Saturday, June 24, 2006
Last week's New Yorker magazine (the June 19, 2006, issue) contained a fascinating article by D.T. Max entitled "The Injustice Collector: Is James Joyce's Grandson Suppressing Scholarship?" (You can find the article here.) The article raises some interesting issues that might be worth classroom or faculty lounge discussion. James Joyce's grandson, Stephen James Joyce, is in his mid-70s and lives on an island off the Atlantic Coast of France. He is an assiduous enforcer of the intellectual property (and other) rights of the James Joyce estate. He has made it almost impossible for Joyce scholars (for whom, as a group, he has very little regard) to look at the papers and letters that he controls or to quote from James Joyce's private letters or, in some cases, published works. Stephen has brought actions against scholars who have, he believes, used materials without permission or defamed his grandfather or grandmother or aunt. He sometimes appears at scholarly conferences on Joyce's work, creating some confusion and unease. Some Joyce scholars believe that Stephen's protection has inappropriately interfered with their ability to pursue their studies of Joyce and his work. And they are now fighting back. One of the scholars has enlisted Professor Larry Lessig of Stanford to help her fight Stephen's restrictions.
The dispute nicely frames the tension between the privacy interests that the Joyce family has in their materials and the public or scholarly desire to exam those materials for any light that they may throw on Joyce's work. Where should the line be drawn between those interests?