Saturday, June 17, 2006

Doomsday For Bloomsday

This Bloomsday passed relatively uneventfully, unless you count the evening festivities over at the Drunkass Estate. The spring shrubbery makes it difficult to see the extent of their recent additions, but it’s still possible to make out Total Eclipse Of The Heart as it pounds jackhammer-like against the walls of the room.

Hey, for all I know it was a Bloomsday celebration. Maybe after the music ended they all gathered together into a circle to read portions of Ulysses aloud, as the tradition of the day demands. Perhaps those shrieking voices were merely arguments over who got to read Molly’s monologue this year.

At any rate, it is that literary holy week once again and this marks our second Bloomsday post, which also means we somehow neglected to celebrate our first anniversary here. This is all right, under the circumstances, considering that the blogging had fallen off quite dramatically and there wasn’t, in fact, much to celebrate. But it has been a year and what a difference a year can make.

Curiously, there’s one individual who’s celebrating the day by filing a lawsuit.

There’s a remarkable article in The New Yorker this week that relates recent developments in the Joyce Industry, specifically the continuing skirmishes between the writer’s grandson, Stephen Joyce, and the academics who have found Joycean scholarship progressively more difficult to pursue due to the litigious nature of the author’s estate, now controlled by Joyce.

I had been aware of Mr. Joyce having a rather large chip on his shoulder where academics were concerned and that he felt, when it came to matters of personal correspondence and the like, that he considered his family’s privacy to far outweigh the interests of scholarship.

Certainly it’s a position worth considering. If you happened to be in Stephen Joyce’s shoes, perhaps you’d feel the same way.

But as D. T. Max makes plain in his remarkable, fair-minded article, Joyce seems to have gone out of his way to be obnoxious and arrogant, frustrating research at every turn and being incredibly belligerent in his dealings with people whose only request is to be able to quote some of Joyce’s work in the name of scholarship.

Not long ago we reviewed Carol Shloss’s book on Joyce’s daughter Lucia, To Dance In The Wake. It turns out that Shloss had been threatened by the Joyce estate before she had written a single word and had numerous roadblocks thrown in front of her as she worked towards her goal. In the end, she had to heavily edit the manuscript for fear of a lawsuit.

Which is why this week, on Shloss’s behalf, Lawrence Lessig is filing a suit against Stephen Joyce accusing him of “copyright misuse.” According to the article, it’s probably the first lawsuit of its kind.

There’s no point in continuing to paraphrase when you can read the piece and decide for yourself. There doesn’t seem to be any getting around the fact that, regardless of how you feel about the privacy issue, Stephen Joyce has been behaving in a sad and contemptible way that’s brought much Joycean scholarship to a standstill.

Sadly, Stephen is the last of the Joyce line and, strangely, he seems to be committed to taking as much evidence of its existence with him as he can.


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