James Joyce's writings have been translated hundreds of times into dozens of different languages. Given the multitude of interpretive possibilities within these translations, Patrick O'Neill argues that the entire corpus of translations of Joyce's work - indeed, of any author's - can be regarded as a single and coherent object of study. Polyglot Joyce demonstrates that all the translations of a work, both in a given language and in all languages, can be considered and approached as a single polyglot macrotext. To respond to, and usefully deconstruct, a macrotext of this kind requires what O'Neill calls a 'transtextual reading,' a reading across the original literary text and as many as possible of its translations. Such a comparative reading explores texts that are at once different and the same, and thus simultaneously involves both intertextual and intratextual concerns. While such a model applies in principle to the work of any author, Joyce's work from Dubliners to Finnegans Wake provides a particularly appropriate and challenging set of texts for discussion.
Polyglot Joyce illustrates how a translation extends rather than distorts its original, opening many possibilities not only into the work of Joyce, but into the work of any author whose work has been translated.
Patrick O'Neill is a professor in the Department of German Language and Literature at Queen's University.