the erection discussion (U 12.456-78). Instead, Anderson inserts an entire line of dots, and then explains with an asterisk: “A passage of some twenty lines has been omitted to avoid the censor’s possible suppression.”45 By contrast, Roth’s “Scylla and Charybdis” and “Cyclops” appear without cuts,46 or at least without major cuts. While Roth seems to have gotten bolder, daring to print more and more of Ulysses without expurgation, the Little Review seems to have become more and more vocal about the excisions it was making to Joyce’s text. The ellipses, at first entirely omitted (in “Calypso”), get longer and longer, eventually stretching across the entire page in “Cyclops”.47 Not only did the Little Review interfere with Joyce’s text, but it wanted to make this interference known. Punctuation marks thus serve as an important indicator of the Little Review’s evolving attitude toward censorship, as it underwent a

42. Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship, p. 172; U 9.663-64. Gabler’s edition also includes “holy” before “office”. 43. Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship, p. 172; cf. LR (May 1919): 26 and U 9.852-54. 44. LR (May 1919): 26; U 9.846; not mentioned in Vanderham’s appendix. 45. LR (November 1919): 49. 46. Gertzman, “Not Quite Honest”, p. 54. 47. While it is true that the Little Review made a few other silent emendations, such as deleting “wet” to describe the semen on Bloom’s shirt (LR [July-August 1920]: 46; Vanderham, p. 179; U 13.851), the general trend is toward an increasing number of ellipses and announcements that draw attention to censored passages.

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transition from silent amender to flamboyant editor and outspoken champion of Joyce’s work. 4 Work in Progress: sexy letters in Roth’s magazines Punctuation may seem trivial or mundane, but we know from Joyce’s writing that it was important to him (think of his famously insistent instructions to make the period at the end of “Ithaca” more visible), from Joyce’s readers that it was influential in the way they perceived and judged his work, and from Joyce’s editors that it was an integral part of their marketing and selective censorship strategies. Moreover, the small details of punctuation and typography became intertwined with the intimate details of sex and physical desire in magazines that serialized Joyce’s works. This went beyond using exclamation points to draw attention to alleged obscenities and sex scandals in literature. It also involved explicit comparisons between punctuation and sexuality. The sexual associations of punctuation become particularly evident in Roth’s magazines, which promoted a daring and salacious Modernism. Even as Joyce was intermingling references to punctuation marks and women’s bodies in his description of the letter and its envelope in Finnegans Wake (then Work in Progress), Roth was publishing letters and stories that used punctuation as a metaphor for understanding sexuality. While Joyce was sprinkling his prose with references to “the nonpresence of inverted commas (sometime called quotation marks)”48 and “passionpallid nudity”,49 Roth was highlighting the provocative potential of commas and periods. Both Roth and Joyce eroticized the processes of reading and writing, which are after all very intimate acts. In the same issue of Two Worlds that described the sexualized Wakean letter, Roth published a story, “The Milk of Heavenly Kindness”, in which he envisions an encounter between Voltaire and Casanova, a meeting that quickly turns to the subject of writing and punctuation. Voltaire describes how Casanova, a writer known for his erotic conquests, has offended him: “By many things in your books and in your life, but mostly, I think, by your commas.”50 Voltaire continues in this vein for quite some length, uttering such sentiments as:                                                              48. TW (September 1925): 45; cf. FW 108.33-34. 49. TW (September 1925): 45; FW 109.10-11. 50. TW (September 1925): 74.


Sigler  Few things in the world, I assure you, have caused me to suffer as much as your misplaced, unlettered, spiritless commas. […] I would rather witness a flagrant instance of a misplaced confidence than a comma only faintly out of place. For a misplaced confidence hurts only the one deceived while an uninteresting comma in an interesting book is a living and ever increasing abomination. There is no special art in the proper use of commas: their proper use is just one of the common decencies of writing, and your commas, Monsieur, were abominable. You employed them as our chambermaids employ the photographs of kings—as though they were common ornaments.51

According to Roth’s Voltaire, then, misusing a comma becomes tantamount to misusing a lover. “What was a comma to you who employed so many of them?” Voltaire challenges.52 It is an act of indecency that does violence to the printed page, and here one might recall the erotically charged “paper wounds”53 in the Wake’s “pierced butnot punctured” letter (FW 124.01), which appeared in Two Worlds as “pierced or punctured”.54 The reported stains and repeated word “stop”,55 at once a verbal entreaty and the telegraphic equivalent of a period, suggest that this passage articulates not only what Eric McLuhan calls a “philosophy of punctuation”56 but also a report of a sexual encounter. This connection between lustful marks and punctuation marks would strengthen in future issues of Two Worlds and Two Worlds Monthly, as these small and seemingly inconsequential textual signs – described by McLuhan as the “ultimate minutiae”57 – acquire lives of their own. In “The Case of Fritz Lavater” by Jacques Le Clercq, printed while the advertised “long trenchant instalment” otherwise known as “Anna Livia Plurabelle” was being serialized, the narrator uses the language of punctuation to describe a couple embracing. The lovers, we are told, are “punctuating their sallies with affectionate

51. TW (September 1925): 74-75. 52. TW (September 1925): 74. 53. TW (September 1925): 55; FW 124.03. 54. TW (September 1925): 54. 55. TW (September 1925): 55; FW 124. 56. Eric McLuhan, The Role of Thunder in Finnegans Wake (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), p. 115. 57. McLuhan, The Role of Thunder, p.115.

In Between the Sheets


caresses”.58 Initially, it may seem that “punctuating” is meant merely in the sense of “interrupting”,59 but as the speaker continues it becomes obvious that a larger metaphor is intended here. The caresses consist of “commas, semi-colons and periods of kisses: big, heavy, juicy ones, mossieu Tanaquil!”60 And so the speaker concludes with a flourish, punctuating this account with an emphatic exclamation point. As this erotically charged passage illustrates, punctuation marks not only performed a service role within texts, indicating where a pause should occur or a line of dialogue should begin, but also became objects of interest in their own right. In Roth’s magazines, as in Joyce’s works, punctuation marks functioned as a metaphor for understanding the human body. In “Intimate Glimpses of Anatole France”, published in Two Worlds Monthly, Jean Jacques Brousson recounts the author’s philosophy of reading – a highly sensual philosophy which, as it turns out, depends upon the minutiae of punctuation for its full articulation. “Lovers”, Anatole France is said to have expounded: have the right to more originality; let us say to first editions. […] For me now, a woman is a book. Do you recall that I have told you there are no bad books? By dint of seeking through the pages you end by finding a passage that repays you for your trouble. I seek, my friend, I seek diligently.61

As he pronounces these words, France “wets his finger and in the air, feverishly and caressingly, turns pages of imaginary parchment. He goes on, his eyes sparkling with youth: ‘When I have the joy of holding in my arms one of God’s creatures, I read the masterpiece, line by line. Not a stop, not a comma do I miss. Sometimes I lose my spectacles over it!’”62 If women are like books, virgins become the equivalent of first editions; pages of parchment represent the curves of their bodies, and punctuation marks are like the intimate inner details. In Roth’s magazines, punctuation marks become something very tantalizing. But the passage Roth chose to publish is more than a                                                              58. TW (March 1926): 258. 59. See OED definition 1c: “To interrupt at intervals; to intersperse with. Also, to be dispersed, or occur at intervals, throughout (an area or period).” 60. TW (March 1926): 258. 61. TWM (August 1926): 184. 62. TWM (August 1926): 184.



proclamation of lascivious desires. It is also a recognition that diligently studying a “body” of literary work is not that far removed from “diligently” exploring the human body (in France’s terms), that the act of reading can be as passionate as love-making. Of course, Roth was also keenly aware of pornography’s appeal, and he learned from an early age that a publisher could “make the most money by promising to titillate or to reveal ‘secrets’”.63 Punctuation, as we have seen, helped Roth in this venture. He used it in combination with typography to highlight sensational works, events, and stories. The June 1926 issue of Two Worlds, which contained Joyce’s “Shem the Penman” chapter, is particularly illustrative in this regard. The issue is devoted primarily to Oscar Wilde and his sexual scandals, but it contained other articles as well. These stories are linked by sexually provocative initial letters. Thus in Roth’s introductory column, the prongs of the initial “Y” are supported by two naked people. Later, a naked woman boldly sticks her breasts through the middle of an initial “W”, and a pole dancer spins around an initial “I”. In the initial “A” that begins Wilde’s long letter to Bosie, a naked lady (ironic, given that Wilde was in love with a boy?) peers out at the audience from within the letter’s frame, apparently unabashed by her full frontal nudity. Thus an eroticized alphabetical letter begins an epistolary letter between lovers. Max Beerbohm’s “A Peep into the Past”, which begins, “OSCAR WILDE!”, combines a sexy initial letter with an exclamation point to draw attention to the scandalous author’s name. Inside the initial “O”, a naked acrobat prepares to spin whenever the circle starts rolling. Carrying the theme of lust and scandal forward, two stories about Greek myths begin with nude figures who have conformed their bodies to the shape of “T”s. Finally, we come to the “Shem the Penman” chapter, with its prominent initial “S” (Figure 1). Arguably the most titillating initial letter in the magazine, the “S” features two living beings, a snake and a woman. The naked woman has mounted the “S”, which the serpent has wrapped itself around so tightly that it almost appears to merge with the letter. Suggestively, the snake’s open mouth stretches itself toward the woman’s raised right arm and lightly tilted head, while its tail slithers in between her thighs. The woman’s left hand reaches down to caress the snake at the point where he appears to enter her; a 63. Hamalian, “Nobody Knows My Names”, p. 892.

In Between the Sheets


small sliver of the snake’s tail further on down the “S”, however, reveals that he has merely passed between her thighs without actually going inside. Thus “Shem the Penman”, a chapter concerned with bodily functions, begins with a visual image that foregrounds this corporeal theme, but emphasizes sexual over excretory function. For general readers hoping for a good salacious story, the initial “S” could be a little misleading. But for readers inclined to uncover sexual references in Joyce’s enigmatic verbiage, the initial “S” might have been more than appropriate. Roth was fond of tantalizing readers in this way. In a previous issue, of December 1925, Roth had reprinted “1601” by Mark Twain, a risqué story about social life in the time of the Tudors, along with the following editorial note: The three most expressive words in the English vocabulary of love (two nouns and one verb, presenting in instalments of four letters the complete paraphernalia of creation) are so generally looked down on by respectable people, that your editor, who loves his liberty almost as much as he loves his literature, is compelled to leave a space wherever one of them occurs in this story. Let each reader insert the words in his own copy, I say, for if he cannot fill out these spaces, I swear to you he couldn’t fill anything else.64

Roth never reveals what these three mystery words are. Instead, he challenges his reader (and it does seem to be a male reader) to prove his prowess. In accordance with this suggestive editorial note, wherein blank textual spaces are compared to bodily holes, readers are faced with such fill-in-the-blank moments as: thou’lt tickle thy tender with many a mousie squeak before thou learn’st to blow a hurricane.65 a certain Emperor [was] of such mightie prowess that he did take ten in ye compass of a single night.66 Before I hadde gained my fourteenth yeare, I hadde learned that them would explore a , stopped not to consider ye spelling o’t.67

                                                             64. TW (December 1925): 118. 65. TW (December 1925): 120. 66. TW (December 1925): 121.



Much as Anderson and Pound had censored Joyce’s text, inserting ellipses that readers had to fill in themselves, Roth censored Twain’s story, inserting blank spaces that served essentially the same function as ellipses. In both cases, the act of reading became a guessing game, wherein readers used their imaginations to fill in the blanks and generate missing content. Roth’s blank spaces might also be instructively compared to the Little Review’s famous blank issue of September 1916, issued as a “Want Ad” because the magazine had not received enough quality submissions; or the June-July 1915 issue, where blanks occurred where businesses might have placed their advertisements, but didn’t. Although the battles for advertising revenue and artistic acceptance were certainly serious, these editorial moves were also playful and “imaginative promotional strategies”.68 While missing words or censorial demands could certainly cause frustration, such instances also provided opportunities for magazine editors to highlight the subversive and tantalizing nature of the texts they were publishing. Punctuation marks became an important part of editors’ repertoires, as they sought simultaneously to make obscenity acceptable and to stimulate readers’ interest and interaction with the daring texts of Modernism. 5 Concluding observations In Modernism, the so-called “Revolution of the Word” had a corollary in the revolution of punctuation.69 Alongside Joyce’s substitution of the tiret for the quotation mark, we might recall Woolf’s characters 67. TW (December 1925): 122. 68. Mullin, “Joyce through the Little Magazines”, p. 380. 69. In “The Revolution of Language and James Joyce”, Eugene Jolas writes, “When the beginnings of the twentieth century are seen in perspective, it will be found that the disintegration of words and their subsequent reconstruction on other planes constitute some of the most important phenomena of our age. The traditional meaning of words is being subverted, and a panic seizes the upholders of the norm as they contemplate the process of destruction that opens up heretofore undreamed-of possibilities of expression” (transition [February 1928 (no.11)]: 109). See also transition no. 16/17, June 1929, for the magazine’s proclamation concerning the “Revolution of the Word”. In the Summer 1928 issue (no. 13), Malcolm Cowley observes, less flatteringly, “Of all periods, Modern is the most irritating. […] To be obscene is modern. To omit punctuation and connectives is the white shirt-front of modernism” (Notes to “Tar Babies”, p. 97).

In Between the Sheets


dying in brackets, e.e. cummings’s exploitation of parentheses, and Gertrude Stein’s observations about the hierarchies governing commas, periods, and semi-colons. Revolutionized punctuation was one of Modernism’s hallmarks, which even outcast editors like Roth picked up on. Indeed, in some regards it seems that Roth was even more attuned to punctuation and its possibilities than the editors of the Little Review. But, in any case, punctuation marks, whether authorial or editorial, influenced the reception of Ulysses in both Two Worlds Monthly and the Little Review. Initial letters and blank spaces, close cousins to punctuation marks, also shaped readers’ experience of Work in Progress in Two Worlds. In the Modernist magazines where conversations about punctuation were taking place, we see both unusual use of punctuation and responses or reflections on the nature of punctuation and what it could do. Punctuation was a very versatile tool: it could be used to censor scandalous works, but it could also be used to attract attention to those very scandalous works. Even acts of censorship could intensify a work’s erotic appeal, since readers were left to guess for themselves which naughty words filled the ellipses. Punctuation, with its intimate ties to subversion and censorship, became so integral to the Modernist experience that it even assumed personified form at times. Whether publishing letters with readers’ complaints or substituting ellipses for Joyce’s alleged obscenities, magazine editors encouraged readers to think about the versatile forms and uses of punctuation. Far from being boring or casual textual marks, punctuation was cast as something that had tremendous literary potential and, in combination with tantalizing letters, surprising sex appeal. Erskine College    





Figure 1. Initial “S” beginning the “Shem the Penman” chapter in Two Worlds (June 1926): 545. Courtesy of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.



Abstract: This paper examines punctuation in Dubliners through the lens of Joyce’s correspondence with publisher Grant Richards. Joyce wanted to use the dash instead of “perverted commas” to mark dialogue, whereas Richards resisted dashes based on conventional reading expectations. Their debate points to questions about the cognitive capacity of punctuation to transpose the effect of speech onto the written page and shows how punctuation has a status akin to semantic word value. Joyce’s assertion that visual marks on the page realistically represent speech posits a changing phenomenology of representation (marking) in literature that suggests a different approach towards realism. This paper examines the ways in which the correspondence between Joyce and Richards documents an early twentieth-century struggle over perceptions of realism, readership, and the textual effects of punctuation. The relationship between the speech and the person making the speech, as between the action and the initiator of the action, has never been a constant one in the history of literary form. – Viktor Shklovsky , Theory of Prose1 I am grateful to the following fellowships for support: a James Joyce Library Fellowship, University at Buffalo; a Zurich James Joyce Foundation Fellowship; an NYU Berlin Global Research Initiative Fellowship; an NYU Mainzer Summer Fellowship; and support from the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg Lebensformen und Lebenswissen (Europa-Universität Viadrina). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2013 Sixth Annual James Joyce Research Colloquium in Dublin. Many thanks to Sage Anderson, Luca Crispi, Ronan Crowley, Hans Walter Gabler, Toral Gajarawala, Clare Hutton, John McCourt, and Fritz Senn for their valuable



What is life? That’s the question. Something not necessarily leading to plot. Burke the question of reality, in the absolute. Question only what is real to us. Something perhaps not dramatic nor humorous, not tragic: just the quality of the day. – Virginia Woolf, “Modern Novels (Joyce)”2 1 Introduction  Writing to Harriet Weaver Shaw on 11 July 1924 regarding the setting of the Jonathan Cape edition of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce complains that “They set the book with perverted commas and I insisted on their removal” (LIII 99).3 Joyce’s objection to what he perceived as the abnormality of inverted commas is only one in a long series of examples where he protested against the actions of compositors, publishers, and printers who often changed his experimental punctuation to conform to their expectations of “normal” punctuation. In this essay, I examine Joyce’s correspondence with Grant Richards in preparation for the first edition of Dubliners. Punctuation was a focal point of their debate, a controversy that illuminates how the implied set of normative conventions that a reader (whether the publisher himself or what a publisher thinks about a body of general readers) brings to a text can profoundly impact the oftenimplicit aesthetic expectations that influence taste and textual production. In this case, their different points of view related directly

feedback, and especially to Michael Basinski and James Maynard of the Poetry Collection, University at Buffalo.    1. See Viktor Shklovsky, Theory of Prose, trans. Benjamin Sher (Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1990), p. 72. 2. Virginia Woolf, “Modern Novels (Joyce)”, Woolf’s Reading Notes on Ulysses in the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, transcribed by Suzette Henke, in The Gender of Modernism: A Critical Anthology, ed. Bonnie Kime Scott (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 644. 3. For details on the publication history of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, see John J. Slocum and Herbert Cahoon, A Bibliography of James Joyce, 1882-1941 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), A11-13; Hans Walter Gabler, “Towards a Critical Text of James Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’”, Studies in Bibliography, Vol. 27 (1974): 1-53; Chester G. Anderson, “The Text of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Neuphilologishe Mitteilungen 65 (1964): 160-200; and William S. Brockman, “Composite Portraits: Review of James Joyce, Dubliners, 1993, ed. Hans Walter Gabler with Walter Hettche, Vintage paperback”, James Joyce Quarterly 34: iii (Spring 1997): 365-80. 

Marking Realism in Dubliners


to punctuation’s representative capacity, which Joyce identified with a strand of realism. 2 Historical context In the Dubliners manuscripts, Joyce wrote with what he called “dialogue between dashes” (LI 75), meaning two dashes on either side of the dialogue. The decision to do so marked a deliberate affinity with continental realist novelists and a turn away from the standardized use of inverted commas, a printing convention used in English texts since Jane Austen.4 A closer look at the history of punctuation makes evident the ways in which the dash, deriving from printed dramatic texts, marks speech in English and French novels. In the eighteenth century, the English-language novel developed largely from the popularity of Samuel Richardson, a successful printer who used typographical features taken from printed dramatic texts to signify speech.5 Through Richardson, typographical conventions, such as the em-dash or ellipsis, migrated from printed drama to fiction. Plays such as The Provoked Wife (1697) and The Country Wife (1675), among others, use the dash as a “point of suspension” to suggest the illusion of speech as immediate, hesitant, or fragmentary, as the following examples demonstrate:

                                                             4. See Deidre Lynch, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 238. For simplicity’s sake, I will use the term “inverted commas” to refer to the British usage throughout this article except when explicitly indicating the American usage of quotation marks. 5. See M. B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 93.



Figure 1. Sir John Vanbrugh, The Provoked Wife (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1808), p. 11. Image from Google Books.

Figure 2. William Wycherley, The Country Wife (London: 1751), p. 23. Image from Google Books.

In the early stages of the novel, writers used many punctuation marks, including the em-dash, ellipsis, and diple (the single quotation mark at the beginning of each line) to signify speech. Printings of Clarissa (1748), for example, use the diple to indicate speech:

Marking Realism in Dubliners


Figure 3. Samuel Richardson, Clarissa. Volume IV. The Third Edition. (London: S. Richardson, 1750), p.27. Image from Google Books.

An example from Pamela (1740) shows how the dash gives the impression of immediacy:6

Figure 4. Samuel Richardson, Pamela. Volume III. (London: S. Richardson 1742), p.8. Image from Google Books.

According to M.B. Parkes’s authoritative book, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West, the French use of the tiret, or single dash, “may well have been influenced by those of Samuel Richardson and other English novelists”.7 The guillemets (« ») followed by tirets (–) were used by Balzac as early as 1822. Images included here show representative examples.

                                                             6. For detailed publication history on Pamela, see Philip Gaskell, From Writer to Reader: Studies in Editorial Method (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 6380. 7. Parkes, Pause and Effect, p. 60



Figure 5. Paul de Kock, Un Bon Enfant (Paris: 1842), p. 12. Guillemets « » indicate the beginning of speech, while tirets – signal a change in speakers. Image courtesy of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.

Figure 6. Émile Zola, La Débâcle (Paris: Bibliothèque-Charpentier, 1912), p. 3. Tirets mark a change in speakers. Image courtesy of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.

Most French novels still use the tiret to mark the beginning of a character’s speech. English novels, by contrast, began regularly using inverted commas by the early nineteenth century, thus giving the illusion of direct speech associated with the realist tradition, as seen in the below example from Middlemarch (1874):

Marking Realism in Dubliners


Figure 7. George Eliot, Middlemarch (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1900), p. 12. Image from Google Books.

Inverted commas and quotation marks give the impression of citing, miming, or otherwise mimetically reproducing a character’s speech, with the effect that the spoken word of a character has been realistically transcribed onto the page. Inverted commas signal where speech begins and ends, thus establishing clear boundaries of dialogue, while the reader, through a suspension of reality, assumes that what is contained within the inverted commas is actually what the characters said. The history of punctuation demonstrates important moments of cross-pollination in printing traditions between genres and nationalities. While Joyce aligned himself with a continental tradition as a deliberate move away from the “perverted commas” of the English novel, the effect for an English audience would have been strange because punctuation conventions, once established, belong to national language traditions and are not typically translated. This perceived strangeness was the source of Richards’s resistance to Joyce’s double dashes, resulting in the book being printed with inverted commas in 1914 after an eight-and-a-half year struggle (Figure 8).



Figure 8. James Joyce, Dubliners (London: Grant Richards, 1914). Image courtesy of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.

3 Readership A short version of the publication history of Dubliners might run like this: following the initial publication of his first stories (“The Sisters”, “Eveline”, and “After the Race”) in the fall and winter of 1904 in The Irish Homestead,8 Joyce in 1905 contacted Grant Richards to publish 8. “The Sisters” was published on August 13, 1904; “Eveline” on September 10, 1904; and “After the Race” on 17 December 1904. See Hans Walter Gabler, “Introduction”, in Dubliners, ed. Hans W. Gabler and Walter Hettche (New York: Garland Pub., 1993), pp. 3-5.

Marking Realism in Dubliners


Dubliners. But the printer objected to key passages, which Joyce refused to edit according to Richards’s wishes. Negotiations reached a standstill in October 1906. Joyce contacted at least ten other publishers without success, and the book finally came out with Richards in 1914. A longer version of the story, including Joyce’s negotiations in 1910 with the important publisher of many Irish revival texts, Maunsel and Co.,9 and extending to present-day editions of the book, shows how debates over punctuation testify to a desire to either standardize Joyce’s writing or make it digestible for readers.10 Punctuation bookends the Dubliners correspondence. In the relatively early stages of their communication Joyce writes that he is not too picky about the book’s appearance, but wants Richards to take special care with the punctuation: As for the appearance of the book I am content to leave it to your judgment. I have no books here to select from, my library being composed mainly of bundles of old letters. I would not like the book to be too slim in form. If you send me in your reply to this details of, say, two styles of binding I will choose one of them. On one point I would wish you to be careful. I would like the printer to follow the manuscript accurately in punctuation and arrangement. Inverted commas for instance, to enclose dialogue always seemed to me a great eyesore. (Joyce to Grant Richards, 28 February 1906, LII 130-31)

                                                             9. See Clare Hutton, “Chapters of Moral History: Failing to Publish Dubliners”, Paper of the Bibliographical Society of America, 97.4 (2003), pp. 495-520. 10. For a more detailed account of the publishing history of Dubliners, see Hans Walter Gabler, “Introduction”, in James Joyce, Dubliners, eds. Hans Walter Gabler and Walter Hettche (New York: Garland Pub., 1993), pp.1-34; Robert Scholes, “Further Observations on the Text of "Dubliners”, Studies in Bibliography 17 (1964): 107-122; Robert E. Scholes, “Some Observations on the Text of “Dubliners”: The Dead”, Studies in Bibliography 15 (1962): 191-205; Robert E. Scholes and A. Walton Litz, “The Evidence of the Letters” in James Joyce, Dubliners, ed. Robert E. Scholes and A. Walton Litz (New York: Viking Press, 1969), pp. 257-293; Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), pp. 215-218, 227-231, 239241, 321, 326, 363, 395, 419; John J. Slocum and Herbert Cahoon, A Bibliography of James Joyce, 1882-1941 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), A8-A10; and Herbert S. Gorman, James Joyce: A Definitive Biography (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1941), pp. 145-58, 169-76, 195, 211-17. For Joyce’s view of the matter, see “A Curious History”, first published in the Egoist (London, I.2 (15 January 1914)), and reprinted in LII, 324-25, as part of Joyce’s letter to Grant Richards of 30 November 1913. 



Several things are noteworthy in this letter. First, Joyce wants Richards to follow his wishes on “one point”, and that one point is the punctuation, an insistence that he maintained throughout his career. Secondly, unlike later in his career when he wanted the book’s format to correspond to its tone and theme,11 he is not picky about the binding. Finally, he refers to inverted commas as an “eyesore”, indicating a correspondence between the text’s graphic nature and physical pain. He will use this exact wording almost eight years later in March 1914 at the conclusion of their correspondence. In their final negotiations, Richards asks Joyce to remove the inverted commas, thinking they were a compositors’ mistake: We will try to bring the book out in May. By the way, the Irish compositors have not treated your dialogue in the conventional way: they have not put the various speeches between inverted commas but have adopted what to my mind is a very ugly, awkward arrangement of their own, which will act as a bar to the ordinary reader. I take it for granted that the usual method can be followed. (Grant Richards to Joyce, 27 February 1914)12

Richards’s request that Joyce use inverted commas speaks to the implied, and often invisible, power of punctuation in establishing grammatical, syntactical, and reading norms. Richards presupposes that “the usual method can be followed” because any departure from convention “will act as a bar to the ordinary reader”. For Richards, punctuation influences an “ordinary” reader’s ability to process textual meaning. The conventional use of punctuation (simply stated, the use of inverted commas to indicate dialogue as associated with the English realist novel tradition) is taken for granted by Richards as the norm. But precisely because this normative usage is assumed, it becomes the site of struggle for how to mark speech. Richards thinks 11. For example, Joyce wanted the type and formatting of the small press edition of Haveth Childers Everywhere (Paris: The Fountain Press, 1930) to match the story’s tone and content in keeping with similar parallels in the earlier Anna Livia Plurabelle (New York: Crosby Gaige, 1928). Unpublished correspondence, “Sylvia Beach to James Wells on 14 November 1929” in The James Joyce Collection, The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. 12. Letter published in Robert Scholes, “Grant Richards to James Joyce”, Studies in Bibliography, Vol. 16 (1963), pp. 139-60, here p.154  

Marking Realism in Dubliners


a change in convention will distract readers from the “meaning” of the text. Richards assumes that punctuation does not carry semantic value in the same way that words do, but the fact that this debate happened at all shows that the marks do signify, in this case, because they distract. Because adherence to normative conventions implies aesthetic conformity in matters of preference or taste, punctuation becomes a battleground for matters of sense and meaning.13 Richards cannot afford to alienate readers because of the necessities involved with running a business: he was recently recovering from a bankruptcy and had just reestablished his business in his wife’s name.14 From his point of view, the unconventional dashes are one textual strategy among many to attract a reading public for commercial purposes. From Joyce’s point of view, the dashes are a strategy to better, or more realistically, mark dialogue in the text. If Richards embodies the pull of normative assumptions, then Joyce represents resistance to convention. Their disagreement highlights the ways in which departures from conventional textual techniques (in this case, punctuation) signal “new” patterns of literary experimentation that have since become crystallized into the period we now call “modernism”. The question at stake, then, is the degree to which punctuation as a formal or representational system influences a reader’s comprehension of the text. 4 The reality effect A few days later on 4 March 1914, Joyce set the record straight that he, not the compositors, was responsible for the dashes. The fact that Richards either did not notice, or else ignored, the dashes in previous manuscripts is curious, given his frequent praise of Joyce’s writing elsewhere.15 After such an exhaustive struggle to print the book, Joyce concedes, but not without a typically reluctant explanation:

13. On taste as a form of social orientation beyond what Kant considered the disinterested universality of aesthetic judgments, see Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984). 14. See Scholes, “Grant Richards to James Joyce”, p.148. 15. See Grant Richards to Joyce, 10 May 1906, 24 September 1906, 26 October 1906, and 18 August 1911. All letters taken from Robert Scholes, “Grant Richards to James Joyce”.


Bonapfel As regards the inverted commas the high compositors are not to blame: to me they are an eyesore. I think the page reads better with the dialogue between dashes. But if you are persuaded of the contrary I agree to waive the point and let the inverted commas replace the dashes. But I think you ought not to reject my suggestion at once. I think the commas used in English dialogue are most unsightly and give an impression of unreality. (Joyce to Grant Richards, 4 March 1914, LI 75)16

This letter suggests that Joyce is after a reality effect. He finds the conventional markers of realism in the English novel insufficient, and so he submits an improvement whereby punctuation is an aid to realist apprehension. As with his letter of 1906, Joyce again in 1914 describes inverted commas as an “eyesore”. Much as Richards finds dashes to be a “very ugly, awkward arrangement”, Joyce finds inverted commas “unsightly”, and painful to the eyes (“eyesore”), capable of imposing the wrong effect on the reader (“give an impression of unreality”). The rhetoric of visual aesthetics used to describe punctuation in these letters is powerful. Ten years later in 1924, G. Howard Wren, writing on behalf of publisher Jonathan Cape regarding the publication of A Portrait, uses this same term, “unsightly”, to describe the dashes. It is striking that Joyce and Wren chose the exact same word to describe a system of punctuation. Whereas Joyce called inverted commas “unsightly”, Wren applies the term to the dash, claiming that inverted commas “in fact are less obvious and unsightly than those long dashes”.17 In addition to meaning “ugly”, the word “unsightly” means “all too sightly” in the sense that speech markers distract and interfere. Joyce, Richards, and Wren all think that punctuation, in whatever form it takes, should be as unobtrusive as possible. Both Joyce and two different publishers over the span of at least eighteen years use similar vocabulary (“ugly”, “awkward”, “unsightly”, “eyesore”) to describe punctuation that signals the boundaries of speech, but for opposite reasons: Joyce thinks that

16. See also Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce's Ulysses, A Study (London: Faber & Faber, 1952), p. 25. 17. Howard G. Wren, “Letter to Sylvia Beach, 2 July 1924”, in the James Joyce Collection, The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. 

Marking Realism in Dubliners


inverted commas are ugly, and the publishers think that Joyce’s dashes are ugly. The repeated emphasis on the visual element of punctuation suggests that all parties were aware of punctuation’s ability to convey meaning beyond a grammatical or syntactical function. Joyce, Richards, and Wren all recognized that punctuation can implicitly or subconsciously convey an aesthetic effect. Their disagreements signal a fundamental difference of opinion over how convention affects aesthetics and therefore meaning. The value placed by Joyce and Richards on the graphic aspect of how punctuation looks directly relates to punctuation’s formal capacity to transmit meaning to readers as they read, and thus interpret, the text. For Richards, aesthetic taste is a matter of conventionality filtered through a commercial lens. But for Joyce, punctuation usage goes beyond aesthetics to representation, which Joyce discusses in terms of realism. When Joyce says that the “commas used in English dialogue are most unsightly and give an impression of unreality”, the implied assumption is that his use of dashes provide an un-unreal alternative to the unreality of inverted commas. We are in dialectic territory here: Joyce does not necessarily say that dashes better represent reality, but that they are less unreal than the effect given by inverted commas. The question then becomes, “what is the less unreal?” One possible answer would be: Joyce’s mode of indicating dialogue in fiction as opposed to that of the English realist novel. Otherwise stated, punctuation marks, in the widest sense, have the capacity to transpose the effect of something akin to realistic speech onto the written page. Joyce here does not elaborate on what he means by “unreality” or “reality”. But elsewhere he speaks of his works in terms of realism, using a metaphor of mimetic reflection to describe Dubliners (“one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass”)18 and later referring to Ulysses as “the new realism” in conversation with Arthur Power.19 18. Joyce wrote to Grant Richards on 23 June 1906: “It is not my fault the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass” (LI 63-64). When giving the order of stories in Dubliners to Stanislaus, he did so in terms of life phases, partially biographical, and asked for other contemporary “realist” fiction of the time, presumably as a benchmark: “Will you read some English ‘realists’ I see mentioned in the papers and see what they are like—Gissing, Arthur Morrison and a



What is classified as “realism” is always an illusion: the author uses artificial techniques to create an impression of reality. As Norman Page points out, the representation of “realistic” speech in fiction is a far cry from how spoken speech “really” sounds.20 Instead of a transcription of overheard speech, the author provides a literary reconstruction of dialogue. Even if a text’s central theme is the “realistic” depiction of life, the author nevertheless uses constructed devices to shape speech into a believable form, as Anthony Trollope, perhaps the quintessential Victorian novelist, notes in his Autobiography: The dialogue is generally the most agreeable part of a novel; but it is only so as long as it tends in some way to the telling of the main story. […] The novel-writer in constructing his dialogue must so steer between absolute accuracy of language—which would give to his conversation an air of pedantry, and the slovenly inaccuracy of ordinary talkers, which if closely followed would offend by an appearance of grimace—as to produce upon the ear of his readers a sense of reality. If he be quite real he will seem to attempt to be funny. If he be quite correct he will seem to be unreal.21

Trollope acknowledges that an author must use artificial techniques of to produce a “sense of reality”. Like Trollope, Joyce also desires to create a reality effect in dialogue. But whereas Trollope emphasizes the use of language to do so, Joyce used punctuation to change the very boundaries of dialogue. 5 Representing reality Joyce’s phrase “dialogue between dashes” on 4 March 1914 (LI 75) reminds us that Joyce did not always write with the single forward                                                                                                                                  man named Keary. I can read very little and am as dumb as a stockfish” (LII 111, about 24 September 1905). 19. According to Arthur Power, Joyce referred to Ulysses as “the new realism”. See Arthur Power, Conversations with James Joyce, ed. Clive Hart (New York: Barnes and Noble Import Division, 1974), p. 53. See also Maria Grazia Tonetto, “Joyce’s Vision of Realism: A New Source”, Genetic Joyce Studies, Issue 12 (Spring 2012) <> 20. See Norman Page, Speech in the English Novel (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1973). 21. Anthony Trollope, Autobiography of Anthony Trollope (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1912), pp. 207-08.

Marking Realism in Dubliners


em-dash now retroactively standardized in all critical and most popular editions of his works.22 A glance through the manuscripts reproduced in the James Joyce Archive shows that Joyce wrote with front and end dashes in Dubliners, Stephen Hero, and A Portrait.23 The below example shows how the dash creates a multiplicity of narrative effects: — So they said. I never could see much of it. I thought he was sane enough — — So he was, at times, said Old Cotter — I sniffed the was apprehensively and gulped down some stirabout. — Is he any better, Uncle John? — — He’s dead — — O….. — — Died a few hours ago — — Who told you? — — Mr Cotter here brought us the news. He was passing …. — — Yes, I just happened to be passing and I noticed the windows …. You know. So I just knocked softly — — Do you think they will bring him to the chapel? asked my aunt — — O, no, ma’am. I wouldn’t say so — — Very unlikely my uncle agreed — (Yale 2.1-2; see JJA 4, 335).

