Joyce’s letters offer the contemporary reader a grounding of his works within the world in which they were composed and first read. The letters form a documentary matrix with his other writings (both those intended for publication and those of a more personal nature), with others’ letters to him and with related correspondence of family members and close relations. Involved in any understanding of Joyce’s correspondence are issues of copyright, ownership, censorship and academic ethics. While the published letters of James Joyce are staples of libraries and of Joyceans’ private bookshelves, their apparent solidity and certainty belie a complex history, both in their editorial makeup and in their reception. Each of the major compilations (published in 1957, 1966 and 1975) is representative of its era, defined by scholarly trends, privacy concerns and the sheer availability of material. Selective as each is, the several volumes of published letters represent more of a succession of critical and cultural attitudes toward Joyce than a documentary summation. This essay will give a short history of the publication of the letters and examine ways in which the published and the unpublished letters inform the reading of all of Joyce’s works. The formal opening of the James Joyce–Paul Léon collection of correspondence and documents at the National Library of Ireland, held in conjunction with the International James Joyce Symposium of 1992, offered a modern epiphany regarding the public dimension of Joyce’s letters.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities(all)