“Original, important, and fascinating. Mecsnóber depicts a Joyce whose works reflect his interest in the implications of different typographic styles, the apparent foreignness of diacritical marks, favored languages in emergent nations, proposals for a universal language, and basic English.”—Patrick A. McCarthy, author of Joyce, Family, “Finnegans Wake”
“In this impeccably researched study, Mecsnóber elegantly shows how Joyce’s artistry extends to matters of naming, orthography, and typography. She brilliantly demonstrates how Joyce remarks, refracts, and remakes the cultures of a changing Europe through language and visual design.”—Sam Slote, coeditor of Renascent Joyce
Rewriting Joyce’s Europe: The Politics of Language and Visual Design sheds light on how the text and physical design of James Joyce’s two most challenging works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, reflect changes that transformed Europe between World War I and II. Looking beyond the commonly studied Irish historical context of these works, Tekla Mecsnóber calls for more attention to their place among broader cultural and political processes of the interwar era.
Published in 1922 and 1939, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake display Joyce’s keen interest in naming, language choice, and visual aspects of writing. Mecsnóber shows the connections between these literary explorations and the real-world remapping of national borders that was often accompanied by the imposition of new place names, languages, and alphabets. In addition to drawing on extensive research in newspaper archives as well as genetic criticism, Mecsnóber provides the first comprehensive analysis of meanings suggested by the typographic design of early editions of Joyce’s texts.
Mecsnóber argues that Joyce’s fascination with the visual nature of writing not only shows up as a motif in his books but also can be seen in the writer’s active role within European and North American print culture as he influenced the design of his published works. This illuminating study highlights the enduring—and often surprising—political stakes in choices regarding the use and visual representation of languages.
Tekla Mecsnóber, lecturer in the Department of English Language and Culture at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, is coeditor of Publishing in Joyce’s “Ulysses”: Newspapers, Advertising and Printing.