At first glance, it might appear that the double dashes function like inverted commas indicating the boundaries of dialogue. But the dashes function also as end punctuation in lieu of a full stop. The dashes serve double, even triple, duty: 1) they function like inverted commas by marking the boundaries of speech; 2) they serve as end punctuation; 3) they function like a “point of suspension”, expressing hesitancy and extending speech into a future of unknown temporal duration. The suspended, yet enclosed, effect is emphasized when Joyce uses ellipses before the dash, e.g. “—O…—” The narrator’s commentary is also placed between the concluding dash of one character’s speech and the opening dash of another’s, such as 22. A popular edition that has printed Joyce’s work with inverted commas is the 1996 Penguin Popular Classics edition, which republishes the 1926 text of Dubliners. 23. For examples of Joyce’s manuscript writing, see JJA 4 for Dubliners, JJA 8 for Stephen Hero, and JJA 9 and 10 for A Portrait.


Bonapfel — So he was, at times, said Old Cotter — I sniffed the was apprehensively and gulped down some stirabout. — Is he any better, Uncle John? —

Visually, the narrator’s commentary exists between the dialogue of two speakers, the effect of which blurs boundaries between narrator and speaker, thereby de-emphasizing any clear demarcation of where speech begins and ends. The boundaries of internal thought, external speech, narration, and description blend into one another, thus rendering ambiguous the character’s relation to the narrated world. At yet other times, Joyce includes the speech tag (“said”, “agreed”, “asked”) within the dialogue (—So he was, at times, said Old Cotter —). Both the content of what the character says (typically enclosed within dialogue markers) and also the speech tag (“she said”) share space within the dashes, meaning that speech content and tags appear together like a speech act functioning as a unit. Simply stated, narrator and character dwell together between dashes, which makes it appear as if yet another meta-narrator encloses both forms of speech. Narrative theory lacks the terminology to adequately describe the range and strangeness of Joyce’s dialogic marking choices. Narrative theory largely depends on the assumption that we can clearly distinguish between what is said and not said in fiction.24 But Joyce’s 24. Narratology is a complicated field, but the basic debates in narrative theory, largely stemming from Henry James’s “Prefaces” to The New York Edition (19071909), indicate different ways of marking boundaries between speakers (narrators and characters) and establishing the time of the text (story versus discourse). See Henry James, The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces by Henry James (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Gerard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980); M.M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981); and M.M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986). More specifically, the use of double dashes challenges the widespread view that we can distinguish between character and narrator, most readily associated with Hugh Kenner’s “Uncle Charles Principle”, but formulated ten years earlier by Robert Scholes, who argued that Joyce’s revisions in the Dubliners manuscripts resulted in a gradual effacement of the narrative voice in favour of “a system whereby the events and characters presented in the narrative rather than any assumed narrative persona determine the diction and syntax of the narrative prose”. See Scholes, “The Evidence of the Letters”, p. 240; and Hugh Kenner, Joyce’s Voices (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1978), pp. 15-38. I am grateful to conversation with Toral Gajarawala for developing these thoughts. 

Marking Realism in Dubliners


use of “dialogue between dashes” defamiliarizes the very boundaries of speech, and therefore interrogates the assumption that we can easily distinguish among the “voices” of character and speech, narrator and description. The textual effects of the “dialogue between dashes” blur the boundaries that mark the external world (that is, the described world as presented either through the dialogue of other characters or the narrator who describes that world) from the internally-mediated spaces of a character’s voice and thoughts. The resulting ambiguity signifies a new orientation towards reality, taking the form of an internalized hyper-reality in Dubliners. The “new realism” of Ulysses is a type of psychological realism that Virginia Woolf described as an “attempt to get thinking into literature”.25 Despite Joyce’s alleged resistance to psychoanalysis,26 his renegotiation of the boundaries between reality and consciousness aligns him with thinkers such as Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and Jung.27 6 Conclusion Because dialogue in Dubliners was printed in 1914 with inverted commas according to Richards’s wishes, we cannot tell how readers might have responded to an edition with dashes. But later reviewers, such as H.G. Wells, expressed puzzlement over the dashes in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, comparing the phenomenon to an unpleasant bodily experience (“most of the talk flickers blindingly with these dashes, one has the same wincing feeling of being flicked at that one used to have in the early cinema shows. I think Mr. Joyce has failed to discredit the inverted comma”).28 Incidentally, Virginia Woolf similarly used cinematic rhetoric to describe Ulysses: “he is concerned at all costs to reveal the flickerings of that innermost

25. Woolf, “Modern Novels (Joyce)”, p. 642. For more on psychological realism and the relation between Joyce and Woolf, see Suzette A. Henke, “Virginia Woolf Reads James Joyce: The Ulysses Notebook,” in James Joyce: The Centennial Symposium, eds. Morris Beja, Phillip Herring, Maurice Harmon, and David Norris (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), pp.39-42. 26. See Ellmann, James Joyce, p. 405 and pp. 480-81. 27. See Colin MacCabe, James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word (London: The Macmillan Press, 1978). 28. H.G. Wells, “James Joyce”, in James Joyce: The Critical Heritage, ed. Robert H. Deming (New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1970), p. 87.



flame.”29 Woolf’s reading notes reveal that she appreciated Joyce’s willingness to discard convention (“he’s attempting to do away with the machinery”), a process that she links to Joyce’s recording of consciousness (“It is an attempt to get thinking into literature”) and cinematic method (“Possibly like a cinema that shows you very slowly, how a hare does jump; all pictures were a little made up before. Here is thought made phonetic—taken to bits.”)30 Quite simply, Joyce’s experiments in punctuation enable the effects that Wells and Woolf describe. An awareness of conventions is required in order to understand artistic departures, which often take the shape of “defamiliarization,”31 thus illuminating by contrast what is “new” in modernist experimentation. But as the correspondence between Richards and Joyce shows, it is often difficult to pinpoint the exact nature of those conventions (with the exception of explicit rules such as house style), particularly in regard to the effect on potential readers or subsequent interpretations.32 Editorial insistence on convention is a subtle form of censorship. Dubliners never appeared in Joyce’s lifetime with dashes, and, curiously, no edition has ever appeared with double dashes as Joyce 29. Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction” in The Common Reader: First Series, ed. Andrew McNeillie (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1953), p.151. 30. Woolf, “Modern Novels (Joyce)”, pp. 642-43. 31. Viktor Shklovsky’s model of defamiliarization, or estrangement, appears in several forms. Charles Bernstein presents an absorptive/anti-absorptive model, where what is anti-absorptive, or difficult to digest, for one generation, becomes the standard for the next. Walter Benjamin argues that “A major work will either establish the genre or abolish it; and the perfect work will do both”, meaning that more significant works fall outside the limits of genre, only to redefine the genre. See Viktor Shklovsky, Theory of Prose; Charles Bernstein, A Poetics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 232; and Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (London: Verso, 2009), p. 44.  32. Much criticism claiming that Joyce was either innovative (Derek Attridge) or traditional (Harry Levin) is based on two claims: 1) how Joyce situates himself in relation to literary influences, and 2) his departure from influences or conventions. But arguments about experimentalism or innovation must necessarily rely on a common conception of standard practice. Levin argued in 1941 that Joyce draws his style from a variety of sources, and is therefore largely traditional (Levin, p. 86). Others, such as Derek Attridge, draw on logic similar to that of Shklovsky, Bernstein, and Benjamin to repeatedly argue that Joyce’s experimentalism relies on a break from convention (Attridge, p. 4). See Harry Levin, James Joyce: A Critical Introduction (London: Faber & Faber, 1960) and Derek Attridge, Peculiar Language: Literature as Difference from the Renaissance to Joyce (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988).

Marking Realism in Dubliners


wrote the text. The earliest publications of Dubliners reflect the house style of The Irish Homestead, while the first English edition of Dubliners was printed with inverted commas according to Grant Richards’s wishes. These sheets were imported for the first American edition,33 and thus used quotation marks as opposed to inverted commas. All editions up to Robert Scholes’s revised edition in 1967 similarly printed the dialogue with inverted commas or quotation marks, depending on whether the publisher was British or American, respectively. In 1993, Hans Walter Gabler followed Robert Scholes by printing Dubliners with forward dashes only, justifying the decision in accordance with the printed record of Joyce’s later wishes, not the manuscript record.34 The correspondence between Richards and Joyce serves as a reminder that the battle over punctuation was analogous to the semantically-censored aspects of Dubliners that Clare Hutton has described as “genuinely provocative” because of their “suggestions of paedophilia and homosexual priests”.35 After many years of failed attempts, Joyce ceded the punctuation along with other semantic changes, although he referred to such amendations on 16 June 1906 as an “almost mortal mutilation of my work” (LII 142). By denying Joyce his choices, Richards, like Joyce, treats punctuation like what Anglo-American editorial theory terms a “substantive”, that is, a word charged with value, meaning, and content, as opposed to an “accidental”, meaning something that can be changed without

33. The 1914 Grant Richards first English edition is printed with single inverted commas in accordance with English custom. See James Joyce, Dubliners (London: Grant Richards, 1914). The 1916 first edition and 1917 second printing of the B.W. Huebsch American edition is printed with double quotation marks, in accordance with American convention. See James Joyce, Dubliners (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1917). 34. See Gabler: “Joyce’s manuscript habits of marking off the segments of dialogue speech by dashes have neither been followed, nor fully recorded […] The convention adopted in this edition’s main text, however, is that of opening dialogue dashes only, placed flush left. It is the typographical solution answering to Joyce’s own strong views on the marking of dialogue which, in print, and at his forceful instigation, was realized in the third edition of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (London: Jonathan Cape, 1924) and has now become the common feature of the critically edited texts of Dubliners, A Portrait and Ulysses”. Hans Walter Gabler, “Introduction”, in James Joyce, Dubliners, eds. Hans Walter Gabler and Walter Hettche (New York: Garland, 1993), p. 33.  35. Hutton, “Chapters of Moral History”, p. 518.



affecting the text’s meaning.36 Richards viewed non-conventional punctuation as alienating to readers, albeit less directly provocative than the book’s morally-indicting or sexually-explicit references. The fact that punctuation is often considered a substantive by modernist authors and treated as such by editors suggests the need to re-evaluate how such terminology affects editing and reading practices.37 The correspondence between Richards and Joyce points to a broader need to reassess punctuation usage in literature. An analysis of punctuation sheds new light on questions of composition, production, and reception. Although it is difficult to definitively assess how punctuation shapes a text’s meaning at any given time, punctuation undoubtedly remains a literary strategy used by authors to order the syntactical relationships among words and phrases, and thus, the various “voices” of narration, speech, and thought. At stake is the degree to which punctuation influences a reader’s understanding of text, particularly in regards to how an author’s manipulation of punctuation enables other forms of syntactical experimentation such as the stream of consciousness technique or fragmentation. By using punctuation to change the boundaries of speech and character, discourse and narration, self and the world, Joyce realigns representations of “the modern” and “the real”. Freie Universität Berlin

36. The terminology in American textual theory of “accidentals” versus “substantives” derives from W.W. Greg’s work with specific Renaissance texts. Despite movements towards alternative methodologies in textual practice, such as a recognition of social process (McGann) and multiple versions and thus temporalities (genetic criticism), the fundamental “rationale” of textual criticism relies on a paradigm that derives from a Renaissance model, mainly, approaching the text in terms of “accidentals” versus “substantives.” Hans Walter Gabler relies on this basic division to create the notion of the copy text; he describes the “continuous manuscript text” as the “copy text” in his synoptic reconstruction of Ulysses. See W. W. Greg, “The Rationale of Copy-Text”, Studies in Bibliography 3 (1950): 19-36; Jerome J. McGann, The Textual Condition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991); and Hans Walter Gabler, “Afterword”, in U-G, pp. 1894-96.  37. Despite recognition of the need to re-evaluate these terms, they continue to be used. See George Bornstein, “Introduction: Why Editing Matters,” in Representing Modernist Texts: Editing as Interpretation, George Bornstein, ed. (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1991), pp.1-16.



Abstract: This essay explores the use of ellipsis in Joyce’s major works in light of the notion of the unsaid. Joyce’s writing explicates itself through an endless negotiation between what is said and made typographically visible, and what is unsaid and therefore invisible. On the one hand the unsaid, as the unvoiceable and the unnameable, refers to something that cannot be revealed; on the other hand it expresses an urge to communicate by using other means than language. By virtue of its oxymoronic nature, whereby the repetition of the dots indicates suspension as well as a need of completion, ellipsis perfectly epitomises such a kind of writing, becoming one of Joyce’s most compelling stylistic hallmarks. The interruption of the incessant is what is proper to fragmentary writing. – Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster1

1. Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 21.



exclamatory sentences and suspensions that do away with all syntax in favor of a pure dance of words. The two aspects are nonetheless correlative: the tensor and the limit, the tension in language and the limit of language. – Gilles Deleuze, “He Stuttered”2 ...there appear instants Between no word and no word When there are gaps between things. – Louis Zukofsky, “A”3 1 Introduction The word ellipsis comes from Greek elleipsis and means “a falling short, defect”. From a linguistic point of view, the phenomenon of ellipsis involves a complex interplay at the syntactic, linguistic and pragmatic level. The default interpretation of ellipsis usually corresponds to what linguists properly call “syntactic ellipsis”, i.e., the “nonexpression of a word or phrase that is nevertheless expected to occupy a place in the syntactic structure of a sentence.”4 However, one should not neglect another crucial form of ellipsis, perhaps more difficult to detect: “semantic ellipsis”, which could be defined as the “nonexpression of elements that, while crucial for a full semantic interpretation, are not signalled by a syntactic gap.”5 As punctuation, ellipsis denotes a series of marks (suspension dots or points of suspension) that usually indicates an intentional omission of a part of the text, or an unfinished thought, which causes a temporary suspension of the narrative flow. The use of ellipsis might be considered a sort of aposiopesis: the author’s silence expresses an unwillingness to continue, tell or write any further. Such a reticence implies a necessary reassessment of the relationship between the author and the reader. The reader is invited to take part in the creative process in order to fill, or at least try to fill, the (meaningful) gap left by the author. In his study on ellipsis and Maurice Blanchot, Michael Naas observes: 2. Gilles Deleuze, “He Stuttered”, in Essays Critical and Clinical (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp. 107-114, here p.112. 3. Louis Zukofsky, “A” (New York: New Directions Book, 2011), p. 302. 4. Cf. Marjorie J. McShane, A Theory of Ellipsis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 3. 5. McShane, A Theory of Ellipsis, p. 3.

The Poetics of the Unsaid


The ellipsis is […] a sort of speaking that conceals itself behind a simulated silence; it is coded and decipherable, and when deciphered, the reader has the impression of entering into the very intimacy that the narrator or author shares with their work.6

Ellipsis may well be decipherable to some extent; however, the kind of decoding it suggests does not mean that the ontological gap between the author’s (simulated) silence and the reader’s hermeneutical attempt can be bridged: the author’s voice can only partially replace the reader’s. As Naas observes, the reader has “the impression of entering into the very intimacy that the narrator or author shares with their work”, hence their roles do not completely overlap. Indeed, what is left interrupted and fragmentary through the use of ellipsis becomes the object of a “virtual writing”: i.e., a writing that finds its existence in its continuously being delayed, in the effacement and extenuation of the subject it is supposed to talk about. Paradoxically, such a writing awaits to become meaningful although it will be never written, destined as it is to remain virtual, suspended in an indefinite dimension between being and non-being. It becomes one of the reader’s tasks, then, to creatively produce this (supplementary) writing and fill what Iser has called Leerstellen, those “blanks” of meaning that the text either does not define or leaves open to the reader’s imagination.7 In a notebook draft of an essay on punctuation (1809), Coleridge observes that when punctuation makes the reader pause the activity of the mind, generating upon its generations, starts anew–& the pause is not, for which I am contending, at all retrospective, but always prospective –that is, the pause is not affected by what follows, but by what anterior to it was foreseen as following.8

6. Michael Naas, “Blanchot…Writing…Ellipsis”, Qui parle, 10.1 (1996): 89-11, p. 93; italics are mine. 7. Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (London: Routledge, 1978), p. 203. 8. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Notebook draft of an essay on punctuation”, in Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Complete Poems, ed. William Keach (London: Penguin, 1997), p. 424.



The pause (of full stop or ellipsis) that punctuation signals represents the moment in which the author involves the reader in the creative process, so that the activity of the (reader’s) mind “starts anew”. Such a beginning, however, is not completely “anew”, rather it is the “seim anew” (FW 215.23), to quote Joyce’s highly evocative expression which, seen in this perspective, echoes Coleridge’s passage. Indeed, because the pause is affected “by what anterior to it was foreseen as following”, the reader’s “creative” response to the pause can never be completely emancipated from the author’s interpretative hints disseminated (more or less overtly) throughout the text. From his early works to Finnegans Wake, ellipsis has become the most overt manifestation of what I call Joyce’s “poetics of the unsaid”. Joyce’s writing explicates itself through an endless negotiation between what is said and made typographically visible, and what is unsaid and therefore invisible. Whereas on the one hand the unsaid, as the unvoiceable and unnameable, refers to something that cannot be revealed, on the other it expresses the urge to reveal that secret by using other means than language. As I will show later, the textual instability and changes in fluency that result from such a complex interplay between text and non-text can both strengthen and loosen the ties between the writer and the reader. In this regard, Joyce’s poetics of the unsaid represents the only possible way to transfer the totality of human experience into the written page, whereby incompleteness and displacement work as a strategy for overcoming the limits of language. The unsaid is typographically brought to the fore by ellipsis. Paradoxically, however, the moment in which ellipsis fills the void of the blank line, hence warding off the ontological horror vacui that such a blankness may provoke, it serves as an extraordinary reminder of a failure in the logocentric system of the said. This essay explores the use of ellipsis in Joyce’s major works in light of the notion of the unsaid. By virtue of its oxymoronic nature – whereby the repetition of the dots indicates suspension and reiterates the idea of a more or less definitive pause – Joyce exponentially complicates the function of ellipsis. To use a geometrical metaphor, the Joycean unsaid becomes the locus of points at which the infinite semantic possibilities of the ellipsis intersect. Through a close reading of some passages from Dubliners to the Wake, I will show how ellipsis, as “a figure of

The Poetics of the Unsaid


absence”9, becomes stylistically more and more pervasive and semantically relevant in Joyce’s writing as we approach the linguistic universe of the Wake. 2 “Unspeakable things unspoken”: the example of “The Sisters” The poetics of the unsaid is pervasive in Dubliners. The short stories in the collection are marked by both the characters’ reticence to express their thoughts or emotions and by the interpreter’s difficulty in filling in these informational gaps. In this case ellipsis reveals what Jennifer De Vere Brody has called “a space of difference”: “where the practically nothing but (im)practically something will be (not) said and (not) written or, ‘said in silence.’”10 This particular interaction between nothing and something usually occurs during dialogical exchanges, producing interesting communicative effects, such as misunderstanding, confusion, disapproval, obliteration, reveries, evocativeness, empathy, etc. In Dubliners, “The Sisters” is the story that best embodies the elliptic primary interplay, the one between omission and inclusion, which encapsulates all the others. Like “Counterparts”, “The Sisters” is a story that ends with ellipsis dots and a full stop; that is to say, with four dots in a row. A story must end in some way (hence the need of a full stop), and ellipsis suggests that the ending has to be found in a space that (elliptically) exceeds the now of writing, so that meaning, in its perennial deferral, does not come back to itself. Writing on Jacques Derrida’s “Ellipsis”, Jean-Luc Nancy has observed: Writing does not have any limit, but it is the endless inscription of the end itself [...] Such is the last page of the book, the last line of the text. [...] The ellipsis wraps up a book within the difference of its own circularity.11

9. For further readings on the notion of ellipsis as a figure of absence see Jennifer DeVere Brody, Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008). See also Theodor Adorno, “Punctuation Marks”, The Antioch Review, 48.3 (Summer 1990): 300-05, and Jesse Matz, Literary Impressionism and Modernist Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 10. Brody, Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play, p. 77. 11. Jean-Luc Nancy, “Elliptical Sense”, in Research in Phenomenology 18 (1988): 175-190.



In “The Sisters” Joyce produces a writing that does not remain identical to itself, because it elliptically keeps on diverting from its focus, demanding a continuous negotiation of meaning for itself. Not only does the pervasive use of ellipsis strongly contribute to the tone of the story, but it also influences its structure, whereby the things unsaid outnumber those said. It is as if the reader were reading two different stories at the same time: one overtly written and the other to be inferred, one visible and the other virtual. Remarkably, the two stories do not always fit together. There are moments in the narration in which these two forms of writing only approach each other asymptotically, because, as Nancy suggests: there are not two writings, the empirical one and then the transcendental one; there is a single “transcendental experience” of writing, but it is precisely this experience which attests to its nonself identity, in other words: the experience of that which can never be the object of any experience.12

“The Sisters” is built precisely on this impossibility of fully recounting experience through writing or, to quote Toni Morrison, on the question of dealing with the “unspeakable things unspoken”.13 Father Flynn’s death, the reasons for his death, the ritual preparation of his body for the funeral, as well as the description of the characters’ feelings, have already occurred, have already been written about, but not in the story we are reading. It is the young boy’s task to recompose the text, to try to recount that unrecountable experience, which stays beyond ellipsis, suspended in the space of difference.14 At his uncle and aunt’s house, he listens to the adults’ conversation about Father Flynn. Theirs is a dialogue full of omissions and unsaid words, perhaps out of a sense of protectiveness towards the young boy, or because the priest’s story is indeed one that cannot be told: 12. Nancy, “Elliptical Sense”, p.177. 13. Toni Morrison, “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature,” The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at The University of Michigan, October 7, 1988. 14. See Jean-Michel Rabaté, “Silence in Dubliners”, in James Joyce: New Perspectives, ed. Colin MacCabe (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), pp. 45-72, in which he observes that “the child is not a narrator, but an interpreter, who also believes that Old Cotter knows more than he does, while constantly suspending the validity of his information” (p. 48).

The Poetics of the Unsaid


Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his: —No, I wouldn’t say he was exactly... but there was something queer... there was something uncanny about him. I’ll tell you my opinion... He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery. —I have my own theory about it, he said. I think it was one of those ... peculiar cases ... But it’s hard to say.... (D 1-2)

Old Cotter recognises a difficulty in defining the contours of Father Flynn’s story and his relation to the young boy, “But it’s hard to say....” he admits at the end of his dialogical intervention. If it is hard for Old Cotter to complete his speech, it is even harder for the boy, who does not have the appropriate interpretive tools: “I puzzled my head to extract meaning from his unfinished sentences” (D 3). The boy mistakenly thinks that he can “extract” or draw out meaning from Old Cotter’s suspended sentences, that in both what is said and what is not may be found all he needs to understand the conversation. It is only a question of how to interpret those sentences. In part, perhaps, this is true. The young boy, however, has completely misunderstood the function of ellipsis, which instead demands a significant creative activity on the interlocutor’s part. By contrast, in order to make Old Cotter’s speech meaningful, he does not need to extract meaning from the gaps, as if they were hiding a secret truth; rather, he has to insert meaning by filling those gaps. Yet the boy proves to be unable to creatively complete the adults’ speech, he can only establish a rapport of proximity between his thoughts and the adults’ conversations. Between Old Cotter’s line “I’ll tell you my opinion...” and the moment in which he tries to explain his opinion about Father Flynn, the boy/narrator inserts his own comments on Old Cotter (but not on his words): “Tiresome old fool!” (D 1). The boy does not even listen to his words, while Old Cotter is giving his abridged version of Father Flynn’s story, the boy is recounting his own story parallel to his. The suspension dots in the line “I’ll tell you my opinion...” are not part of Old Cotter’s speech. Rather, they serve to convey a kind of simultaneity, which is typical



of Joyce’s writing. In other words, while Old Cotter is talking about Father Flynn, the young boy is mentally expressing his contempt for him, at the end of which the attention shifts again to Old Cotter’s words (“I have my own theory about it”). Ellipsis does not fit the boy’s way of thinking. He needs to know and understand, he needs the (apparent) certainty conveyed by the full stop. This is why he is unable to signify and decode the adults’ suspended conversations. We only know that he disagrees with Old Cotter’s conjectures about Father Flynn. He is sincerely fond of the priest, although he feels “a sensation of freedom” at the news of his death. Ellipsis is associated with the boy’s thoughts only once. It is when he tries to remember the dream he had, after the priest’s death. In the dream his uneasiness and anguish about the priest emerge through an effacement of his emotional and rational control. Hence, his “unsaid” is partly visualised through the evocative image of the “velvet curtains” and the “swinging lamp”, and partly displaced in the memory of having been far away “in some land where the customs were strange—in Persia, I thought” (D 6). Ellipsis emphasises the boy’s emotional suspension and his effort to remember and make the dream intelligible: “...But I could not remember the end of the dream.” By contrast, such a moment of reverie rapidly dissolves into the adversative clause and its final full stop. The grammatical period marks the end of the sentence as well as the end of the memory of the dream, but not the end of the dream itself, which paradoxically remains suspended. Notably, this is the only passage of the story in which ellipsis is positioned at the beginning of the sentence, and not at the end or in the middle. In this case, ellipsis marks the space of difference between what Freud called the “dream content” and the “dream thought”. For Freud, dream thought is a mode of expression that is not readily intelligible – “we can only penetrate by effort and with guidance, although this [...] mode must be [...] reckoned as an effort of our own psychical activity”15 – while dream content is what is manifest in the dream and can be easily recounted and brought to memory. Because the end of the dream may be the key to interpret the whole dream, not remembering it proves that the boy is unable to 15. Sigmund Freud, On Dreams, trans. M.D. Eder (New York: Rebman Company, 1912, 1914), p. 21.

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decipher even his innermost thoughts and desires. Ellipsis indicates the interval between the moment in which he makes some effort to remember and that in which he gives up, leaving the dream suspended. “The Sisters” seems to be affected by a general aphasia, and maybe by a refusal to give words to one’s thoughts. In this regard, I find particularly emblematic the last part of the story, when the boy and his aunt visit Father Flynn’s sisters. After the usual civilities, a silence falls over the room: A silence took possession of the little room [...]. Eliza seemed to have fallen into a deep reverie. We waited respectfully for her to break the silence: and after a long pause she said slowly: —It was that chalice he broke....That was the beginning of it. Of course, they say that it was all right, that it contained nothing. I mean. But still....They say it was the boy’s fault. But poor James was so nervous, God be merciful to him! (D 9-10, italics mine)

Remarkably Eliza breaks the silence to remember the episode of the broken chalice, from which everything started (“That affected his mind,” she observes). She can only describe the facts, as she is unable to give a reasonable explanation for her brother’s behaviour. Her difficulty in decoding what happened is emphasised by ellipsis. Indeed there is nothing else to say, everything begins and ends with that gesture, with that disturbing act. The things that can be added belong to the sphere of supposition and speculation, to what Alain Badiou calls “multiple multiplicities,” i.e., anything that is, regardless of whether it is necessary, contingent, possible, actual, potential or virtual.16 Ellipsis opens, in fact, the text to a virtually infinite number of semantic possibilities. We are told that the chalice is empty. Like the space signalled by ellipsis the chalice has to become semantically meaningful, it has to be metaphorically “filled”. However, such an operation does not concern Eliza or Nanny: they remain linked to the facts, to the trivial rituals of everyday life; it concerns the boy, and the reader. The empty chalice is the symbol of a semantic void, of a word that remains unsaid, of a language that remains unspoken. It is not by chance, then,

16. See Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (New York: Continuum, 2006).



if after the incident Father Flynn loses his ability to speak, his rhetorical skills replaced by a confused murmur. The story ends with four dots: three ellipsis dots and a full stop: the infinite encapsulated in the finite form of a closed sentence. As Derrida has observed, such a double movement designates “on the one hand the closure of the book, and on the other the opening of the text”.17 3 Simultaneity In this section, I would like to discuss the function of ellipsis when it is employed to convey or better signal simultaneity. In his insightful essay, “The Narrative Dissimulation of Time”, Fritz Senn has observed that “language, its step by step nature, its linearity, imposes its limitations and its rules and thereby falsifies the experience of simultaneity”.18 Although writing cannot simulate simultaneity, because we must read a paragraph after the other “in inevitable succession”, as Senn has it, ellipsis proves to be effective in at least signalling what I provocatively call a “deferred simultaneity” of the text. This (oxymoronic) expression combines the synchronicity of some events with their inevitable sequential representation. Hence textual simultaneity is always already delayed, deferred. Only in Finnegans Wake, through the use of portmanteau words, Joyce achieves a kind of semantic simultaneity, which opens the text to virtually infinite narratives as well as hermeneutic possibilities. In A Portrait, when Stephen imagines he is eventually home for the Christmas holidays, he thinks: Lovely... All the people. Welcome home, Stephen! Noises of welcome. His mother kissed him. Was that right? His father was a marshal now: higher than a magistrate. Welcome home, Stephen! Noises... There was a noise of curtainrings running back along the rods, of water being splashed in the basins. There was a noise of rising and dressing and washing in the dormitory: a noise of clapping of 17. Jacques Derrida, “Ellipsis”, in Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (London and New York: Routledge, 1967, 2001), p. 371. 18. Fritz Senn, “The Narrative Dissimulation of Time”, in Myriadminded Man: Jottings on Joyce, eds. Rosa Maria Bosinelli, Paola Pugliatti, and Romana Zacchi, (Bologna: CLUEB, 1986), p. 147.

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hands as the prefect went up and down telling the fellows to look sharp. A pale sunlight showed the yellow curtains drawn back, the tossed beds. His bed was very hot and his face and body were very hot. (P 18)

Already apparent from their typographical arrangement, the adjective “lovely” and the noun “noises” serve as a frame that encapsulates Stephen’s thoughts. “Lovely” initiates his reverie, while “noises” at the same time ends it, bringing the delirious Stephen back to reality. Accordingly, the “noise of curtainrings running back along the rods, of water being splashed in the basins,” the “noise of rising and dressing and washing,” and the “noise of clapping of hands” replace Stephen’s “noises of welcome.” On closer examination, however, one realises that the noises coming from reality are not replacing those imagined by Stephen, but are produced at the same time that Stephen imagines being home again. Indeed, the noises from outside are what Stephen interprets as “noises of welcome.” As in a dream, Stephen elaborates these synchronous external stimuli and then turns them into internal representations. In this example, ellipsis marks both the temporary passage of the text from an objective to a subjective narrative (“Lovely...”), and vice versa (“Noises...”). The reader enters Stephen’s mind, while the objective narration continues. In this case, ellipsis prefigures the narrative mode of stream of consciousness, as in Ulysses, where the border between objective and subjective narrative is seamless and confused and unsignalled by any form of punctuation. The “Telemachus” episode of Ulysses provides another instance of ellipsis as a possible signal for simultaneity. Analogously to the passage of “The Sisters,” a character’s dialogic intervention, in this case Haines’s, is temporarily suspended to insert another character’s thought or observation, in this case Stephen’s: —After all, Haines began.... Stephen turned and saw that the cold gaze which had measured him was not all unkind. —After all, I should think you are able to free yourself. You are your own master, it seems to me. (U 1.633-37)

Here again, the suspension is not a sign of hesitancy from the speaker, or a blank space to fill. It is a stylistic device that gives the impression



of simultaneity; that is to say, while Haines is speaking, Stephen notices his gaze. In “Lotus-Eaters” the suspended sentence and the incidental narrative interpolation belong to the same character: Leopold Bloom. He waited by the counter, inhaling slowly the keen reek of drugs, the dusty dry smell of sponges and loofahs. Lot of time taken up telling your aches and pains. —Sweet almond oil and tincture of benzoin, Mr Bloom said, and then orangeflower water.... It certainly did make her skin so delicate white like wax. —And white wax also, he said. (U 5.487-93)

Bloom’s purchase of some bath and body products for Molly triggers fantasies about his wife. Moreover, the simile “white like wax”, referring to Molly’s skin, reminds him that he has to buy “white wax” too. The semantic shift from “white like wax” to “white wax” marks the difference between what Bloom really thinks, his potential sexual arousal towards his wife, and the trivialities of his everyday life. What about the unsaid in this peculiar use of ellipsis? When ellipsis is employed to signal simultaneity, the unsaid corresponds to a supplementary narrative insertion, which apparently does not affect narration. Here the unsaid is what characters think but do not verbally express. And although there are no apparent repercussions in the way events are told, it does change the reader’s attitude towards the story. For instance, knowing that Stephen has noticed a decent aspect in Haines, whom from the outset he has despised, or that Bloom is sexually aroused by the thought of his wife’s skin, in the chapter in which the character of Martha is introduced, does affect the reader’s response to the narrative, as it enhances his ability to understand the multiple levels upon which the story is built. 4 Endless thoughts Joyce employs ellipsis not only to signal a suspended sentence, whose ending should be inferred by the reader, or to denote a certain hesitancy in the characters, but also to convey the idea that some thoughts keep on running through the characters’ minds, as in a loop. In this case, the ontological void between writing and thought is a consequence of this infinite repetition, sometimes with variation. Ellipsis interrupts on the page what, outside the page, will go on

The Poetics of the Unsaid


endlessly. Such a use of ellipsis is again paradoxical: indeed, while marking a formal discontinuity in the text, ellipsis elicits its conceptual and semantic continuation. For example, in “Proteus”, following Pico della Mirandola’s path, Stephen imagines himself as the future author of an encyclopaedic work in which each book, arranged in alphabetical order, puts him into the great flux of literature: Have you read his F? O yes, but I prefer Q. Yes, but W is wonderful. O yes, W. Remember your epiphanies on green oval leaves, deeply deep, copies to be sent if you died to all the great libraries of the world, including Alexandria? Someone was to read them there after a few thousand years, a mahamanvantara. Pico della Mirandola like. Ay, very like a whale. When one reads these strange pages of one long gone one feels that one is at one with one who once...... (U 3.139-46)

Joyce’s connection of Stephen with Pico echoes the Neoplatonic theory of emanation. The sequence of embedded clauses all beginning with “one” and ending with the ellipsis suggests the incessant procession from the Prime Cause to its creatures. Stephen turns the Prime Cause into a kind of ur-writer, who “emanates” his creativity and artistic inspiration through his books. Here ellipsis does not signal an interruption; on the contrary, it emphasises the incessant movement of intellectual influence, a major topic in Stephen’s approach to literature. Notably the last word of the sentence “on(c)e” evokes the formula “once upon a time”, the conventional opening of a story, suggesting both a folding of the sentence over itself, similarly to the “irregular” circularity of Finnegans Wake, and its endless rewriting. Another example of “infinite thought” introduced by ellipsis is offered by Leopold Bloom in “Sirens”. It is four o’clock in the afternoon, Bloom is in the bar of the Ormond Hotel, nervous and anguished for Molly’s imminent adultery with Boylan, who unexpectedly comes to the bar, enhancing Bloom’s frustration and distress. As Simon Dedalus sings M’apparì from Flotow’s Martha, Bloom’s thoughts thread themselves through Simon’s vocal performance: —Come …! It soared, a bird, it held its flight, a swift pure cry, soar silver orb it leaped serene, speeding, sustained, to come, don’t spin it out


Volpone  too long long breath he breath long life, soaring high, high resplendent, aflame, crowned, high in the effulgence symbolistic, high, of the etherial bosom, high, of the high vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all, the endlessnessnessness....... —To me! (U 11.744-51)

The effect produced recalls the kind of simultaneity I have discussed previously. Bloom who is perfectly in tune with Simon’s song, inserts himself into the musical space between “come” and “to me”, marked by ellipsis. Following the musical crescendo of Simon’s song (emphasised by the exclamation marks), Bloom’s thoughts reflect sexual arousal (see the obsessive repetition of the adjective “high”) and the approaching orgasm (“the high vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all”), suggested also by the verb “to come” in Simon’s song and in Bloom’s thoughts. However, this is the moment in which Bloom’s fears are coming true. In a few minutes, Molly will betray him and another man will lie down in his bed. Here Bloom is caught just a moment before (his)story runs its course. In this moment Molly and Boylan, the two of them together, are still a possibility, their orgasm is not yet achieved. In this regard, the final word “endlessnessnessness” followed by ellipsis, emphasises Bloom’s psychological need to keep on lingering on the thought of a not yet reached physical climax. Obviously the opera’s name, “Martha”, echoes Bloom’s own Martha, Martha Clifford, who is, differently from Boylan, a virtual lover. The relationship between Bloom and Martha, and the possibility of “sexual intercourse” are destined to remain an unattainable desire, something to be perpetually pined for (endlessnessnessness). The infinite thought that ellipsis conveys in the passage represents Bloom’s last chance to think about Molly and himself the way they were. Like his thoughts, their lives are suspended in the interval between the beginning and the end of the song, after which everything will change forever. Consequently, when the music ends, probably when Molly and/or Boylan reach or reaches a sexual climax, Bloom is described as “consumed”. In the text “consumed” is immediately followed by another “come”, which this time, however, is not associated with an exclamation point, but a categorical and conclusive full stop.

