Joyce’s complete private correspondence: at long last collected, digitalised, and explored

Joyce’s letters are either unpublished and inaccessible, or published and protected by strict copyright laws. Josip Batinić, who works at the Antwerp Centre for Digital Criticism, curated a complete digital corpus of Joyce’s letters. He used it to research the latent trends and patterns in Joyce’s communication with his correspondents. “There is much more of interest in Joyce’s correspondence than just his erotic letters to his wife, Nora,” says Batinić. (Text: Josip Batinić)

Telling handwriting

Joyce’s handwriting in his letters, for instance, is more telling than it first appears. “The neat handwriting of his youth is replaced by a flow of tumultuous and stylised strokes in his later life,” says Batinić. This change in Joyce’s handwriting over time aligns with the moving away from the naturalist prose characteristic of his early writings, and the embracing of his mature experimentation with style and form, culminating in Ulysses and in Finnegans Wake.

Changing roles in life

Joyce’s 43-year long letter-writing documents Joyce’s struggles to write and publish many of his works, his bad eye health, his financial issues, and his daughter Lucia’s worsening mental illness among others. “While the correspondence from the first part of his life is mainly on the topic of his own literary works, the latter part of his life is characterised by letters written to and about his family,” highlighting Joyce’s role as a father and a husband, which only truly comes through in the letters, Batinić notes.


Josip Batinić |