Joyce scholarship: a male preserve?
Joyce photographed by Ottocaro Weiss, Zurich (1915)
By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
While writing my most recent post, about the supposed unreadability of Finnegans Wake, I was struck by one particular aspect of Joyce scholarship: the large gender imbalance in those who have published books about the writer. A glance at the bibliographies of some of the books I was consulting reveals the following figures:
Finnegans Wake (Penguin ed): 16 male authors cited, two female authors
Ian Pindar’s Joyce: 22 male, as against Brenda Maddox’s 1988 biography of Nora Barnacle (Joyce)
Umberto Eco’s The Middle Ages of James Joyce, meanwhile, lists 66 works consulted: books and several articles (a few in Italian) – all by men
The edition of The Ondt & the Gracehoper (a newly published extract from Finnegans Wake prompted no doubt by the fact that Joyce’s work is now out of copyright, and discussed by J. C. in NB, June 6 and 13): 22 men, two women
Of recent publications I have come across in the office, meanwhile, only in the bibliography of Kevin Birmingham’s The Most Dangerous Book: The battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses (2014) is there a slight redressing of the balance: 47/10. And the James Joyce Quarterly that recently came into the office has a 36:12 ratio of articles.
Inevitably there is a fair amount of repetition in the lists of works, and this is, I admit, a rather unscientific and cursory survey, but I don’t recall over years of working at the TLS seeing many (if any) secondary works on Joyce by women. This is surprising given that Joycean studies are a veritable industry and open to all.
Why is this the case? Is Joyce a particularly phallocentric writer? Surely not if one thinks of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of Ulysses. And are Joyce's themes not universal?
Meanwhile there can scarcely have been a bolder-sounding response to Joyce’s last work than the performance Thea Lenarduzzi reported on earlier this year: Olwen Fouéré's one-woman hour-long adaptation of Finnegans Wake. It sounded extraordinary.
What would the author have made of it all?