The Poetics of the Unsaid


5 Cinematic ellipsis Joyce’s narrative styles in Ulysses have often been compared with narrative film techniques, for instance in the analogies between the stream of consciousness technique and cinematic montage, or for its particular use of the limited point of view.19 Both in the rendering of the stream of consciousness and in the articulation of the point of view the use of ellipsis certainly enhances the cinematic qualities of the text. “Scylla and Charybdis” provides an interesting example. In the National Library, while Stephen and Buck Mulligan are discussing the Irish playwright John Millington Synge, an attendant comes to the librarian, Mr. Lyster, announcing that a man from the Freeman needs to look up the files of the Kilkenny People. This is of course Bloom looking for the keys design for the advertisement: A patient silhouette waited, listening. — All the leading provincial.... Northern Whig, Cork Examiner Enniscorthy Guardian. Last year. 1903.... Will you please... Evans, conduct this gentleman... If you just follow the atten.... Or, please allow me.... This way... Please, sir.... Voluble, dutiful, he led the way to all the provincial papers, a bowing dark figure following his hasty heels. The door closed. (U 9.597-604)

Here, Bloom is relegated to a faceless background role. In Mr. Lyster’s speech not only does ellipsis signal a kind of formal and zealous courtesy towards Bloom, but also the moment in which Bloom’s dialogic intervention is expected. The scene’s limited point of view is further narrowed in the end, when, in an extreme close-up, Mr. Lyster is synecdochically reduced to the “hasty heels” that Bloom is invited to follow. As the door closes, Buck Mulligan, who has recognised Bloom, calls him “the sheeny”, a derogative name for Jew. The change of perspective is such that Bloom is totally cast out of the events. Within a few lines, he is first addressed as a “patient 19. Virginia Woolf was among the first to notice Joyce’s cinematic technique. See Virginia Woolf, “Modern Novels (Joyce)”, Woolf’s Reading Notes on Ulysses in the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, transcribed by Suzette Henke, in The Gender of Modernism: A Critical Anthology, ed. Bonnie Kime Scott (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), pp. 642-45. See also Andrew Shall, The Cinema and the Origins of Literary Modernism (New York: Routledge, 2012), and John McCourt, ed., Roll Away the Reel World: James Joyce and Cinema (Cork: Cork University Press, 2010). 



silhouette”, “a dark figure”, and then as a “sheeny”. It is as if he were disappearing as a character to become a type. This scene prepares the reader for the following episode of the “Wandering Rocks”, in which, once again, Bloom is presented as a figure in the background. In this apparently transitional passage, Bloom’s presence is far from being secondary or negligible. The search for the key(e)s design obviously recalls one of the novel’s major theme, that of the keys, which provides a significant connection between Stephen and Bloom. On closer examination, one may associate Bloom’s (oxymoronic) “elliptical presence” in the scene with the notion of vector Deleuze introduces in Cinema 1. Indeed, as Felicity Colman has explained, according to Deleuze, vectors are […] those rhetorical or […] geometric ellipses on screen, the individual points that enable an action on screen (A) to ‘disclose’ a situation (S), catalytic for a new action on screen (A’) (where A’ equals a modified action). […]The ASA’ is modification of a situation through movement.20

Deleuze describes this form using the two senses of the French word ellipse, the linguistic gap and the geometrical field. To explain the first meaning, the philosopher suggests the example of “the famous image of the train, whose arrival we only see from the lights which pass across the woman’s face, or the erotic images which we can only infer from the spectators”.21 In the above passage, Bloom’s name as well as his voice and thoughts are omitted and substituted by ellipsis dots; indeed it is only through the words of the attendant, Mr. Lyster and Buck Mulligan that his identity is eventually revealed. For Deleuze, moreover, the rhetorical sense of such a stylistic ellipse enables a cinematic perception of events and objects, which goes beyond everyday perception and their temporal and spatial impression, triggering off a further action. Accordingly, Bloom’s marginal presence together with the image of the keys prepare narration for the future meeting between him, as the sonless father, and Stephen, as the fatherless son.

20. Felicity Colman, Deleuze and Cinema: The Film Concepts (New York: Berg, 2011), p. 125. 21. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1. Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 161.

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As for the geometrical sense of ellipsis, referring in particular to Riemannian geometry,22 Deleuze considers the elliptical space presented in a screen situation as a space made of apparently discontinuous surfaces, in which the relation between two different situations (the two foci of the ellipsis) is comprehensible only by way of a third form represented by the vector. In this case, the vector is the sign that holds a difference through which it defines the interplay between these situations. If we apply Deleuze’s notion of geometrical ellipsis to the novel’s passage, the (de)sign of the crossed keys that Bloom is looking for (in order to represent the firm owned by Alexander Keyes) may act as the vector that connects Bloom to Stephen. Notably, the keys as a signifier fail to correspond to their supposed signified Keyes, because, although the terms are homophonous, they are spelled differently. By virtue of such a slight difference, of such a typographical slippage, however, the keys relate simultaneously to two quite distinct situations: Bloom’s need for an image for the advertisement and Stephen’s unwillingness to come back to the Martello Tower. In this ideal geometrical ellipse, Bloom and Stephen represent the two foci, while the missing keys represent the vector, which describes the spatial movement that at the same time connects and separates the two of them. Indeed, although in the “Eumaeus” chapter Bloom and Stephen have the chance to talk and express their points of view on various subjects, their positions will remain distant. The motif of the missing key reveals their common sense of marginalization, though determined by different reasons, and at the same time their impossible intellectual communion. Analogously to the parallels in Riemannian geometry, the keys allow Bloom and Stephen to “intersect” in a specific time and space, and then to keep on going, each following his own way. 6 The perfect ellipsis/the fake ellipsis The last form of ellipsis I would like to explore is related to music, but in a different way from the example of “Sirens”. The passages from

22. Named after the German mathematician Georg Friederich Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866), this branch of non-Euclidean geometry, in which a line may have many parallels through a given point, has a model on the surface of a sphere, with lines represented by great circles. It is based on the postulate that upon a given plane, every pair of lines intersects.



“Circe” and Finnegans Wake I consider here in one case describe a kind of ellipsis that merges with geometry and in the other a rhetorical ellipsis that I call “fake ellipsis”, in which nothing is really omitted. In the alienating confusion of “Circe”, a drunk Stephen stands at the pianola playing a perfect fifth – that is a musical interval encompassing eight semitones. Lynch’s cap mocks him, and talking about extremes that meet (“Death is the highest form of life”), challenges Stephen to bring his trivial speech about the fifth to some conclusion: STEPHEN Here’s another for you. (he frowns) The reason is because the fundamental and the dominant are separated by the greatest possible interval which.... THE CAP Which? Finish. You can’t. STEPHEN (with an effort) Interval which. Is the greatest possible ellipse. Consistent with. The ultimate return. The octave. Which. THE CAP Which? (Outside the gramophone begins to blare The Holy City.) STEPHEN (abruptly) What went forth to the ends of the world to traverse not itself, God, the sun, Shakespeare, a commercial traveller, having itself traversed in reality itself becomes that self. Wait a moment. Wait a second. Damn that fellow’s noise in the street. Self which it itself was ineluctably preconditioned to become. Ecco! (U 15.2105-21)

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Stephen replies by playing an octave, another perfect interval.23 In order to explain to the cap why the sound he has just produced is so harmonious, Stephen states that “the reason is because the fundamental and the dominant are separated by the greatest possible interval which....” Stephen’s unfinished sentence is signalled by ellipsis dots, which do not mark a suspension in his thought, or some kind of hesitancy in his demonstration; on the contrary, they are the typographical translation of the interval itself. But the cap challenges Stephen to complete his sentence (“Which? Finish. You can’t”), he takes Stephen’s words literally and does not understand that his sentence is also a way of verbally reproducing the harmonious sound he has just played. The harmony is in the “the interval which” Stephen repeats “with an effort”, which may suggest either that he is annoyed by the cap’s trivial remarks or that he is trying to vocally reproduce the octave singing the line “the interval which.” And again Stephen comments that it is “the greatest possible ellipse.” Substituting the ellipsis dots with the word ellipse, Stephen is able to complete the sentence to the cap’s satisfaction and leave it suspended. But here comes a variation in the repetition, a slippage of the signified in the passage from ellipsis to ellipse. Ellipse indicates the geometrical figure, and it is seldom used to refer to the rhetorical suppression of the words or the punctuation marks, whose appropriate term is in fact “ellipsis”. Ellipse, however, as a closed curve, epitomises the cap’s idea of the extremities that meet, whereby death coincides with life. The octave is the greatest and also the last possible perfect interval; it represents the furthest distance beyond which one can only return. In this regard, the movement that the octave describes can be compared with the looped trajectory traced by the ellipse, whereby the two pitches, the fundamental and the dominant, represent its two foci. Hence, as the outside gramophone begins “to blare The Holy City”, Stephen enumerates a series of “ultimate returns” to “God, the sun, Shakespeare, a commercial traveller”; perhaps the last may be Bloom who, in a few moments, will help Stephen to get out of the brothel and will take him 23. The distance between two pitches, the fundamental and the dominant, related by a frequency factor of two, is called octave and it is the widest possible. Intervals like the unison, the perfect fourth, the perfect fifth or the octave are called “perfect” because of their simple pitch relationship and their high degree of consonance. See Don Michael Randel, ed. New Harvard Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 696.



home. The idea that an individual’s existence is always already a return to a self that “was ineluctably preconditioned to become” is analogous to the one that Stephen has earlier, and more lucidly, expressed in “Scylla and Charybdis”: “We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves” (U 9.1044-46). Paradoxically, existence manifests itself in the interval between life and death, which again can be seen as the two foci of an ellipse. Existence is the elliptical trajectory from life to death, and from death to life, the eternal return of the same anew. Ellipsis in its turn not only signals the perfect harmony, but Stephen’s attempt to tune himself with existence, he is a point on the ellipse trying to meaningfully move between life and death, to make his own way in a trajectory already traced: if God is a “shout in the street”, existence is a stuck gramophone that keeps on blaring the same song. Stephen’s failure as a writer is all in this forced alignment with existence. He has failed to find a variation on its theme, to find another perfect interval, which is not given by consonance, but by dissonance; all his resolutions remain unfulfilled, like the books he will never finish. In leaving Stephen suspended between said and unsaid, written and unwritten, theory and praxis, Joyce has made of him the greatest possible ellipse. Remaining in the musical field, I would like to conclude my brief investigation on ellipsis with some reflections on Finnegans Wake, which for its peculiar structure and highly evocative language could be considered endemically elliptical. Accordingly, the poetics of the unsaid becomes the conceptual mode through which the novel articulates its virtually infinite, and never fully told, stories and substories. Apparently, the sections in which Joyce employs ellipsis dots are for the most part reasonably comprehensible. For instance, this is the case of the Tinker ballad24 (book 3, chapter 4), whose gaps do not require particular abilities or skills to be filled in:

24. This is the original text of the ballad: “There was a raughty tinker / Who in London did dwell / And when he had no work to do / His meat axe did sell / With me solderin’ iron and taraway / Hammer legs and saw / Brave Old Donald! We are off to Castlepool”.

The Poetics of the Unsaid


So there was a raughty…who in Dyfflinsborg did…With his soddering iron, spadeaway, hammerlegs and…Where there was a fair young…Who was playing her game of… And said she you rockaby… Will you peddle in my bog... And he sod her in Iarland, paved her way from Maizenhead to Youghal. And that’s how Humpfrey, champion emir, holds his own. Shysweet, she rests. (FW 582.21-27)

This passage describes the love story between HCE/Mr. Porter and ALP/Mrs. Porter, sung by a sexually aroused HCE/Mr. Porter, who does not spare us the bawdy details. As Jean-Michel Rabaté has maintained, here ellipses present “a pattern of gaps which will accept any noun”,25 that is to say that the reader, as in word games, can make his own guess, completing the text with the toponyms and characters’ names that he thinks more appropriate. Such a creative guessing/interpretation epitomises the reader’s role in the Wake. His inability to fill or at least reduce the gap between writing and meaning deepens the ontological fissure between himself and the author: all he can produce is another text to be superimposed on the previous one, like a palimpsest. Furthermore, a careful scrutiny reveals that the ellipsis in the above passage is “fake”, and the suspension dots are pseudo-interpolations, which to be filled only require that the reader knows the song. Consequently here the reader has two possibilities: he can fill the gaps with the nouns he has autonomously chosen and rewrite the story, or he can just follow Joyce’s suggestions and add the missing parts of the song. In both cases, though, the reader does not propose a real interpretation of the text. He superimposes another text or he diligently plays Joyce’s game. What differentiates the Wakean ellipsis from the other kinds of ellipsis in Joyce’s texts is the fact that the suspension it creates proves to be ultimately unrecoverable. Indeed, the text is resistant to any form of replenishment attempted by the reader, whereby the said, as a continuation and augmentation of the content, is not necessarily consistent with the unsaid. To quote Maurice Blanchot’s The Space of Literature, the Wakean unsaid represents in fact that vigorous force by which the writer, having been deprived of himself, having renounced himself, has in this effacement 25. Jean-Michel Rabaté, Joyce Upon the Void: the Genesis of Doubt (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1991), p. 212.


Volpone  nevertheless maintained the authority of a certain power: the power of decisively to be still, so that in this silence what speaks without beginning or end might take on form, coherence, and sense.26

In the polyphonic and multiple narratives of the Wake, Joyce’s selfellipsis, his effacement from the surface of the text, suspends the intimacy with the reader, loosens the ties between the two and breaks the promise of a final semantic recovery: after all the artist “remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails” (P 233). University of Perugia

26. Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature, trans. Ann Smock (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), p. 27.



Abstract: The essay focuses on how Joyce’s use of the colon in “Ithaca” is related to the way the episode re-discusses the concepts of science and impersonality. Reference to the history and functions of punctuation unveils the doublefaceted effect produced by the colon’s repeated defiance of the reader’s expectations in the episode: on the one hand, it leaves the mark open to multiple meanings and, on the other, it deprives it of any given function. In this sense, I relate Joyce’s employment of the colon in “Ithaca” to his treatment of the concept of the void, insofar as this questioning of the conventional function of punctuation appears able to recreate the void between words and sentences, so as to allow the textual organization to leave behind the traditional set of logical connections suggested by the mark. Joyce’s deviation from logical and narrative norms in “Ithaca” derives from a set of intertwined compositional procedures that he used when he wrote the “dry rock” pages (LI 173) of the episode. As we know, the source texts for the chapter – school books, scientific texts, and pedagogical religious texts1 – present a textual and narrative arrangement that allows the reader to see a conception of impersonality and objectivity in narration. Such paradoxical exemplification of an extreme version of impersonality, which needs to be considered in light of Stephen’s aesthetic theory in A Portrait, does not seem to be confined to Joyce’s intent to parody the 1. For an overview of the possible sources for the chapter and the way they have been interpreted by criticism, see Andrew Gibson, “Introduction”, in Joyce’s “Ithaca”, ed. Andrew Gibson, European Joyce Studies 6 (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1996).



objectivity and exactness of scientific language; rather, the parodic effect of “Ithaca” contributes to a wider discussion not only of how achievable, or perhaps desirable, such impersonality may be, but also of the definition itself of impersonality as an epistemological and narrative conception.2 In this context, the major structuring devices in the episode – its relation to the other episodes, the development of its content and its inconsistencies, and the paramount issue of point of view – are inextricably bound to those stylistic, grammatical and syntactical features which prove to be keystones of the chapter’s complex architecture. From this point of view, Joyce’s repeated use of the colon may be seen as closely connected to the scientific and impersonal logic dominating the episode, and as operating in line with the subversion of conventions that the hyper-conventional style of “Ithaca” paradoxically enacts. The apparent misplacement of the colon is visible from the very opening of the chapter, where the mark evades the syntactical functions connected to its usage and “improperly” comes to signal a temporal progression of the action, as further emphasized by the “then” placed after the colon: What parallel courses did Bloom and Stephen follow returning? Starting united both at normal walking pace from Beresford place they followed in the order named Lower and Middle Gardiner streets and Mountjoy square, west: then, at reduced pace, each 2. On how the objective style of “Ithaca” questions and re-discusses impersonality see especially: Karen Lawrence, “Style and Narrative in the ‘Ithaca’ Chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses”, ELH 47.3 (Autumn 1980): 559-74; John Paul Riquelme, “Enjoying Invisibility: The Myth of Joyce’s Impersonal Narrator”, in The Seventh of Joyce, ed. Bernard Benstock (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; Sussex: Harvester Press, 1982); Patrick A. McCarthy, “Joyce’s Unreliable Catechist: Mathematics and the Narration of ‘Ithaca’”, ELH 51.3 (Autumn 1984): 605-18; Harold D. Baker, “Rite of Passage: ‘Ithaca,’ Style, and the Structure of Ulysses”, James Joyce Quarterly 23.3 (Spring 1986): 277-97; Antonia Fritz, “Oviditties in ‘Ithaca’”, in Joyce’s “Ithaca”, ed. Andrew Gibson, European Joyce Studies 6 (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1996), pp. 77-105; Pierre Vitoux, “Impersonality and Emotion in James Joyce’s Aesthetics and Fiction”, in Impersonality and Emotion in Twentieth-Century British Literature, eds. Christine Reynier and Jean-Michel Ganteau (Montpellier: Université Montpellier III, 2005), pp. 43-52; Brian Richardson, “Three Extreme Forms of Narration and a Note on Postmodern Unreliability”, Unnatural Voices: Extreme Narration in Modern and Contemporary Fiction (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006), pp. 79-106.

“By Dot and Dash System”


bearing left, Gardiner’s place by an inadvertance as far as the farther corner of Temple street, north: then at reduced pace with interruptions of halt, bearing right, Temple street, north, as far as Hardwicke place. Approaching, disparate, at relaxed walking pace they crossed both the circus before George's church diametrically, the chord in any circle being less than the arc which it subtends. (17.01-9)

While the colon promises to satisfy the requirements of the mathematical catechism of “Ithaca” by introducing, by definition,3 explications (the ones expected in the answers) or lists, and by signaling that the author is aiming at further clarifying his statements, colon usage in this chapter often evades these functions thus opening the way to a series of meaningful textual effects. One way to disentangle the complex net of significances produced by punctuation in “Ithaca” is to look into what logical and syntactical rules are violated by Joyce’s use of the colon and, consequently, what set of alternative functions these punctuation marks acquire in the text. Joyce’s departure from a conventional usage of the colon appears particularly significant if, as Adorno has underlined, this mark exerts a strong syntactical function by operating as “a green traffic light” which – as Adorno continues by quoting Karl Kraus – “opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fill it with something nourishing.”4 This definition underlines the expectations arisen in the reader by the mark of the colon, whether acting on a conscious or a sub-conscious level. Although punctuation marks have become more and more invisible to the reader’s perception, studies in the field of cognitive and computational linguistics show how they still function as a strong, silent indication guiding the reader in his interpretation of the connections between the cola of the sentences.5 3. The OED describes the colon as carrying three main uses: to introduce a list; to introduce a piece of direct speech or a quotation; to separate two parts of a sentence where the first leads on to the second. As I later will show, further definitions of this mark stress the fact that in the case of the last usage, that of introducing a causal connections, the direction of the chain is not necessary carried forward, but it may rather work in both directions. 4. Theodor W. Adorno, “Punctuation Marks”, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen, The Antioch Review, Vol. 48, No. 3, Poetry Today (Summer, 1990), p. 300. 5. See especially Rona F. Flippo, “Evidence of the Cognitive and Metacognitive Effects of Punctuation and Intonation: Can the New Technologies Help?”, Paper



The history of punctuation reveals how this syntactical function has emerged as the result of a process of transformation originating from the passage from oral to silent reading,6 when punctuation came to operate as an indication for retracing the meaning of the sentence instead of as an elocutionary system signaling pauses, stress, and intonation of the sentences when read aloud.7 The effects produced on the reader by Joyce’s avoidance of the syntactical aid provided by punctuation already have been analysed in relation to the absence (or concealment) of marks in “Penelope”.8 In the case of “Ithaca”, as I intend to argue, Joyce’s punctuation works instead as a questioning presence that defies the reader’s expectations – the ones that I have previously underlined in relation to the syntactical functions of the colon. This leaves the punctuation mark open to multiple meanings while, at the same time, in a coincidence of opposites, depriving it of any significance. It is in this sense that I intend to relate Joyce’s use of                                                                                                                                  presented at the Annual Meeting of the United Kingdom Reading Association (Dundee, Scotland, July 1984); Ted Briscoe, “The Syntax and Semantics of Punctuation and its Use in Interpretation”, in Punctuation in Computational Linguistics, ed. Bernard Jones (Santa Cruz, CA: SIGPARSE, 1996), pp. 1-8; B. Say and V. Akman, “Current Approaches to Punctuation in Computational Linguistics”, in Computers and the Humanities 30.6 (1996): 457-69. See also Paul Sanger’s section on “The Physiology of Reading” in Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 1-6. 6. See Sanger, Between Words; Malcolm B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1992); and Bice Mortara Garavelli, ed., Storia della punteggiatura in Europa (Bari: Laterza, 2008). 7. The first codification of the syntactical role of punctuation is attributed to Aldo Manuzio the Younger (16th century), while “the rules for the use of such marks in contemporary English were first codified in 1740 in Samuel Johnson’s English Grammar and have remained relatively unchanged since then”. Robert J. Scholes and Brenda J. Willis, “Prosodic and Syntactic Functions of Punctuation: A Contribution to the Study of Orality and Literacy”, Interchange 21.3 (1990): 13. The linguistic studies on punctuation still show a divide in their definition of the predominant purpose of punctuation; in the above-mentioned article, Scholes and Willis have proposed to look at the elocutionary and syntactical functions of punctuation less as dichotomist but rather as overlapping in their interlaced extensional (elocutionary) and intentional (syntactical) roles. 8. See especially Derek Attridge, Joyce Effects: On Language, Theory and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 93-117; Richard Brown, “Body Words”, in Richard Brown, ed., Joyce, Penelope and the Body, European Joyce Studies 17 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006), pp.109-29.

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the colon in “Ithaca” with his treatment of the concept of the void, insofar as such questioning of the fixed meaning of punctuation allows the void between words and sentences to re-emerge, thus making the textual organization depart from the limited set of logical connections traditionally suggested by the mark and enter the territory of many possible syntactical relations. In this perspective, reference to the origins of the system of punctuation proves helpful not so much to suggest a correspondence between ancient practices and Joyce’s use of the marks, but rather to underline the conventional, and thus arbitrary, foundation of the system that has come to fill the voids between words and that we now take for granted and consider the only possible modality of textual organization. It is instead useful to remember how that same void separating words and sentences is itself only one of the possible conventions in writing, if we consider the original practice of scriptio continua.9 In “Ithaca”, the emphasis on the unavoidable arbitrary foundation of punctuation appears inscribed into a wider questioning of the referential function of words in light of the artificial origin of language (“confined to certain grammatical rules of accident” (U 17.743)). This is visible not only in how the vocabulary and the style of the episode – the syntactically complex and increasingly long quality of the answers – amplify the opacity of the linguistic medium, but also in the repeated references to processes of transcodification involving the alphabetic code. These can be found in the geometric and alphabetic rendering of Bloom and Stephen’s urinary trajectories (“Bloom’s longer, less irruent, in the incomplete form of the bifurcated penultimate alphabetical letter […] Stephen’s higher, more sibilant” (17.1192-98)) with the letters serving as metaphors both in their graphic and sonorous features; in the transcription of the single letters of Milly’s epistle (17.1791-94); in “the transliterated name and address of the addresser of the three letters in reversed alphabetic boustrophedonic punctated quadrilinear cryptogram (vowels 9. See the mentioned texts by Saenger, “The Physiology of Reading”; Parkes, Pause and Effect; and Bice Mortara Garavelli, Storia della punteggiatura. For the relation between scriptura continua and modernist experimentation see also: Steve McCaffery, Prior to Meaning: The Protosemantic and Poetics (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2001); Anthony Cordingley, “The reading eye from scriptura continua to modernism: orality and punctuation between Beckett’s L’image and Comment c’est/How It is”, Journal of the Short Story in English 47 (2006),, accessed on 14th July 2012.



suppressed) N. IGS./WI. UU. OX/W. OKS. MH/Y. IM” (17.17981801); in the “glyphic comparison of the phonic symbols” (17.731) of ancient Hebrew and Irish, and in the references to a number of nonalphabetic systems of communication (“by dot and dash system” (17.1674)); religious linguistic and supra-linguistic symbols (“the tetragrammaron” (17.1901)); and early photographic devices (“an indistinct daguerreotype” (17.1875)). More poignantly, Stephen’s and Bloom’s “common study” of the “increasing simplification traceable from the Egyptian epigraphic hieroglyphs to the Greek and Roman alphabets” (17.769-763) appears to emphasize precisely how the development of the system of language has moved towards a pragmatic transformation resulting in an increasing clarification of the meaning conveyed by language at the expense of the immediate and polyvalent quality that characterized the first systems of signs.10 This transformation shows equivalences with the mentioned passage from the elocutionary to the syntactical function of punctuation, wherein the colon, specifically, appears as one of the signs that has experienced a more radical change. Manuscripts, as well as the first specific treatises on punctuation, reveal how the modern colon derives from one of the three signs (positurae) that signaled the kind of pause to be inserted while reading aloud. More specifically, the colon used to indicate an intermediate pause between the signs which were to become the comma and the

10. I refer here to some of the fundamental issues emerging from the 17th-century debate on the origins of language, and especially on Francis Bacon’s insistence in The Advancement in Learning on the hieroglyphs and the language of gestures (followed by John Bulwer’s essay on chyrology, 1812) as the true universal languages endowed with that immediate relationship with reality that alphabetic language had lost (and one of course thinks of Stephen’s proclaiming in “Circe” that “gesture, not music not odours, would be a universal language” (U 15.105-6)). See Thomas C. Singer, “Hieroglyphs, Real Characters, and the Idea of Natural Language in English Seventeenth-Century Thought”, Journal of the History of Ideas 50.1 (1989): 49-70; Lia Formigari, Language and Experience in XVIIth Century British Philosophy (Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1988). For an overview of the role of hieroglyphs in 17th-century thought, see Thomas C. Singer, “Hieroglyphs, Real Characters, and the Idea of Natural Language in English Seventeenth-Century Thought”, Journal of the History of Ideas 50.1 (1989): 49-70; the essay also traces the afterlife of this notion of the hieroglyphs in the following centuries up to Derrida’s questioning of the “hieroglyphist prejudice” and the myth of a primitive and natural writing (p. 69).

“By Dot and Dash System”


full stop, and, as we read in Isidore,11 was to be employed when the sentence already bore an autonomous meaning but still required an addition to be completed. Significantly, the importance of punctuation in making the text understandable was already stressed before the introduction of the syntactical role of marks, with one of the first theoretical treatises in the field authored by the Jesuit grammarian Father Daniello Bartoli. In his Trattato dell’ortografia italiana (1670), Bartoli insisted on the essential role played by the three positurae in guiding the reader from one part of the text to another, and he provided for this a metaphor different from the one, commonly employed, of the organic combination of the parts of a body: that of the discourse seen as a separated set of islands with punctuation allowing the reader to move easily from one to the other. Early Jesuit grammar’s emphasis on the claritas deriving from punctuation is strongly contradicted by the way the colon is employed in “Ithaca”, where the interposition of the mark often does not serve the function to orient the reader, but rather ignites a set of perplexed responses which range from awareness of the mark, which may otherwise pass unnoticed, to its almost automatic substitution with a more “appropriate” sign, or even to perhaps the most immediate but also fertile reaction: to proceed in reading having left the syntactical connections between sentences undetermined (or, in Father Bartoli’s metaphor, the islands disconnected and opened to infinite recombination). In this sense, the way the colon is employed in the episode overlaps not only with the pre-syntactical use of punctuation, but also with the practice of transcription of the first manuscripts, where punctuation was not inserted by the writer, but rather by the scribes,12 with a process of interpretation and deciphering that does not appear distant from the reader’s task in facing the ever-moving Joycean text. Joyce deprives the colon of its traditional function in “Ithaca”. This deprivation is particularly meaningful when considering the episode's recreation of a scientific examination and/or dissection of reality and experience. The colon is in fact a mark largely employed in scientific texts not only to achieve clarity and conciseness, but also for its function as a causal connective. Interestingly, the relationship 11. Isidore, Etymologiae, “The notis sententiarum” (7th century). See Parkes, Pause and Effect, p. 22, and Mortara Garavelli, Storia della punteggiatura, p. 55. 12. See Parkes, Pause and Effect, pp. 9-20.



established by the colon between the two members of the sentence is not tied to a uni-directional cause-effect chain: rather, precisely by virtue of the erasure of a verbalized connective (because, since, etc...), this mark can point in both directions, from the cause to the effect and vice versa, up to the point of leaving the cause-effect direction open to both interpretations,13 with implications to which I later shall return. The potential causal function of the colon is amplified in “Ithaca” through the repeated use of a further feature specific of scientific writing, that of the successive use of the mark in the same sentence, which theoretically serves the purpose of pointing to a chain of successive causes (“what past consecutive causes” (17.2043)). Predictably, the series of colons employed in “Ithaca” do not enact the unfolding of an enchainment of causes, but rather the unrelated accumulation of items typical of the episode.14 In this sense, the emptying of the causal syntactical function of the colon (“The difficulty of interpretation since the significance of any event followed its occurrence as variably as the acoustic report followed the electric discharge” (17.350)) results into the collapsing of the traditional cause-effect chain, thus reinforcing the episode’s questioning of just how exhaustive a scientific apprehension of reality can. The relationships between actions, motivations, and thoughts thus deprived of causal meaning instead are arranged in that paratactic juxtaposition which is a main feature of the episode’s style (“after having, though not in consequence of having” (17.801)): What advantages attended shaving by night? A softer beard: a softer brush if intentionally allowed to remain from shave to shave in its agglutinated lather: a softer skin if unexpectedly encountering female acquaintances in remote places at incustomary hours: (17.277-80) Firstly, oscillation between events of imperial and of local interest, the anticipated diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria (born 1820, 13. Bice Mortara Garavelli, Prontuario di punteggiatura (Bari: Laterza, 2004), p. 103. 14. See Fritz Senn, “‘Ithaca’”: Portrait of the Chapter as a Long List”, in Joyce’s “Ithaca”, ed. Andrew Gibson, pp. 31-76. Senn’s stress on how the techniques of cataloguing and listing in the chapter work against a recapitulation and completion of narrative is also relevant to the perpetual movement forward enacted by the colon which I intend to underline.

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acceded 1837) and the posticipated opening of the new municipal fish market: secondly, apprehension of opposition from extreme circles on the questions of the respective visits of Their Royal Highnesses, the duke and duchess of York (real), and of His Majesty King Brian Boru (imaginary): thirdly, a conflict between professional etiquette and professional emulation concerning the recent erections of the Grand Lyric Hall on Burgh Quay and the Theatre Royal in Hawkins street: fourthly, distraction resultant from compassion for Nelly Bouverist’s non-intellectual, nonpolitical, nontopical expression of countenance and concupiscence caused by Nelly Bouverist’s revelations of white articles of nonintellectual, non-political, non-topical underclothing while she (Nelly Bouverist) was in the articles: fifthly, the difficulties of the selection of appropriate music and humorous allusions from Everybody’s Book of Jokes (1,000 pages and a laugh in every one): sixthly, the rhymes homophonous and cacophonous, associated with the names of the new lord mayor, Daniel Tallon, the new high sheriff, Thomas Pile and the new solicitorgeneral, Dunbar Plunket Barton. (17.428-45)

Such negation of the causal relationships, together with the doubledirectional movement potentially provided by the mark, open the way to further implications in the effects stimulated by the way the colon operates in the episode. The potential reversibility of the cause-effect relation introduced by the colon as well as the way this mark often evades its function as a causal connective in may be related to the circularity of religious axiomatic knowledge and to the modalities by which this eludes rational explication,15 in a way not dissimilar to how science as portrayed in the chapter fails to achieve an exhaustive explication of reality. Significantly, Stephen’s reference to such circular axiomatic logics in “Scylla and Charybdis” (“the church is founded and founded irremovably because founded, like the world, macro- and microcosm, upon the void” (9.839-42)) is re-echoed in a passage in “Ithaca” which proves crucial both for the mentioned

15. On the modalities by which the catechism operates in Ithaca and, especially, evades conclusion, see Lorraine Weir, “From Catechism to Catachresis: Aspects of Joycean Pedagogy in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake”, in Coping with Joyce: Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium, eds. Morris Beja and Shari Benstock (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1988), pp. 220-31; and Maria DiBattista, “Ulysses’s Unanswered Questions”, Modernism/modernity 15.2 (April 2008): 265-75.



double-directional movement and for the images it provides of the void: Did Stephen participate in his dejection? He affirmed his significance as conscious rational animal proceeding syllogistically from the known to the unknown and a conscious rational reagent between a micro- and a macrocosm ineluctably constructed upon the incertitude of the void.

Was this affirmation apprehended by Bloom? Not verbally. Substantially.

What comforted his misapprehension? That as a competent keyless citizen he had proceeded energetically from the unknown to the known through the incertitude of the void. (17.1012-19)

The difference between the two systems of knowledge embodied by Stephen and Bloom appears to stem not only from the opposition between abstract and experiential attitude suggested by the two adverbs “syllogistically” and “energetically,” but also, and especially, from the two divergent processes of apprehension and re-elaboration prefigured here. The two opposing directions taken by Stephen’s and Bloom’s minds – “from the known to the unknown” and vice-versa – are consequences of the crucial distinction between the two different images of the void here presented: the first as the emptiness upon which “a micro and a macrocosm” are constructed, and the second, introduced by the key proposition “through”, as an empty yet dense space to be traversed. It is by following this internal diversification of the void that I intend to propose a further possible allusion implied in the way the colon is employed in “Ithaca”: that of its functioning in a way similar to the mathematical sign of ratio, an hypothesis which is also in line with how punctuation has been read not so much as subsidiary to grammar, but rather as an autonomous system similar to

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musical annotations and mathematical signs.16 From this perspective, the chain created by the successive use of colons may also point to a series of atomic subdivisions (“Of the eons of geological periods recorded in the stratifications of the earth: of the myriad minute entomological organic existences” (17.1058)) which reproduce on the page that alternation of matter and void, independence and complementarity of the atoms, which are paramount features of the model proposed by classical atomism: What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier returning to the range, admire? Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator’s projection: its umplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8,000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: (17.183-93)

The water’s universality is here conceived not as coinciding with allencompassing rational categories, but rather with a “persevering penetrativeness” (17.213-14). The essential characteristic of water is that it is an element that fills the space of its container instead of assuming a form on its own. The universal element thus fills interstitial spaces among things; a characteristic of water, thus, is that is both independent from other elements, while also depending upon them for its fluid form. Joyce’s use of the colon in “Ithaca” reproduces this relational quality of water, namely in that each phrase separated by colons is independent on its own (like the independent aspect of water that contains a certain combination of chemical qualities, namely H2O), but also depends on each of the surrounding phrases for its shape. It is my suggestion, as I will discuss when I turn to 16. See Geoffrey Nunberg, The Linguistics of Punctuation (Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 1990). See also Sanger’s analysis of the relationship between the origins of punctuation and musical and mathematical signs: Between Words, pp. 131-42.



