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University of Tulsa

"Pierced butnot Punctured": A Report on the 2011 Zurich James Joyce Foundation
Workshop, 31 July6 August 2011
Author(s): Erika Mihlycsa
Source: James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Fall 2010), pp. 21-25
Published by: University of Tulsa
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41429833
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& Cowan, 1936), and Daniel Breen, My Fight for Irish Freedom (Dublin: Talbot
Press, 1924).
10 See Dion Boucicault, The Colleen Bawn, or, The Brides of Garryowen: A
Domestic Drama in Three Acts (London: S. French, 1920), and Gerald Griffin,
The Collegians: A Novel (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1935).
11 O'Brien, The Dalkey Archive: A Novel (London: MacGibbon and Kee,
1964).
12 Anthony Cronin, No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times ofFlann O'Brien
(London: Grafton, 1989), p. 52. Further references will be cited parenthetically
in the text.
13 Margot Norris, "Shocking the Reader in James Joyce's 'A Painful Case/"
JJQ, 37 (Fall 1999-Winter 2000), 63-81, and republished as chapter 11 of
Suspicious Readings of Joyce's "Dubliners" (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania
Press, 2003), pp. 158-71.
14 Vicki Mahaffey, "Intentional Error: The Paradox of Editing Joyce's
Ulysses ," Representing Modernist Texts : Editing as Interpretation, ed. George
Bornstein (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991), p. 183.
15 The comment appears in a letter from O'Nolan to Tim O'Keeffe, 15
October 1965, and is quoted in Anne Clissmann, Flann O'Brien: A Critical
Introduction to His Writings (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1975), p. 82.
16 na gCopaleen, "Cruiskeen Lawn," Irish Times (28 December 1944), 3.

"Pierced butnot Punctured": A Report on the


2011 Zurich James Joyce Foundation
Workshop, 31 July-6 August 2011

When at the start of summer I confessed to friends I was going to


attend a full week's scholarly discussions devoted to punctuation,
they looked at me with barely disguised condescension and asked if
next year's topic would be page numbers. I can attest, though, that
the Zurich James Joyce Foundation's 2011 August workshop, stylishly
entitled "Pierced butnot Punctured" (aka "JoycePunk") proved to be
a delightfully unpunctilious Glassperlenspiel. The twenty-strong team
of committed, dashing, elliptic, parenthetical semicolonials, fullstop-
pers, and digressive nonstoppers performed, under the guidance
of Elizabeth Bonapfel, Tim Conley, and Fritz Senn, and religiously
obeyed Senn's First Law (that all talks must be communicated to, not
read out at, fellow punks). Discussions included a string of quotato-
quashing, polytropic con-, trans-, and per-versions of commas, dots,
and interrobangs, which read across Joyce's unorthodoxies of lan-
guage.
If we can credit Don DeLillo, what the writer is working with is,
above all, commas and dashes.1 After this opening comment, partici-
pants were guided through a history of punctuation by Bonapfel and

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James Joyce Quarterly 48.1 2010

Bjrn Quiring. After learning about scriptio continua - the unpunc-


tuated, performative text of antiquity where it fell to the voice to
supply pauses and establish meaning - and the medieval period
when punctuation was introduced for syntactic and interpretive
disambiguation, we arrived at the early modern period with its stan-
dardization in printing, completing the transition from oral to silent
reading (with Quiring focusing on the overlapping of rhetorical and
syntactical punctuation patterns in the Shakespeare folios). Through
such preliminaries, we reached the high waters of Joy(ce)Punk on
Monday afternoon with John Paul Riquelme's ambitious catalogu-
ing of transformative, performative, synoptic, digressive, and other
parentheticals in all of Joyce's texts. Bill Brockman then diverted us
to Joyce's yet unpublished private letters and their "perverted com-
mas/' and we discovered that quotation marks serve as a distancing
device but also a means of emphasis - especially so when used as
Joyce did in quoting the stentorial prescription of his ophthalmologist
Alfred Vogt: "'Vollstndige psychologische Ruhe.' Sez he'"2
During the Monday morning pre-histories of our obfusconsider-
ations, Sam Slote's "espacementhefinalfrontier" demonstrated how
Joyce's "new book of Morses" (FW 123.35) comprehends the his-
tory of punctuation in terms of the relationship between author and
reader: thus, from an abundance of paper wounds and foliated gashes
that defines the text's style and grafts the author's signature on the
text, we proceeded to a scriptio continua- like "unbrookable script" (FW
123.32-33) that has to be read aloud, both pierced and punctured by
its every reader to distinguish words and syntax. In this way, Arno
Schmidt's annotated copy of the Wake or John Cage's Roaratorio are
literally palimpsests of the text with the anti-collaborators' attempts
to understand it, in the likeness of medieval manuscripts marked by
additions of their readers. Such re-spacements and re-stylings effec-
tively become an authorial signature of Wake reading. After such a
panoramic sweep, Amanda Sigler took us between the sheets of little
magazines to show how ubiquitous punctuation and sexy letters
were employed in self-advertising to attract attention to sensational
or scandalous content but also to mark ellipses where passages were
"donated to the censor."

