Archive for the ‘Vico’ Category

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.””