Lucretius, that the void resembles/models water’s essential movement: that of reaching and coming to fill. Significantly, the permeability of water is employed as a key metaphor by Lucretius in his De Rerum Natura, a text which, I argue, proves essential in order to disentangle the implications of the atomistic breaking off that the quoted passage appears to perform. In his work, Lucretius employs this metaphor so as to render the void and, especially, its inextricability from matter, visible to the reader: “Then too however solid objects seem, / they yet are formed of matter mixed with void: / in rocks and caves the watery moisture seeps / and beady drops stand out like plenteous tears (I, 346-49).”17 This conception of the void understood not as the opposite or the negation of matter, but rather as the space where matter is absent but which is essential to allow atoms to move and combine proves enlightening in retracing Joyce’s treatment of the void conceived not so much as an abstraction, but rather as a dense and inhabitable space, occupied by those “mouldy voids” (FW 37.07-9) which condense not only the vacuum’s multiplicity and internal differentiation, but also its dynamic, ever-changing and ever-growing nature. As I will show, the reference to Lucretius proves essential not only in light of the innovative conception of the void suggested by his poem, but also because the very purpose animating his work, that of offering a poetic exposition of Epicurean atomism, represents a significant precursor of “Ithaca”’s interaction of language, science, and epistemology. Recent criticism on De Rerum Natura has underlined how Lucretius’s treatment of the void can be seen as exceeding the Epicurean notion of the void understood exclusively as space deprived of matter and as hinting instead at the vacuum possessing a certain degree of dynamism. This radicalization of the double-faceted implications of the void – the simultaneous horror and voluptas vacui – has been interpreted as stemming not so much from Lucretius’s philosophical positions, but rather from his exploitation of the “poetic potential of void,”18 in close connection with how his attempt at “representing to the imagination the physical hypothesis of atomism 17. “Praeterea quamvis solidae res esse putentur,/ hinc tamen esse licet raro cum corpore cernas. /in saxis ac speluncis permanat aquarum/liquidus umor et uberibus flent omnia guttis” in Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, I, 346-49. 18. James I. Porter, “Lucretius and the Poetics of Void”, in Le jardin romain: Épicurisme et poésie à Rome: Mélanges offerts à Mayotte Bollack, ed. Annick Monet, 2003. Available online at .

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entails being able to represent void.”19 The mind’s inability to conceive of and express the void shapes Lucretius’s conception of language, which appears partially and meaningfully to depart from Epicurean orthodoxy. Although Lucretius’s discourse on the formation of words (Book 5) follows the Epicurean materialistic explanation that sees this formation as an automatic process originating from the body’s reaction to the sensorial impact of objects, further instances in his poem hint instead at a questioning of this notion of language as an exclusively physiological phenomenon. As Brooke Holmes has underlined, Lucretius’s crucial expression “lingua daedala”20 (“the tongue, crafter (or fashioner) of words”), read together with a second definition, provided in Book 6, of the tongue as “animi interpres”21 (“translator of the mind”) reveal how words are seen by the Latin poet as exceeding the mere referential function, that of describing the world of phenomena, to turn to invention and creative elaboration in order to express the mind’s content and to convey “a real world that may only be “seen” analogically or through its perceptible effects, that is, the world of atoms and void”.22 The notion itself of clinamen, the swerve by which the fall of atoms is influenced and disturbed, which Lucretius strongly emphasizes in comparison with its role in Epicurean atomism, opens a set of epistemological implications related again to the dynamic quality of the void. In Deleuze’s interpretation, the clinamen functions as the foundation of those concepts of “difference” and plurality which Epicurus and Lucretius affirm in contrast with the preepicurean focus on Being and Wholeness, inasmuch the clinamen proves not so much an arbitrary deviation, but rather “a differential of matter and, by the same token, a differential of thought, based on the method of exhaustion” thus manifesting “the lex atomi, that is, the irreducible plurality of causes or of causal series, and the impossibility

19. Porter, “Lucretius and the Poetics of Void”, p. 28. 20. “Hasce igitur penitus voces cum corpore nostro/exprimimus rectoque foras emittimus ore,/ mobilis articulat verborum daedala lingua/ formaturaque labrorum pro parte figurat.” (4.549–52) [“then when we express these voices from the depths of our body and send/ them forth directly from the mouth, the nimble tongue, fashioner of words,/ joints them and the shaping of the lips in turn gives them form”]. 21. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 6.1149. 22. Brooke Holmes, “Daedala Lingua: Crafted Speech in De Rerum Natura”, American Journal of Philology 126.4 (Winter 2005): 564.



of bringing causes together into a whole”.23 Deleuze’s emphasis on differentiation and on the lack of a systematic chain of causes brings us back to the movement of re-emptying the causal relationships suggested by Joyce’s use of colons in “Ithaca”, while also hinting at an epistemological model based on the intermittence of states wherein the empty spaces in between become as significant as the matter (or the events), or, in terms of punctuation, the marks as significant as the sentences that they relate or, better, that they refuse to relate. From an aesthetic point of view, this encapsulation of the void within matter (“est in rebus inane”, “there’s in things a void” I.330) also suggests that Bloom’s penetrating “the incertitude of the void” (17.1019) implies a discourse on how the act of writing may need to be conceived as able to recreate the void as simultaneous and complementary, rather than alternative, to matter. Sam Slote has underlined how the two characters’ different relationships with the element of water, Stephen’s hydrophobia in contrast with Bloom’s fascination with it,24 involve a subterranean discourse on art, insofar as despite the incompatibility of “genius and water” (17.237-40) proclaimed by Stephen, the aquatic element holds many of the characteristics of art as conceived by Joyce. In this sense, Stephen’s hydrophobia can be read as further separating the character from the previously-mentioned epistemological model based on differentiation of states, that is to say from that sensorial and logical process of knowledge which, similar to the image of Bloom traversing the void, entails the subject’s penetration into the interstitial space of discontinuous matter, discontinuous space and time.25 Stephen’s transition from the known to the unknown (17.101314) proceeds syllogistically through a deductive model, excluding the subject’s involvement with or immersion in experience, and, significantly, with a replication of the circular religious logics which I have outlined. The axiomatic ground on which Stephen’s system of 23. Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), pp. 269-70. 24. Sam Slote, “Questioning Technology in ‘Ithaca’”, Hypermedia Joyce Studies 8.2 (2007). 25. See also Suzette A. Henke’s analysis of how Bloom’s attitude seems to be related to Blaise Pascal’s conception of the ““two infinites” defining existence. The universe is bounded by endless space, yet the void penetrates into the center of every particle of matter”. Suzette A. Henke, Joyce’s Moraculous Sindbook (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1978), p. 216.

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knowledge seems to be constructed – further emphasized by the adverb “ineluctably” – becomes reflected also in his position as a “reagent” rather than as “agent”, insofar as his “conscious rational” attitude seems to entail separation from rather than appropriation of experience, thus making concepts such as the “void”, the “unknown”, and “incertitude” appear as abstractly re-constructed by his mind.26 In this sense, the epistemological model which here seems associated with Stephen appears to allude to something contrary to the image of the artist as able to explore the void [to “travel the void world over” (FW 469.9-11)] and especially to penetrate that “void of to be” (FW 100.27), which inevitably connects also to the process of selfdetachment inherent in the notion and narrative technique of impersonality. The interstitial model to which I’ve previously referred in relation to Lucretius’s atomistic model in fact opens the ground towards an idea of impersonality that does not entail artificial self-effacement nor an ideal of scientific objectivity (the same parodied in “Ithaca”), but rather the subject’s physical adherence to the void,27 as well as, similar to what happens in Lucretius’s poetic attempt, the awareness of the void as an element that is to be explored and narratively reconfigured not as an abstraction, but rather as no less inextricable than matter is. The potential atomistic processes of division and subdivision which the colon enacts in “Ithaca” render visible to the reader not only the empty space separating matter (and syntactically, the empty                                                              26. See also Geert Lernout’s examination of the differences shown by the two characters in their approaches to reading and learning, and the way they may point at the reader’s hermeneutic process: “Bloom’s eclipse of Stephen also signals a new way of reading novels. The two characters stand for a different hermeneutic. Stephen’s example invites readers to hunt for references, to look for parallels in Homer and Shakespeare. […] Without at least a measure of Bloom’s empathy it is often difficult if not impossible to know what is going on”. Geert Lernout, James Joyce, Reader (Dublin: The National Library of Ireland, 2004), p. 27. 27. This idea is inscribed into the research I am currently carrying out on the epistemological and scientific foundation of the notion and technique of impersonality in Woolf and Joyce. For a more extensive treatment of the connection I draw here between impersonality and the void, see Teresa Prudente, “Woolf and/vs Joyce: New Perspectives for a Dynamic Comparison”, in Weaving New Perspectives Together, eds. M. Alonso and Laura Torrado (New Castle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2012), pp. 96-120, while the premises of my work on impersonality on the two authors can be found in Teresa Prudente, “‘The Daily Bread of Experience’: The Transfiguration of Materiality in Joyce’s and Woolf’s Writing”, English 60.229 (Summer 2011): 142-58.



relations between cola), but also the type of movement implied in such process of breaking off. In particular, the series of repeated colons to which I have previously alluded appear to enact simultaneously the infinite reduction ignited by the ratio [“reduce Bloom” (17.1932); “Did that first division, portending a second division, afflict him? Less than he had imagined, more than he had hoped” (17.884-85)] and a perpetual movement forward which may be seen as one of the potentialities of the relation-non relation established by the colon, as Giorgio Agamben has argued:28 Were there obverse meditations of involution increasingly less vast? Of the eons of geological periods recorded in the stratifications of the earth: of the myriad minute entomological organic existences concealed in cavities of the earth, beneath removable stones, in hives and mounds, of microbes, germs, bacteria, bacilli, spermatozoa: of the incalculable trillions of billions of millions of imperceptible molecules contained by cohesion of molecular affinity in a single pinhead: of the universe of human serum constellated with red and white bodies, themselves universes of void space constellated with other bodies, each, in continuity, its universe of divisible component bodies of which each was again divisible in divisions of redivisible component bodies, dividends and divisors ever diminishing without actual division till, if the progress were carried far enough, nought nowhere was never reached. (17.1057)

The succession of colons here seems to help enacting not only the atomistic subdivision of matter described in the passage, but also the image of an incessant movement forward tending towards infinity. Atomistic fission of the infinitesimal elements suggests here a spiral 28. I refer here to Agamben’s reading of the presence of the colon in the title of Deleuze’s last essay “Immanence: a Life….” as giving voice to the philosopher’s conception of immanence insofar as the mark “introduces an agencement of a special kind, something like an absolute agencement that also includes "nonrelation” […] something like a passage without spatial movement. In this sense, the colon represents the dislocation of immanence in itself, the opening to an alterity that nevertheless remains absolutely immanent […] Immanence flows forth: it always, so to speak, carries a colon with it” (Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, ed. and trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), pp. 223-28).

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movement whose end is graphically (and again – in line with my stress on the artificial foundation of punctuation – conventionally) represented by the full stop closing the passage, while being simultaneously contradicted by the words preceding the closing mark (“nought nowhere was never reached”), in a way similar to how the episode constantly contradicts its implicit promise of explanations.29 This stress on perpetual movement is important because it helps us understand how the elements that I have so far underlined orchestrate the episode’s internal development and its role within Ulysses. The endless tension towards infinity is enacted in the chapter by a set of interlaced procedures (or violation of procedures) which appear to reproduce this incessant and blind progression, whereas the void – and, in narrative terms, impersonality – is not seen as a given perceptual and aesthetic status, but rather as the object of an endless quest. The path “from existence to inexistence” (17.67) becomes thus an unstable and uncertain process, “there being no known method from the known to the unknown” (17.1140), but rather An infinity renderable equally finite by the suppositious apposition of one or more bodies equally of the same of different magnitudes: a mobility of illusory forms immobilized in space, remobilized in air: a past which possibly had ceased to exist as a present before its probable spectators had entered actual present existence (17.114145)

The emphasis here on the artificial nature of a process of subdivision of infinity which renders this ungraspable concept visible to the mind (“renderable,” “immobilized,” “remobilized”) while also incorporating an awareness of such artificiality (“illusory”) and its consequent conceptual fragility (“possibly”, “probable”). Repetitions, alliterations and polyptotons further amplify the “emptiness” of the concepts these words refer to (“suppositious apposition … a mobility … immobilized … remobilized … exist as a present … present existence”), thus unveiling the dynamics of a simultaneous encapsulation and questioning of linguistic and epistemological conventions performed by “Ithaca”. This seems to entail a gradual, 29. In this respect it is also worth considering the full stop closing the episode which, as we know, Joyce wanted to be particularly visible. See on this matter Austin Briggs, “The Full Stop at the End of ‘Ithaca’: Thirteen Ways – and Then Some – of Looking at a Black Dot”, Joyce Studies Annual 7 (1996): 125-44.



although not linear, process that does not move from a utopian [“That it was not a heaventree, not a heavengrot, not a heavenbeast, not a heavenman. That it was a Utopia” (17.1139-40)] exit from unavoidable conventions but rather, as I have underlined, from a stress on them and, subsequently, on their empty foundation. In terms of punctuation, and with respect to what I have argued in relation to the colon, such stress appears to be enacted through an emphasis of the marks’ presence in the text achieved by means of displacement and a repeated defiance of the expectations to which they give rise. Nonetheless, such a technique avoids a systematic proceeding, since not only does the colon appear to be misplaced in a set of different situations and assigned different potential values, but this subversion also coexists with instances in the episode in which the mark fully adheres to its conventional functions. The fact that this happens more insistently towards the end of the episode30 reinforces the idea of a non-linear proceeding towards the void, or, as I have shown earlier, of a process which continues moving by constant reversal, visible also towards the end of the chapter in Bloom’s reverting pattern from “ante” to “postsatisfaction”: The visible signs of antesatisfaction? An approximate erection: a solicitous adversion: a gradual elevation: a tentative revelation: a silent contemplation.


The visible signs of postsatisfaction? A silent contemplation: a tentative velation: a gradual abasement: a solicitous aversion: a proximate erection. (17.2237-46)

In this sense, the difficult and tentative process from the known to the unknown appears to remain constantly open to its – perhaps unavoidable – reversal, which opens the question of how the absence of punctuation in “Penelope” works in relation to the dynamics of punctuation in “Ithaca”. In light of the elements so far underlined, we 30. See for instance 17.1292-98; 17.1593-1602; 17.1936-47; and 17.2311-18.

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may in fact ask whether the void of punctuation in Ulysses’s last episode may be conceived as a “real” void (and thus as the ending point of a process which, nonetheless, as we know, tends to a point “never to be reached”); or, again, as a stage in a cyclic process of rediscussion of conventions entailing both subversion and incorporation of those same conventions; or, by following the dynamics which I have intended to single out in this essay, as one of those interstitial empty spaces which are integral parts of an intermittent linguistic and experiential model. University of Turin



Abstract: This essay tackles a previous gap in Joyce criticism by inquiring into how punctuation is put to work in Finnegans Wake. I excavate these non-alphanumeric “penmarks” ( ’ , . “ ” — : ( ) ? ) to investigate whether they are normative – guiding syntactical predictability, differentiating discourse relations, creating hierarchies of relevance – or aligned with the text’s infamously destabilizing neologistic hybrids in foreclosing reducibility. I note, however, that to the extent that this debate concerns radically different views of what it means to be “right”, such appeals to the details of the text cannot offer resolution but rather highlight the stakes of the conflict. I claim that by intimating the presence of relation, difference, and hierarchy in this morass of lexical blends, the Wake’s “paper wounds” present themselves as both the traces and site of a conflict between readers who want to map (chart, plot, delineate) the text by excavation of its typographical details, and those who wish to preserve it as an unmappable space. Finally I claim that this dynamic of soliciting the reader’s proximity and deferring her gaze is paradigmatic of the Wake’s narrative ethics as captured in the parenthetical phrase “(hic sunt lennones!)”. During one of his daily remonstrations with Dublin and the wider world as Irish Times columnist “Myles na gCopaleen”, Brian O’Nolan turned his sights on a recent edition of “The Bell” in which he is asked to accept as authoritative and penetrating an article on James


Fagan  Joyce. Throughout the piece the master’s last work is consistently referred to as ‘Finnegan’s Wake’. That apostrophe (I happen to know) hastened Mr Joyce’s end. To be insensitive to what is integral is, I fear, not among the first qualifications for writing an article on Mr Joyce. Let there be no more of this nonsense.1

Despite the “integral” matter hiding in (or out of) plain view in the book’s title – and the text’s full-throated enjoinment to “Note the notes of admiration! See the signs of suspicion! Count the hemisemidemicolons!” (FW 374.08-10)2 – the problem of how punctuation is put to work in Finnegans Wake has yet to be rigorously analyzed. Such “insensitivity” has been motivated variously by impressions that the Wake’s punctuation is “idiosyncratic”,3 riddled with typists errors,4 just plain sloppy,5 or – perhaps the main source of deferral – the least of our problems.6 However, given longstanding critical debates over structure, organization, and the difficulty of distinguishing core from digression in the Wake, this lacuna is noteworthy. Joyce himself exhibited a strong will toward the particulars of punctuation throughout his writing life. The majority of the thousand plus corrections made to the proofs of Dubliners in 1914 consisted of removing commas that the printer had introduced: “Clearly the commas the printer considered obligatory – and inserted – were for

1. Flann O’Brien, The Best of Myles: A Selection from ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’, ed. Kevin O’ Nolan (London: Harper, 2007), p. 239.  2. As my analysis is limited exclusively to Finnegans Wake, I will hereafter dispense with the convention of including the abbreviation FW before page and line numbers – all such in-text citations are to be understood as referring to the Wake. 3. John Porter Houston, Joyce and Prose: An Exploration of the Language of Ulysses (London: Associated University Presses, 1989), p. 24. 4. Jack P. Dalton laments that the Wake’s “typists were often dazzlingly incompetent”. “Advertisement for the Restoration”, in Twelve and a Tilly: Essays on the Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Finnegans Wake, eds. Jack P. Dalton and Clive Hart (London: Faber, 1966), p. 132. 5. David Hayman infers that when composing the Wake’s first draft manuscripts “Joyce made unconscious errors in spelling, punctuation and even syntax and grammar”. A First-Draft Version of Finnegans Wake (Madison: Parallel, 2002), p. 45. 6. Joyceans are not alone in this regard, however: “With few exceptions, the extensive literature on written language and writings systems has almost nothing to say about punctuation” (Geoffrey Nunberg, The Linguistics of Punctuation, CSLI Lecture Notes 18 (Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 1990), p.9).

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Joyce optional, and better deleted”.7 A decade later, Joyce continued to lament the punctiliousness of his printers: Then the French printer who set Penelope (or part of her) struck out punctuation but put in accents. I insisted on their deletion. This caused fright. In the end at the suggestion of Miss Monnier or the other two editors Mr Larbaud was telegraphed to. He replied bilingually to make sure there would be no mistake: Joyce a raison Joyce ha ragione …. Then Mr Cape and his printers gave me trouble. They set the book [A Portrait] with perverted commas and I insisted on their removal by the sergeant-at-arms. (LIII 99-100)8

For Joyce, punctuation is a site of constant conflict: appropriately, in the Wake these marks become “paper wounds” or “stabs and foliated gashes” (124.02-03). This “inkbattle” (176.31) between guards of standard practice and vanguards fortifying the text against the incursions of these normative forces is polyvocal, involving all parties along the communicative circuit: author, typesetter, publisher, critic. And, of course, reader: as Vicki Mahaffey underlines, sensitivity to the unpunctuated title of Finnegans Wake functions “to inculcate an awareness that … reading is itself a transitory editorial practice”.9 Throughout the Wake, this transitory practice is extended beyond neologistic blends to the parsability of clauses, sentences, whole passages. Derek Attridge notes, “the reader searching for a principle by which to distinguish what is central from what is digressive … is not given much assistance” as prolix, hypotactic sentences obscure the

7. Edward A. Levenston, The Stuff of Literature: Physical Aspects of Texts and their Relation to Literary Meaning (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), p. 64. 8. Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 11 July 1924. It was under Valery Larbaud’s supervision that Ulysses was translated into French by Auguste Morel and published in fragments in Commerce from 1924-1929. A reader contemplating Finnegans Wake might be struck by the irony of Mr Larbaud “replying bilingually to make sure there would be no mistake”. 9. Vicki Mahaffey, “Intentional Error: The Paradox of Editing Joyce’s Ulysses”, in Representing Modernist Texts: Editing as Interpretation, ed. George Bernstein (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), p. 186. Derek Attridge expands upon the polysemantic possibilities opened up by the title’s dropped apostrophe in Joyce Effects: On Language, Theory, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 135.



distinction between “central core” and “digressive envelope”.10 This claim implicitly raises the question of how punctuation is put to work in the Wake. Do these non-alphanumeric marks ( ’ , . “ ” — : ( ) ? ) facilitate such a reader in search of organization (relation, difference, hierarchy) by guiding syntactical predictability, differentiating discourse relations, and creating hierarchies of relevance? Or is the Wake’s punctuation aligned with the text’s infamously destabilizing neologistic blends in foreclosing reducibility? Yet, as Tim Conley cautions: “Our fickling intentions as readers are in flux, rather than left as static prejudices, when reading Joyce, because we are never convinced that we are not misreading Joyce.”11 To the extent that this debate concerns radically different views of what it means to be “right”, such appeals to the details of the text cannot offer resolution but rather highlight the stakes of the conflict. I propose that by intimating the presence of relation, difference, and hierarchy in this morass of lexical blends, the Wake’s “paper wounds” present themselves as both the traces and site of a conflict between readers who want to map (chart, plot, delineate) the text by excavation of its typographical details, and those who wish to preserve it as an unmappable space. Thus punctuation offers a particularly paradigmatic point of contact between the Wake and its variously prejudiced readers. And I claim that to the extent that they both solicit the reader’s proximity and defer her gaze, these “signs of suspicion” ask us to attend the Wake’s ethics of reading, as captured in the peculiar, parenthetical phrase “(hic sunt lennones!)” (179.02). 1 Marking territory In I.7 we find Shem the Penman holed up in his appropriately titled “inkbattle house” (176.31), under siege from an incandescent mob in whose critical assessment Shem and his text – written “over every square inch of the only foolscap available, his own body” (185.35-36) – are “a sham and a low sham” (170.25). In an episode laced with                                                              10. Derek Attridge, Peculiar Language: Literature as Difference from the Renaissance to James Joyce (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 212. Indeed, given that the presence of a central ‘narrative’ constitutes the only grounds upon which ‘digression’ may be distinguished and defined (and vice versa), one might ask what it means to talk about digression in the Wake at all? 11. Tim Conley, Joyces Mistakes: Problems of Intention, Irony, and Interpretation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), p. 131.

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


echoes of negative reviews of Joyce’s work,12 Shem becomes a narcissistic index of both the besieged author and the Wake itself, assailed by critics such as Seán Ó Faoláin, Wyndham Lewis, and Rebecca West as “usylessly unreadable” (179.26-27). To ascertain “whether true conciliation was forging ahead or falling back” Shem risks a peek through his telescope. Suggestively, as the “rightness” of deleting accents in the French translation of “Penelope” was clear only to Larbaud, so Shem’s telescope is “luminous to larbourd only” (178.28). Rather than reconciliation, however, Shem “[finds] himself (hic sunt lennones!) at pointblank range blinking down the barrel of an irregular revolver … handled by an unknown quarreller” (178.34, 179.02-03). Hiding (like Shem himself) in parentheses, the image “(hic sunt lennones!)” offers a sly comment on Shem’s critics positioned “out of his westernmost keyhole” (178.29). On his intent to stay at a remove from of his “fellow-countrymen” until the Wake’s completion Joyce wrote, “on the map of their island there is marked very legibly for the moment Hic sunt Lennones” (LI 395).13 The allusion is to Judge Michael Lennon’s 1931 attack on Joyce in Catholic World.14 Conflating this “captious critic” (109.24) with “lēnōnēs” (Latin, “pimp”), the Wake positions its bellicose critics as panders who insist Shem’s body must be censored from the public due to its “lowness”, while exploiting it as a commodity in an intellectual marketplace (or “interpretive community”) by which they might position their “static prejudices” (about meaning, value, “rightness”) as insight. More significantly, the phrase is a curious reformulation of the classical construction “Hic sunt leones” (Latin, “Here are lions”), utilized by ancient Roman and Medieval cartographers when denoting unknown territories on maps. Joyce had previously unpacked the concept in his 1912 essay “L’influenza letteraria universale del rinascimento”: The compiler of atlases in the high middle ages did not lose his composure when he was in a quandary. He would write on the 12. Ingeborg Landuyt, “Cain – Ham – (Shem) – Esau – Jim the Penman: Chapter 1.7”, in How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake: A Chapter-by-Chapter Genetic Guide, eds. Luca Crispi and Sam Slote (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007), p. 153. 13. Letter to Constantine P. Curran, 6 August 1937. 14. Landuyt, “Cain – Ham – (Shem) – Esau – Jim the Penman”, p. 153.


Fagan  doubtful area the words: Hic sunt leones. The idea of solitude, the terror of strange beasts, the unknown were quite sufficient for him. Our culture has an entirely different outlook; we are avid for details.15

In its articulation of the antagonistic ambitions of mapping the world and surrendering to its unmappability, the image oddly captures that strange moment when, “to the shock of both” (112.27), the Wake and its reader come face to face. Edwin Muir, reviewing the Wake upon its first publication in 1939, relinquished his critical role as “judge and master of the text”16 to give voice to a more fundamental uncertainty felt by many readers: “as a whole the book is so elusive that there is no judging it; I cannot tell whether it is winding into deeper and deeper worlds of meaning or lapsing into meaninglessness”.17 At once registering a longing to be nearer to the text in order to look upon its curious work and the necessity of withholding judgment,18 Muir labels the Wake with an implied “Hic sunt Leones”, suggesting, perhaps, an ethical demand in the intersubjective encounter between Shem and his “unknown quarreler”. For Margot Norris, the post-structuralist turn in the seventies marked the moment when “the same compulsory deferral of the Wake’s reading that had been vexing and frustrating critics for over thirty years came … to constitute its unique textual significance”.19 This turn was, in part, a revivification of Our Exagmination round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress, a project with the agenda to counter critical attacks by assimilating “Joyce’s experimental text to an already increasingly established and

15. Louis Berrone, James Joyce in Padua (New York: Random House, 1977), p. 22. 16. George Steiner, “‘Critic’/‘Reader’”, New Literary History 10.3 (Spring, 1979): 449. 17. Edwin Muir, “James Joyce’s New Novel”, Listener (11 May 1939): 1013. Qtd. in Robert H. Deming, James Joyce: The Critical Heritage (London: Barnes & Noble, 1970), p. 677. 18. “There are occasional flashes of a kind of poetry which is difficult to define but is of unquestioned power” (Muir, qtd. in Deming, James Joyce: The Critical Heritage, p. 677). 19. Margot Norris, “The Postmodernization of Finnegans Wake Reconsidered”, in Rereading the New, ed. K.J.H. Dettmar (Michigan: University of Michigan, 1992), p. 347.

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


institutionalized literary avant-garde”.20 Even if “the real metaphysical problem” confronted by this vanguard was “the word”,21 the project was accompanied by a concerted testing of the problem of punctuation as point of tension between concepts of structure and agency.22 Reading the Wake as “a spearhead of a philosophical avant-garde bent on the revolution of language”23 opens up the potential for hermeneutic models that creatively infer punctuation to possess referential, connotative, prosodic, pictographic, emotive, ideological, or even purely visual aesthetic qualities.24 Yet as Joyce notes, ours is a culture “avid for details”, and many readers have not been content to mark the Wake’s territory with a foreboding “Hic sunt Leones”.25 Clive Hart laments a turn to “the fashionable topics of uncertainty, openness, and multivalence” in which “clarification of detail is not only not possible, but undesirable”.26 Fritz Senn, arguing on the side of “preliminary, humble, philological, spade work”, couches this ongoing critical 20. Norris, “Postmodernization”, p. 344. Ellmann notes, “Joyce saw to it that one or another of the twelve [authors of Exagmination] answered the chief critics of the book, at that time Sean O’Faolain, Wyndham Lewis, and Rebecca West” (JJ 613).  21. Eugene Jolas, “The Revolution of Language and James Joyce”, in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (New York: New Directions, 1962), p. 79. 22. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s futurist typographic revolution, for example, conceptualized punctuation as a desiccative shackling of meaning, and hence freedom, which must be dismantled or banished. In a similar gesture, Gertrude Stein’s practice of effacing punctuation in her writing was intended to affect “the evenness of everybody having a vote” (Gertrude Stein, “A Transatlantic Interview 1946”, in The Gender of Modernism: A Critical Anthology, ed. Bonnie Kime Scott (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 503). See Lisa Siraganian’s compelling analysis of the inter-relation of Stein’s attitudes to punctuation, politics, and the creation of an autonomous art indifferent to the spectator’s role in Modernism’s Other Work: The Art Object’s Political Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 24-50. 23. Norris, “Postmodernization”, p. 344. 24. An exemplar of this approach can be found in the irregular punctuation of the title to Samuel Beckett’s contribution to Our Exagmination, “Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce”, usually interpreted as taking on a referential force in which “the periods indicate the number of centuries separating each writer from the other” (Andrea Oppo, Philosophical Aesthetics and Samuel Beckett (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008), p. 36).  25. This zeal for detail is most visibly manifested in the three editions of Roland McHugh’s Annotations to Finnegans Wake (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1980, 1991, 2006). 26. Clive Hart, “Finnegans Wake in Adjusted Perspective”, in Critical Essays on James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, ed. Patrick A. McCarthy (New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992), p. 30.



debate in telling terms: the Wake “still has too much terra incognita, white spots on the map”.27 Positioning themselves against such avantgarde readings, critics who conceptualize the Wake as a text incognito, whose “white spots” can be filled in through the details supplied by reference to external support,28 open up the potential for normative readings of the Wake’s punctuation as mapping structure and organization by providing not deferral but delineation. Once the Wake’s punctuation hails us, we are solicited to take up an engaged stance. 2 Marking closure Looking up from his own close (often too close) reading of the Reverend Letter, the scholar of I.5 (one of the most foregrounded of the Wake’s many internal critical forces) anecdotally portrays such disagreement about the text and its practices as one between a “worker” and a “poorjoist” (“bourgeois”) who “cannot say aye to aye”, but can agree at least that “it has its cardinal points” (113.34114.07). Even if they remain “doubtful points” (114.09) of reference, such points of reference would mark the text as belonging to an epistemological, rather than ontological, register. In so far as the prevalent use of initial capitalization, commas, and periods throughout the Wake promise segmentation – setting the boundaries of unified, discrete sentences and concepts – they also promise syntagmatic force by guiding syntactic predicatability “from his Inn the Byggning to whose Finishthere Punct” (17.22-23). Such “cardinal points” mark closure. Yet the promised “Finishthere Punct” (17.23) – a collocation of the finis terræ by which ancient maps marked the end of the known world, with the delimiting Punkt – is infamously effaced from the Wake’s final, unclosed “Suspended Sentence” (106.13-14). To the extent that a sentence without surcease opens up infinities, the text, and the role of punctuation therein, seems to be placed in a strange liminal space, repositioned from an epistemological to an ontological register. But if the line really is an unfinished cycle segment, one                                                              27. Fritz Senn, “Linguistic Dissatisfaction at the Wake”, in Inductive Scrutinies: Focus on Joyce, ed. Christine O’Neill (Dublin: Lilliput, 1962), p. 232. 28. Senn offers the obvious, but important, caveat that even with such support “There will always be … enough semantic turbulence and contextual options” in the Wake to foreclose any “neat solution” or “decisive formula” for an illusive “ultimate clarity” (Senn, “Linguistic Dissatisfaction”, p. 228).

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


might ask, then is there any punctuation missing at all? Is it possible to imagine the sentence at once missing and not missing a delimiting period, to imagine the Wake as a system that is both closed and open? My argument rests on the presupposition that punctuation in the Wake enables the conditions for this ontological hesitation by functioning as a form of marked absence, of “Hic sunt leones”. Noting O’Nolan’s admonition that these absences are “integral” (necessary to make a whole complete), I begin my investigation of the Wake’s “cardinal points” as sites of hermeneutic conflict by turning to another absence: the “perverted commas” (LIII 99) for which Joyce’s distaste is well documented. If marking is a means of setting objects as apart, separate, and distinct, what happens to this idea of difference in punctuation’s absence? 3 Marking difference In his anatomy of the body of the Reverend Letter, the expounder of I.5 tells us that the “original document” “showed no signs of punctuation of any sort” (123.31-34).29 Despite his many experiments with punctuation, “Penelope” remains Joyce’s only text to (almost) fit this description. Yet as Attridge has demonstrated, despite its surface erasure of text segmentation, the unpunctuated “Penelope” veils rather than transgresses the rules of grammar.30 The question arises: if the near-total effacement of punctuation does not entail the violation of grammatical norms or syntactic code, can instances of unpunctuated text in the Wake still allow for readerly inferences of syntactically and logically sound (if still polysemantic) sentences? Various intratextual critics at/of the Wake seem to suggest as much. As another incandescent mob of critics ramble across the Wake’s terra incognita, censuring and exploiting HCE’s lowness towards the creation of the critical tract of Hosty’s ballad, we are told that their route and drinking pit stops curiously correspond to an underground metro line punctuated by stations:                                                              29. While outside of my analysis here, the tradition of reading this passage as a key intertext with Edward Sullivan’s treatment of the punctuation in the Book of Kells is amply handled elsewhere. For a genetic reading of I.5 that touches on Joyce’s incorporation of Sullivan, see Miko Fuse, “The Letter and the Groaning: Chapter I.5” in How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake: A Chapter-by-Chapter Genetic Guide, eds. Luca Crispi and Sam Slote (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007), pp. 109-10. 30. Attridge, Joyce Effects, pp. 95-96.


Fagan  (thrie routes and restings on their then superficies curiously correspondant with those linea and puncta where our tubenny habenny metro maniplumbs below the oberflake underrails and stations at this time of riding). (41.18-21)

Could it be that even if the “routes and restings” on the surface level seem obscure, they are following an underground map – “below the oberflake” (German Oberfläche, “surface”) – of “linea and puncta” laid by Joyce ‘at the time of writing’ and invariably retrievable ‘at this time of reading’? That the astute reader could unearth some “little sintalks [syntax] in the dunk of subjunctions” (269.03) as long as they can “hear the pointers and can gauge their compass” (57.01-02)?31 With regard to the specific matter of superficially marking the distinction between speech and non-speech, the expelled mob outside HCE’s tavern in II.3 argue in particular that “invented gommas” [inverted commas] in the Reverend Letter (“Anonymay’s left hinted palinode”) are “quoites puntlost” [quite pointless] (374.07-11). Indeed, even in those passages which totally efface quotation marks or dashes we find that the distinction between discourses is encoded in other ways. It is well documented, for example, that the “Anna Livia Plurabelle” episode represents a dialogue between two washerwomen, but how do we know this, exactly, given that speech acts are undifferentiated by punctuation in the chapter? The motivation for the inference – beyond recourse to extratextual clues – is founded in the text’s strategy of harnessing the demands of adjacency pairs: exploiting typographical cues such as items of punctuation that imply a discourse situation (especially the question mark), tropes (such as the apostrophic “O”), cadences, and alternations between first and second person pronouns to indicate scripts of answer-and-response and various turn-taking procedures.32 31. Avant-Garde composer John Cage, who consistently advocated the Marinettiesque stance of the need to “demilitarize language” by freeing it of syntax, writes: “Rereading Finnegans Wake I notice that though Joyce’s subjects, verbs, and objects are unconventional, their relationships are the ordinary ones. With the exception of the Ten Thunderclaps and rumblings here and there, Finnegans Wake exploys [sic] syntax” (M: Writings, ’67-’72 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), p. x). 32. For a more detailed account of the schematic conventions that regulate ‘adjacency pairs’ and how their scripts can be used for discourse analysis, as well as a means of exercising power, see H.G. Widdowson, Discourse Analysis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 36-38, 64.

