Archive for the ‘FW Secondary Literature’ Category

Lowly, longly a wail went forth.   1 comment


Yawn interrogated by four old men.

One section of this passage (3.3.478.6-18) is discussed by McHugh in The Finnegans Wake Experience (17). Here, the translation of “Magis enarratur (eo) minus hoc intellego” is given as “the more completely it is explained the less I understand this.” Fair enough.

I like the way the complaint <this is hard to pronounce> “C’est mal prononsable” (478.18) is countered with <you’ve not got any water in your provincial mouth, Sir> “Vous n’avez pas d’o dans votre boche provenciale,  mousoo” (478.19). The comment reminds me of how, as a child, I announced to my Mum that it was easy to speak French: “you just need lots of spit in your mouth”.

The continued questioning of Shaun on page 478 is discussed by Peter Mahon in Imagining Joyce and Derrida (167-168). Herein, Mahon glosses the discovery of “la clee dang les champs” (the key/clover in the fields). And links this line to, “Whu’s teit dans yur jambs?” <What’s that between your legs>. Finding a correspondence between “the Messiah and the phallus-clover… they both have the potential to rise again” (168). Reincarnation: A theme at the heart of the Wake.

This imagery reminds me of a cheeky mediaeval fabliaux I heard Isabelle Jacquemain tell last year:

Two girls are out walking. The first girl notices a magnificent phallus underneath a bush. Quickly, she tucks it into her robes. The second girl sees all this happen and claims, “Stop! I dropped that by mistake the last time I came this way.” In order to settle their argument the girls call upon a convent. However the Mother superior confiscates the phallus, saying “thank you, dear children for returning the key that opens all our doors”. Touché!

And we’re the closest of chems   Leave a comment


Jaun as Haun

Last night I was listening to the CD accompanying the publication, Kunst zum Hören: Gesamtkunstwerk Expressionismus 1905-1925, by Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt; which in turn accompanies their current exhibition of the same name. I picked up this art book in Basel during the Christmas holidays. At the time I was feeling all enthused about Expressionism after visiting the Beyeler Foundation‘s Wien 1900 Klimt, Schiele und Ihre Zeit exhibition, especially as there was a gorgeous mock up Viennese café in the basement serving goulash and other delights.

Gastronomic considerations aside, the evolution of the Gesamtkunstwerk interests me because Herman Broch identifies Ulysses as having the qualities of a GKW in his 1932 lecture, James Joyce und die Gegenwart (JJ and the Present Day; The Reception of Joyce in Europe, 32). Broch and Joyce remained in contact as Joyce wrote FW, with Broch being the first Jew that Joyce helped to escape Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 (33).

I’d like to find out more about how/ if Joyce was influenced by the sound poetry associated with the expressionist and surrealist movements. The Kunst zum Hören CD starts with a poem by Egon Schiele, Ein Selbstbild (a self-portrait; 1910). A title that sounds right up Joyce’s street.

Please let me know if you’re aware of any references. Thanks!

I’m not taking apple sauce eithou.   1 comment

(3.2.452.6 – 3.2.464.3)

Jaun and Issy – Issy’s love-letter to Jaun – Jaun introduces Dave

In the opening lines of this reading, Jaun talks of listening in, of “picking up airs from th’other over th’ether”. My ears pricked up at the word “ether”, as I made this recording just after I’d got home from a guided visit round the Bodmer Foundation‘s current exhibition: Early Medicine, from the Body to the Stars. So, as Jaun’s reverie – addressed to his “Sis-sibis”-  veered off towards the “efferfreshpainted livy”  and “pharoph”, I was all ready with my references (452.8; 452.19; 452.20).

You see, the first exhibits in the Early Medicine exhibition are Hor’s Book of the Dead and a “Rhomboid cosmetic palatte” (Early Medicine from the Body to the Stars, 145). In the exhibition catalogue Irmtraut Munro writes how in ancient Egyptian cosmology, “the deceased having professed his innocence, appears before the judge of the deceased, Osiris, to give an account of his life.” (141). Clearly, there are many potential candidates for this deceased speaker in Finnegans Wake including, Finn Mc’Cool; H.C.E; the two headed Shem-Shaun; and shadowed behind these characters, Joyce himself. Alan Roughly notes how the conflation of Issy and Shem’s family home at Chapelizod plus Howth, where H.C.E.’s head is buried; gives rise to the place “Hothelizod” (Reading Derrida reading Joyce, 30). Hothelizod is where Jaun wishes to be continued like “thauthor”: Celtic heads laid to rest up-river from Dublin city.

Following in the tradition of the Book of the Dead, Joyce’s incantations in FW “draw on a vast magical, mythical, hymnic and ritual repertoire” that reflects contemporary Irish culture  (Youri Volokhine, Early Medicine, 530) . As Shem riley comments, “I’m beginning to get sunsick. I’m not half Norawain* for nothing” (3.2.452.35-36). Despite its dizzying effect, Egypt’s sun illuminates the cultural mix of FW. Alan Roughly flags the allusion to Isis in “Sissibis” (8), Jaun’s endearing address to his sister Issy (Reading Derrida reading Joyce, 30). Casting Jaun/Shaun as Osiris, Isis’s brother and husband. Also, Vico’s round and round road, recalls “the cyclical renewal through participation in the daily crossings of the heavens in the solar barge of the God Re” (Munro, 141).

