The Irish writer James Joyce (1882-1941) ranks among the most important authors of the twentieth century, a status he owes mainly to the technical innovations he introduced in his two major novels, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. The interior monologue, stylistic parodies and the mythological framework in the former and the extreme multilingual experiment in the latter book have made Joyce the most influential writer of the modernist generation who has not only decisively shaped modernism but whose influence continues to mark contemporary literature. Since the early eighties, scholars in Ireland, the United States and Belgium have effected a return to the thorough genetic study of Joyce's two majors works. For both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake scholars have begun to study the drafts and notebooks that document the genesis of these two central works. In organizational terms, the impact of genetic studies on what has been called the 'Joyce Industry' has been considerable: there have been regular appearances of 'genetic' panels at all the international Joyce conferences in the last twenty years, a series of conferences in Paris and Antwerp, articles in the specialized journals, collections of essays and books. In the case of Finnegans Wake the most recent tangible result has been the publication of the first six volumes of the so-called Buffalo Notebooks, workbooks in which Joyce collected materials from a wide variety of sources for use in Finnegans Wake.
Simultaneously, a lot of work has already been done on the Ulysses notebooks and manuscripts, in a project that joins the expertise of two young scholars in Buffalo with that of Michael Groden, and for which both Daniel Ferrer and Geert Lernout act as advisors. This project has just received a Mellon Grant for a feasibility study for a fully annotated web-based, hypertext archive (the 'Ulysses Archive'), containing the approximately 11,000 pages of manuscripts for James Joyce's novel Ulysses (held in different libraries in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States) and about 5,000 pages of commentary about the manuscripts and the novel. This project aims to be ready by June 2004 when the International James Joyce Foundation will host a conference to celebrate the Bloomsday centenary in Dublin.
Daniel Ferrer and Geert Lernout propose to write a comparative study of the note-taking process employed by Joyce during the genesis of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Despite the importance of Joyce in the theory of intertextuality and although in the last fifty years a great number of articles and books have been written on the importance for Joyce of individual writers or books, more general work on Joyce's note-taking has had to wait until the late seventies when the primary documents became more generally available in the James Joyce Archive. Since then scholars have been able to study closely a wide variety of sources that were excerpted by Joyce in his notebooks and then 'harvested' by him and introduced into the drafts of his work.
The recent discovery of new notebooks and drafts for Ulysses and Finnegans Wake will allow us to compare Joyce's actual writing strategies.