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


O tell me all about Anna Livia! I want to hear all about Anna Livia. [/] Well, you know Anna Livia? [/] Yes, of course, we all know Anna Livia. Tell me all. Tell me now. [/] You’ll die when you hear. Well, you know, when the old cheb went futt and did what you know [?][/] Yes, I know, go on. (196.1-7, emphasis added)33

At such points the usual segmental markings for differentiating speech acts (from each other, from non-speech acts) are erased as dispensable, even as this effacement registers the Wake as a more writerly than readerly text. It is curious, then, that the more familiar Joycean dashes – that had been increasingly effaced in the later episodes of Ulysses – do appear to differentiate language from metalanguage at other points in the text, albeit in an intermittent and seemingly unsystematic fashion.34 Another usually ignored means of distinguishing speech is found in the marked yet covert use of unindented and unattributed segmental colons: honest blunt Haromphreyld answered in no uncertain tones … : Naw, yer maggers, aw war jist a cotchin on thon bluggy earwuggers. (31.8-11, emphasis added) Sylvia Silence … leaned back in her … easy chair to query … : Have you evew thought, wepowtew, that sheer gweatness was his twagedy? (61.1-7, emphasis added)

In each case, the inference that the colons mark direct speech is supported not only in the identification of a speaker (Haromphreyld,                                                              33. If the employment of various turn-taking cues in the text’s punctuation suggests a discursive situation that at once signals speech and necessitates difference and relation, this is of course not to say that by these means we can erase the problem of distinguishing between the voices at the Wake. In the washerwomen’s dialogue, for example, the roles of questioner and respondent are always shifting, as when the receiver of the HCE myth turns to query the relater: “Do you tell me that now? [/] I do in troth” (214.3-6, emphasis added).  34. More sustained examples can be found in the fable of ‘The Mookse and the Gripes’ (152.15-159.18) – but not in the corresponding ‘Ondt and the Gracehoper’ (414.22-419.10) – and throughout the interrogations of Shaun in III.1.



Sylvia Silence) and the prosodic shift in language that follows (idiolect, rhotacism), but also in the verbs anterior to them (“answered”, “to query”). The choice, amid the more prominent indented dashes and the erasure of standard segmental markings, both reveals speech and veils it by virtue of its furtiveness. However, such segmental colon use is by no means consistent, and can alter from line to line: the blond has sought of the brune: Elsekiss thou may, mean Kerrypiggy?: and the duncledames have countered with the hellish fellows: Who ails tongue coddeau, aspace of dumbillsilly? And they fell upong one another: and themselves they have fallen. (15.15-19, emphasis added)

There is some motivation for considering the emphasized clauses, opened and closed by colons, to be cases of direct speech given the identification of speakers (“the blond”, “the duncledames”), and the nature of the verbs employed (“sought of”, “countered with”). Yet the function of the colon in the subsequent line remains opaque. While this colon more strongly suggests the appositional (or perhaps oppositional) relationship of the clauses, rather than a marked distinction between language and metalanguage, in such a strictly normative reading the punctuation is rendered superfluous by the conjunction “and”. The destabilization that this opaque punctuation brings to the nature of the relationship between line’s subjects is mirrored in the move from supposedly identifiable agents (“the blond”, “the duncledames”) to the deictic term “they”. Distinguishing between these functions throughout the Wake is seldom straightforward: for every colon that does not resist standard interpretations,35 there are as many that are obviously idiosyncratic

35. Other discernibly conventional functions of colons in the Wake include (1) syntactical-deductive functions to introduce the logical consequence or effect of the previous statement: “Of the first was he to bare arms and a name: Wassaily Booslaeugh of Riesengeborg” (5.5-6); “Answer: Finn MacCool!” (139.14); (2) to clarify that the succeeding text is a list: see the “long list” Earwicker compiles “of all abusive names he was called” (71.4-6; colon appears at 71.10); and (3) as an appositive colon separating two nouns phrases into a principal title and subtitle: “The haves and the havenots: a distinction” (295.L2).

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


and opaque.36 Even when the Wake helpfully supplements these segmental colons with inquits to more clearly signal their function – distinguishing language from metalanguage as well as differentiating speakers and marking their turns – these traces of discursive situations are tested by semantic or referential indeterminacy. On the discourse situation suggested in the Mutt and Jutt dialogue by inquits and segmental colons (16.10-18.16), David Herman notes: Without the typographical cues – including punctuation, linebreaks, and of course the name affixed to each utterance – we would be hard-pressed to identify Mutt and Jute’s contributions as turns at all. Prima facie it is hard to determine in what sense the two interlocutors are taking turns, what joint conversational purpose their individual utterances might be working toward. But the presence of conversational cues in the text prompts readers to model, at least hypothetically, a discourse situation.37

This typographically suggested trace of cohesive turn-taking is set into conflict with the content it frames, an incoherent discourse “that is always reasserting its intractability vis-à-vis the economy of talk”.38 Thus, against a normative reading of its punctuation which “minimizes the importance of content … relative to conversational coherence”, the Wake exploits “a stichomythic pattern enforced and regulated by” punctuation that highlights, and tests, “the tension between cohesiveness and informativeness in which and by means of which all talk unfolds”.39 Having laid out the surplus, rather than deficit, of typographic modes of establishing this trace of discursive subordination and coordination, which are set into direct conflict with the recalcitrant polysemy they ostensibly frame, I want to briefly consider an episode that exploits each method towards creating a certain dynamic and effect. At the close of “Shem the Penman”, Shaun – Shem and the                                                              36. “Big went the bang: then wildewide was quiet: a report: silence: last Fama put it under ether” (98.1-3); “So hath been, love: tis tis: and will be: till wears and tears and ages” (116.36-117.1). 37. David Herman, Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 188-89. 38. Herman, Story Logic, p. 189. 39. Herman, Story Logic, p. 190.



Wake’s critic par excellence – declares he will “no longer” attack his brother “obliquelike through the inspired form of the third person singular … but address myself to you … out direct” (187.28–32). This shift from unacknowledged to acknowledged direct speech is marked with the indented name of the speaker in upper case, the addressee in parentheses, and a segmental colon: “JUSTIUS (to himother):” (187.24). Shem’s response is likewise marked as “MERCIUS (of hisself):” (193.31),40 yet when he “lifts the lifewand and the dumb speak”, this speech is marked with a dash: “— Quoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiq!” (195.5-6).41 This gradual shift, from an absence of paralinguistic markings indicating direct speech to inquits and colons to a solitary dash, reveals the Wake to be not quite a flat syncretic network of undifferentiated discourses, but rather a polyvocal arena, which engages a series of games with orthography and punctuation to variously foreground and submerge speakers and perspectives. Thus while the Reverend Letter appears, at first glance, to offer “no signs of punctuation of any sort”, it is only by holding it up to light, to reading, that it reveals itself to be “pierced butnot punctured” (124.1). To the extent, then, that the Wake’s segmental markings solicit a closer look that is rewarded with variously emerging distinctions (between speech and non-speech, between speakers, between turns), it offers the promise that reading will allow us to replace its “white spots” with mapped terrain. Following these discursive traces variously concealed and revealed by punctuation, however, what we are confronted with, finally, looking back at us, is little more than “— Quoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiq!”: a series of French ‘?s’. The dynamic that emerges seems to be one of laying a trail of “linea and puncta” the reader might follow before being confronted with “the terror of strange beasts, the unknown”.

                                                             40. Such formatting, however, is not consistent throughout. Elsewhere, we find variations on this approximation of dramatic conventions, with direct speech marked by the name of the speaker in mixed case, a full stop, and dash (as in the in the “Jute and Mutt” dialogue, 16.10-18.16) or in a variation in which period is replaced by a segmental colon with the mixed case names italicized (as in the mirroring “Muta and Juva” dialogue, 609.24-610.32). 41. Whether this change to a dash indicates a different kind of speech, or speech from a different perspective, is left to the ingenuity of the critic.

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


4 Marking hierarchy Even if the Wake sketches discourse situations by variously implying a distinction between language and metalanguage, these discrete discourses still often seem a farrago of halting, abortive clauses and non-sequiturs. To address Attridge’s call for a principle of distinguishing “core” from digression that we might be guided between these discourses, as well as within them, I turn to the overwhelming abundance on every page of the Wake of parenthetical markings, which standardly demonstrate a hierarchy of relevance, with the text inside the parentheses marked as “explanatory, less important, or even at a different narrative level”.42 Testing this hypothesis of hierarchy, then, what happens if we follow the early direction in the Wake and simply leave these parenthetically marked digressions “(silent.)” (14.6): the request for a fully armed explanation was put (in Loo of Pat) to the porty (a native of the sisterisle — Meathman or Meccan? — by his brogue, exrace eyes, lokil calour and lucal odour which are said to have been average clownturkish (though the capelist’s voiced nasal liquids and the way he sneezed at zees haul us back to the craogs and bryns of the Silurian Ordovices) who, the lesser pilgrimage accomplished, had made, pats’ and pigs’ older inselt, the southeast bluffs of the stranger stepshore, a regifugium persecutorum, hence hindquarters) as he paused at evenchime for some or so minutes ( … ) amid the devil’s one duldrum ( … ) for a fragrend culubosh during his weekend pastime of executing with Anny Oakley deadliness ( … ) empties which had not very long before contained Reid’s family ( … ) stout. (51.21-52.06, emphasis added)43

Indeed, some kind of syntactically possible core sentence seems to emerge, to the effect that “the porty”, while smoking a calabash pipe and drinking pints of stout (or, perhaps, literally shooting at empty bottles), is asked for a full “explanation”.44 42. Levenston, The Stuff of Literature, p. 65 43. Due to spatial limitations, I have included only the first set of nested parentheses here; however the ellipsed parentheses continue in the same disruptive manner. Interested readers are encouraged to return to the original text. 44. While I focus on the syntactical consequences of parentheses, it should be noted that numerous conventional functions of parentheses can be observed throughout the Wake, including (1) asides: “Gaping Gill … thanked um for guilders received and



Such a means of reading poses a number of problems, however, not the least of which is what is to be done with the text’s huge abundance of parenthetical digressions. Are they to be considered mere noise, to be discarded once the “core” sentence has been uncovered? If so, then there is certainly a great deal of superfluous and discardable material in the Wake, most likely the vast majority of its text. However, a reader reluctant to read the Wake as such a literary autostereogram, and who wishes to fold the parenthesized content back into the text by treating it as “explanatory”, will find the promise of delineation thwarted rather than satisfied. In the first parenthesis modifying the object we read that “the porty” is “a native of the sisterisle”, as indicated by his marked west Irish “brogue”. Despite the further empirical evidence of his “lokil calour and lucal odour”, locating “the porty” on the map proves problematic. He could be from the West, as his “brogue” suggests, or perhaps a “Meathman” or a Dubliner from Lucan (“lucal”) or the Clonturk Park in Drumcondra (“clownturkish”). However, also hinted is the directly contradictory possibility that he is from Mecca (“Meccan”) or Turkey (“clownturkish”). The further we progress the less progress we make: another layer of hypotactic modification – a parenthesis within this parenthesis – offers the caveat that despite his supposed “brogue”, the porty’s phonetic sonorants (his ‘voiced nasals’ and ‘voiced liquids’) seem to locate him back at the “bryn” (Welsh, “hills”) and “craig” (Welsh, “rocks”) of the ancient “Silurian Ordovices” Celtic tribes of modern-day Wales.45 As the outer layer of time of day (not a little token abock allthesame that that was owl the God’s clock it was) and … went about his business” (36.35-37.9); (2) imperatives or advice to the reader: “(Cave!)” (16.03); (3) genre conventions and discourse markers: see the Ballad of Persse O’Reilly (e.g. 45.26) or the denotation and descriptions of the actors in personae dramatis of “The Mime of Mick, Nick, and the Maggies” (219.22-24221.16); and (4) clarification: as in the comically unhelpful “inverted commas (sometimes called quotation marks)” (108.34). However, the Wake also employs a number of seemingly idiosyncratic parentheses, most prominently the hundred-letter word that punctuates its opening page. Interestingly, however, only four of the ten such thunderwords that appear in the text are marked in parentheses (3.15-17; 23.5-7; 44.20-22; 414.19-20), each interpolating the sound of a crash, or, as in the final case, a mid-speech coughing fit. Other instances of the hundred-letter words that appear as direct speech (as at 90.31-33), rather than an interpolation (i.e., as language rather than as metalanguage) appear without parentheses. 45. According to article on “Wales” in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, from which Joyce culled a great deal of the material for the Wake, “at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain, 55 B.C., four distinct dominant tribes, or

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


the digression proceeds, it remains unclear whether he is a “capelist” from Chapelizod, or a Muslim having accomplished “the lesser pilgrimage” to Mecca. The problem of how to reconcile this syntactic “core” with the endlessly contradictory elucidations of the parenthetical digressions by which it is enveloped merges with the larger problem of finding a point of origin in the Wake’s cyclical “narrative”: itself a halting, unraveling process, that struggles to keep moving forward despite the fact that “it is a slopperish matter, given the wet and low visibility … to idendifine the individuone” due to the ‘fact’ that “the unfacts … are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude” (51.3-6, 57.16-17). Comes the question are these the facts … as recorded and accolated in both or either of the collateral andrewpaulmurphyc narratives. Are those their fata which we read in sibylline between the fas and its nefas? (31.33-36)

As the “sibylline” reader is forced to read “both or either of” the lines of ‘sibling’ narratives by navigating between the “fas” (Latin, “possible, right”) and its “nefas” (Latin, “impossible, wrong”), again we find – “accolated” (French accolé, “bracketed”) within the traceable terrain of the main clause (“the facts … as recorded”) – a path that leads her to that mysterious lacuna on the map “(hic sunt lennones!)”. Such unhelpful modification – which leads to the internal collapse of the promised referential and relational forces and distinctions – is not, however, the only effect of parenthesis in the Wake. The following passage displays a markedly different digressive discursive strategy: And, Cod, says he with mugger’s tears: … I call our univalse to witness … my guesthouse and cowhaendel credits will immediately stand ohoh open as straight as that neighbouring families, are enumerated west of the Severn”, which it identifies as the Decangi, the Ordovices, the Dimetae, and the Silures. “Wales”, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Volume XXVIII: Vetch to Zymotic Diseases (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1911), p. 261. . The suspicion of the porty’s Welshness is further supported by the assertion that he “sneezed at zees” (51.28), as the Welsh language, Britannica informs us, does not contain the letter ‘Z’.


Fagan  monument’s fabrication before the hygienic gllll (this was where the reverent sabboth and bottlebreaker with firbalk forthstretched touched upon his tricoloured boater, which he uplifted by its pickledhoopy (he gave Stetson one and a penny for it) whileas oleaginosity of ancestralolosis sgocciolated down the both pendencies of his mutsohito liptails ( … ), cordially inwiting the adullescence who he was wising up to do in like manner what all did so as he was able to add) lobe before the Great Schoolmaster’s. ( … ) Smile! (54.20-55.2)

Again, parentheses are prevalent – most conspicuously the outlandish “gllll (”. Yet if we manage to find the corresponding closed bracket – encumbered again by the nesting of parentheses within parentheses – a semblance of a sentence emerges (marked in bold). Once again, the combination of speaker (“he”), verb (“says”), and segmental colon suggest direct speech, this time an opaquely worded stuttering defense.46 Sheathed therein, “gllll (” turns out to be an unfinished fragment of “glllllobe”, or, presumably, “globe”. What can we make of these unusual parentheses, not only within endlessly hyperdigressive sentence structures, and within another parenthesis, but also within a single word? Turning to the first level of parenthesis: if we take “the reverent sabboth and bottlebreaker” to refer to the speaker, we might infer that the parentheses signal nested metalanguage: an elaboration that it was at this drawn-out, rhetorically melodramatic, pronunciation of ‘globe’ that he “touched” his Irish (“tricoloured”) boater straw hat, which he then “uplifted by its pickledhoopy”. We are then confronted with another parenthesis within parentheses, in which the object of clarification is refocused from the speaker (“he”) to his hat (“it”), bought for “one and a penny”. The following temporal conjunction “whileas” suggests a synechdochic description of simultaneous events: that while lifting his hat, sweat (oleaginosity, “oily nature”) dripped (Italian, “sgocciolare”) down the both ends of his moustache

46. The speech echoes, or perhaps reenacts, HCE’s unprovoked testimony against unspecified allegations in I.2., in which Earwicker similarly appealed to the “neighbouring” Wellington Monument and referenced his business success in hospitality and commerce (his “nonation wide hotel and creamery establishments”) as a sign of his respectability (36.17-34). 

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


(“liptails”).47 While drawing out his pronunciation of the word ‘globe’, then, the speaker lifted his hat as the sweat dripped down the tails of his moustache, “cordially inwiting the adullescence” in attendance to lift their hats in a similar fashion, and waiting for them all to comply so that he can finish his pronunciation: “what all did so as he was able to add) lobe”. While in the previous instance we found a digressive impulse towards metaphor through a surreal conflation of contradictory truth claims, here the impulse seems rather towards a cubist refraction of simultaneous metonymic details, trying to overcome the restraints of the “west-east” (114.05) mode of written text to capture the simultaneity of temporality (speech, gesture, reaction). Referentially cohesive, at least in comparison to our previous example, the passage here seems to be “acùtely profèššionally piqued” by parentheses in order “to=introdùce a notion of time … in iSpace” (124.10-12). 5 Marking absence I have focused thus far on the role of the Wake’s “cardinal points” in charting the progress of its “west-east” lines. However, confronted by the Wake’s myriad lists – that must be read from top to bottom, rather than from left to right – it seems to the exegete of I.5 that “rather more than half of the lines run north-south” (114.03).48 Given that such lists ostensibly do not display syntagmatic force, distinctions between language and metalanguage, or hierarchies of relevance, punctuation is characteristically reduced to the normative roles of signaling the initiation and close of the catalog and separating the items therein. Excavating the catalog of titles for ALP’s “untitled mamafesta” (104.4), however, Bernard Benstock concedes that his readerly desire to find exactly one hundred and eleven entries, in order to correspond with the number of ALP’s children, is thwarted by the list’s punctuation. As “commas separate items but also exist within some of                                                              47. Further drawing out, and spatially complicating, the imagery is the reference in “mutsohito liptails” to Japanese emperor “Mutsohito”, who sported a distinctive goatee and moustache. 48. See, for example, the page and a half of items littered on the floor, walls, and doorways of Shem’s house (183.11-184.2), the two pages of “abusive names” hurled at HCE (71.10-72.16), the three page list of presents delivered by ALP to her children (210.6-212.19), the four pages of potential titles for ALP’s Letter (103.5-107.7), and the mammoth fourteen page list of the attributes of “Finn Mc Cool” (125.10-139.14).



the items”, Benstock laments, “no count can be authenticated”.49 However, “two intrusive semicolons also appear, perhaps overlooked by Joyce when correcting the first edition, or more likely intended by the author as points of demarcation within the run on series.” This suspicious inconsistency implies relevance: “although they hardly separate the items into equal segments, they do succeed in compartmentalizing segments in three units, resulting in the number (actual) for Anna Livia’s children, rather than the mythic number of 111.”50 Creative interpretation of punctuational inconsistency has allowed the data to cohere.51 The practice, however, is not consistent. The Wake’s (re-)opening page introduces the text as, and by way of, a catalog of events that have “not yet” reoccurred (3.4-12), punctuated not by commas, but by colons. Read for their marshaling of grammatical relationships, these marks could be functionally, if not formally, normative by indicating appositive independent clauses not conjoined with a coordinating conjunction. However, what of a reader who repositions the terms of ‘reading’ and ‘misreading’ by putting these colons to work in a hermeneutic model in which even non-lexical typographic elements can take on a referential force? Suggestively, the list is also peppered with apparent and oblique references to fourteen body parts,52 evoking, perhaps, comparisons between the bodies of Finnegan,

49. Bernard Benstock, “Bedeviling the Typographer’s Ass: Ulysses and Finnegans Wake”, in Journal of Modern Literature 12.1 (March, 1985), p. 18. 50. Benstock, “Bedeviling the Typographer’s Ass”, p. 19. 51. Turning to the list of children’s games in “Shem the Penman”, Benstock goes on to wonder whether “Mikel on the Luckypig, Nickel in the Slot” (176.2-3) should be counted as one or two titles. At this point, however, it becomes apparent that the extent to which such criteria for differentiating between ‘reading’ and ‘misreading’ the Wake’s punctuation rest upon a priori assumptions about the relevance of the number of items in a particular list. Benstock, “Bedeviling the Typographer’s Ass”, p. 20.  52. (1) “core” (3.05; Latin cor, “heart”); (2) “Armorica” (3.05; emphasis added); (3)“isthmus” (3.06; Greek isthmos, “neck”); (4) “penisolate” (3.06; emphasis added); (5) “rocks” (3.07; Slang, “testicles); (6) “Oconee” (3.07; phonetic approximation of “knee”); (7) “gorgios” (3.08; French gorge, “throat”); (8) “bellowsed” (3.09; Slang, bellows, “lungs”; also etymologically related to “belly”); (9) “after” (3.10; German After, “anus”); (10) “buttended” (3.11; emphasis added); (11) “nathandjoe” (3.12; emphasis added); (12) “Shen” (3.13; Hebrew shen, “tooth”); (13) “regginbrow” (3.14; emphasis added); (14) “aquaface” (3.14). See

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


interred in the landscape (3.19-22; 6.29-7.19), and Osiris.53 If the reader keys into the conceived contexts, then, she might consider relevant that ‘colon’ not only derives from “kōlon” (Greek, “limb”), but is also a homonym for “the hind hose of hizzars” (617.03-04). Once a reader inclined to such creative possibilities can reconcile that an unlocalized relevance of anatomical colons would leave the Wake littered everywhere with seemingly non-sequitur recta (and why not? one might ask), she might wonder to what extent such a method of reading the Wake could be expanded to all of its punctuation. With this question in mind, I close my investigation of the Wake’s “cardinal points”, by returning to its original punctuational absence. Of the effaced ‘apostrophe’ in the book’s title, this reader might consider the exclamatory rhetorical trope of the same name.54 The “positive absence” (108.30) of this trope – in which a speaker interrupts the action to directly address an absent object as though present – might suggest three ideas about punctuation as a peculiarly paradigmatic point of contact between the Wake and its readers. Firstly, that while inconspicuous to most readers – even in texts as orthographically self-reflexive as Joyce’s – punctuation turns out to be every bit as “devious” as the Wake’s language in so far as it, too, “conceals and reveals secrets.” Thus the Wake’s punctuation solicits and aligns itself with the text’s broader theme of marked absence, of the guiding image of “Hic sunt leones”. Secondly, that even the absence of punctuation can signal difference: between (present) self and (absent) other, between foregrounded and submerged speakers and perspectives, between Shem and his “unknown quarreler”. Finally, that this gesture asks the reader to acknowledge her “share in the act of telling the self to others” by creatively creating coherence with the a priori assumptions she brings to the event of the Wake (whether these be normative or not). 6 (Non-) conclusive markings In an almost transparent parody of Finnegans Wake and its critics, Brian O’Nolan (in his guise as the peculiarly anti-modernist modernist 53. John Bishop, Joyce’s Book of the Dark: Finnegans Wake (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), pp.100-01. 54. Such figures are usually signaled in dramatic works and poetry by the exclamation “O”. In the Wake we find many examples of such tropes of apostrophe, most usually cast in parentheses: “(O my shining stars and body!)” (4.12-13), “(O carina! O carina!)” (7.03), “(O Sheem! O Shaam!)” (580.18).



Flann O’Brien) dedicates an extended footnote in The Third Policeman to the scholarly debate around the de Selby Codex, “a collection of some two thousand sheets of foolscap closely handwritten on both sides”. The signal distinction of the Codex is that “not one word of the writing is legible”. The novel’s nameless scholar records the divergences in critical opinion: One passage, described by Bassett as being ‘a penetrating treatise on old age’ is referred to by Henderson … as ‘a not unbeautiful description of lambing operations on an unspecified farm’. Such disagreement, it must be confessed, does little to enhance the reputation of either writer.55

The Wake promises its readers that “every word will be bound over to carry three score and ten toptypsical readings” (20.14-15, emphasis added). Yet, any reading which responds to O’Nolan’s call for sensitivity to the integral matter of its (by turns) absent and present punctuation likewise supports Senn’s claim that “alternative readings … are not so much lined up in succession as integrated in the microstructure”, to the point that “the pretense of a simplistic truth is no longer upheld, but yields to a choice of rival improbabilities”.56 This is because such attention reveals the Wake to be a diverse arena of punctuational practices and strategies. The resulting dynamic of both soliciting the reader’s proximity and deferring her gaze seems paradigmatic of the Wake’s form of narrative ethics, as demanded by the very act of ‘reading’. Adam Zachary Newton, on the stakes in this conflict between readers “avid for details” and those content with “The idea of solitude, the terror of strange beasts, the unknown”, writes: The desire to know everything … is a sign of love. It is also a sign of reading. And a sign of excess. And so, reading sometimes demands the contrary sign of looking away, of stopping short, of realizing that texts, like persons, cannot entirely be known, that they must keep some of their secrets.57

To the extent, then, that the Wake stages, rather than resolves, this 55. Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman (London: Flamingo, 2001), p. 163. 56. Fritz Senn, Nichts Gegen Joyce (Zürich: Haffmans Verlag, 1983), pp. 69-70. 57. Newton, Narrative Ethics, p.285.

“(hic sunt lennones!)”


tension between mapping and leaving unmapped, between reading and looking away, such disagreement – whatever it might mean for the reputations involved – is marked as paradigmatic, even essential, in identifying “the reader’s share in the act of telling the self to others”.58 Returning to Shem in his “inkbattle house” and noting the deictic function of this “hic” in our guiding image, we would do well to remember that we are witnessing not only the critic’s encounter with the “strange beasts” of the Wake, but also the Wake’s encounter with its equally “unknown quarreler”. Conley, following the text’s instruction to “See the signs of suspicion!” (374.09), counts 1,510 question marks throughout the Wake, and makes the insightful observation that “the text wants to know something about its reader” – most likely, “What are you?”59 As the Wake and the reader encounter each other at either end of a telescope or revolver and ask this question of the other, the most appropriate response from each perspective would seem to be (hic sunt lennones!). University of Vienna

58. Newton, Narrative Ethics, p. 285. 59. Conley, Joyces Mistakes, p. 134.



Abstract: This paper explores Joyce’s experimental use of punctuation in Finnegans Wake, with particular reference to the “punctum”, the full stop. Joyce uses the period not only to mark a pause or interruption, but also, paradoxically, as a sign of continuous openness, an integral feature of the Wake’s famous “continuarration” and its circular structure and shape. By closely reading and commenting on selected passages of the Wake, this essay shows how Joyce’s ironical treatment of punctuation and his numerous definitions of the full stop clearly connect with the geometrical point as conceived in non-Euclidean Geometries. The Wake draws upon Henry Poincaré’s argument that the point is to be seen as a micro sign capable of infinite extension and permutations. Such an assumption triggers further connections with both Giordano Bruno’s and Giambattista Vico’s ideas on the point within their philosophical investigations into geometry. 1 Introduction By borrowing Joyce’s term “compunction”, this essay explores Joyce’s experimental use of punctuation in Finnegans Wake, with particular reference to the “punctum”, i.e., the full stop. Joyce conceives of this mark of punctuation, as I intend to suggest, not (only) as the strongest among the marks of pause or interruption, but also as a potential sign of continuous openness, so as to further illuminate the famous “continuarration” in the Wake and the structure and shape of the novel itself. Reflection on Joyce’s experimental language and narrative in the light of his equally experimental use of punctuation thus sheds further light on both Finnegans Wake’s circularity and also on Joyce’s (Brunonian) idea of the “coincidence of



contraries”, for in the Wake the full stop functions as a micro sign capable of a startling number of permutations and, simultaneously, reversals of meaning. The term “compunction” (“Hip confiners help compunction. Never park your brief stays in the men’s convenience” (FW 433.23-25)) suggests both its primary meaning of remorse and contrition, and also its etymological meaning, namely the one deriving from Latin “compunctus”. This is the past participle of the verb “compungere” that means “to severely prick, sting” and is composed of the intensive prefix “com” and “pungere” (“to prick”), so as to convey the idea of a very strong piercing aperture in one’s soul, causing affliction and torment. The word may also read as a “conjunction” through the “punct”, since “punct” is one of the expressions most widely employed in the Wake to refer to the point and/or to the grammatical full stop. In this light, the reference to confinement (“hip confiners”) followed by “help compunction” may be read as an invitation to a continuous expansion despite the confining quality of the mark. Moreover, the idea of punctuation as something piercing that perforates the page, thereby opening to potentially infinite space, is made apparent in a famous passage devoted to punctuation itself: The original document was in what is known as Hanno O’Nonhanno’s unbrookable script, that is to say, it showed no signs of punctuation of any sort. Yet on holding the verso against a lit rush this new book of Morses responded most remarkably to the silent query of our world’s oldest light and its recto let out the piquant fact that it was but pierced butnot punctured (in the university sense of the term) by numerous stabs and foliated gashes made by a pronged instrument. These paper wounds, four in type, were gradually and correctly understood to mean stop, please stop, do please stop, and O do please stop respectively, and following up their one true clue, the circumflexuous wall of a singleminded men’s asylum, accentuated by bi tso fb rok engl a ssan dspl itch ina, — Yard inquiries pointed out → that they ad bîn “provoked” ay ∧ fork, of à grave Brofèsor; àth é’s Brèak — fast — table; ; acùtely profèššionally piquéd, to=introdùce a notion of time [ùpon à plane (?) sù ’ ’ fàc’e’] by pùnct! ingh oles (sic) in iSpace?! (FW 123.31124.12; italics added)

The marks of punctuation are then variously defined as “paper wounds”, as things that perforate the page and that, in the “ispace” of

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the text, make the page and the novel a physical, three-dimensional or “too dimensional” (FW 154.25) object, as Joyce has it. Finnegans Wake’s “too dimensionality” thus refers to Joyce’s conceiving of the work in mathematical and geometrical terms, so as to suggest a provoking connection between (non-Euclidean) geometry and punctuation. Such a connection is more evident in the case of the full stop, a mark that Joyce employs in several ways and that he “quotes” (by writing it in full) in several occasions. In the above passage, the repetition of the term “stop” provides the syntax with paradoxical fluency and ever-expanding flow, as if the function of the “stop” would be exactly the opposite of what it stands for. The subsequent reference to the “circumflexuous wall of a singleminded men”, moreover, suggests a connection between interruption (“stop, please stop...”) and progression, between a limited circular hole (the wound) and a more general idea of circularity and globality. It is precisely in these terms that I would like to suggest a close connection between the point as an infinite figure, as it is conceived in non-Euclidean geometry, and the point as the grammatical sign of punctuation. This is also employed in radically experimental ways – in order to suggest infinity and infinite aperture – as both a “fullstopper” (“Gentes and laitymen, fullstoppers1 and semicolonials, hybreds andlubberds!” (FW 152.16-17; italics added)) – and as a “Fools top” (FW 222.23). 2 Non-Euclidean geometry in Finnegans Wake Besides the explicit references in the work itself and in the notebooks, the strong mathematical and geometrical framework of Finnegans Wake is first and famously revealed in Joyce’s letters. He wrote to Eugene Jolas, for instance, that the work involved a search for a “pansymbolic, panlinguistic synthesis in the conception of a 4D universe”,2 and also claimed a mathematical basis and geometrical form for the book. As pointed out by Richard Ellmann, Joyce “wished also for [C.K.] Ogden to comment, as a mathematician, upon the structure of Finnegans Wake, which he insisted was mathematical” (JJII 614). As for non-Euclidean geometries, Joyce became 1. Besides the relevant reference to the hybridity in the beginning of “The Mookse and The Gripes”, the word “fullstoppers” may also retain the meaning of the term “stopper”(i.e, any device used for closing bottles, tubes, or drains), although the irony suggests an implicit impossibility of closure. 2. Eugene Jolas, “Frontierless Decade”, in transition 27 (April-May 1938): 8.



acquainted with those new revolutionary theories during his sojourn in Rome, when Roberto Bonola’s book Non-Euclidean Geometry: A Critical and Historical Study of its Development was highly celebrated. As Thomas Jackson Rice noted,3 Bonola provides an account of the works of the most influential non-Euclidean thinkers, including Bolyai, Lobachevsky, Riemann, and especially Poincaré, to whom Joyce explicitly refers in the following passage in the motvalise “Pointcarried”: Thanks eversore much, Pointcarried! I can’t say if it’s the weight you strike me to the quick or that red mass I was looking at but at the present momentum, potential as I am, I’m seeing rayingbogeys rings round me. (FW 304.05-09)

The name of the French scientist is here reconstructed with reference to the “point” and the past participle of the verb “to carry”, which may be read both as “taken away” or “transported” and as “contained” or “capable of being contained”, so as to emphasize the above-mentioned combination of movement and containment, circularity and interruption. Moreover, as I have previously suggested, several passages of Finnegans Wake, especially in the “Night Lessons” episode, reveal how Joyce directly refers both to breaking with Euclid’s theories and also to his simultaneous involvement with them: to the extinction of Niklaus altogether (Niklaus Alopysius having been the once Gripes’s popwilled nimbum) by Neuclidius and Inexagoras and Mumfsen and Thumpsem, by Orasmus and by Amenius, by Anacletus the Jew and by Malachy the Augurer and by the Cappon’s collection and after that, with Cheekee’s gelatine and Alldaybrandy’s formolon (FW 155.31-36; italics added) Now, (peel your eyes, my gins, and brush your saton hat, me elementatorjoyclid, son of a Butt! (FW 302.12; italics added) The aliments of jumeantry (FW 286L4) 3. Thomas Jackson Rice, “The Geometry of Meaning in Dubliners: A Euclidian Approach”, Style 25, iii (Fall 1991): 393-404.

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The term “Neuclidius”, in the first passage, combines the German “neu” (“new”) with Euclid, namely a “new Euclid”, but also something that is “neucloid”, a nucleus from which all geometries developed. “Joyclid”, in the second passage, is an ironical fusion of Joyce and Euclid that entails a symbolic combination of literature and science. Finally the “aliments of jumeantry”, in the marginal annotations of the geometry lesson episode, make the Euclidean elements physical, concrete, and self-nourishing. All non-Euclidean thinkers, despite their different approaches and different final theories, refused the Euclidean method of deduction by relying on the intuition of something not directly visible or tangible. They all rejected the fifth axiom of Euclid’s Elements, the postulate of parallel lines. The axiom implies that “through a point next to a straight line only one line can be drawn that is parallel to it, both of them intersecting only at infinity”.4 By rejecting this axiom, since it was only relevant in two dimensions, two main (“too-dimensional”) geometries developed: the Hyperbolic and the Elliptical. In the former, there are infinite parallel lines through the given point, while in the latter, there are none. In other words, both considered the curvature of an n-dimensional space rather than the flat surface of Euclidean geometry, so as to allow a violation of Euclid and to dramatically rethink the nature of space and the method of describing it. One of their main common assumptions (especially deriving from Lobachevsky) is the relevance given to the correspondence between large and small, macro and micro, and to the measure of the point as a generating power for infinite spatial connections, constructions and permutations. In commenting on Lobachevsky’s theories, Poincaré emphasized the multidimensionality of the point and connected it to the sphere, so as to strongly reconsider the relationship between large and small, part and whole, minimum and maximum. His famous disc model shows how the parallel lines in the point/sphere continuously intersect and create infinite reproducible figures on and within a sphere (Figures 1 and 2):

4. Euclid, Elements of Geometry (Book 1), The Greek text of J.L. Heiberg (1883– 1885), p. 7. .



The disc, whose internal hyberbolic lines construct a series of potentially infinite triangles, is what Poincaré calls a “2-dimensional sphere”, though he stresses its three-dimensionality: “A loop on any sphere can be contracted to point. Any manifold where a loop can be contracted to a single point is a 3-dimensional sphere”.5 On an epistemological level, Poincaré emphasized the mutual relationship between science and imagination as expressed by Lobachevsky, who argued that mathematical truths are always subject to modifications, since they could only be approximations or conventions created by the human mind: Surfaces, lines and points, such as Geometry defines them, exist only in our imagination; while we make our measurements of surfaces and lines by using bodies..... hereby we will stick to those very concepts that are immediately united in our mind with the representation of bodies, to which our imagination is accustomed.6

The same relationship between science and imagination, considered as both a mathematical entity and a punctuation mark in Joyce, is also to be retraced in both Giordano Bruno and Giambattista Vico, so as to shed further light both on their being non-Euclidean ante-litteram, as well as on Joyce’s numerous references to the two philosophers in the geometry lesson episode. Starting from De la causa principio et uno, Bruno considers geometry from a wide ontological perspective and underlines its transformative “energy” which is capable of creation and continuous expansion: 5. Henri Poincaré, La science et l’hypothèse (Paris: E. Flamarion, 1902), p. 97; my translation. 6. Nikolai Lobachevsky, Pangeometry (Zurich: European American Society, 2010), p. 58; my italics.

