The fight over the new Ulysses, like all academic arguments over commas, is a fight between two ideas of human nature, two visions of judgment, two images of eternity[*].
[*] Hans Walter Gabler’s Ulysses: The Corrected Text was published in 1986 and has become the standard edition in hardback (Bodley Head) and in paperback (Penguin). In June this year the edition was attacked by John Kidd in the New York Review of Books. The subsequent debate has been acrimonious.
Vol. 10 No. 21 · 24 November 1988
One aspect of the controversy over the text of Ulysses which was not dealt with in Professor Mendelson’s brilliant exposition of the respective positions of Gabler and Kidd (LRB, 27 October) concerns copyright. Bearing in mind that Ulysses will fall into the public domain in 1991, it may be surmised that the publication of a ‘corrected’ text represents an attempt to start a new copyright period running, so that rival publishers could be warned off from poaching for another fifty years. Other recent instances of a similar nature come to mind – of publishers hiring scholars to edit the texts of authors whose copyright is about to lapse, with the same object in mind. An extreme example was brought to my notice in which the textual editor himself is claiming personal copyright in the emendations, however trivial, he has made to his author’s work. It is time to scotch these ploys by bringing a test case, in which the court would be asked to rule (as I believe to be the law) that, when an already published text is re-edited, no new copyright period is established unless the re-edited text differs so substantially from the earlier one as to amount to a new work. Clearly the Gabler text of Ulysses would not satisfy this criterion.
Vol. 11 No. 1 · 5 January 1989
Until reading the Diary of 27 October by Edward Mendelson, it had been my impression that the controversy surrounding Gabler’s Ulysses was not theoretical but historical. John Kidd’s allegations, voiced in ‘The Scandal of Ulysses’ (New York Review of Books, 30 June 1988), appear to be directed at Gabler’s violations of his own editorial principles and not the principles themselves.
Mesmerised by theory, nowhere does Mendelson reveal that Gabler has made some monstrous blunders. In 1984 Gabler labelled his Ulysses as the 11th typesetting; it was actually the 18th. While Mendelson muses over Kidd’s discovery of the Byronic allusion lodged in a certain Dubliner’s name, he neglects to inform us that the Dubliner, Captain Buller, makes a unique and unprecedented appearance as ‘Culler’ in Gabler’s Ulysses. Likewise, Dublin’s Harry Thrift has been altered to ‘Shrift’.
Kidd also balks at the two thousand emendations by Gabler that have no authorial basis. (That is, Gabler follows the typists and printers instead of his purported ‘Ulysses as James Joyce Wrote It’.) Since Gabler gives authority to any variant that appears in Joyce’s hand, his heavy dependence on facsimiles seems enough to undermine his own approach. Mendelson laments the loss of the Modernist typography in the ‘Aeolus’ episode and is justified. Gabler ignored this message, in Joyce’s hand, to the French printers: Est-il possible d’employer des types plus foncé …? Incidentally, the type Joyce commented on was already significantly darker and larger than Gabler’s headlines.
Kidd does not champion the 1922 Ulysses for history’s sake (a nightmare from which he is trying to awake), but requires that ‘errors’ remain only where Joyce actively incorporated them in his ongoing revision, as in the paragraph referred to by Mendelson. And while Mendelson appropriately protests Gabler’s liberties with the passage, he neglects to mention Kidd’s point of last June: on that page alone Gabler overrules Joyce’s final manuscript seven times.