8. How would you describe your experience of reading FW? Why are a growing number of scholars and students interested in FW?
Fritz Senn wrote ([Author’s Preface: pp. ix-xiv] in Fritz Senn. Joyce’s Dislocutions edited by John Paul Riquelme in 1984; The Johns Hopkins University Press) ---- (Page x) All Joycean ways lead to Finnegans Wake. Once we have reached it, we will never be the same again, nor will the earlier works. Whatever dynamisms we discover, the Wake will show them magnified, in the extreme. It often appears sufficient for a demonstration just to point at Finnegans Wake and let the matter rest there. It is easier to use the Wake as proof for something we want to have proved than to know anything precise about it. So some warning is called for. Finnegans Wake offers unique reading rewards (at the cost of unequaled frustration); it will remain a fascination and a challenge. But while we can usually make an instructive show of select passages, we ought not to confuse the Wake's exemplary complaisance with our understanding of it. When I started out, some thirty years ago, in the juvenile flush of those euphoric first unravelings of meaning, I hoped that within some decades we might jointly arrive at sufficient basic understanding (at the modest level of Roland McHugh's helpful Annotations) that would enable us to go beyond those resistant details and to make statements of more general import and validity, perhaps even in a scholarly way. We obviously haven't. As a Wake reader who has done quite a bit of devoted homework, I may be entitled to say that collectively, we have failed in a most elementary way and that we are hardly qualified to discuss Finnegans Wake with scholarly pretense. It is a pretense that I, for one, can no longer keep up with a straight face. (It is of course possible, and legitimate, to theorize intelligently about Finnegans Wake without actually having gone near it, or on the basis of what has already been written about it -- but that is not my concern here.) I am glad and somewhat puzzled to see that my own futilitarian attitude and utter resignation is not shared by other, confident Wake adepts, who do not seem to be dissatisfied at all. I am also fully aware that my own profound and sincere ignorance is not shared by most of my colleagues, but I usually find that when I specifically want to know "And what do you think this means?" they do not alleviate my ignorance but generally confirm it.
Talia Schaffer wrote ([Letters to Biddy: About That Original Hen; pp. 623-642] in James Joyce Quarterly Vol.29, No.3 in 1992) ---- (Page 640) In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes defines reading as an erotic bliss or jouissance between the text and its reader. Jouissance occurs when language affects us in the same way sex does. Finnegans Wake performs a daring twist on Barthes -- in Finnegans Wake, language is not equal to sex, but language replaces sex. Barthes's definition of jouissance precisely describes the reading of Finnegans Wake. "Text of bliss: the text that imposes a state of loss, the text that discomforts (perhaps to the point of a certain boredom), unsettles the reader's historical, cultural, psychological assumptions, the consistency of his tastes, values, memories, brings to a crisis his relation with language." And, in both The Pleasure of the Text and Finnegans Wake we find "the language lined with flesh" (Finnegans Wake's "flesh-without-word" -- FW468.06), "the voluptuousness of vowels" (Finnegans Wake's "very sexmosaic of nymphosis"-- FW107.13-14). Barthes ends by hoping to achieve an animal-like textuality: "that the voice, that writing, be as fresh, supple, lubricated, delicately granular and vibrant as an animal's muzzle." Joyce, again, takes this a step further: he gives us the voice, the writing, of that animal, Biddy Doran. For the hen's laughter is her own writing, as unreadable and different as Finnegans Wake is at first glance. She laughs "in a kikkery key"(FW584.21), saying "yeigh, yeigh, neigh, neigh"(FW584.22). In other words, she creates her own lettrines; "yeigh" and "neigh" are like Joyce's "pew", a new abcedminded letter. Joyce, at the end of English, could only deconstruct existing letters; Biddy begins the first hen language by creating her own brand-new letters. Biddy makes sounds instead of ALP, and so we have a displacement where hen's nonsense replaces woman's speech, where animal laughter replaces human disappointment. "[T]he end is with woman, flesh-without-word"(FW468.05-06). At the end of our text, the woman has become a silent creature of copulating flesh -- so the hen must introduce the words. ALP's bed turns into its phonetic equivalent, the "allaphbed." If Finnegans Wake has a message for us, this is it: laughter over sorrow even at the cost of nonsense. "Yeigh, yeigh, neigh, neigh" are the first words from Biddy Doran, an absurdist parody of the nonsense and unreadability of Finnegans Wake. Moreover, Biddy's sentence is a rewritten "yeah, yeah, nay, nay." She eternally deconstructs herself, answering her own yes with no, giving four paradoxical and contradictory answers to a question nobody has asked.