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If potency does not differ from act, it is necessary that, in the infinite, the point, the line and the surface do not differ. For there, the point, running away from being a point, becomes a line. The line is surface because, by moving, it becomes surface; and there the surface moves and becomes body, insofar as it may move and become, by its flow, a body. In the infinite, therefore, the point necessarily does not differ from the body where potency and action are one and the same. That in the infinite the point does not differ from the body because there is no difference between potency and act, hence if the point can extend in length the line in breadth and the surface in depth the point is long the line broad and the surface deep; and all things are long, broad and deep and therefore one and the same and the universe is all centre and all circumference.7

By identifying the point with the surface and with the threedimensional body, Bruno asserts that “all things could be measured, evaluated and interpreted through the use of minima (circles, triangles, spheres, and pyramids), which are, ultimately, nothing other than extensions from a point”.8 Despite their very different epistemological premises, a similar connection between science, geometry (speculative rather than deductive), and creation can also be established between Joyce and Vico. In La Scienza Nuova, De Antiquissima, and in his Autobiography, Vico considered the generative power of the conatus which animated the so-called “metaphysical points” and was therefore the creative agent of nature. The point is the “momentum” which “is not extended but generates extension”,9 so as to trigger another connection between geometry, imagination, creation and, ultimately, language and etymology. In his Autobiography, Vico clearly expresses his interest in geometry, and he also points out the fifth axiom of Euclid, exactly the same one from which non-Euclidean geometries originated: When Vico saw how Plato and Aristotle often employ 7. Giordano Bruno, De la causa, principio et uno (Torino: Einaudi 1973), p. 234, my translation and italics. 8. Giordano Bruno, De la causa, principio et uno, p. 144. 9. Giambattista Vico, De Antiquissima (Roma: Signorelli, 1969), p. 78.


Sabatini mathematical proofs to demonstrate what they discuss in philosophy, he realized that he fell short of being able to understand them well, so he decided to apply himself to geometry and to penetrate as far as the fifth proposition of Euclid. Reflecting that its demonstration turned on a congruence of triangles, the sides and angles of one triangle being shown one by one to be equal to the corresponding sides and angles of the other, he found in himself that it was an easier matter to grasp all those minute truths together, as in a metaphysical genus.10

In other passages of his Autobiography, Vico rejects algebra because it has “no need of images” and it makes our imagination and our perception “sluggish”11. Geometry, on the contrary, is for him “a graphic art”: [Geometry is] A graphic art which at once invigorates memory by the great number of its elements, refines imagination with its delicate figures as with so many drawings described in the subtlest lines, and quickens perception which must survey all these figures and among them all collect those which are needed to demonstrate the magnitude which is required.12

Some other passages from the Introduction are even more explicit as regards both imagination and creation: In Mathematics man counterfeits God’s creation by abstraction and definition, and thereby achieves science; but this science is not knowledge of realities like God’s knowledge of the created universe, but of man-created fictions. [...] In geometry we demonstrate because we create; before we demonstrate in physics we must be able to create there also.13

All of these references, from Poincaré to Bruno and Vico, appear to have common aspects rooted in the relationship between science and imagination and/or memory, aspects that may explain Joyce’s interest both on a philosophical and also on a scientific level, and that may 10. Giambattista Vico, Autobiography (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975), p. 123; my italics. 11. Vico, Autobiography, pp. 124-25. 12. Vico, Autobiography, p. 124; my italics. 13. Vico, Autobiography, pp. 138-39.

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have helped shape his ambitious project of creating what Sam Slote defines as “omniscience”14, a sort of all-encompassing science that is able to connect all branches of learning, from natural sciences, to geometry, mathematics, philology, grammar and, as I intend to argue, also punctuation. 3 The geometrical point as a mark of interruption and continuarration As I have already mentioned, the close connection between geometry and punctuation, besides relying on Joyce’s aiming at “omniscience”, is precisely to be seen in his use and recreation of the full stop, especially in passages that concern geometry itself, such as the following: after it’s so long till I thanked you about I do so much now thank you so very much as you introduced me to fourks, (e) will, these remind to be sane? (f) Fool step! Aletheometry? Or just zoot doonfloon? Nut it out, peeby eye! Onamassofmancynaves. But. Top. (FW 370.11-16; italics added)

Here, geometry is combined with the Greek “Aletheia” (“truth”), so that, at first sight, it should read as a kind of geometry which provides a truthful interpretation of space, also in connection with “alethiology”, namely the branch of logic dealing with truth. On the other hand, the term may also refer to latin “Alea” (from which derives the Italian “aleatorio”, meaning “random” or “uncertain”) which underlines a lack of possibility or determinism. More interestingly, the term is preceded by the pun “fool step” (a fool and a “false” step), which ironically reinforces the lack of power of the “full stop”, as it is also evident by the word “top” at the end of the passage which functions as a literal full stop, as if a standard mark of punctuation – a point – would not be sufficient. The two words “fool” and “top” were used together before in the second book of the Wake to refer to and to “rewrite” punctuation:

14. Sam Slote, “Joyce and Science”, in Palgrave Advances in James Joyce Studies, ed. Jean-Michel Rabaté (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 162-82.


Sabatini An argument follows. Chuffy was a nangel then and his soard fleshed light like likening. Fools top! Singty, sangty, meekly loose, defendy nous from prowlabouts. Make a shine on the curst. Emen. But the duvlinsulph was in Glugger, that lost-to-lurning. Punct. He was sbuffing and sputing, tussing like anisine, whipping his eyesoult and gnatsching his teats over the brividies from existers and theoutherliubbocks of life. (FW 222.21-28; italics added)

Besides the same connotation of foolishness given to the full stop and the ironical transformation of “stop” into “top” (“top” suggesting “exceeding” or “surpassing”, rather than interruption), the two passages both employ fully written words that function as marks of pause or interruption. Here, besides the most obvious “punct” (which again underlines ideas of perforation and aperture, as stated above), the word “emen” is even more relevant for my analysis, and connects to a similar usage of the words “omen” and “amain” (and the implied “amen”), as in the following passages from the first and the last book, respectively: For what we are, gifs a gross if we are, about to believe. So pob the begg and pass the kish for crawsake. Omen. So sigh us. (FW 7.0608; italics mine) The silent cock shall crow at last. The west shall shake the east awake. Walk while ye have the night for morn, lightbreakfastbringer, morroweth whereon every past shall full fost sleep. Amain. (FW 473.22-25; italics mine)

In light of the previously mentioned emphasis on infinite aperture and ever-expanding fluency (both on a geometrical and on a philosophical level), the expressions “emen”, “omen”, and “amein” appear thus as “marks of continuarration” that seem to simultaneously break the sentence while opening to the rest of the narration. The “amen/omen/amain” words combine both the sense of an ending inherent in the religious “amen” (“so be it,” i.e., the end of all prayers), and an anticipation of the future in the sense of “omen”, or ominous foreseeing, while “amain” means “with all one’s might,” “at full speed”, or “exceedingly”, thus providing a paradoxical idea of continuous progression inherent in the same word functioning as a syntactical break. In the “Night Lessons” episode, furthermore, we

Fullstoppers and Fools Tops


have another similar reference, which is this time expressed with the word “anon”: Outstamp and distribute him at the expanse of his society. To be continued. Anon. And ook, ook, ook, fanky! All the charicatures in the drame! (FW 302.28-29; italics mine)

The word “anon” is here employed in a very similar fashion to the previous “emen”, “omen”, and “amain”. “Anon” signifies “in a short time” and “at another time”, but it also has an archaic meaning, signifying “at once” and “immediately”. These, preceded by the sentence “to be continued” thus create a powerful short-circuit that implies simultaneous ending and beginning, closure and aperture, progression and suspension. If we consider the juxtaposition of the expression “to be continued” and the term “anon” (used as a hyper-mark of interruption), the concept seems to precisely connect to the famous liquid and flowing passage about “continuarration”: Where did I stop? Never stop! Continuarration! You’re not there yet. I amstel waiting. Garonne, garonne! (FW 205.13-15; italics added)

The impossibility of stopping within the circular and spherical nature of Finnegans Wake is here explicit and it creates another complex net of meanings when connected to the full stop and its inability to break the stream of words, which originates from the unconscious. It is thus worth noting the numerous references to the word “stop”, used as a sort of invocation through repetition that proves ineffective, such as in the passage about punctuation quoted above and in several other ones:15 15. As key examples, the following passages prove revealing, also in the light of their strong paratactical structure in which the point (and the “stop”) between the sentences opens into the next rather than interrupting the flow: “But you’ll find Chiggenchugger’s taking the Treaclyshortcake with Bugle and the Bitch pairsadrawsing and Horssmayres Prosession tyghting up under the threes. Stop. Press stop. To press stop. All to press stop. And be the seem talkin wharabahts hosetanzies, dat sure is sullibrated word! Bingbong!” (FW 379.03-08; italics added); and “Razed. Lawyered. Vacant. Mined. Here’s the Bayleaffs. Step out to Hall out of that, Ereweaker, with your Bloody Big Bristol. Bung. Stop. Bung. Stop. Cumm Bumm.


Sabatini these paper wounds, four in type, were gradually and correctly understood to mean stop, please stop, do please stop, and O do please stop respectively, and following up their one true clue, the circumflexuous wall of a singleminded men’s asylum... (FW 124.03-07; italics mine)

The reference to a “circumflexuous wall” refers both to a curvilinear non-Euclidean shape and, obviously, to the (curved) circumflex accent typical of Latin languages. Such a reference is highly relevant here: as in Joyce’s conceiving of the full-stop as an illusory mark of interruption, the circumflex accent, in fact, is also a “fake” mark of punctuation since, as Marcello Sensini argued (with reference to Italian and French), it does not imply a variation of intonation or of sound.16 In ancient Greek, moreover, the circumflex accent can only be on top of a diphthong or a long vowel and most commonly on the last syllable of a word, so as to mark the ending of the word itself.17 Therefore, the passage quoted above implicitly reveals how “the mark that stops” never really stops the syntax or the overflowing semantics that the syntax conveys. Rather, it paradoxically and hyperbolically opens towards new sentences and new significations, as apparent in another similar passage, with an interesting variation: A claribel cumbeck to errind. Hers before his even, posted ere penned. He’s your change, thinkyou methim. Go daft noon, madden, mind the step. Please stoop O to please. Stop. (FW 232.16-19; italics added)

As in other instances, parataxis here confers fluency and a hammering continuous rhythm to the syntax (rather than only fragmenting it). Although such infinite constructions of sentences are here marked by a real full-stop (after “please”), Joyce employs once more the full word “stop”, which is once transformed into “stoop”. This etymologically implies a forward and downward movement from an erect position (as in bending one’s head, shoulders or body in general, or the leaning and bending of trees and precipices), a movement that Stop. Came Baked to Auld Aireen. Stop” (FW 421.11-14; italics added). 16. Marcello Sensini and Federico Roncoroni, Suoni e fonemi della lingua italiana in La grammatica della lingua italiana (Milano: Cles, Mondadori Editore, 1997), p. 40. 17. Sensini and Roncoroni, Suoni e fonemi della lingua italiana, p. 54.

Fullstoppers and Fools Tops


implies again curvature and advancement. Reflection, thus, on Joyce’s experimental use of the full stop, which redefines its common usage in grammar, may help shed further light on the narrative circularity of the work itself. As Patrick McCarthy has noted, “the first paragraph of Finnegans Wake seems to inject us directly into an ongoing narrative about to be retold”, while the second paragraph “moves away from actual narration to list potential or future events that have not yet happened in this cycle”. According to McCarthy, such a pattern recurs “throughout much of Finnegans Wake, what appears to be an attempt to tell a story is often diverted, interrupted, or reshaped into something else, for example a commentary on a narrative with conflicting or unverifiable details”.18 It is in this light that Joyce’s reversal of the function of the full stop19 may be considered as a sign which, in his experimental style, loses its original power and becomes part of a narration which “stumbles at doubtful points” (FW 114.09) and that can only mark “that period or those parts is only one more unlookedfor conclusion leaped at” (FW 108.32-33; italics mine).20 By famously omitting the full stop at the end of Finnegans Wake, Joyce does not follow narrative convention. At the same time, he seems to follow the convention of punctuation, since a full stop would imply a real ending. He nevertheless disrupts the function of the full stop throughout the book, often by using it in a paradoxical or oxymoronic way which, on the one hand, reflects the epistemological and scientific implication of the point as an infinitely reproducible sphere                                                              18. Patrick McCarthy, “Attempts at Narration in Finnegans Wake”, Genetic Joyce Studies 5 (Spring, 2005): 19. The farcical value of punctuation is revealed in the following passage, where the full stop is referred to as a “puntlost”, i.e., a point that has been lost or that is “pointless”: “Note the notes of admiration! See the signs of suspicion! Count the hemi-semidemicolons! Screamer caps and invented gommas, quoites puntlost, forced to farce!” (FW 374.08-10).    20. The passage is also about punctuation itself and, more specifically, about inverted commas and the complex and debated issue of quotation: “To conclude purely negatively from the positive absence of political odia and monetary requests that its page cannot ever have been a penproduct of a man or woman of that periodor those parts is only one more unlookedfor conclusion leaped at, being tantamount to inferring from the nonpresence of inverted commas (sometimes called quotation marks) on any page that its author was always constitutionally incapable of misappropriating the spoken words of others” (FW 108.29-36). 



(which creates by extension, as in Vico or in the intuitively scientific measurement of non-Euclidean geometry), and, on the other hand, as a symbol that mirrors and microscopically reproduces the circular structure of the work itself, where ending and beginning famously coincide: “where by a droit of signory, icefloe was from his Inn the Byggning to whose Finishthere Punct. Let erehim ruhmuhrmuhr” (FW 17.21-23; italics added). The word “punct” is here employed to refer simultaneously to a beginning and to an ending. The ending is implied in the term “finish” and, according to McHugh’s Annotations to Finnegans Wake, in the reference to “Finistère” (the French Department where Tristan died); to “Cape Finisterre” (the Northwest tip of Spain wherefrom Celts came to Ireland); Latin “finis terrae” (end of the earth) and, finally, to Phoenix Park (from Irish fionn-uisge). Finnegans Wake, therefore, tells of a story whose beginning was the ending and viceversa, but also a story whose beginning was a “punct”. This “punct” in its turn was a phoenix-like point able to generate and, more poignantly, to regenerate itself into new beings, so as to communicate the idea of continuity, of continuous progression, of something that is famously to be perennially renewed, but with a difference. It is in this light that we may conceive of the full stop in the Wake as a non-Euclidean point capable of infinite constructions, and also as a potential bearer of “the seim anew” (FW 215.23) and, ultimately, as an “Old Vico Roundpoint” (FW 260.14-15). Turin University




Abstract: Taking Joyce’s Ithacan references to “diacritic aspirations” and “servile letters” (U 17.747-8) as its starting point, this essay explores the ways in which Joyce’s uses of diacritics and references to various script styles (Gaelic, Hebrew, “gothic”) seem to be informed by the uses that national and international alphabets were put to in various European countries in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Joyce’s personal exposure to the biscriptal Irish and multiscriptal Austro-Hungarian environment in the pre-war era is compared to his exploration of national diacritics in his late 1921 comic additions to the “Cyclops” episode of Ulysses, while his 1925 addition, and subsequent neglect, of “international” diacritics to the Wakean mamafesta is interpreted in the context of contemporary linguistic works and political processes. The essay concludes that Joyce’s use of diacritics and his reference to “diacritic aspirations” and “servile letters” can be meaningfully linked to the insight that diacritics are capable of encoding nationalist as well as internationalist aspirations, and that letters of distinctive scripts are capable of serving not only strictly communicative, but also symbolic political purposes – as they most certainly did in Joyce’s Europe. In a liberated nocturnal moment of intercultural sharing, the catechetical narrator of “Ithaca”, possibly also speaking for Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, produces a catalogue of “points of contact” that exist between the “ancient Hebrew” and “ancient Irish” languages and “between the peoples who spoke them” (U 17.745-6, 724-5). This learned list begins with references to Stephen’s and



Bloom’s previous “oral” and “glyphic” comparisons of the two languages, and records “the presence of guttural sounds, diacritic aspirations, epenthetic and servile letters in both languages” (U 17.747-8). In this study I wish to explore how the last two orthographic points can be seen to make much more general sense than their truly Ithacan style of respectable but seemingly narrow technicality would suggest. 1 Aspirations and letters: the politics of writing At first sight, the narrator’s reference to “diacritic aspirations” seems rather straightforward, suggesting that in written Hebrew as well as in written Irish Gaelic, diacritics – that is, “signs or marks used to distinguish different sounds or values of the same letter or character” – indicate the linguistic phenomenon called aspiration, whereby a sound is pronounced “with a breathing” or has “h or its supposed equivalent” added to it.1 This definition, however, only begins to make descriptive sense in the case of these two languages if we remember that nineteenth- and early twentieth-century grammars also used the term aspiration for the “spirant” (fricative) pronunciations of stops (plosives), for instance, for the pronunciation of [p] as [f]. Under this interpretation, the diacritics that come closest to the Ithacan description are the ancient short horizontal overbar ( ֿ◌) called rafe (or raphe) in Hebrew, and the overdot [˙] known as ponc séimhithe in Irish Gaelic.2 While Irish texts printed in standard Roman characters generally marked (and mark) “aspiration” (or rather spirantization, I am profoundly grateful to Fritz Senn of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation for giving me not only the opportunity to do research at the Foundation, but also full access to the materials held by it. I also thank Sabrina Alonso for looking up and sharing textual data from the James Joyce Archives. My research has been greatly assisted by the wealth of texts and images that have been made accessible online via the Modernist Journals Project, the Open Library, Google Books, Wikipedia and some other sites. Finally, I must thank my family for giving me the time to research and write this study. 1. See “diacritic”, adj. and n. and “aspirate” v., OED Second Edition (1989), online version September 2012; entries first published in 1895 and 1885, respectively.  2. For the Hebrew rafe, see Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’s Hebrew Grammar (the 1813 text revised and enlarged by Emil Kautzsch (1909), trans. A.E. Cowley, second ed., (Oxford: Clarendon, 1910, repr. 1956), §13-14, online: wiki/Gesenius%27_Hebrew_Grammar. For an overview of the notation of consonant mutations in Irish, see Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, The World’s Writing Systems (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 65660.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


and more generally, lenition) by inserting an h after the affected consonant letter, the use of the Irish “diacritic aspiration” had, by the late nineteenth century, become firmly associated with the use of a distinctive Gaelic letter type. Also called the “Irish character”, this local version of the Latin alphabet, based on early medieval monastic manuscript styles that developed on the British Isles from their uncial and half uncial predecessors in North Africa and Europe, came by Joyce’s time to be seen as a strong visual marker of the Irish character of anything printed with it.3 The Joycean reference to “servile” letters (“not belonging to the root of the word in which [they] occur [...]; serving to express a derivative or flexional element”)4 is similarly significant. The distinction between “root” and “servile” letters, traditional in Hebrew, appears to have been introduced into Irish grammatical discourse in the eighteenth century with explicit reference to the Hebrew counterparts, to describe consonants affected by what we now would call “nasalisation” or “eclipsis” in Gaelic grammar – while at the same time no doubt appropriating some of the aura of antiquity and respectability surrounding the ancient biblical language.5 As this last gesture towards Hebrew suggests, seemingly technical linguistic descriptions often have their ideological agendas.6 Such symbolic interpretations of linguistic details are, of course, not far from Joyce’s point. While Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus engage in a comparison of the sounding (“phonic”) as well as written (“glyphic”) manifestations of Gaelic and Hebrew, the narrator                                                              3. For the development of insular script styles, see Daniels and Bright, The World’s Writing Systems, pp. 317-18. For Irish printing types, see Dermot McGuinne, Irish Type Design: A History of Printing Types in the Irish Character (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1992). For an exploration of views of the printed “Irish character” as embodying the Irish character, see Seamus Deane, Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing Since 1790 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997). For images of the Gaelic script, see the entry “Gaelic type” on Wikipedia. 4. Epenthetic letters are “inserted in the middle of words” or “not itself sounded, but serving to lengthen the preceding vowel, as e in tune”. See “epenthetic” and “servile” adj. 7b and 7c, OED Second Edition (1989), online version September 2012. 5. See Andrew Dohlevy’s bilingual English-Irish The Catechism or Christian Doctrine by Way of Question and Answer (Paris, 1742), 508ff for borrowing the term “servile letters” from Hebrew orthography for the description of Irish. (Access through Google Books.) 6. For an exposition of the pivotal role of philology in European cultural nationalisms, see Joep Leerssen, “Nationalism and the Cultivation of Culture”, Nations and Nationalism, Vol. 12 (2006), pp. 559-78.



assures us that their knowledge of these languages is neither active nor extensive, but “[t]heoretical” and “confined” (U 17.743). It is also not necessarily very reliable: if we can believe Brendan O Hehir, the Ithacan rendition of Stephen’s recitation of the ballad “Shule Aroon” or Siúl a rún is faulty at several points, including some that are specifically singled out later as significant parallels with Hebrew. Thus, all diacritics are omitted (although the ones needed here would be the simple acute accents known as síneadh fada), there is an unnecessary (almost “epenthetic”) letter in “siocair” (correctly: socair), while practically all the silent (not to say “servile”) i letters indicating the palatalization of the neighbouring consonant are either placed incorrectly (“suil” for siúl), or altogether forgotten (as in “cuin” for ciúin) (U 17.727).7 Similarly unreliable is Bloom’s knowledge of Hebrew writing: after Stephen “wrote the Irish characters for gee, eh, dee, em, simple and modified” (the latter being marked by the length marker fada or by “diacritic aspirations”), Bloom’s list of roughly corresponding Hebrew characters fails to include “mem.” Tellingly, neither man attempts to write down more than a few disconnected characters, and certainly neither undertakes to produce a meaningful text. The fact that the display and comparison of ancient written characters, which is to give rise to the ensuing learned linguistic, historical and political discourse, takes place on “the penultimate blank page of a book of inferior literary style, entituled Sweets of Sin” (U 17.733-4) also implies an ironical attitude on Joyce’s part. Soon afterwards, Stephen Dedalus’s writing “his signature in Irish and Roman characters” highlights the highly constructed and complex nature of his cultural identity: Stephen’s Irish signature is presumably a transliteration, with Irish characters, of the English version of the Latin transcription of the Greek names

                                                             7. Compare Brandan O Hehir, A Gaelic Lexicon for Finnegans Wake and Glossary for Joyce’s Other Works (Berkerley and Los Angeles; University of California Press, 1967), p. 352, online: GaelicLex. O Hehir notes that siúl would in Joyce’s time have been spelled mostly as siubhal, but Joyce’s spelling seems to have been based, like the later spelling siúl, on pronunciation (xi). However, Joyce clearly did not remember the rules concerning the indication of palatalized consonants in Irish.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


Στέφανος and Δαίδαλος8 – and thus a visual counterpart of Buck Mulligan’s early remark on the “mockery” of the “absurd name, an ancient Greek” of the Irish “bard” (U 1.34, 1.72). Stephen’s writing of his signature in Irish characters, like Bloom’s mnemotechnically somewhat defective singing of the “Hatikvah” (U 17.763-4) and both characters’ previous display of Gaelic and Hebrew, is not meant for practical communication: it is almost purely a symbolic expression of aspects of their cultural identity. The notion that such cultural identities are often associated with national, or even nationalist political aspirations, is finely encoded in the list of “points of contact” mentioned at the beginning. This list of similarities between the Hebrew and Irish languages and “the peoples who spoke them” (a definition that could clearly not easily cover Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom) begins innocently enough with “diacritic aspirations” and “servile letters,” but concludes with “the restoration in Chanah David of Zion and the possibility of Irish political autonomy or devolution” (U 17.759-60). Moreover, if, according to the narrator, the “Hatikvah” (which was by 1904 an anthem of the Zionist movement) was chanted by Bloom “partially in anticipation of that multiple, ethnically irreducible consummation” (U 17.761-2), then Stephen’s subsequent writing of his signature in Gaelic letters at Bloom’s request may also be seen as a similar, politically anticipatory gesture. The orthographic and typographic peculiarities of the written form of language, its “visual identity”, are here in “Ithaca” clearly linked to national identities:9 the Irish and Hebrew scripts evoke Irish and Hebrew nationhood, and can thus be appropriated by nationalist discourses. This is an insight that Joyce could have gathered from his exposure to various “national” alphabets in Dublin, Pola, Trieste and Zurich, and appears to have informed those complex and often puzzling passages of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake that I wish to discuss later in this essay.

                                                             8. Brendan O Hehir reconstructs Stephen Dedalus’s signature as “Steafán Ó Deadaluis”, meaning “Stephen, desc[endant] of Deadalus,” noting that the “n[ame] does not actually occur in I[rish]”. See O Hehir, Gaelic Lexicon, p. 352. 9. For an extremely valuable extended overview of the role of scripts in a variety of European national identitles, see Tomasz Kamusella, The Politics of Language and Nationalism in Modern Central Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). 



2 “cellelleneteutoslavzendlatinsound-script”: inscribing nationhood, 1900-1919 Growing up in the Dublin of the late 19th century, Joyce could not fail noticing the presence and role of the Gaelic script around him. He studied Irish in classes organised by the Gaelic League for at least two years (albeit sporadically),10 and John Stanislaus Joyce claimed probably with some reason at the 1901 census of Ireland that his eldest surviving son was a speaker of both English and Irish.11 A friend of Gaelic League activist George Clancy, Joyce would also have seen how the Gaelic League in particular promoted the use of the “Irish character” through its badges (cf. SH 56), textbooks (“O’Growney’s primers”, SH 56), and periodical publications, with the Gaelic Journal (Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge) and An Claidheamh Soluis displaying conspicuous ornamental Gaelic lettering and design in their mastheads.12 By promoting the Gaelic type, the League thus effectively contributed to the distancing of the Roman type from the Irish language and reinforced the image it acquired in the previous few centuries of being associated with the English language and, for many, English political-religious supremacy.13 As a result of this broader association of letter styles, the use of distinctive “Gaelic” letters was by Joyce’s time not limited to the Irish language. A case in point is the “visual identity” of the music competition Feis Ceoil, where Joyce won a bronze medal for singing in May 1904. The programme booklet for this competition sported lettering and ornamentation reminiscent of the Book of Kells and later 10. Tomasz Kamusella, The Politics of Language and Nationalism, p. vii. Cf. also Frank Budgen’s account of Joyce’s experiences in Patrick (Pádraig) Pearse’s Irish classes in James Joyce and the making of ‘Ulysses’, and other writings (Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 183. 11. For an image of the census form, signed by the writer’s father, see ace/1271356/, 1 August 2012.  12. The Gaelic Journal was first issued by the Gaelic Union in 1882 with a modest scholarly masthead dominated by the English words “Gaelic Journal” in Roman capitals; the new version, dominated by the Gaelic name of the journal in distinctive and ornamental Gaelic lettering, was used from 1894, after the journal had been taken over by the newly-established Gaelic League. 13. There had in fact been a debate in the 1880s and 1890s within the Gaelic Union and the Gaelic League on whether the Gaelic or the “roman” script should be promoted, but in practice, the Gaelic script prevailed. For details, see Brian Ó Conchubhair, “The Gaelic Font Controversy: The Gaelic League’s (Post-Colonial) Crux”, Irish University Review, vol. 33, no. 1. (SpringSummer, 2003): 46-63.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


Gaelic manuscripts, and crucially used these historically inspired letter forms for the English text as well.14 Significantly, “Gaelic” lettering had an primarily symbolic purpose here: as a vehicle for a language other than Irish, it marks an Irish cultural identity which – like that of Stephen – does not necessarily rely on the use of the Irish language. There were also more overtly political uses of the “Irish character” in Joyce’s time. As a regular reader of Arthur Griffith’s weeklies the United Irishman (1899-1906) and Sinn Féin (19061914), Joyce witnessed how, after the banning of the United Irishman in 1906, Griffith chose the nationalist slogan Sinn Féin as the title of his new and longest-lived paper and prominently displayed it in the masthead – in the Gaelic type. (This stood in a symbolic contrast to, for instance, the use of “Old English” blackletter in the masthead of the Freeman’s Journal). The choice clearly marked Griffith’s awareness of the visual impact of the distinctive lettering for the nationalist cause, while the rest of the newspaper, excepting the Gaelic language samples of the “How to learn Irish” column, was written in English and printed in the “roman” type.15 Joyce’s early encounters with the English, Irish, Italian and French languages in Dublin and Paris could only partially prepare him for the variety of scripts that he encountered in Pola and Trieste, whose wellknown and highly inspiring mix of languages was accompanied by the less often noted diversity of their particular scripts and alphabets. In addition to Italian papers and books in classic “roman” types, using very few diacritics, Joyce would have seen, for instance, Germanlanguage newspapers and other texts that used the traditional German                                                              14. That the use of the Gaelic script was not necessarily very deeply rooted is suggested by the fact that the title page of the 1904 Feis Ceoil programme, although fundamentally identical with the 1903 one, “corrects” some of the problematic letters of the earlier design, in an apparent effort to reconcile authenticity with recognizability. For a reproduction of the covers of 1903 and 1904 Feis Ceoil programmes, see A Joycean Scrapbook (comp. Katherine McSharry, Dublin: National Library of Ireland, 2004), p. 52. 15. By 1910, Griffith’s paper also carried a Déanta i nÉirinn (Made in Ireland) logo with Gaelic lettering and a Celtic knotwork design, and regularly displayed cartoons using Irish lettering. For a reproduction of the 21 May 1910 issue of Sinn Féin, see the Wikipedia entry “Sinn Féin (newspaper)”, 2 February 2012. The practice of promoting the use of Irish in newspapers appears to go back to Eugene O’Growney’s influential and popular weekly “Simple Lessons in Irish” series in the Weekly Freeman in the 1890s.



blackletter style known as “gothic” (or in German Fraktur or “broken script”), accompanied by an orthography richly endowed with vowel diacritics (umlaut: ä, ö, ü) and consonant letter combinations and ligatures (sch, ß). He saw Croatian and Slovenian papers in roman characters with frequent consonantal diacritics (ć, č, đ, š, ž and č, š, ž), Hungarian texts studded with vowel accents (á, é, í, ó, ö, ő, ü, ű) and consonantal letter combinations (cs, dz, dzs, gy, ly, ny, sz, ty, zs), and probably also Serbian papers using the Serbian version of the modern “civil” Cyrillic alphabet. He observed Serbian churches with their traditional Church Cyrillic inscriptions and Greek churches with their Greek ones, and synagogues with their Hebrew ones. He may even have seen texts in the Arabic script, which in the early twentieth century was still used to write languages with at least some speakers in Trieste and its neighbourhood, such as Turkish, Albanian and Bosnian. He would soon encounter his future brother-in-law, the Czech František Schaurek, from whom he appears to have extracted information about both the pronunciation and the spelling of the Czech language, including its striking wealth of graphemes with diacritics (á, é, ě, í, ó, ů, ú, ý, č, ď/Ď, ň, ř, ť/Ť, š, ž). 16 Even in the unlikely case that Joyce did not notice all these national alphabets and scripts, he would have been made aware of them, as well as some further ones, when using most AustroHungarian banknotes as he received his salary or paid his rent and debts. These banknotes – accommodating spaces for the graphic and typographic self-representation of the issuing state17 – declared their multinational imperial character by indicating the denomination not only in the two major official languages of the empire, German and Hungarian, but also in the eight most important other languages, Czech, Polish, “Ruthenian” (Ukrainian), Italian, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, and Romanian, using their national adaptations of the Latin

16. For Joyce’s proficiency in Czech, see Willard Potts, ed., Portraits of the Artist in Exile: Recollections of James Joyce by Europeans (San Diego etc.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979), pp. 134-35. 17. Nationalist exploitations of the name and imagery – although not usually the lettering – of modern coins and banknotes have received some attention in the last two decades. For an overview, see Jan Penrose, “Designing the nation: Banknotes, banal nationalism and alternative conceptions of the state”, Political Geography 30 (2011): 429-40.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


and Cyrillic alphabets.18 As Joyce was aware, this was a linguistic gesture that was not made on banknotes used in Ireland until well after the birth of the Irish Free State, when the Currency Commission issued the first banknotes carrying both English and Irish texts – although neither in Gaelic characters – in 1928.19 As Joyce read local German-language newspapers printed in Fraktur, like the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (JJII 441), Joyce’s stay in Zurich between 1915 and 1919 must have solidified his familiarity with this script, but the Swiss city that gave temporary home to refugees with very different backgrounds must also have added to his experience of the multilingual and multi-scriptal nature of Europe. Indeed, from an early twenty-first-century perspective, so thoroughly dominated by English-based information technology, it is easy to forget how varied the scriptal map of Europe was in the early 20th century, when Joyce knew it, and how changes, many of them during Joyce’s lifetime, have turned it into the present Romandominated environment.20 Indeed, although the Arabic script is not quite the same as the “Zend” (Avestan) one, Joyce’s experiences in Dublin, Austro-Hungary and Zurich gave him familiarity with the characteristic sounds and scripts of most of the “seven sister tongues” that he seems to refer to in the Wakean compound word

                                                             18. Thus, the 10 crown note issued in 1900 and designed partly by Gustav Klimt would carry German Zehn Kronen in Fraktur, the Hungarian TIZ KORONÁT, the Czech DESET KORUN, the Polish DZIESIĘĆ KORON, the Italian DIECI KORONE, the Slovene DESET KRON, the Croatian DESET KRUNA, and the Romanian ZECE KOROANE in the appropriate version of the Latin alphabet, and the Ruthenian ДЕСЯТЬ КОРОН and the Serbian ДЕСEТ КРУНА in the appropriate version of the Cyrillic alphabet. Naturally, further denominations would contain further diacritics in the numerals. For images of Austro-Hungarian banknotes issued in the late 1800s and early 1900s, see, for instance, the “Geldschein” site at 19. For information on and images of Irish banknotes and coins, see and 20. For a (not necessarily unbiased) 1901 map of the scripts used in Europe at the time, see L. Henkel, “Verbreitung der Schriftarten in Europa um 1900”,, 23 September 2012. The useful concept of a “scriptal environment” was introduced by Frances Trix in 1997 to refer to “language(s) and language attitudes in social space” (“Alphabet conflict in the Balkans: Albanian and the Congress of Monastir”, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 128 (1997), pp. 1-23; quote from p.16). 