The next day's protagonist was Molly Bloom who famously never
ends her periods. Jolanta Wawrzycka took us on musical errands
through "Penelope," demonstrating how the apparently punctuation-
free episode is, in fact, strongly punctuated by recurrent turns-of-
phrase and, especially, by references to a plethora of songs. These
hidden musical quotations, Wawrzycka argued, should be sung as
Molly would, their rising or falling tunes establishing the cadence of
her flow. Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli addressed the problems of
translating punctuation when there is no punctuation to translate: in

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comparing two forthcoming Italian translations, she pointed out vari-
ous strategies used by the Joycean scholar Enrico Terrinoni to preserve
the original's syntactic indeterminacy and reproduce its cadences and
idiosyncrasies without having recourse to any graphic punctuation
sign. Bollettieri Bosinelli also tackled the punctuating valences of
Molly's many interjections, leaving the audience to ponder the plight
of translators who write in target languages that lack a word for "yes"
and who, as Conley suggested, may still fall back on "aha."
By this time, all present were thoroughly convinced of the vital
importance of being punctuated: after all, as Bollettieri Bosinelli
showed, the absence or presence of a single comma has the power
to orphan a character, as seen in Stephen's commaless "[n]o mother
let me be and let me live" in the 1922 text, as compared to the Hans
Walter Gabler edition's "[n]o, mother! Let me be and let me live" ( U 10,
U 1.279). This realization came as an appropriate prelude to Conley's
talk on "discretion marks," which wound around the question of how
punctuation silences us and began, Colombo-style, with the statement
that Joyce has no point at all, only points; his intention seems to have
been to make punctuation unreliable. Needless to say, the Rose edi-
tions of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake were often mentioned but
hardly admiringly. Then it was the turn of the doyen of Joyceans to
turn around our categories and expectations vis--vis "punkmarks"
and their uses: Senn began filling in the blanks and discussing the
multiple, disconcerting forms of parentheses (stage directions, inter-
polations, metatextual comments, editorial insertions, and the like)
in Ulysses and the many on-stage and off-stage narrative occurrences
that are bracketed (including a parenthetical urination in "Cyclops").
We also learned that Bloom, whom some of us suspected of being the
book's principal character, has the habit of "parenthesizing," the verb
being used only in relation to him in "Eumaeus."
Thursday still had a lot to offer. Bonapfel presented a cross-section
of her Ph.D. research on the revolutionary modernist uses of punctua-
tion. An Irish-Central-European "Flanneur," Paul Fagan, just in from
Vienna where he co-organized the Flann O'Brien-Myles na gCopaleen
centenary conference, proposed an experimental bracketing of the
usual ways of reading Joyce's "Work-in-Digress" (word by word) for
its syntax. When whole Wake sentences appeared on the overhead
projector, digression was set in opposition to syntax and narrative;
often two parenthetical levels could be distinguished, a veritable
mise-en-abyme of digression. The consistently misplaced parentheses -
even splitting a word in two and questioning whether a sentence, as
a hermeneutically controlled whole, can indeed be considered the
measure of the text - may suggest, according to Fagan, a sense of
simultaneity and dramatize the experience of most reading-group
participants.

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James Joyce Quarterly 48.1 2010

Friday morning was colonized by the workshop's Italian contin-


gent. Teresa Prudente proposed that the subversion of punctuation
in "Ithaca" may have the function of raising awareness of the void:
starting with Lucretius's concept of the void and passing on to Gilles
Deleuze via Giorgio Agamben, she considered the colon as a mark
pointing in two directions, thus undercutting traditional cause-and-
effect relations, but also as a Deleuzian flexible marker of agencement.
Federico Sabatini shepherded us through Wakean compunctions, false
steps, and fools' toppings in the lessons chapter, investigating the
possibility of treating a full stop as a geometrical object. Drawing on
Giordano Bruno's and Henri Poincar's intimations of non-Euclidean
geometry, Sabatini plunged us into "joyclid['s]" "jumeantry" (FW
302.12, 286.L31), showing how Joyce's preference for hyperbolic and
elliptic geometry shapes the reading of the Wake. Annalisa Volpone
then gave voice to ellipses and hesitancies, pondering narrative and
textual gaps standing for the unspeakable and inviting different
ways of filling them. In conclusion, Tekla Mecsnber tempted us onto
untrodden ground, illustrating how diacritics and typographical char-
acters, thematized in the much-punctured Wake passage, participate in
and (literally) shape the discourse of nation(alism) and identity from
Ireland to a conflicted Central Europe.
The last day of the workshop was divided between Chris Eagle's
novel discipline, "stuttutistics" - a study of stuttering and lisping in
the Wake - and Senn's sequel to filling-in-the-blanks. Eagle approached
HCE and ALP's chronic speech disorders and hesitancies from both
psychological and historical angles, paralleling Lewis Carroll's speech
disorder and Charles Stewart Parnell's public stuttering. Senn dedi-
cated this time to editorial interventions but also to such issues as
strategies for punctuating the mind's stream of inchoate grammar and
creating syntactic and stylistic forms for expressing simultaneity and
multiplicity in "Sirens."
I have not yet mentioned one protagonist of the workshop: Amanda
McKittrick Ros, this unrecognized diva assoluta of (Irish) bad writing,
whose ponderous verbiage puts all the gentlemen-black-hat-poets to
shame and whose promotion is the secret raison d'tre of the Zurich
James Joyce Foundation. On Thursday evening, novices were exposed
to a hearty dose of her bell-like verses and prose passages more
meandering than the Chi-Ro page of the Book of Kells. Words are
inadequate to describe the effect: suffice it to say that, after an hour
of alliterative polyphonies heavily punctured by roars of laughter,
we lapsed into "b rok engl," concurring with Tekla's children: "stop,
please stop, do please stop, and do please stop respectively" (FW
124.07, 04-05)! Punkt.

Erika Mihlycsa
Babes-Bolyai University

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NOTES

1 Don DeLillo, "The History of the Writer Alone in a Room," The Jerusalem
Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society (Jerusalem: Caspit, 1999), p.
14.

2 "Complete psychological rest": the comment is in a letter from Joyce to


Harriet Shaw Weaver, 27 July 1932, held at the British Library and unpub-
lished.

Helmut Bonheim

1930-2012

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