Sort of. I'm near blind myself, and it interferes considerably: e.g., I
can't reread my own texts fast enough to organize a very long essay.
Ordinary methods of outlining simply don't help. But Joyce apparently was
able for many years to hold the 'whole' of what was to be Finnegan's Wake in
his mind, probably without recourse to outlines. So if his blindness did
interfere, it was damn inefficient interference! Perhaps blindness even
helped him train his memory, thereby enabling Finnegan's Wake. (Octogenarian
short-term memory combines with near-blindness in my case.)
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 9:51 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: How Eliot saw his letters.
Are you suggesting his near blindness didn't interfere with his work?
Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>I 'read' through Finnegan's Wake once in the sense that I let my eyes rest
>successively on each word from page 1 to the end. I didn't of course make
>any sense of it from that cursory a reading. But a few lines here and a few
>lines there reverberated in my mind as I passed through, enough for me to
>take the word of those who have read it carefully and make large claims for
>it. Given that, it is hard to believe that his writing got interfered with
>by anything. It's quite a pile of impressive words.
>From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
>Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 5:39 PM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: How Eliot saw his letters.
>Well Ricard , I think the ducal coronet rests safely on the crown of your
>caput again. Poor old Joyce. He managed to escape Ireland and the Church
>in the end he couldn't escape himself. I wonder which one of the 3 hindered
>his writing more?
>Rickard Parker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>On Tue, 26 Jun 2012 11:26:22 -0500, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>I'm ignorant of the chronology here. Was this book published before or
>>>it became generally known that Joyce's blindness was caused by syphilis?
>>The book was posthumously published in the US and UK in 1958
>>(with a small 1957 pre-release). I read that it only covered
>>Joyce until he was 21.
>>On Joyce's eye problems -- he had trouble all his life.
>>A simply laid out webpage with a chronology is at
>>You should be able to read it easily Carrol.
>>There is a PDF file at
>>In the convivial, bibulous atmosphere of Dublin, so well
>>portrayed in the drinking scenes in Ulysses, Joyce took to
>>alcohol with enthusiasm. His consorting with prostitutes
>>resulted in several episodes of venereal disease. Joyce
>>always feared syphilis.3
>>Syphilis - 'the great imitator' - can cause urethritis,
>>iritis, conjunctivitis, arthritis and, occasionally, peptic
>>ulcers. Dr JB Lyons, an authority on Joyce's medical problems,
>>did not believe that he had syphilis.7 Joyce had an episode
>>described as rheumatic fever in Trieste following a night
>>spent in the gutter after drinking. Aching joints were
>>prominent among his litany of complaints. His bent-over
>>posture, said to resemble a question mark, occurs with
>>ankylosing spondylitis. A more likely explanation for
>>Joyce's eye and joint problems is a sero-negative arthritis8
>>such as Reiter syndrome.9
>>7. Lyons JB. James Joyce's miltonic affliction.
>>Irish J Med Sc 1968;1:157-65.
>>8. Quin D. James Joyce: seronegative arthropathy or syphilis?
>>Journal of the History of Medicine 1991;46:86-8.
>>9. Paton A. James Joyce - a case history. BMJ 1975;636-7.
>>>From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
>>>Of Rickard Parker
>>>Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 8:33 AM
>>>To: [log in to unmask]
>>>Subject: Re: How Eliot saw his letters.
>>>Not about letters but related. Here is Eliot in his preface to
>>>Stanislaus Joyce's biography of his brother, "My Brother?s
>>>Keeper: James Joyce?s Early Years":
>>> Curiosity about the private life of a public man may
>>> be of three kinds: the useful, the harmless, and the
>>> impertinent. It is useful, when the subject is a
>>> statesman, if the study of his private life contributes
>>> to the understanding of his public actions; it is
>>> useful, when the subject is a man of letters, if the
>>> study throws light upon his published works. The line
>>> between curiosity which is legitimate and that which is
>>> merely harmless and that which is vulgarly impertinent,
>>> can never be precisely drawn. In the case of a writer,
>>> the usefulness of biographical information, for
>>> increasing and making possible a keener enjoyment or a
>>> more critical valuation, will vary according to the
>>> type of which the writer is representative, and the way
>>> in which he has exploited his own experience in his
>>> books. It is difficult to believe that greater
>>> knowledge about the private life of Shakespeare could
>>> much modify our judgment or enhance our enjoyment of
>>> his plays; no theory about the origin or mode of
>>> composition of the Homeric poems could alter our
>>> appreciation of them as poetry. With a writer like
>>> Goethe, on the other hand, our interest in the man is
>>> inseparable from our interest in the work; and we are
>>> impelled to supplement and correct what he tells us in
>>> various ways about himself, with information from
>>> outside sources; the more we know about the man, the
>>> better, we think, we may come to understand his poetry
>>> and his prose.
>>> In the case of James Joyce we have a series of
>>> books, two of which at least as so autobiographical
>>> in appearance that further study of the man and his
>>> background seems not only suggested by our own
>>> inquisitiveness, but almost expected by the author
>>> himself. We want to know who are the originals of his
>>> characters, and what were the origins of his episodes,
>>> so that we may unravel the web of memory and invention
>>> and discover how far and in what ways the crude
>>> material has been transformed. Our interest extends,
>>> therefore, inevitably and justifiably, to Joyce?s
>>> family, to his friends, to every detail of the
>>> topography and life of Dublin, the Dublin of his
>>> childhood, adolescence and young manhood.
>>> Rick Parker