Publication of James Joyce collection divides scholars

No evidence Joyce envisaged Finn’s Hotel pieces as a separate publication, says scholar

The publication of a collection of 10 works by James Joyce by a small Dublin publisher some 90 years after they were penned has divided Joyce scholars.

Ithys Press has published Finn's Hotel, which it describes as a collection of "10 little epics" or "epiclets", a term it says Joyce attributed to the pieces.

A preface to the collection by Joyce scholar Danis Rose, who edited and arranged it, says the pieces were composed "in 1923, some six months after his final disengagement from Ulysses and before he had as yet conceived of the plot, structure, or sheer immensity of his epic Finnegans Wake.

"Each epiclet is a narrative tableau in which some of Joyce's heros and heroines make their debut: many characters among this eclectic cast later reappear, in various guises, in Finnegans Wake, but in Finn's Hotel they are portrayed in their unvarnished, original incarnation," the preface adds.


However, Terence Killeen, a research scholar at the James Joyce Centre, argues the grounds for the decision to publish Finn's Hotel as a separate work are "very weak".

"All the pieces scream of Finnegans Wake itself. It is true that one or two of them did not end up in the final text, but it is quite normal for a writer to draft and then abandon various passages in the initial stages of a major work," he told The Irish Times.

"Although Joyce may have toyed with the name Finn's Hotel as a possible title for the final work, there is no evidence that he ever envisaged these pieces as a separate publication, and his intentions should surely be respected by any serious scholar."

Mr Killeen also criticised the use of the word "epiclets" to describe the pieces, saying Joyce actually used the term to describe Dubliners, adding, "It is quite invalid to transfer the term to these vignettes."

Decision defended

However, Mr Rose robustly defends the decision to publish the collection, saying that when Joyce’s manuscripts are studied along with his correspondence between 1923 and 1938, it becomes clear that the works included in the collection are a “special set” of pieces.

"They were laid aside, put in an envelope and tucked away in a press," he said, describing them as "absolutely distinct pieces which were subsequently intertextualised - in other words, when Joyce wrote them he had no concept whatsoever of a book called Finnegans Wake".

The edition, which is limited to 180 copies overall and published to mark Bloomsday 2013, includes 10 deluxe copies at €2,500; a further 26 lettered copies costing €1,350 (four others are “hors commerce” or private copies), and a remaining 140 numbered copies costing €350 each.