Rose still a thorn in the side of academic world

Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 01:00

ANALYSIS:THE STATEMENT issued by Danis Rose to justify his publication of and copyright claim to the James Joyce Ulysses manuscripts held in the National Library of Ireland is a rather remarkable document.

In a move that would be admired by Laurence Sterne, it begins with a digression – a logical impossibility – and maintains a slightly blasé, devil-may-care tone throughout.

Audacious though Rose’s move is, it is by no means unusual from this maverick scholar, who has made a speciality of setting the Joyce world by the ears every now and then. His most recent initiative was the publication by Ithys Press, Dublin, of which he is a director, of a letter from James Joyce to his grandson, Stephen, which is held in the Zürich James Joyce Foundation.

Priced at €300, or €1,200 for a deluxe edition, it was presented as a “story for children” when in fact it is not a story, but rather a piece of amiable fantasy. The publication was denounced by the Zürich foundation, which said it had not been consulted and had not authorised the publication. In its response, Ithys Press made it clear that it did not consider there was any need to ask permission or that there was any copyright restriction.

The place of Danis Rose (a pseudonym for Denis O’Hanlon) in Joyce scholarship has always been at an acute angle to the status quo. From south Dublin and now in his late 50s, he attended Oatlands College, where his interests were more in the scientific and mathematical areas than in the literary.

A chance meeting with US academic Prof Tom Cowan led him obliquely into the world of Joyce textual scholarship. At a remarkably early age, he became involved in work on the multi-volume James Joyce Archive, where he was engaged in the ordering and analysis of the Finnegans Wake notebooks. He became a leading Finnegans Wake scholar, as exemplified in his 1995 publication, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce.

Along the way, he became embroiled in controversies. One such was occasioned by his claim that he had discovered seven new “short stories” written by Joyce after Ulysses. He believed Joyce had intended to title this collection Finn’s Hotel. Strong opposition by the James Joyce estate meant that these “stories” did not see publication in their own right.

A similar fate befell for many years Rose’s “Mamalujo” project, a new edition of Finnegans Wake (co-edited with his brother, John O’Hanlon) to which at least one public body, as well as the James Joyce Centre, contributed funding, only to be blocked by the Joyce estate. Eventually, in 2010, it was published in a limited, expensive format. It is to be published by Penguin shortly at a more affordable price.

The major controversy in which Rose has been involved, however, was occasioned by his 1997 “Reader’s Edition” of Ulysses. This took a radical approach to the editing of the novel, introducing emendations and alterations which many other Joyce scholars considered indefensible. Once again, the Joyce estate took up arms; it obtained the withdrawal of the edition, although Rose published it later in a modified format.

If it is the case that, for Rose, Joyce studies has always been a battlefield, he does possess the ability of experienced generals to fight on several fronts simultaneously: on April 23rd, the High Court is hearing a case in which Rose is suing Belgian publisher Brepols, which brought out an edition of the Finnegans Wake notebooks edited by Vincent Deane, Geert Lernout and Daniel Ferrer.


Danis Rose’s statement on his new Ulysses manuscripts editions can be accessed at houseofbreathings.com