Therefore “to be continued like thauthor” is not a gifting of immortality through the technology of the printing press, as in Shakespeare’s, “My love shall in my verse ever live young” (Sonnet 19, line 14). In FW love and verse are inherently palimpsests. “The Vico road goes round and round to meet where terms begin… Before there was patch at all on Ireland there lived a lord at Lucan.” (3.2.452.20-29).

Another palimpsest:

* Nora Wain. Norwegian and Nora, Joyce’s wife.

Technical Problems   Leave a comment

I went to the Finnegans Wake Reading Group in Zurich again last Thursday. It was good to spend an hour close reading with this group, numbering musicians, artists, neurologists and dancers – for many of whom Joyce is a muse. The imposing new Houyhnhnm Press edition of FW was passed around too and we admired the tome.

Back at the James Joyce Foundation on the Friday, I read Northrop Frye’s chapter, “Cycle and Apocalypse” in Vico and Joyce. On page five, Frye proposes that the Wake’s 4 sections correspond to Vico’s four cyclical phases of history. Hence:

Section 1 chapters 1-8 = mythical poetic period. (Legend and myths of the gods)

Section 2 chapters 1-4 = aristocratic phase.

Section 3 chapters 1-4 = demotic phase.

Final chapter = ricorso.

Frye asserts that “there is little evidence that the mature Joyce read technical philosophy with any patience or persistence – not even Heraclitus, who could have given him most of what he needed of the philosophy of polarity in a couple of aphorisms.” (5)  This is interesting given how the “riverrun” gushes right through the Wake.

Frye goes on to state that time for Vico is cyclical, but within a spatial metaphor; but that Bruno devised a new conception of space where “subject-object confrontation dissolves back into a temporal flux.Which makes for quite a folded and refolded image…(N.B. Joyce was interested in polarity due to Giorgano Bruno’s writings (5)).

My other reading last Friday included Joyce’s children’s story, The Cat and the Devil; and Alison Armstrong’s recipe book, The Joyce of Cooking. Consequently, this Christmas we will be delighting in “Combustible Duck”, as inspired by Ulysses (175).

I do hope I manage some more reading between now and then, but my mini disk player has conked out at the moment…

Please, check back here soon for more installments.

Nuvoletta: Vico and Joyce   Leave a comment

I didn’t mention the fantastic demise of the whimsical Nuvoletta yesterday. “Nuvoletta in her lightdress” is introduced on page 157. But, sadly her “sfumastelliacinous hair” and “mignons arms” are ignored by the Mooske, and Gripes – “a dubliboused Catalick” (157; 158). So, Nuvoletta “climb[s] over the bannistars” two pages after she is introduced, acting “as though her heart was brook” (159).

I was tempted to wonder if there is a personification of Giambattista Vico’s Scienza Nuova (New Science) in Nuvo-letta? Her name contains allusions to the New Science’s theme of philology. And after Nuvoletta’s demise her muddied name becomes the Missiliffi, the river of Finnegans Wake.

Joyce certainly drew on Vico in his writings. Donald Phillip Verene explains how:

“Joyce was especially interested in Vico’s notion that “memory is the same as imagination” (la memoria e la stessa che la fantasia) and with Vico’s notion of the cycle of the three ages of history [the ages of the gods; heros, and humans]”

Verene goes on to propose that Joyce even uses the Scienza Nuova “as the grid for Finnegans Wake”.

I can’t as yet comment on that last assertion. But I agree that both Joyce and Vico are invested in a Geistwissenschaften (scholarly knowledge of the spirit) that relates to, but is distinct from the Naturewissenshaften (scholarly knowledge of Nature). This link defines these two terms and explains how they apply to Vico’s work:

For his part, Joyce states his own position vis-à-vis the Geistwissenschaften in his essay “The Study of Language” (1899):

“The statement the study of language is to be despised since it is imaginary and does not deal with facts nor deals in a precise way with ideas, is absurd… [Since it is the] study of our own” (13; 15).(James Joyce. Occasional, Critical and Political Writing (OCPW). OUP: Oxford, 2000).

The study of our own: Vico says, “We dwell in the disclosure of time.” I discovered this quote, and was thereby introduced to Vico’s oeuvre, through Robert Pogue Harrison’s Forests: The shadow of Civilisation.

Towards the end of this text, Pogue Harrison re-situates dwelling, not in the disclosure of time, but rather “in the logos”. He goes on to define “logos” etymologically, as “that which binds, gathers, relates” (200)*. I find this definition of dwelling to be helpful. Since at every moment in Finnegans Wake, I am conscious of my attempts to situate Joyce’s encyclopaedic project of gathering all logos within a sense our own: some imaginary that includes the obliviousness of the Mooske and Gripes and how this transforms Nuvoletta into the Missiliffi, flowing through Finnegans Wake.

* Sorry, I’ve just recalled that Heidegger is standing behind Pogue Harrison’s statement. “He considers the fundamental sense of this word also marked off by the German word “lesen ,” most common in the sense of “to read,” but originally and for Heidegger more basically “to collect, to gather.””