“cellelleneteutoslavzendlatinsound-script” (FW 219.17): Cel(tic), (H)ellen(ic), Teuto(nic) (German), Slav, Zend, Latin and Sanskrit.21 Moreover, Joyce’s experience of the various languages of AustroHungary would also have made him realise that it is not necessarily the choice of script that defines the “national” nature of an orthography – as more often than not scripts tend to be borrowed from other cultures – but how it is adapted to the particular language by defining specific letter combinations or diacritical modifications. If language preservationists in countries like Poland are today concerned about the IT-induced decline in the use of diacritics as visual markers of a distinctive linguistic identity, Joyce, given his Austro-Hungarian experiences, would probably have recognised the point.22 3 Ulysses: diacritic identities In fact, it is precisely this awareness of the role of diacritics in appropriating scripts and marking nationality that seems to inform some of the more abstruse passages in the “Cyclops” episode of Ulysses. As Joyce could, for instance, hardly expect his readers to understand the various Hungarian expressions of the episode, he seems to use – and occasionally overuse – distinctive Hungarian graphemes to announce and comically exaggerate a Hungarian theme. Thus, the acute accent on kedvés (U 12.1841) is unnecessary, and the ssz of Visszontlátásra (U 12.1841) and the czs of Rakóczsy (U 12.1828) should be the simpler sz and cz, respectively, while in the name of “Countess Marha Virága Kisászony Putrápesthi” (U 12.56061) neither the Hungarian originals kisasszony (“miss”) and Budapest (or earlier Buda-Pesth) require the acute accents that are used, nor do, of course, the English puns kiss ass or putrid pest.23 What Joyce seems to be engaging here in is akin to the phenomenon of “foreign branding” and “false umlaut”, that is, the use of foreign-looking orthography to suggest a nationality and through                                                              21. McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, p. 219. 22. Cf. Monika Scislowska, “Poland campaigns to preserve its complex spelling”, The Big Story, Associated Press, posted 21 February 2013, article/poland-campaigns-preserve-its-complex-spelling. Examples of faulty diacritic designs at Filip Blažek’s “Diacritics Project” ( site also make it obvious that in the use of diacritics national standards are as specific as sensitivities are fine. 23. Joyce’s original insertion on the first page proof does not have an accent on Putrapesthi, but he did not cross it out on subsequent proofs.; see JJA 25:54, 25:81.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


this, qualities that are commonly associated with that nationality.24 Joyce did of course make use of similar false diacritics earlier in the episode when Paddy Dignam, now “on the path of prālāyā or return” (U 12.346), gives his theosophic report on the other world, where “more favoured beings now in the spirit” could enjoy “every modern home comfort such as tālāfānā, ālāvātār, hātākāldā, wātāklāsāt” (U 12:353-4).25 Here, the (mostly false) diacritics have a crucial role in creating a parody of the theosophists’ habit of interspersing their texts with Sanskrit words and thereby investing them with the aura of ancient oriental wisdom. The list of the Friends of the Emerald Island has another member in whose name Joyce meant to use gratuitous but significant diacritics: “Goosepond Přhklštř Kratchinabritchisitch” (U 12.565-6). Although the name appeared without the distinctive carons in all editions of Ulysses until the Gabler text of 1984 restored them, the importance that Joyce attached to these diacritics is clear from the fact that he even advised the French printer of the first edition, Maurice Darantiere, to try using inverted circumflex accents to get close to the desired effect.26 Joyce’s insistence on the diacritics is understandable                                                              24. For the use of the false umlaut by heavy metal bands like Motörhead or Infernäl Mäjesty (often in association with blackletter types), see Jürgen Spitzmüller, “Floating ideologies: Metamorphoses of graphic ‘Germanness’”, in Orthography as Social Action: Scripts, Spelling, Identity and Power, ed. Alexandra Jaffe, Jannis Androutsopoulos, Mark Sebba and Sally Johnson (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, 2012), pp. 255-88.  25. Joyce patiently added the macrons on all proofs in October and November 1921 (cf. JJA 25:65, 81, 97), but at least one copy of the 1922 first edition (no. 785, reproduced in facsimile in the Oxford World Classics series in 1993) does not seem to have them (no. 289). Other copies (no. 925 at the Zurich James Joyce Foundation and no. 257, published in facsimile by the First Edition Library, Shelton, Connecticut) have macrons placed at uneven heights, which appears to indicate that the printer had technical difficulties with them. In contrast to the 1934 first American edition by Random House, most European editions of the novel in the 1920s and 1930s display the macrons in this passage (including the 1922 edition by the Egoist Press, the 1926 second Shakespeare and Co. edition, the 1927 German translation, the 1929 French translation, the 1932 Odyssey Press edition the and the 1936 Bodley Head edition). 26. JJA 25:81. Joyce’s first version of the name had the carons on the second r and the k (JJA 25:81), but the fact that he later corrected the latter to letters that do exist in Slavic languages suggests that he had specific alphabets in mind. Incidentally, Darantiere’s decision not to use the expected accent grave on the first “e” of his last name reflected his pride in his Italian roots – itself a relevant story about the national implications of diacritics, but one that I do not have the space here to consider fully.



if we accept that he seems to have meant to mark this character as a Czech-Slovak-Croatian-Serbian-Slovenian composite from the Austro-Hungarian Empire: consonants with a caron (like the š) are typical of West and South Slavic languages (such as Czech, Slovak, Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian), the ř is unique to Czech, gospod and its cognates are forms of address in Slovenian as well as other Slavic languages, the variously spelled -itch is a common Slavic name ending, and the name “Kratchinabritchisitch” strongly recalls Joyce’s World War I limerick about the Austro-Hungarian emperor being troubled by the itching in his breeches caused by the various constituent nations of the dual empire.27 The emphasis on the numerous and alien-looking diacritics and letter combinations in a chapter focusing on nationalism could serve several purposes. Most of the diacritic Hungarian seems to be there to give a touch of foreign branding to Bloom’s character, which is politically quite appropriate, since, as rumour goes, “it was he [Bloom] drew up all the plans according to the Hungarian system” for Griffith’s Sinn Féin movement (U 12.1635-6).28 As was the case with Bloom’s Hebrew characters, the Hungarian phrases of “Cyclops” may also suggest a Hungarian strand in Bloom’s personal identity. However, as none of the Hungarian phrases with their digraphs and diacritics is actually produced by Bloom, and both scenes in which See Jean-Michel Rabaté, “‘Thank Maurice’: A Note about Maurice Darantiere”, Joyce Studies Annual 2, (1991): 245-51. 27. “There’s a monarch who knows no repose / For he’s dressed in a dual trunk hose /And ever there itches / Some part of his breeches; / How he stands it the Lord only knows” (JJII 396).  28. The fictional Bloom is here credited with inspiring a historically attested policy. One of the foundational ideas behind Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin (“We ourselves”) movement, begun just after Bloom’s Ulyssean adventures, was the emulation of the 1850s “Hungarian policy” of passive resistance and self-reliance, with the aim of finally regulating the relationship between Britain and Ireland following the pattern of the dual monarchy structure that was established between Austria and Hungary in 1867. Griffith first published these views in The United Irishman in a series of articles that ran between January and July 1904 and were later republished in a pamphlet form as The Resurrection of Hungary: A Parallel for Ireland in November 1904 (reprinted in 1904, 1905 and, heavily revised, in 1918). For Joyce’s reliance on Griffith’s Hungarian parallel, see, for instance, chapter 3 in Andras Ungar’s Joyce’s Ulysses as National Epic: Epic Mimesis and the Political History of the Irish Nation State (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002) or my “James Joyce, Arthur Griffith, Trieste and the Hungarian National Character”, James Joyce Quarterly 38 (SpringSummer 2001): 341-59.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


they occur are highly visionary, this Hungarian identity does not seem to have much actual content. From this perspective, Joyce’s use of distinctive Hungarian letters has similar implications to Bloom’s possession of the “Gothic characters” in his copy of Soll und Haben by Gustav Freytag: it is a remnant of a distant Central-Eastern European past, which, as the “cigarette coupon bookmark at p. 24” (U 17.1383-4) suggests, does not reach very deep. The Slavic diacritics, on the other hand, by advertising the existence of the national orthographies from which they are taken, may also be seen to underline the de facto cultural nationhood of the corresponding nations. In the context of the Friends of the Emerald Island, they also encode a claim to stand on an equal footing with other nations, just as the Slavic delegates of the group stand beside their independent and – historically – often imperial Italian, French, Russian, Austrian, Hungarian, American, Greek, Turkish, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, German Swiss and German counterparts.29 This is significant because neither the Czech, nor the Slovak, nor the Slovene, nor the Croat, nor the Polish nation had an independent state either on the day the novel is set (16 June 1904) or on the day when the execution of Robert Emmet took place (20 September 1803), an event which gave rise to the kind of inflated narratives parodied here. Therefore, as was the case with the “diacritics aspirations” of Irish and Hebrew in “Ithaca”, these Slav diacritics seem to suggest national(istic) aspirations.                                                              29. Joyce’s full list in the 1922 first edition reads like this: “The delegation, present in full force, consisted of Commendatore Bacibaci Beninobenone (the semiparalysed doyen of the party who had to be assisted to his seat by the aid of a powerful steam crane), Monsieur Pierrepaul Petitépatant, the Grandjoker Vladinmire Pokethankertscheff, the Archjoker Leopold Rudolph von Schwanzenbad-Hodenthaler, Countess Marha Virága Kisászony Putrápesthi, Hiram Y. Bomboost, Count Athanatos Karamelopulos, Ali Baba Backsheesh Rahat Lokum Effendi, Señor Hidalgo Caballero Don Pecadillo y Palabras y Paternoster de la Malora de la Malaria, Hokopoko Harakiri, Hi Hung Chang, Olaf Kobberkeddelsen, Mynheer Trik van Trumps, Pan Poleaxe Paddyrisky, Goosepond Prhklstr Kratchinabritchisitch, Herr Hurhausdirektorpresident Hans Chuechli-Steuerli, Nationalgymnasiummuseumsanatoriumandsuspensoriumsordinaryprivatdocentgeneralhistoryspecialprofessordoctor Kriegfried Ueberallgemein” (See the facsimile of copy no. 785 in the 1993 Oxford World’s Classics edition by Jeri Johnson, pp. 294-5; cf. U 12:555-69). Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire gradually in the course of the nineteenth century.



Not irrelevantly, Joyce added all the Hungarian phrases mentioned above, as well as the Hungarian, Czech-Slovak-CroatianSerbian-Slovenian and Polish F. O. T. E. I. delegate (the last one being “Pan Poleaxe Paddyrisky” (U 12.565)) to the text only when correcting and expanding the page proofs in October 1921 in Paris, and inserted the references to Irish and Hebrew “diacritic aspirations, epenthetic and servile letters” on the page proofs as late as 25 January 1922 – eight days before the first two printed copies of the novel were made available to Joyce and Sylvia Beach.30 By this time, many of the political “aspirations” decipherable from Joyce’s “Cyclops” and “Ithaca” episodes had begun to bear fruit. Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats and Serbs had their new independent states (Poland, CzechoSlovakia and the Serb-Croat-Slovene State), codified in the recent treaties of Versailles (signed June 1919, effective January 1920) and of St Germain (signed September 1919, effective July 1920), which granted full rights to these languages. Representatives of Ireland had just signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921), which recognized the new Irish Free State and made Irish its “National language.”31 On the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” warranted in the Treaty of Sèvres (August 1920), was well on its way to become a reality during the British Mandate for Palestine (1922-48), with not only Arabic and English, but also Hebrew recognized as one of the official languages.32                                                              30. JJA 27:160. 31. Cf. Article 4. of the Constitution of The Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922,, 1 October 2012. 32. See article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres: “The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” The preamble of the “Mandate for Palestine and Memorandum by the British Government relating to its application to Trans-Jordan, approved by the Council of the League of Nations on September 16th, 1922" repeat the provisions of the 1920 treaty almost verbatim. Both texts are available online through the World War I Document Archive at Brigham Young University (, last accessed 6 May 2014). On the official languages, see Article 22 of the September 1922 “Mandate for Palestine”: “English, Arabic and Hebrew shall be the official languages

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


Diacritics appear to have remained in Joyce’s thoughts for a few more years at least. In a long letter to Valery Larbaud dated 8 July 1924, Joyce makes a new point. He thanks Larbaud for agreeing to having his French translation of parts of “Penelope” printed not only without the punctuation marks (as in the English original), but also without the accents that are prescribed by French orthography. Referring to these accents elsewhere as Penelope’s “épines” (“thorns”, LIII 99) and here (punningly) as “hairpins” (LI 218, JJII 562),33 Joyce seems to suggest that they can be seen as external, potentially cumbersome and even threatening – especially to the mass of allaffirming flesh that the “perfectly sane amoral fertilizable untrustworthy engaging shrewd limited prudent indifferent Weib” is supposed to be (SL 285). The correct use of diacritics, like that of punctuation, being also a sign of a degree of erudition, one is not surprised at the link Joyce seems to make between female education and threatening quasi-masculine prickliness. In Molly Bloom’s case, this is rather comic, as she uses her (accent-like) hairpin as she searches for the word metempsychosis in her book (U 5.335). University-educated Molly Ivors, on the other hand, whose sole ornament is a (prickly) “large brooch” with “an Irish device and motto” (with, in all probability, diacritics),34 gives a distinctly unpleasant time to Gabriel Conroy in “The Dead” as she perseveres in her “cross-examination” and in looking at him “quizzically” (D 187, 189, 190). In the same period, Joyce seems to have experienced a renewed interest in the Gaelic script as well. Between October 1923 and January 1925, as he was beginning to work on what eventually became Finnegans Wake, he wrote several letters to Harriet Shaw Weaver in which he used Gaelic letters to give explications of Irish words (SL 297, 302, 305). In the letter to Larbaud quoted above, Joyce also gave a not-too-optimistic account of the average proficiency of “citizens or subjects of Irish Free State” in the Irish language (“I think                                                                                                                                  of Palestine. Any statement or inscription in Arabic on stamps or money in Palestine shall be repeated in Hebrew and any statement or inscription in Hebrew shall be repeated in Arabic.” 33. Cf. also Adrienne Monnier, The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier, trans. Richard McDougall, intr. Brenda Wineapple (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), pp. 131-32. 34. The emblem of the Gaelic League contained both “aspiration” points and length-marking acute accents.



that by now he can probably read (when sober enough) ten street names”) and illustrated the exotic nature of Irish by producing “the few strange letters of the Irish alphabet” and giving alternative spellings, in Roman and Gaelic characters, of the Irish word for “night” (LI 217). 4 Finnegans Wake: diacritic internationalisms Joyce’s continued preoccupation with minute but highly significant typographic signs like diacritics and punctuation marks soon manifested itself in a rather puzzling passage in chapter I.5 of Finnegans Wake, which describes the provenance of certain holes in the letter known as the “mamafesta”. The text reads as follows in the 1939 first edition of the Wake (and in most editions since): These paper wounds, four in type, were gradually and correctly understood to mean stop, please stop, do please stop, and O do please stop respectively, and following up their one true clue, the circumflexuous wall of a singleminded men’s asylum, accentuated by bi tso fb rok engl a ssan dspl itch ina, — Yard inquiries pointed out → that they ad bîn “provoked” ay ∧ fork, of à grave Brofèsor; àth é’s Brèak — fast — table; ; acùtely profèššionally piquéd, to=introdùce a notion of time [ùpon à plane (?) sù ’ ’ fàc’e’] by pùnct! ingh oles (sic) in iSpace?! (FW 123.30-124.12)

This passage clearly shows the Joycean association of diacritics – and punctuation – with prickliness, as well as the active (masculine) gesture of marking an undifferentiated and passive (female) text. However, the diacritics that Joyce uses here (the circumflex, acute and grave accents and the caron) do not suggest any particular language and are difficult to interpret in any systematic way. This apparent lack of motivation changes radically, however, if we consider the way Joyce originally drafted these diacritics35 in preparing his text for publication in the July 1925 number of The Criterion:

                                                             35. This is my reading of Joyce’s manuscript note, MS 47473-48 and 47473-48v.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


Whatever the variations of the different readings may be,36 Joyce here clearly used about a dozen different diacritics, including – at long last – “diacritic aspirations” of the classical Greek type (the smooth breathing or spiritus lenis ( ᾿ ) and, possibly, the rough breathing or spiritus asper ( ῾ ), as well as the macron ( ¯ ), the caron ( ˇ ), the tilde ( ̃ ), the umlaut ( ¨ ), the ring above ( ˚ ), possibly the breve ( ˘ ), the dot below or underdot ( ̣), the cedilla ( ¸ ), the slash through ( / ), the tie shaped like a double inverted breve ( ⁀ ) and the overbar ( ¯¯ ).37 The richness of Joyce’s original notation was, however, dramatically reduced through the various stages of transmission that this text went through between 1925 and 1939, so that out of the 37 (or 38) original instances of diacritics, only 16 survived, representing a mere 4 kinds. As happened with the quasi-Slavic carons and (in many editions) the quasi-Sanskrit macrons of Ulysses, the loss of diacritics resulted in obscuring a crucial part the original meaning. The ties in the͡y and nòti͡ön suggest, in particular, that what Joyce meant to evoke here were not national alphabets, but, primarily, phonetic notations, which – just like punctuation marks – are meant to assist the pronunciation of the written text, thus introducing “a notion of time upon a plane surface”. Joyce’s text does in fact seem to rely on several systems of phonetic notation, including the ones he could encounter in the New English Dictionary (later Oxford English Dictionary) and in some linguistic works that he appears to have known, such as Frank H. Vizetelly’s Essentials of English Speech and Literature (1915) and Otto Jespersen’s Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin (1922). While most of these phonetic transcriptions drew on the diacritics used for various languages by various nations, many were aimed at an international readership of language learners and scholars, and some (like the IPA alphabet used and promoted by Jespersen) explicitly aspired to facilitate communication and peace between                                                              36. For alternative readings, with a spiritus asper wherever I read a breve, see Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon’s 2010 edition of Finnegans Wake (London: The Houyhnhnm Press), p. 98, and the 2012 Oxford World’s Classics edition by RobbertJan Henkes, Erik Bindervoet and Finn Fordham (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 634. 37. In the manuscript note, an overbar covers the whole of the word time and an overbar or tie the last two letters of pụ̀nc͞ t.



nations.38 Called “Brotfressor Prenderguest” in line 124.25 – and thus potentially possessing a hybrid identity that includes Anglo-Norman and Irish roots through the ancient Prendergast family name as well as German elements through Brotfresser or “bread-devourer” – Joyce’s professor is here, in effect, adding a distinctly modern scientific element to what was becoming the increasingly multinational language of the Wake: the element of an international notation, whose “diacritic aspirations” include providing pronunciation clues for all existing forms of all existing languages, and thus transcending the limitations of ordinary, nation-specific writing systems.39 The “fact” that the originator of the mysterious note is soon revealed to be “Shem the Penman” (FW 125.23) only makes the double – anti-nationalist as well as anti-imperialist – point of the Wakean linguistic project sharper. Having been introduced to the international professor, the reader now has to imagine a specifically Irish Shem. Importantly, Shem has apparently just commanded an impish army of diacritic signs from all over Europe to invade the English text pricking through the notion of the classic purity of the English alphabet.40 From this perspective, Shem’s diacritics appear to be an alien imposition of modern impurities on the ideal beauty of classic English letter shapes, made more disturbing by the diacritics’ apparent claims for meaning and by their alternative identities as disarranged and potentially deranged punctuation signs. Insofar as this Shamean diacritic warfare can also be seen as an act of revenge for the customary suppression of Gaelic diacritics in anglicised transcriptions, 38. For a detailed exploration of the potential interpretations and sources of Joyce’s diacritics in this passage, see my “A Notion of Joyce’s Time: Interpreting the Diacritics of Finnegans Wake 124.8-12”, Genetic Joyce Studies: Electronic Journal for the Study of James Joyce's Works in Progress, Issue 14 (Spring 2014), 39. As similar notations have been also used to record the pronunciation of earlier language variants, a valid case can also be made for Joyce evoking the devices of diachronic linguistics and textual scholarship. 40. The idea of this purity was memorably summed up by artist and typographer Eric Gill in 1931 in his well-known Essay on Typography: “Lettering for us is the Roman alphabet and the Roman alphabet is lettering. Whatever the Greeks or the Germans or the Russians or the Czecho-Slovaks or other people may do, the English language is done in Roman letters, and these letters may be said to have reached a permanent type about the first century A.D.” (reissue of 2nd ed., London: Dent, 1941, p. 32). Somewhat ironically, Gill went on to design the first British edition of Ulysses for The Bodley Head (1936), characteristically devising a classic Homeric bow as the sole ornament of the binding.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


it can also serve as part of Shem’s project to conquer the English language and “wipe alley english spooker, multiphoniaksically spuking, off the face of the erse” (FW 178.6-7).41 Finally, the foregrounding of a hybrid mix of diacritics is also parallel to the entire Wakean project of foregroundig the hybridity of languages through the inclusion of blatantly or ostensibly foreign elements (cf. “piquéd” (FW 124.10)) into the “English” text as well as through the revealing of the “foreign” roots behind seemingly indigenous words like punching (in “pụ̀nc͞ t ! ingh oles” (FW 124.11)42). The gradual loss of the diacritics of page 124 of Finnegans Wake through the successive stages of textual development obscured much of the mock-scientific internationalism of the passage, although not its comic and possibly anti-imperialist un-Englishness. Whatever Joyce’s reasons may have been for allowing the gradual reduction of these clearly significant markings to happen,43 his interest does appear to have turned away from diacritics in later years. By the time he prepared the 1939 first book edition of the Wake, he had clearly lost the eagerness with which he had explored national diacritics in his late 1921 additions to Ulysses, intercepted the gender-sensitive accents in the 1924 French “Penelope”, and added international diacritics to the Wakean mamafesta in 1925. 5 “changeably meaning vocable scriptsigns”: re-scripting Europe in the 1920s and 1930s Joyce’s apparent loss of artistic appetite for diacritics may also have had to do with a trend in many European countries whereby the letters of the national language were made manifestly “servile” to national(ist) politics. With the map of Europe and the Near East radically redrawn, the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Ottoman Empires replaced by what were meant to be stable and peaceful independent nation-states and federations, the 1920s and 1930s could have meant the end of unfulfilled nationalist desires. This was, of course, not the case. Rather than promoting international communication and cooperation, many countries were busy redefining                                                              41. I am grateful to one of the anonymous reviewers of this article for alerting me to the anti-colonial reading of the diacritics here. 42. According to the OED (3rd edition, online), the English words punch and puncheon derive from the Latin stem punct-. 43. For details and possible causes of the loss of many diacritics in this passage, see “A Notion of Joyce’s Time”.



their own identities, and typography was found to be possibly even more serviceable than before. Living in Paris, Joyce may not have been aware of the script reforms happening in the 1920s among, for instance, several peoples newly incorporated into the Soviet Union,44 but he may well have known about less distant developments. The recently established Czecho-Slovak state, for instance, made typography an important part of its cultural self-representation at the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts (Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes) in Paris by sponsoring books printed with typefaces specifically designed by Czech designers to accommodate the distinctive diacritics of the language.45 In Germany, the old controversy between the Fraktur and the Roman type (Antiqua) gained explicit political overtones from the mid-1920s, and the National Socialists’ rise into power in 1933 resulted in the blackletter type being declared the only true German script to be officially used and taught – until its sudden denunciation as a devious “Jewish” type in 1941.46 In 1928 the new Turkey, under the leadership of the charismatic Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, introduced even more dramatic changes: as part of a number of reforms aimed at modernizing, westernizing and secularizing the country and creating a new national identity, the traditional Arabic script was replaced with a version of the Latin alphabet, made unmistakably national by its unique set of characters with diacritics (ı/I, i/İ, ğ, ç, ş, ö, ü, â, î, û).47 In a slightly more remote part of the former Ottoman Empire, the link between the “diacritic aspirations, epenthetic and servile letters” (U 17.747-8) of Hebrew and “the restoration in Chanah David of Zion” (U 17.759) was made strikingly obvious as the Hebrew language and script began to be used – along with English and Arabic                                                              44. See, for instance, Lenore A. Grenoble, Language Policy in the Soviet Union (Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), pp. 49-50. 45. See Lisa Melander, “Vojtěch Preissig's types for Czech alphabets”, Face the Nation: How National Identity Shaped Modern Typeface Design (Exhibition Information), University of St Thomas, 1 July 2012, facethenation/redefine_vojtechpreissig.html.  46. See Hans Peter Willberg, “Fraktur and Nationalism”, in Bain and Shaw, Blackletter, pp. 40-49. 47. I have taken the account of the “Turkish Letters Revolution” from pp. 55-59 of Mathew Staunton and Olivier Decottignies, “Letters from Ankara: Scriptal Change in Turkey and Ireland in 1928”, in Ireland Looking East, ed. Cristoph Gillissen (Bruxelles etc: Peter Lang, 2010), pp. 51-74.

Diacritic Aspirations and Servile Letters


– on postage stamps (1920), banknotes (1927) and official street signage (1922) in British-ruled Palestine.48 In Joyce’s native Ireland, the related Ithacan association of Irish spelling with “Irish political autonomy or devolution” (U 17.760) was made similarly visible in the 1920s. The rise of the Irish language to the status of “national language” and the almost immediate introduction of compulsory Irish (or “impulsory irelitz” (FW 421.27)) into the school curricula (November 1922)49 was accompanied by an increased use of the Gaelic script in education and in some classic areas of official symbolism like postage stamps (1922), coins (1928) and – as Joyce noted – street name signage.50 Although the young Irish Free State did not encourage and sponsor, like the similarly young Czecho-Slovak state, the design and production of new “national” typefaces, it did establish a state company called An Gúm (1926) to publish books in Irish and to exhibit the most attractive ones at exhibitions like the “Century of Progress” International Exposition in Chicago (1933).51 After a failed plan to make the Irish language easier to learn and cheaper to print through a shift to the Roman script in 1928 (with the Turkish script reform quoted as an example),52 a new Fianna Fáil government reinstated the Gaelic type into its unofficial status as “national” script, using it eventually for the codification of the new 1937 constitution.53 All this could further enrich the meaning of the Wakean phrase that calls attention to “the as time went on as it will variously inflected, differently pronounced, otherwise spelled, changeably                                                              48. See Yair Wallach, “Creating a Country through Currency and Stamps: State Symbols and Nation-Building in British-Ruled Palestine”, Nations and Nationalism 17 [2011] (1): 129–47. 49. Donal Corcoran, “Public Policy in an emerging state: The Irish Free State 192225”, Irish Journal of Public Policy, vol. 1. No. 1, URL: 2009/01/corcoran/05/en, 9 October 2012.  50. For Joyce’s comments on the new Irish postage stamp, see LI 213, on street names in Gaelic, LI 217. 51. See Brian Ó Conchubhair, “An Gúm, The Free State and the Politics of the Irish Language”, Ireland, Design and Visual Culture: Negotiating Modernity, 1922-1992, ed. Linda King and Elaine Sisson (Cork: Cork University Press, 2011), p. 99. 52. Staunton and Decottignies, “Letters”, pp. 59-74. 53. For debates concerning the use of the Gaelic script between the 1922 and 1937 constitutions, see Micheál Ó Cearúil, Bunreacht na h-Éireann: A Study of the Irish Text (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1999), pp. 27-30, online: publications/irish-text.pdf, 23 September 2012.



meaning vocable scriptsigns” (FW 118.26-28) of the mamafesta. In the Europe of Joyce’s time it was certainly quite clear that the “scriptsigns” that various communities use to encode sounds and meanings can change not only because orthography changes, but also because the script itself may change or be replaced. Moreover, different communities will also choose different encodings, and the same “scriptsign” will not only be “differently pronounced” in different communities, but will also be “changeable” in its shape as a result of a different script or the use of diacritics – as is the case with the dotted Gaelic s in its various guises, the German blackletter versions of s, the Czech s with caron, or the Turkish s with cedilla. Bernard Benstock once suggested that in the Wakean passage quoted above (FW 123.30-124.12) “even the most insignificant bit of type, minuscule accent marks that change the way a letter sounds but have no voices of their own, are given an opportunity to speak”, as if “to justify Leopold Bloom’s assumption that ‘Everything speaks in its own way’” (U 7.177).54 In contrast, I have been arguing that when given a real opportunity to speak, these diacritics – just like the often similarly minute punctuation marks – turn out to be far from insignificant. In the light of the passages of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake that I have discussed in this paper, Joyce’s reference to “diacritic aspirations” and “servile letters” can be meaningfully linked to the insight that diacritics can be used to encode and embody nationalist as well as internationalist aspirations, and that letters of distinctive scripts can serve not only strictly communicative, but also symbolic political purposes – as they most certainly did in Joyce’s Europe. Károli Gáspár University, Budapest University of Groningen

54. Bernard Benstock, “Bedevilling the Typographer’s Ass: Ulysses and Finnegans Wake”, Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 12, no. 1 (March 1985), p. 32.



Abstract: Joyce was always serious about every aspect of the publishing of his works. One aspect that never made it beyond his manuscripts is his particular use of the speech dash, which he intended not to flush left, or indent, but ‘exdent’, as his manuscripts, from A Portrait as well as Ulysses, plainly show. A recent Dutch translation of Ulysses (2012) is the first to implement this exdented dash. The translators explain the why and how. 1 Punctuation is the life and breath of an author, as we learned when we were translating Finnegans Wake. You can, indeed have to do every immarginable thing with the words to transport them from the nonEnglish into the non-Dutch, but you can’t really touch the rhythm of the sentences, subdivided and propelled by the naturalness of the punctuation marks. A novel is not a collection of words, but a concatenation of discreet sentences. Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, for the evolution of life on this planet, invented the term ‘punctuated equilibria’: long stretches of hardly any major mutations, punctuated by moments of tremendous genetic activity and the appearance of a bevvy of new species and genera.1 We’d like to apply the term to the sentences of Joyce: his are truly punctuated equilibria, well-balanced periods, every sentence forged in the smithy of his black soul, being hammered away at for years and years (1904-1914; 1914-1921; 1922-1939), with a very idiosyncratic life beat. Wayriver they ebb and flow, winding and unwinding, musical phrases that revolve and resolve. 1. Niles Eldredge and S.J. Gould, “Punctuated Equilibria: An alternative to phyletic gradualism” in Models in Paleobiology, ed. T.J.M. Schopf (San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper & Co., 1972), pp. 82-115.


Bindervoet and Henkes 

– Well Joyce, you worked hard? – Yes, I did two sentences. – Ah, le mot juste! – No, the words were there: it was getting them in the right order. As the famous anecdote told by Frank Budgen goes.2 And the right order is the order circumscribed by the commas, colons, hyphens, fullstops, exclamation & interrogation marks and what have you not. Keeping the punctuation of Finnegans Wake intact provided a very useful foothold for getting the sound of a Joycean sentence right, in translation. Punctuation is the closest approximation of what is not there – what is implied in between the lines, what is connotation and not denotation, the blank spaces in between, in between the atoms of the words. It is the rhythm and the measure of the voice of the author himself As translators (not only of Finnegans Wake, but also of Ulysses) we felt the obligation to translate everything, not just what was on the page, written, there, sub oculos, but also what wasn’t there. Our predeceasing Ulysses-translators, for instance, notoriously cut up the first sentence of the big blue book, and made two separate statements out of it. Which not only destroyed the sense but also the rhythm, and with it the sense. (“Stately plump Buck Mulligan” etc. “He was carrying” etc. – No, it is not abook about abuck. The vision is one and undivided: someone carrying something, and not the start of a cutand-dried, wash-and-go novelette.) So this is one respect in which we followed the unwritten law of the author (or actually very much written: it was there, right in front of us!). Leave my periods alone. Period. 2 The second instance of respect we showed to the author’s intentions is the way in which we handled the dashing dashes of direct speech. Joyce famously hated the perverted commas and had them removed by the sergeant-at-arms (LIII 99-100). Quotation marks, our 2. Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960 (1934)), p. 20.

Punctuated Equilibria and the Exdented Dash


  humble experience in many years of reading has also taught us, serve to mark other people’s words in someone’s text – and when you’re reading someone’s text, you don’t want to be intruded upon by other people’s words. That’s why the first reaction to quotation marks is invariably, almost instinctively, to skip what’s inside them, as not belonging to the story, and hurry-scurry read on to where the real thing starts again. How different the dash-stroke! We can’t explain it better than to quote Hans Walter Gabler in perverted commas, in a private e-mail of 7 February 2012 09:49:34 GMT+01:00, in which he explained why inverted commas are not a good way to set off direct speech, something Joyce keenly saw, and we quote: “The practice of dialogue dashes goes back in Joyce’s manuscripts to Epiphanies, Dubliners, and of course Portrait. The practice is always double-faced: indentation (often very deep) of paragraphs versus ‘ex-denting’ (in manuscript) or non-indentation (in print) of speech. What this simply means is that ‘speech’ is part of the narrative paragraph. The marking of speech is therefore not mimetic, speech is not to be imagined as being spoken outside the narrative; but it is part and parcel of the narrative; the illusioned speech of characters is spoken, since written, from out of the narrative voice.”

Unquote. (Admit, dear reader, did you read it? Now try again!) But Joyce went even beyond the dash: he invented exdented dashes. From his earliest manuscripts on he uses dialogue dashes which stick out into the left-hand margin, making the text, the story one block, one story, and not a paper interrupted by clever remarks of other people. In his first manuscripts he even used a dash to mark the end of the spoken words, but this dash gradually disappeared, and in the Rosenbach manuscript (almost) nothing remains of it. Our translation is the first edition that we know of that does justice to the true Joycean exdented dash. We’re still waiting for an English edition that does the same. Here’s an example of how it looks like in Dutch.3 As we say in Holland – or rather, in the lovely province of Vertalië, aka Translasia – poetry is what is won in translation, in this case punctually so:                                                              3. James Joyce, Ulixes, Dutch translation by Erik Bindervoet and Robbert-Jan Henkes (Amsterdam: Athenaeum – Polak & Van Gennep, 2012).


Bindervoet and Henkes 

In the meantime, we’re still trying to get the publisher to bring out an edition that also reproduces the equally famous slanting margins of Joyce’s manuscripts. Amsterdam



Abstract: Punctuation is generally supposed to be a silent guide to the pronunciation of written words, but as this essay argues, Joyce shows how misleading this supposition is: rather than assisting the reader of a text to “hear” its words, punctuation can obstruct or even prohibit pronunciation. Joyce’s understanding of how discreetly placed ellipses and dashes can conceal and silence words, thereby leaving the reader uncertain as to what the text “says,” and how to perform it aloud, is part of a larger strategy to expose and overturn the normative and restrictive functions of punctuation. In examining a variety of instances in Joyce’s works where pronunciation is indeterminable, this essay posits that punctuation is a strikingly contradictory and inexact system that Joyce reveals is fundamentally ideological.

What was it? A.......... ! ?.........O! (FW 94.20-22) Punctuation is an effort at compromise between the austere immutability of text and the everyday entropy of speech. It guides the transition of words from one form to the other, grouping and dividing them into units and instructing the speaker on timing, emphasis, and intonation. Punctuation marks map the act of pronunciation. “Pronounce” is itself a nuanced word, an unusual verb that bespeaks not just an action, but a commitment to the action, a decision to act.



