Archive for the ‘Historic Context of FW’ Category

The River’s Tale (Prehistoric)   Leave a comment

TWENTY bridges from Tower to Kew –

Wanted to know what the River knew,

Twenty Bridges or twenty-two,

For they were young, and the Thames was old

And this is the tale that River told:-

“I walk my beat before London Town,

Five hours up and seven down.

Up I go till I end my run

At Tide-end-town, which is Teddington.

Down I come with the mud in my hands

And plaster it over the Maplin Sands.

But I’d have you know that these waters of mine

Were once a branch of the River Rhine,

When hundreds of miles to the East I went

And England was joined to the Continent.

“I remember the bat-winged lizard-birds,

The Age of Ice and the mammoth herds,

And the giant tigers that stalked them down

Through Regent’s Park into Camden Town.

And I remember like yesterday

The earliest Cockney who came my way,

When he pushed through the forest that lined the Strand,

With paint on his face and a club in his hand.

He was death to feather and fin and fur.

He trapped my beavers at Westminster.

He netted my salmon, he hunted my deer,

He killed my heron off Lambeth Pier.

He fought his neighbour with axes and swords,

Flint or bronze, at my upper fords,

While down at Greenwich, for slaves and tin,

The tall Phoenician ships stole in,

And North Sea war-boats, painted and gay,

Flashed like dragon-flies, Erith way;

And Norseman and Negro and Gaul and Greek

Drank with the Britons in Barking Creek,

And life was gay, and the world was new,

And I was a mile across at Kew!

But the Roman came with a heavy hand,

And bridged and roaded and ruled the land,

And the Roman left and the Danes blew in –

And that’s where your history-books begin!”

““The River’s Tale” was written by Kipling to serve as the introduction to a history of England for schoolchildren written by C.R.L.Fletcher. In all, Kipling contributed twenty- two original poems, or twenty-three if the two “American Rebellion” poems are counted separately, as they sometimes are. The book was published in July 1911 in two different formats. One, was large, lavishly laid out, and at 7/6d (37 1/2p in today’s currency) expensive. It was called A History of England. The other was small, relatively cheap at 1/8d (8 pence in today’s currency), functional in appearance, and given the significantly different title of A School History of England.” Here is the original text at the Kipling Society.

Perhaps Joyce came across this poem? Already in January 1907, Joyce contrasted himself with Kipling:

“…Plain Tales from the Hills stirred [Joyce’s] admiration for at least its factual accuracy: ‘If I knew Ireland as well as R.K. seems to know India,’ he wrote Stanislaus…’I fancy I could write something good. But it is becoming a mist in my brain rapidly.'” Quoted at The Modernism Lab.

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!

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.””

p 93 To the Switz bobbyguard’s   Leave a comment

I’ve just finished my second reading. I went blind this time. I think it is better that way. I have more of an inner eye, improvising. I felt like I was jumping all over the place. In the trenches/ some combat; in the far east; in Ireland, in the city, in a park, in the mud. I don’t want to mark my text with any of these impressions as yet though.

My ten pages ended right on the close of chapter 4, as A.L.P. is brought in. I liked the way she was anticipated with such motherly language. And then suddenly a war marching song seemed to jump in, before we got back to babalong in the last paragraph.

Earlier today I was at a book signing event:  for local authors. I had my poetry book ERRATICS with me and was sharing a table with Anne-Marie Prodon, who collects and publishes local stories from the Pays de Gex.,1166/Anne-Marie-Prodon-simplifie.html

Mme Prodon showed me a photograph from one of her books that illustrates  how children were conditioned to go to the trenches of WW1. There were three rows of school kids in the photo, perhaps they were about 10 years old. They were dressed in uniform and stood to attention, holding life-sized wooden rifles. One child was posed in front of them, playing a big marching drum.

Wake was first published in 1939. I’m left with a feeling of sadness and treachery after reading tonight.