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JOYCE, James - PRESCOTT, Joseph.

James Joyce: A Study in Words.

reprinted from PMLA. Publications of The Modern Language Association of America. Issued Quarterly. Volume LIV. Number 1.

New York: Modern Language Association of America, March 1939 Stock Code: 140930
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The truly rare original offprint, with only two copies listed by WorldCat worldwide (Harvard and National Library of Israel), of this groundbreaking early article on James Joyce, published two months before the final release of Finnegans Wake. Joseph Prescott would go on to become a major voice in Joycean studies, in particular through his book Exploring James Joyce (1964).

A contemporary reviewer of Exploring James Joyce vaunted: "Joseph Prescott pioneered in the American academic study of James Joyce, as author of a scholarly article in 1939, and of the first PH.D. thesis six years later... For two decades Joseph Prescott has been recognised as the man who knows most thoroughly the text of Ulysses..." (Joyce and the Justness of the Word, Richard M. Kain, Journal of General Education, vol. 16, no. 3 (October 1964), pp. 253-6).

James Joyce: A Study in Words was published two months before the final release of Finnegans Wake, appraising Joyce's development through Dubliners, the Portrait, and Ulysses, to the "Work in Progress". Notably unawed by his subject, Prescott sensitively weighs Joyce's relationship to language, opening wryly: "The writings of Joyce show a progression from an early interest in words through a mature use of them to the excessive fondness of old age". His final paragraph constitutes a striking satire on the logical conclusion of Joyce's development: "To such writing there is one final conclusion. Joyce will call his next work something like Tabula Rasa and regale the reader with hundreds of pages of closely bound paper, each one of which will be innocent of printer's ink, a commodity so ubiquitous and domineering in the past that no literature has yet escaped it. Disciples will swarm to the defense of the Master, and learned commentaries will be spun out to show how superbly, how flawlessly, how incomparably James Joyce has rendered for all time the picture of the mind at that obscure moment in our embryological past before we are ushered in the world of sensation and idea - in short, the perfectly blank mind... The era of technique will then not be at an end but at its culmination, and all men will follow the Master, varying perhaps only in the number of pages, or, again, according to the intensity of their artistic vision, in the degree of the whiteness of the page. And it shall come to pass in that day that the great writer shall consort with the little, and wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall read them."

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Octavo. Original light brown wrappers, stapled within, titles printed in black to front wrapper.


Some rust marking showing through wrappers from staples, some light creasing around wrappers, small perforation to front wrapper and title page not affecting text. Good condition.


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