(Page 641) The hen's real-world cackle is probably the sound that wakes the dreamer of Finnegans Wake, putting a final end to the book. The hen reads the beginning of Finnegans Wake, its manuscript-letter, and her haunting strain of laughter narrates the end of Finnegans Wake, the parents' failure to mate. At the beginning, Biddy finds ALP's letter; at the end, Biddy provides new letters instead of ALP. To some extent Finnegans Wake is bracketed by Biddy Doran, whose name phonetically echoes Bruno Nolan. Biddy, both reader and writer, epistle letter and alphabetic letter, sadness and laughter, is a rewriting of Bruno and his opposing Minima. We may well "need the loan of a lens to see as much as the hen saw" (FW112.01-02). Valorizing the hen may seem outrageous -- or, as the dictionary defines strain, "beyond the proper limit." But we are rewarded with the hen's eruption of laughter, the joyful child of HCE and ALP's sexless conception, the origin of textuality emerging at the end of the book. "[L]etters have never been quite their old selves again since that weird weekday in bleak Janiveer (yet how palmy date in a waste's oasis!) when to the shock of both, Biddy Doran looked at literature" (FW112 . 24-27).
Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson wrote (in A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake in 1944; Penguin Books) ---- (Page 14) What, finally, is Finnegans Wake all about? Stripping away its accidental features, the book may be said to be all compact of mutually supplementary antagonisms: male-and-female, age-and-youth, life-and-death, love-and-hate; these, by their attraction, conflicts, and repulsions, supply polar energies that spin the universe. Wherever Joyce looks in history or human life, he discovers the operation of these basic polarities. Under the seeming aspect of diversity -- in the individual, the family, the state, the atom, or the cosmos -- these constants remain unchanged. Amid trivia and tumult, by prodigious symbol and mystic sign, obliquely and obscurely (because these manifestations are both oblique and obscure), James Joyce presents, develops, amplifies and recondenses nothing more nor less than the eternal dynamic implicit in birth, conflict, death and resurrection.
(Page 365) In Finnegans Wake, Anna Livia Plurabelle is the carrier of the Eternal Yes; she is the secret of the continuation of the jollification. Men, cities, empires, and whole systems bubble and burst in her river of time. Day-world defeats and losses, the sins of the parents, the clash of brother with brother, the death of heroes and collapse of empires are beheld as parts of form-producing, form-sustaining, form-dissolving life itself. All the contending parties, the victors and the losers, the angels and the devils, the builders and the destroyers, are mothered and cherished by her. Them she affirms and celebrates as she slips between the river banks on her dream journey to the sea of renewal.
A Nicholas Fargnoli & Michael P. Gillespie wrote ([Weaver, Harriet Shaw (1876-1961)] in James Joyce A to Z in 1995; Facts On File, Inc., New York) ---- (Page 231) A longtime patron and close friend of James Joyce and his family. Weaver grew up in an English village in Cheshire, the daughter of the district physician. Despite her conventional background, Weaver became an ardent feminist, and in 1936 joined the Communist Party. Weaver became acquainted with Joyce's work when she was principal editor of the London journal The Egoist, and she oversaw the serialization of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in that periodical from February 1914 to September 1915. Within a few years, drawing upon her relatively small private fortune, she became one of Joyce's most regular and generous benefactors, a relationship that continued for the remainder of Joyce's life. (One Joyce critic, Robert Adams Day, has estimated that the 1992 value of what Harriet Shaw Weaver eventually gave Joyce would be the equivalent of $ 1,000,000.) Weaver also took on various roles for the Joyces, being often consulted as a literary critic, a personal confidante and a financial advisor. Sometime in the mid-1930s, Joyce seems to have taken offense over some real or imagined act of Weaver's. Although she had no clear idea as to the source of Joyce's ensuing coolness and tried assiduously to repair the breech, a distance remained between them. After Joyce's death, Weaver was his literary executor; she continued to help members of the family whenever it was possible, and was among the most devoted of those who worked to ensure the growth of Joyce's literary reputation.