To pronounce someone married, or guilty of a crime, or dead, is to transform that person’s official status, to cast him or her into history. Pronunciation, like criticism, is a judgment. The advent of silent reading (to which not altogether exact historical reference point is often appended the name of St. Ambrose) permits the suspension of judgment, even the ability to sustain the consideration of contrary ideas without having to select or privilege one over the other.1 Text can be secretive; utterances are to be heard. We test others (and reveal ourselves) by how they (and we) speak. Pronunciation exposes so many things: place of origin or residence, social class and level of education, emotional or psychological state, speech impairments, and so on. To speak aloud is both to commit and to submit. The biblical story of the escaped prisoner trying to pass by the suspicious men of Gilead as anything but the Ephraimite that he is offers a most drastic example of this equation: Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. (Judges 12:6)

Mispronunciation proves fatal, disguise impossible. Finnegans Wake recalls this atrocity with its unassuageable sense of the absurdity of history: “So mag this sybilette be our shibboleth that we may syllable her well!” (FW 267.20-21). The meaning of the Hebrew word “shibboleth”, obscured by its infamous usage, is in fact “stream”.2 There are many striking and pertinent ironies here: that the password should be that which continually passes; that one should be stopped by that which flows; that a word should effectively lose its meaning to its habitual function. With kabbalistic kinkiness, a guess-the-secretpassword (or guess-the-secret-name) motif recurs throughout the

1. We can compare and even connect this distinction to that between Socrates and Aristotle. The former pronounces (speaks), and as his gesture of pointing heavenward in Raphael’s painting of the philosopher in The School of Athens succinctly indicates, his thinking is utterly hierarchical. In the same painting Aristotle, the writer, points straight ahead. 2. John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1990), p. 473. Leopold Bloom, in just another instance of the solidity of his Jewish identity falling into question, badly fumbles this word in “Circe” when questioned by the officers of the watch: “Shitbroleeth” (U 15.770).

“Tuck in your blank!”


Wake,3 a book that begins with a riparian sort of codeword: “riverrun”. Ever fascinated by the performative dimensions of language, Joyce is attentive to pronunciation as a kind of mysterious power, intriguingly and sometimes forbiddingly codified by punctuation. Young Stephen Dedalus rises from his fumbling beginnings with “green wothe botheth” (P 5) to utter blasphemy in precise Latin (or at least as precise as one can be in pronouncing a centuries-dead language of which there are, of course, no sound recordings). Ulysses could be described as the story of an Irishman so concerned about his wife’s pronunciation of Italian that, upon finding a fluent young man, he seeks to secure her a tutor. Ultimately we see the grounds for his concern when his wife pours out an undammed, unpunctuated shibboleth. And Finnegans Wake? Certainly the book can be read as a disjointed narrative about characters whose “true” names are unpronounceable, or an index of speech impediments, or a tissue of libels and false pronouncements, a stream of failed passwords. Just read it with an Irish accent?4 But “C’est mal prononsable, tartagliano, perfrances” (478.19). The puzzle of how to pronounce the words of the Wake cannot be dispelled by the claim that the text documents how English is spoken in Ireland (whatever the merits of that claim). The archivist Arlette Farge points to the phonetically spelled writings of an eighteenth-century French domestic servant, Thorin, who “might have been illiterate”, as having the historically valuable capacity to “transmit what no ordinary text can: the way in which they were pronounced and articulated”.5 Perhaps, but this valuation is predicated upon a restoration or re-imposition of a normative quality on what seems aberrant (the author cannot spell, but his ear must be good and                                                              3. For example, in a long sentence the beginning of which is discussed later in this essay, we are told of “bad blood” between two parties (perhaps two kings) perhaps “because they could not say meace, (mute and daft) meathe” (FW 87.23-24). 4. Bromides flourish on the internet, and online proponents of the Wake seem especially keen on this point of advice. For example, a 2012 Publishers Weekly article on “The Top 10 Most Difficult Books” recommends tackling Joyce’s book by reading it “out loud, in your best bad Irish accent”. See Emily Colette Wilkinson and Garth Risk Hallberg, “The Top 10 Most Difficult Books”, Publishers Weekly, 3 August 2012:  5. Arlette Farge, The Allure of the Archives, trans. Thomas Scott-Railton (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), pp. 61-62.



even true). Joyce disrupts the bases for all normative assumptions and projections. It can be said that there is “not one pronouncable teerm” in the Wake (FW 478.11) if “pronouncable” is supposed to mean anything other than an unauthorized, incorrigible, and normless effort. 1 The delicacy of the initials Punctuation not only instructs the reader as to how to pronounce the written words, but, as Joyce’s texts persistently reveal, it may also prohibit pronunciation, in effect dictating what cannot be uttered aloud. That punctuation marks can act as signifiers of absence is not, on the face of it, so startling an idea: everyday English uses the apostrophe in words such as “can’t” and “Hallowe’en”, while more poetic purposes can also contract words so as to do away with a supernumerary syllable in regular meter, such as the somewhat silly line of Shakespeare that Haines affectedly flourishes: “beetles o’er his base” (the Wake tartly replies: “fr’over the short sea” (3.04)). Yet this method of elision can be extended further. Recall this portrait of the young artist as a punctuator: From force of habit he had written at the top of the first page the initial letters of the jesuit motto: A.D.M.G. On the first line of the page appeared the title of the verses he was trying to write: To E— – C—–. He knew it was right to begin so for he had seen similar titles in the collected poems of Lord Byron. (P 58)

Joyce sets two typographical conventions for abbreviation side by side, for the reader to compare: the acronymic periods of “A.D.M.G.” and the tantalizing dashes of “E—– C—–.” He also juxtaposes the rationale behind their employment. The first is a ritual, jesuitically drilled into every young student who brings a pen to paper. The second is a proper name, made secret and unpronounceable, quite like the divine name neatly occluded in the first. Both are dedications, and the fact that the names of the addressee cannot be vocalized highlights the very reason for writing – they signal that the writer finds it impossible to utter what follows to the addressee except in silent writing.6 6. In this connection with Byron, it is worth recalling Little Chandler’s enigmatic difficulties in reading him at the end of “A Little Cloud”: even though he is silently reading (“his eyes began to read”), he “couldn’t read” and “couldn’t do anything” for the wailing of the child (D 79). The poem he is trying to read begins with “Hushed

“Tuck in your blank!”


Direct address need not be the only occasion for this subterfuge. The strategic elision of part of a proper name is an old device by which to dodge accusations of slander and libel and/or give a doubtful or seemingly fictional narrative a teasing hint of verisimilitude. Little wonder that Molly Bloom, who is pointedly irritated by “omissions” (U 18.1170), should find fault with Moll Flanders (U 18.657-59): He had scarce done speaking to them, and giving me my Errand, but his Man came up to tell him that Sir W—— H——s Coach stop’d at the Door; so he runs down, and comes up again immediately, alas! says he, aloud, there’s all my Mirth spoil’d at once; Sir W—— has sent his Coach for me, and desires to speak with me upon some earnest Business: It seems this Sir W—— was a Gentleman, who liv’d about three Miles out of Town, to whom he had spoken on purpose the Day before, to lend him his Charriot for a particular occasion; and had appointed it to call for him, as it did about three a Clock.7

Whatever we might make of Molly’s reading sensibilities – and I’ll return to them shortly – Joyce for his own part admired “the delicacy of the initials” thus employed by Defoe (OCPW 173). At first blush, such admiration for “delicacy” might seem entirely at odds with the more emphatic appreciation of Defoe’s realism, but in fact this is a functional paradox that Joyce employs: realism, somewhat broadly conceived, not only includes the implausible and the unnameable, it draws attention to its own devices and illusions. The streams of gossip that flow through Finnegans Wake tend to distort the words and names themselves to such an extent that such a coy stratagem may seem unnecessary, but as this book has little enough to do with the strictly necessary and everything to do with surplus signification, perhaps we ought not to be surprised to find it nonetheless in effect: “Mrs F . . . A . . . saidaside, half in stage of whisper to her confidante glass, while recoopering her cartweel chapot                                                                                                                                  are the winds” and when Little Chandler tries to “hush” his child (“but it would not be hushed”) is he not then reading the poem aloud, paradoxically sounding out a text that enacts a silencing? One might wonder in particular where that ellipsis comes from that marks the break in Little Chandler’s reading: “That clay where once ...” The reader cannot pronounce those dots, but presumably must imagine (or “hear”) them as the trailing off or fading of a voice reading Byron aloud (though it seems that no one in the story is doing that). 7. Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 27.



(ahat! — and now we know what thimbles a baquets on lallance a talls means)” (FW 59.04-07). This snatch of theatrical gossip recounts the performance of a woman, whose name has been as mock-discreetly hidden as she herself speaks an aside in stage-whisper, adjusting her hat (chapeau) before a mirror, perhaps after some sort of sexual tumble (cartwheel with a capote, a condom). The bon mot or proverbial wisdom conveyed by this portrait of a lady is likewise obscured, a muddle of theology (Thomas à Becket lurks in “thimbles a baquets” and Laurence O’Toole in “lallance a talls”) and sexual innuendo (the difference between a lance and a thimble). But who is she? Fanny Adams – the possibility named by Roland McHugh’s Annotations (though not explained) – was a young girl murdered in Hampshire in 1867, some of whose butchered remains were dumped into a river. British seamen adopted the name “sweet Fanny Adams” to refer to the disagreeable tinned mutton rationed to them (shades of Plumtree’s Potted Meat), and this term became more generally applied to anything without value – hence today’s use of “sweet F. A.” to mean “sweet fuck all”; i.e., absolutely nothing. But this is only a possible identity for “Mrs F . . . A . . .” and in fact this suggestion raises more troubling questions than it answers. Why “Mrs” if the reference is to a child? What does Fanny Adams have to do with the theatre? And what might tinned meat have to do with anything in this Wake passage? It might be more apt to propose “Fifteen Acres”, the nickname of Phoenix Park,8 since it would connect with “three tommix, soldiers free” (58.24) to suggest the recurrent motif of the compromising (but uncertain) encounter with soldiers in the park. However, the nature of this encounter remains as indeterminate as the name of “Mrs F . . . A . . . ”, whose identity remains protected. An even stranger instance of elided, unpronounceable names in the Wake is found in the “long list (now feared in part lost) to be kept on file of all abusive names he was called” (71.05-06) at the end of I.iii: Ruin of the Small Trader, He — — Milkinghoneybeaverbrooker, Vee was a Vindner, Sower Rapes, Armenian Atrocity, Sickfish Bellyup, Edomite, —’ Man Devoyd of the Commoner

8. Bernard Share, Slanguage: A Dictionary of Irish Slang and Colloquial English in Ireland, 2nd ed. (Dublin: Gil and Macmillan, 2005), p. 106. One of Share’s cited usages of the phrase comes from Joyce’s “The Dead”.

“Tuck in your blank!”


Characteristics of an Irish Nature, Bad Humborg, Hraabhab, Coocoohandler (FW 72.09-13)

Perhaps the marked lacunae are what the parenthetical gasp “now feared in part lost” refers to, though just how and why these particular names or parts of names should be “in part lost” eludes us, as do the fairly unimaginable lost names themselves. In their “Restored” text of the Wake, Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon tweak the punctuation here – Ruin of the Small Trader, He — —, Milkinghoneybeaverbrooker, Vee was a Vindner, Sower Rapes, Armenian Atrocity, Sickfish Bellyup, Edomite, — —, Man Devoyd of the Commoner Characteristics of an Irish Nature, Bad Humborg, —, Hraabhab, Coocoohandler (Rose and O’Hanlon 57.35-38)

– but do not presume to “restore” the names. On the contrary, these emendations add to the number of gaps and the puzzlement of the reader. The hero – if that is a serviceable term – of Finnegans Wake is a man of many appellations, some of them unutterable. “H.C.E.” may have much in common with “A.D.M.G.” just as the Wake does with the Old Testament, that likewise has a hero (often punctuated as G-d) whose name it (lovingly) dare not speak. 2 Dash it all Punctuation, then, can be an act of discretion, a subtle means of circumvocalization – though the practice extends beyond names. The most familiar and most exaggerated form of this discretion is the comic strip convention of using a string of punctuation and typographical (#[email protected]*?!) in speech balloons. Naughty words are supplanted by marks meant to somehow impart the discordant noise of the obscured expression and yet to remain silent. An illustrative example of how dependable this use of punctuation is may be found in Asterix and the Goths (1974). A captured Druid’s barrage of invective against his captors is figured by a skull and crossbones, a rotten tooth, a spiral, and other more abstract, jerky symbols which a helpful footnote – marked, naturellement, by an asterisk – identifies as “Gaulish swear-words which we decline to translate”. A few panels later, a Goth’s temper compels him to curse, but his symbols are noticeably different and caricaturishly Germanic: the skull and



crossbones has a spiked helmet, the spiral is square rather than round, a squiggle has become a swastika, and so on. The accompanying footnote identifies these as “Gothic swear-words” which are then translated into the very same “Gaulish” characters pronounced earlier by the Druid.9 The creators of Asterix, recreators of history, have created a kind of ur-punctuation for each of these languages, not unlike the gambits and ventures of those who dare to translate “Oxen of the Sun” (for example). The addled punctuation of silence seems almost a universal sign, impossible to translate precisely because no translation is needed. Yet, as the case of “Mrs F . . . A . . . ” demonstrates, the emphatic blanks tease us, the punctuation points to itself, draws attention to what it conceals. The censorious or prudish mark is also its opposite, a suggestive and prurient mark. Joyce’s copy of A Farewell to Arms, housed in the Special Collections library at SUNY-Buffalo, is a remarkable book to examine. The publishers declined to print certain of the more colourful words that the novel’s characters use, instead providing a long dash where they should be: He turned to the girl. “Don’t worry,” he said. “No danger of –—,” using the vulgar word. “No place for —–.” I could see that she understood the word and that was all. Her eyes looked at him very scared. She pulled the shawl tight. “Car all full,” Aymo said. No danger of —–. No place for —–.” Every time he said the word the girl stiffened a little.10

Hemingway fastidiously wrote in all of the missing words above those censorious dashes, so as not to leave the benighted, unimaginative Joyce guessing. (There is a lively “archival jolt”11 to be had in seeing the repeated word “fucking” there in Hemingway’s hand.) Joyce, however, had already dramatized the reader’s writerly response to the puritanical dash: those books he brings me the works of Master Francois Somebody supposed to be a priest about a child born out of her ear because 9. Goscinny and Uderzo, Asterix and the Goths (London: Hodder Headline, 1974), p. 23. 10. Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (New York: Scribner, 1995), p. 196. 11. Ted Bishop, Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books (Toronto: Viking, 2005), p. 33.

“Tuck in your blank!”


her bumgut fell out a nice word for any priest to write and her a—e as if any fool wouldnt know what that meant I hate that pretending of all things (U 18.488-91)

This passage belies any absolute or essentialist conception of “Penelope” as an unlettered voice: Molly is a textual being, and she knows it.12 Molly’s inscription of the dash in her own thoughts and her pointed commentary (“as if any fool wouldnt know what that meant”) constitute an act of annotation – or even re-punctuation – akin to Hemingway’s. Whereas the performer who reads aloud Molly’s monologue probably gives no thought to expressing the absence of punctuation (those “missing” apostrophes that some editors like to apostrophize about), some improvisation is required for “a—e”, especially since it has to be made entirely clear to a listening audience what term is being so risibly covered up. One possible tactic for such a performer might be to verbalize the punctuation by naming it. Molly’s husband demonstrates how this can be carried off when trying to nudge and wink his way out of the opprobrious glare of the officers of the watch in “Circe”: “Dash it all. It’s a way we gallants have in the navy” (15.743). Swearing like a sailor this isn’t; this euphemism makes for quite a contrast with Private Carr’s soldierly language later in the episode. That sort of talk, cleaned up with prim punctuation, might look something like this: making use of sacrilegious languages to the defect that he would challenge their hemasphores to exterminate them but he would canonise the b — y b — r’s life out of him and lay him contritely as smart as the b — r had his b — y nightprayers said (FW 81.2428)

This, from a book of which it is often said that reading it aloud with an Irish accent is somehow helpful – but where’s the accent in “the b — y b — r’s life”? The promotion of the very word “dash” to acceptable workaday (if now somewhat archaic) euphemism in a phrase like “Dash it all” might mean, as Keith Houston has it, that

                                                             12. Molly corrects her own misspellings right there on the page: “your sad bereavement symphathy I always make that mistake and newphew with 2 double yous” (U 18.729-31). She might be said to be the first editor of Ulysses.



“the dash had transcended punctuation”,13 but at the very least punctuation graduated to a sometimes audible substitute for what it obscured. The comedian Victor Borge’s proposal for a “phonetic punctuation” has now become oddly plausible in an era of electronic communication in which every dot, dash, underscore, and “hashtag” has become an integral part of a name or address which, to be verbally given, must be named. Joyce sometimes verbalizes punctuation by name in those instances in which a letter is being read or dictated. In “Ithaca”, Milly Bloom’s “infantile epistle” to her father has its commas and full stops given by name rather than sign (17.1791-94), for example, and in Finnegans Wake the marks on letters and telegrams tend to have lives of their own: “loveliest pansiful thoughts touching me dash in-you through wee dots Hyphen” (446.03-05). Joyce not only gives the airy abstractions we call punctuation a local habitation and a name, he also equates their status as keyboard “characters” with all the moveable, changeable figures that might collectively be called the “characters” of the Wake. Thus we come full circle and find that the marks that delete or conceal a name themselves become names that can be spoken.14 3 Volume adjustments Aposiopesis is typically – save the laughter for later – the assigned effect of ellipsis, or even of the dash that brings a statement to what seems a sudden halt. Yet the kinds of interruptions and interpolations found in Joyce do not necessarily mean that the expression being cut short has faded or fallen into silence. Bloom is frequently interrupted and “talked over” in Ulysses, sometimes by other characters – –You don’t grasp my point, says Bloom. What I mean is .... –Sinn Fein! says the citizen. (12.522-23)

– sometimes by the narration –                                                              13. Keith Houston, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks (New York: Norton, 2013), p. 158. 14. Finnegans Wake is in a sense the antithesis of Wheel of Fortune: — Yet an I saw a sign of him, if you could scrape out his acquinntence? Name or redress him and we’ll call it a night! — . i . . ’ . . o . . l . (FW 514.16-18) 

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–That can be explained by science, says Bloom. It’s only a natural phenomenon, don’t you see, because on account of the ...And then he starts with his jawbreakers about phenomenon and science and this phenomenon and the other phenomenon. (12.464-67)

– and even, it seems, sometimes by himself: –You just took the words out of my mouth, he said. A hocuspocus of conflicting evidence that candidly you couldn’t remotely .... All those wretched quarrels, in his humble opinion, stirring up bad blood, from some bump of combativeness or gland of some kind, erroneously supposed to be about a punctilio of honour and a flag, were very largely a question of the money question which was at the back of everything greed and jealousy, people never knowing when to stop. –They accuse, remarked he audibly. (16.1109-16)

Whether all of these ellipses have the same sound or intonation seems as likely as supposing that every “yes” in “Penelope” is uttered in the same way, or all the same response to the same question. The last passage quoted may even be read as a meditation – like so much of “Eumaeus” – on interruption itself, less readily performed by readers aloud than the back-and-forth of “Cyclops” (for all of its own irregularities) though both chapters concern the problem of “knowing when to stop.” However, the reader’s determination of whether something is said “audibly” is remarkably complicated, and is ultimately split between, first, the question of whether an interrupted speaker is still speaking at the same volume when he is drowned out, and second, the question of whether the reader is in any position to answer the first question (never mind the subaltern; can the punctuated be heard?). A mid-word interruption brings the problem into sharper focus. In the script-like dialogue in Book III of the Wake, a rude revelation from Taff is thwarted by Butt: Bang on the booche, gurg in the gorge, rap on the roof and your flup is unbu... BUTT (at the signal of his act which seems to shrapnel his innermals menody, playing the spool of the little brown jug round the wheel of her whang goes the milliner). Buckily, buckily, bloodstaned boyne! (341.01-06)



We might guess that Taff is about to say “unbuttoned” (as in your fly or your flap is unbuttoned), and that Butt promptly takes this “signal” to zip (or “buckle”) himself. This assumption would suggest that the last u in “unbu” is to be pronounced as a short vowel anticipating a t – but this is only a guess, and just as all of our pronunciations in the Wake are guesses, so too must we guess here whether Butt’s voice trails off (aposiopetically), perhaps to be discreet or else because he is so taken aback by the actions of Butt that he falls silent, or whether he is interrupted by Butt’s actions (which seem to be oddly musical) or by his words.15 Yet we should not forget that punctuation itself is the interruption. There is an implied sound to the dots that serve as a visual metonym in Stephen’s partial recollection of Dante – . . . . . . . . la tua pace . . . . . che parlar ti pace Mentre che il vento, come fa, si tace. (U 7.717-19) – but it might be more debatable whether there is likewise one to the dashes in this passage from the same chapter in Ulysses: Co-ome thou lost one, Co-ome thou dear one! (U 7.59-60)

One could argue that the hyphen in “Co-ome” is either a way of suggesting that a single musical note be sustained or, conversely and in keeping with the expectations of Fowler’s Modern English Usage, a way of separating “two similar consonant or vowel sounds in a word, as a help to understanding and pronunciation, e.g. sword-dance, Ross-shire, co-opt”.16 In the former case, we find elsewhere in the text unhyphenated extensions of a note: “Steeeeeeeeeeeephen” (1.629) and “frseeeeeeeefronnnng” (18.596). To the latter case it might be replied that such a pronunciation sounds wrong to Anglophonic ears. Either way, it is worth remembering how seldom Joyce is inclined to use 15. One might also ask whether silence itself can constitute an interruption, as we see (hear?) elsewhere in the Wake: — Tit! What is the ti . . ? SILENCE. (FW 501.05-06) 16. R. W. Burchfield, The New Modern Fowler’s English Usage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 371.

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hyphens at all, which is in part what makes this simple-seeming quotation from Martha (repeated just so in “Sirens” (11.740-41)) slightly unusual.17 If we compare Stephen’s “elliptical” memory of the Inferno to the original, the errors and possible patterns provoke more questions. noi pregheremmo lui de la tua pace, poi c’hai pietà del nostro mal perverso. Di quel che udire e che parlar vi piace, noi udiremo e parleremo a voi, mentre che ’l vento, come fa, ci tace. then we should pray to Him to give you peace, for you have pitied our atrocious state. Whatever pleases you to hear and speak will please us, too, to hear and speak with you, now while the wind is silent, in this place.18

In the Gabler edition, quoted above, the first line begins with eight dots in place of seven absent syllables (or four words). Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no agreement between different editions on this count: the original 1922 edition gives fifteen dots for the first line, while the recent “Remastered” version, in which editor Robert Gogan takes many cheerful liberties with punctuation, gives thirty.19 For the second line that Stephen quotes (the third from the passage above), of                                                              17. Many a comparable conundrum may be found in Finnegans Wake, such as this one: “And had he been refresqued by the founts of bounty playing there — is — a — pain — aleland in Long’s gourgling barral?” (88.29-31). There are echoes of the opening lines of “Gougane Barra” by Jeremiah Joseph Callanan, a one-time Trinity medical student: his poem’s speaker promises that “my name shall be spoken / When Erin awakes and her fetters are broken” (A Treasury of Irish Poetry in the English Tongue, ed. Stopford A. Brooke and T.W. Rolleston (London: Macmillan, 1900), pp. 97-98). How to sound out these dashes, though? Do they represent missing words, the prolonging of a musical note, a sense of rhythm, or some strange combination of these? These punctuated occlusions are a kind of microcosm of the Wake’s larger rhetorical schema: they invite readers to interpret, to translate, to imagine contexts and attempt connections, at the same time that they signify no acceptance of any such contexts and connections. 18. Dante, Inferno, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (New York: Bantam, 1981), Canto V, 92-96. 19. James Joyce, Ulysses, ed. Jeri Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 133; Ulysses, ed. Robert Gogan (Sraheens: Music Island Productions, 2012), p. 116.



which seven syllables (or five words) are missing, Gabler gives five dots, the 1922 edition gives eleven, and Gogan generously provides twenty-one. These inconsistencies make the suggestion that Stephen is in effect counting out the missing words or syllables from the poem seem very shaky, but that makes their purpose all the more mysterious. They appear to be vague, entirely inexact fillers, comparable to Bloom’s Là ci darem la mano La la lala la la. (U 5.227-28)

The text reports that Bloom (perhaps uncertain or forgetful of the libretto) hums this, but how does one hum words (since humming is by definition wordless), or even partial words like “La la lala la la”? Isn’t this just a variation, though, on the question at hand: how does one pronounce punctuation, in this case “. . . . . . .”? The passage of Dante that Stephen recalls in this scene from “Aeolus” has a number of interfolding meanings. He thinks of rhymes, specifically beginning with rhymes for “mouth” after wondering whether any woman might want to kiss Myles Crawford’s twitchy lips, and moving thereafter to the phenomenon of rhymes in general, but the idea of kissing lingers, and Stephen perhaps unconsciously summons the words of Francesca, the damned adulteress. Stephen’s loneliness, sexual frustration, and persistent thoughts of his dead mother coalesce at the same time that the high winds of the newspaper office resound with the cries of the windtossed lustful sinners of hell’s second circle. Of interest here, though, is that Stephen contemplates the problem of hearing what cannot be heard, of the respite that allows one to lend compassionate ear. The inexplicable-seeming halt in the infernal wind (earlier said never to rest) is a kind of (divine) punctuated pause that permits speech, a silence that is not a true silence, but a vehicle for a different kind of sound to be heard. Punctuation, Joyce makes a point of revealing, is both contradictory and inexact. A reader may well wonder what difference there might be between an ellipsis of three dots and one of seven dots: if the latter is of some greater duration than the former, how is that difference measured? Punctuation is sometimes compared to musical notes, but it lacks exact quantification – how long of a pause does a comma warrant, and just how much higher in pitch than the beginning

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of the sentence does a question mark bid me to attain at the end? In the Wake’s list of the “sevenply sweat of night blues” (474.24475.01), Joyce teases out the limits (or the redundancy) of cumulative exclamation marks: “Feefee! phopho!! fooretha!!! aggala!!!! jeeshee!!!!! paloola!!!!!! ooridiminy!!!!!!!” (475.01-02). As it is usually played, the heptatonic (seven-note) blues scale rises, though of course not necessarily in volume, as these exclamation marks seem to suggest; though if we read these as seven night terrors, escalating in horror and thus each producing cries louder than the one before, we are faced with the problem of knowing only how loud one arrangement of punctuation is relative to another, and thereby made uneasily aware of how punctuation is a closed system that refers only to itself (an exclamation mark is “louder” than a period, but not necessarily louder than a motorcycle engine or a cat’s purr, because punctuation acknowledges no such referents). These silent marks multiply to make their being seen, their span across the page, suggestive of some sort of comparatively measurable sounds. But this music we have not yet learned to read: Joyce sabotages the reader’s faith in not just the written word but in the safest-seeming, most constant marks on the page, hitherto silent and loyal punctuation.

4 Remember about that mistake in the valuation As always, Joyce’s ambiguities extend beyond the foggy, semiimaginary realm of authorial intention into the quotidian materialism of textual production. The previously discussed how-many-dots-inDante problem between editions of Ulysses makes this plain enough, though some further examples of variations of the problem demonstrate both how multiform and how complex it can be. Consider the following passage, the beginning of a long sentence thick with uneven insinuations: Remarkable evidence was given, anon, by an eye, ear, nose and throat witness, whom Wesleyan chapelgoers suspected of being a plain clothes priest W.P., situate at Nullnull, Medical Square, who, upon letting down his rice and peacegreen coverdisk (FW 86.3236)

In their “Restored” text of the Wake, Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon change the punctuation:


Conley  Remarkable evidence was given, anon, by an eye, ear, nose and throat witness, whom Wesleyan chapelgoers suspected of being a plainclothes priest, W— P—, situate at Nullnull, Medical Square, who, upon letting down his rice and peacegreen coverdisk20

The extension of periods into dashes and the introduction of a new apostrophe strengthen the supposition that the missing words are the name of the “plain clothes priest” – though it does not altogether make that a certainty. The ambiguity is not dispelled, but reweighted, which effect might well be the very definition (for good or ill) of textual editing. There are instances where the contest is not simply whether the punctuation ought to be there, or even what kind of punctuation it ought to be, but about exactly in what relation it stands next to the words. Witness a long dash in a short sentence: Her eye’s so gladsome we’ll all take shares in the —––groom! (FW 189.26-27)

Rose and O’Hanlon simply remove this dash: Her eye’s so gladsome we’ll all take shares in the groom!21

That certainly takes care of that, though the absence of explicit rationale for this erasure is itself a kind of troubling blank. Consulting translations can illuminate further possibilities: “Son œil est si heureux que nous aurons tous place dans la — salle!”22 Philippe Lavergne presumably sees the “g” as suggestive of a gerund, part of a compound designation for a designation or characterization of a room: diningroom, for example, or livingroom, or something less respectable (which in turn may explain the dash as censorship). But there is no consensus on this point: “Ihre Augen so glückvoll wollen wir alle teilhaben an dem – Gemahl!”23 The capitalization of “Gemahl” (“Groom”) indicates that the team of German translators here agrees 20. Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon, eds., The Restored Finnegans Wake (London: Penguin, 2012), 69.13-16. 21. Rose and O’Hanlon, The Restored Finnegans Wake, 149.31. 22. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, trans. Philippe Lavergne (Paris: Gallimard, 1982), 295.20-21. 23. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake [excerpts], trans. Klaus Hofmann et al. (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989), 153.179-80.

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with Lavergne neither about a “room” nor that there is a compound word here at all. Translating punctuation is a tricky business in itself, since the rules for and peculiarities of punctuation are particular to any given language. Yet it may be generally less difficult for a translator to approximate such rules and mimic the peculiarities of another language’s punctuation than it is to reproduce or simulate comparable violations of those rules and highly irregular instances of punctuation (the very title Finnegans Wake, with its missing apostrophe, is a glaring example). The “—––groom!” discrepancies outlined above may be understood as an extension of the larger effect Joyce’s work has in making the reader ever-aware of the materiality, specificity, and thus the fallibility of language. They also demonstrate that readers, editors, and perhaps especially translators are – need always be – listeners. We cannot see what is in the dash, if anything, so we try to hear it, and these different editions and translations are the effects of hearing different things (and in Rose and O’Hanlon’s case, hearing nothing). The earmarks of design An adverb in the description of the vision of Rudy at the end of “Circe” may well give a reader pause: “He reads from right to left inaudibly” (U 15.4959). Why “inaudibly” and not “silently”? Does this suggest that his lips are moving, or even that he appears to be reading aloud and yet Bloom (and we) cannot hear him? Bloom likewise “calls inaudibly”, as if on cue, and to puzzle the reader further. Joyce will not allow his reader to forget that words are, like Rudy, changelings, ever ripe to be transformed into sounds. Reading is never absolutely silent: Joyce’s work is a recording of sounds in the mind. A reader is not necessarily conscious of all of these textual sounds. Stephen the Aristotelian may be committed to reading the “signatures of all things” (U 3.02) but what about punctuation – is it outside of the definition or purview of a “signature?” That Stephen, a poet who utters no poems and whose chosen weapon is silence, is haunted by what the Wake calls “mathers of prenanciation” (FW 89.26) suggests that his awareness may not be as broad as he supposes. Molly’s notice of “omissions” and freedom from the constraints of most standards of punctuation may balance the gaps in her vocabulary and make her the counterpoint to Stephen: the singer



and the writer. Joyce’s use of punctuation reveals how, contrary to common definition, it does not necessarily serve as a benign and reliable guide to pronunciation, but can in fact stifle the sound of words and make pronunciation impossible. Punctuation points or marks, but Joyce highlights how its mark obscures its object, points away from it (nothing to hear here). This awareness is kin to Jacques Lacan’s observation of how signs do not merely denote but – as his example of the signs above public toilets demonstrates – direct and instruct, and thus have a deeply ideological purpose and effect. Joyce repeatedly sabotages these signs by confronting his reader with the problem of how punctuation sounds. The hesitation with which we encounter language – a hesitation Joyce will not allow readers to overlook – is compounded as we try to sort silence from sound, to pronounce what is meaning in a meaningful way. His obfuscatory dots and dashes, no less than his words, are “the earmarks of design, for there is in fact no use in putting a tooth in” (FW 66.01-02). In this Wake excerpt, Joyce blends contradictory idioms: “not to put a tooth in it” means “to state something without equivocation”24; “never put a tooth in it” is an exhortation to speak clearly; “to put one’s foot in it” is to “blunder” or “inadvertently say or do something to cause offense or embarrassment” (OED). These contradictions – and it should be noted that this last word can be read to mean not just “speaking against” but “against speaking” – are precisely those that Joyce sounds out in punctuation and pronunciation. Brock University

24. Share, Slanguage, pp. 332-33.


Erik Bindervoet & Robbert-Jan Henkes, born in April 1962, and as a duo in March 1982. They translated the complete works of the Beatles and Bob Dylan into singable Dutch, Hamlet, King Lear, The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus, and Finnegans Wake (2002), Ulysses (2012) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (2014). Elizabeth M. Bonapfel is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Volkswagen Foundation Post-doctoral Fellow at the Dahlem Humanities Center, Freie Universität Berlin. She received her PhD from New York University in 2014. Her book project is about how punctuation contributes to new forms of syntax and voice in modernist literature in the works of Henry James, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. Tim Conley is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Brock University, Canada. His books include Joyces Mistakes: Problems of Intention, Irony, and Interpretation (University of Toronto Press, 2003), Joyce’s Disciples Disciplined (editor; University College Dublin Press, 2010), and Burning City: Poems of Metropolitan Modernity (co-edited with Jed Rasula; Action Books, 2012). Paul Fagan is the co-founder of the International Flann O’Brien Society, and co-general editor of the society journal The Parish Review. He is also the editor of the forthcoming Flann O’Brien: Contesting Legacies (Cork University Press, 2014) with Ruben Borg and Werner Huber. Fagan has previously published in Joyce Studies in Italy, and has forthcoming articles with Syracuse University Press and Manchester University Press. Tekla Mecsnóber teaches English literature at Károli Gáspár University in Budapest, Hungary and at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She has recently co-edited, with R.B. Kershner,


Notes on Contributors 

volume 22 of the European Joyce Studies series, entitled Joycean Unions: Post-Millennial Essays from East to West (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013), and is currently editing a volume on Joyce and publishing. Her present research interests involve ideologically charged uses of typography and orthography, as well as the contemporary European political and linguistic contexts of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Teresa Prudente is a lecturer at the University of Turin. She has authored a monograph on Woolf’s temporalities (A Specially Tender Piece of Eternity: Virginia Woolf and the Experience of Time (2009)) and a book on Woolf, Joyce and Science (To Saturate Every Atom: Letteratura e Scienza in Woolf e Joyce, (2012), as well as edited the collected volume, The Capricious Thread: Memory and the Modernist Text (2011). Her current research explores the foundation of the techniques of impersonality in Woolf and Joyce with particular reference to the two authors’ configuration of the notion of the void. Federico Sabatini is a Temporary Lecturer in English at Turin University where he obtained his PhD in Comparative Literature in 2007. He has published extensively on Joyce and Modernism (Joyce, Woolf, Pound, Beckett), but also on Romantic authors such as Mary and P. B. Shelley. His research is focused on Intertextuality, on the relationship between Literature and Philosophy (with a special focus on Giordano Bruno) as well as between Literature and Science. Fritz Senn has been in charge of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation since 1985, with its annual open workshops on specific topics. He has written articles, glosses, scholia on Joyce and related subjects; the latest is Noch mehr über Joyce: Streiflichter (Frankfurt: Schöffling Verlag, 2012). Amanda Sigler is Assistant Professor of English at Erskine College in South Carolina. She earned her PhD from the University of Virginia in 2012 and is completing a book project on Modernism and periodicals. Her articles have appeared in the James Joyce Quarterly, European Joyce Studies, the Joyce Studies Annual, Papers on Joyce, the Henry James Review, and Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature.

Notes on Contributors


Sam Slote is Associate Professor in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin. His annotated edition of Ulysses was published in 2012 by Alma Classics. Recent publications include Joyce’s Nietzschean Ethics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Derrida and Joyce: Texts and Contexts (SUNY Press, 2013), co-edited with Andrew J. Mitchell. In addition to his work on Joyce, he has written on Modernists such as Beckett, Nabokov, Borges, Woolf, and Elvis. Annalisa Volpone is ricercatore in English Literature at the University of Perugia. She has published several articles on James Joyce and on the interaction between literature and medicine. She is the author of Speak to us of Emailia: per una lettura ipertestuale di Finnegans Wake (2003) and Joyce, Give and Take (2012).