For this “Clever, Very” interview, Matthew Hayward spoke with us about his scholarship regarding the way in which Joyce collected information on commerce in his article, “‘Knowing Damn All About Banking Business’: Re-opening James Joyce’s ‘Notes on Business and Commerce’” which appears in the latest issue of the JJQ (52.3). Dr. Matthew Hayward is currently a Lecturer in Literature at the University of the South Pacific.
James Joyce Quarterly: Your article, “‘Knowing Damn All About Banking Business’: Re-opening James Joyce’s ‘Notes on Business and Commerce’” relates to how Joyce found information on commerce and the ways he implemented it into his writings. Many of your past writings have also focused on aspects of advertising and business in Joyce’s work. Why does Joyce’s use of commercial culture and advertising strike you as particularly deserving of study and what motivated you to examine Joyce’s “Notes on Business and Commerce?”
Matthew Hayward: Consumerism is the biggest social shift of the modern period, and Ulysses is the first major novel to really reflect this shift. Critics have been saying this (with varying degrees of approval) since the 1920s, and there was of course a lot written on the subject in the 80s and 90s—so much that the subject seems exhausted. But I think we are still coming to terms with the complexity of Joyce’s representation. In particular, as critics in Ireland have been pointing out for some time, and as Andrew Gibson has argued so forcefully, the specifically Irish context of Joyce’s representation has been largely overlooked in international Joyce criticism, and this makes all the difference.
The more historically oriented work that we are seeing at the moment is helping us to appreciate the cultural specificity of Joyce’s work—not just in relation to consumerism, but for all the material contexts that he drew so carefully into his work. At the same time, this might restore what is most generally relevant in Joyce’s engagement with consumer culture. Joyce depicts an early consumerist economy whose center of production lies largely elsewhere, and in this respect he predicts the experience of many other societies in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
My motivation for reopening the ‘Notes on Business and Commerce’ was initially just to verify a few of the claims made by Mark Osteen in his early discussion of the ‘Advertising’ section in The Economy of ‘Ulysses’. In transcribing the notes—with a little help from my friend Ronan Crowley, now at the Centre for Manuscript Genetics at the University of Antwerp—I started to see some disparities between the received dating and the material itself. This led me into a hunt for the sources of each of the eight sections, and along the way I started to see that Joyce had made more use of these notes in Ulysses than had been recognized.
JJQ: One of the parts of your article which I found particularly interesting was your analysis of the method which Joyce employed while annotating his source material. What do you think we should take away from the consistency, or inconsistency, of Joyce’s research method?
MH: These notes hold a peculiar place in Joyce’s archival record, as they don’t seem to have been taken for the purposes of his fiction. This might be why they seem comparatively systematic. I understand from my genetic guru, Luca Crispi, that Joyce was generally not interested in comprehensively recording information from his sources, preferring to flick through with an eye for interesting turns of phrase. But as I say in the article, even in the ‘Notes on Business and Commerce’ Joyce follows a somewhat erratic method, skipping back and forth within his sources until he covers them fully. I gather that this restlessness is typical of Joyce’s method of annotation, so in that respect the notes are consistently inconsistent.
JJQ: Why do you think genetic criticism of Joyce’s notebooks and source material has continued to be so fruitful for scholars?
MH: To begin with, there is just so much to do. Merely transcribing and tracing the ‘Notes on Business and Commerce’ was several years of night shifts, and this is material that has been publicly available for forty years, with a few of the sources lying in plain sight online. Especially with the discovery of the NLI Manuscripts, there is just an incredible amount of material, and there is no telling how this will continue to change the way in which we think about Joyce’s creative process, as Luca’s recent book, Becoming the Blooms, shows. The fact that much of this material is freely available online, and that other contemporary material is being digitalized apace, means that much of this work can be done without the need for expensive research trips. So the ideal reader with the ideal insomnia can make amazing discoveries from her bedroom.
There is something very addictive about genetic work, whether that is in the study of Joyce’s adaptation of his notes and drafts in the various stages of composition, or in the tracing of sources. For me, it is fascinating in itself just looking under the hood and seeing how Joyce worked, and genetic scholarship has a practical and material basis that is very appealing to a certain type of critic. The greatest genetic scholars—Mike Groden, Walton Litz, Luca, Dirk Van Hulle, and others—are able to extrapolate from this material in ways that change how we read the texts themselves. But even for those of us with more modest gifts, I think that this kind of legwork will be valuable to Joyce scholarship, providing a sounder material basis for the interpretation of the author’s work.
JJQ: How do you see the future of criticism relating to Joyce’s use of commercial language developing?
MH: Would this be the time to mention that I’m working on a monograph on the subject, provisionally entitled Joyce in Business? Though since I live and work 10,000 miles from Dublin, this might take a while. But with the other more historically oriented work that is being done at the moment, I hope it will lead to a better understanding of the way in which Joyce’s writing relates to the material contexts within which he lived and worked. From there—who can say? As I’ve said before, I don’t see this kind of historical research as an end in itself, but more as the groundwork upon which more imaginative scholars can build.
This interview was conducted by Alex Barchet via email September 7-22, 2017.