Frank Budgen wrote ([Resurrection; pp. 11-15] in Twelve and a Tilly edited by Jack P. Dalton and Clive Hart in 1966; Faber and Faber) ---- (Page 12) Joyce once told me (it was during the composition of Finnegans Wake) that he thought he had found the meaning of the Tower of Babel story. If I had done my bounden duty I should have been ready with 'what?' and 'how?' and 'tell', but, slow of wit and more apt to ruminate than ask, I let the occasion slide, so that what Joyce thought was the true inwardness of the Biblical story is anybody's guess. I wonder if Joyce saw the Plain of Shinar and its presumptuous builders as existing in a world of the collective unconscious. Their tower then would be a sort of Hegelian tower of knowledge starting from nothing and stretching to the comprehension of everything -- built, however, not with man-made categories but with pure a priori intuitions. In that case, waking them out of their Paradise to the 'real world' of time and space, subject and object, perception and its limitations would suffice to confuse and scatter them. 'Dies is Dorminus master . . .' So much for the twin eternities of spirit and nature expressed in the twin eternities of male and female. A rather slender thread, it may be thought, and one more likely to bog me down in some private little gnosis of my own than to lead me through the maze of Finnegans Wake. But I had another and stronger strand to my thread, and one sanctioned by Joyce himself. He once told me (no doubt others too) that Finnegans Wake was a Resurrection Myth. This seemed to me at first to make everything plain sailing, and so, up to a point, it did. But I began to ask myself, what sort of resurrection? Who or what is it that dies and is reborn? For, if we come to think of it, belief in a resurrection of some sort or other is about the only belief that all human beings of all places and all times have held in common.
Derek Attridge wrote ([The Wake’s Confounded Language; pp. 262-268] in Coping with Joyce edited by Morris Beja and Shari Benstock in 1989; Ohio State University Press) ---- (Page 267) Babel is a condition of all language, not just that of Wake, and it is this that provided language with its power to give pleasure and to change the world (by no means compatible functions). In Joyce’s text, the myth of the fall from the shaky tower of Babel may be read, like all the many falls in the book, not as a moral lesson in humanity, not as a symbol of defeated human aspiration, but as an instance -- comically transformed -- of the way we represent to ourselves, in language, language’s refusal to be mere instrument of transcendental intentions or desires.
(Page 268) It is perhaps just as well that Budgen’s inquisitiveness failed him at this point, since Finnegans Wake itself stands as a much richer exegesis of the story of Babel than could have been communicated by even the most meticulous biographer.
Frank Budgen (in 1934) also wrote ([on Joyce; pp. 618-619] in James Joyce, The Critical Heritage, Volume 2 edited by Robert H. Deming in 1970; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London) ---- (Page 619) One might say that both as man and artist Joyce was exceedingly conscious. Great artificers have to be. As I saw him working on Ulysses I can testify that no line ever left his workshop without having been the object of a hundredfold scrutiny. And I remember my old friend August Suter telling me that in the early days of the composition of Finnegans Wake Joyce said to him. 'I feel like an engineer boring through a mountain from two sides. If my calculations are correct we shall meet in the middle. If not . . .' Whatever philosophy of composition that indicates, it is certainly neither automatic nor convulsive. . . There was a good deal of the surefootedness and toughness of the mountain goat in Joyce's own composition and more than a little of the relaxed vigilance of the cat. . . . I have commented elsewhere on Joyce's reactions to the criticism of Clutton Brock and H. G. Wells, but his remark when I mentioned Wyndham Lewis's criticism of Ulysses is worth recording: 'Allowing that the whole of what Lewis says about my book is true, is it more than ten per cent of the truth?' . . . . With regard to the language used by Joyce, particularly in Finnegans Wake, it is sometimes forgotten that in his early years in Dublin Joyce lived among the believers and adepts in magic gathered round the poet Yeats. Yeats held that the borders of our minds are always shifting, tending to become part of the universal mind, and that the borders of our memory also shift and form part of the universal memory. This universal mind and memory could be evoked by symbols. When telling me this Joyce added that in his own work he never used the recognized symbols, preferring instead to use trivial and quadrivial words and local geographical allusions. The intention of magical evocation, however, remained the same. . .
Matthew J. C. Hodgart & Ruth Bauerle wrote (in Joyce’s Grand Operoar in 1997; University of Illinois Press)
---- (Page 81) If Joyce and McCormack were Shem and Shaun, John Sullivan and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi were Shaun and Shem, affording the reversal of roles pointed out by Adaline Glasheen. Most sources agree that Joyce first heard of John Sullivan from Stanislaus, who met the tenor in Trieste and wrote to his brother recommending Sullivan's singing. Stanislaus also recommended to Sullivan (who had been reading A Portrait of the Artist when they met) that when the singer returned to Paris, he should call on James (JJ619).
(Page 86) One explanation of Joyce's obsession with the singing of both McCormack and Sullivan that has not yet been put forward derives from the erotic nature of the opera experience. The senses are stimulated first of all by the total setting: the auditorium, the crowd, the color and imagination of the costuming, and the general theatricality of the moment. The subject matter of the dram also feeds erotic fantasy, with tales of love, misunderstanding, separation, disguise, reunion, sexual violation, revenge, injustice, and fallen women. (Fallen women were everywhere in nineteenth-century literature and opera. One of the too original aspects of Finnegans Wake is that it is about a fallen man.) These themes are powerful even without music. The addition of human voices lifted in song like and supported by an orchestra hugely magnifies opera’s erotic effect. It is as if there were aural pheromones to affect the listener, provoking a deeply emotional response, for "a singer's voice sets up vibrations and resonances in the listener’s body. "It is a "contagious" presence, response, and the listener’s existence is "an aftereffect of . . . crescendo."
( Page 87) In his analysis of the erotic relationship between singer and audience, Koestenbaum focuses primarily on the responses of homosexual "opera queens." His insights are repeatedly relevant to Joyce's behavior, however, not because Joyce harbored homoerotic feelings toward Sullivan -- there is no evidence that he did -- but because the singer's voice roused generalized erotic feelings in the listening Joyce. The writer was in love, but with a voice, not a man.
Hélène Cixous wrote (in The Exile of James Joyce translated from the French by Sally A. J. Purcell in 1972; David Lewis, New York) ---- (Page 17) Joyce finds his place in movement, in a perpetual "progress" which seeks no end because the only end is death and every halt an image of death. The "progress," in the sense of projection towards the future, is active, is work. One must create and not let oneself be moulded. Joyce's "time" passes in the mind of the artist; there are breaks, caused by illness or lawsuits for example, but essentially it is a continuity. No-one can stop Joyce from living and creating, except himself. His body takes its revenge: his eyes weaken, his children remind him that they are individuals differing from him, his daughter goes mad. But everything continues, the Joycean machine carries on, no longer set in motion by circumstances but by its inventor alone. One might almost say that Joyce's response to History is a book in which he mocks its power. For in 1939, as he finishes Finnegans Wake, Joyce feels cheated and threatened. Hitler has dared to start war and distracts the attention of the public with his sadistic grimacings, while Joyce is publishing the most modern work ever written. Europe is being fobbed off with endless speeches while Joyce is transforming language. And he fears lest Finnegans Wake disappear in the ruins of yet another war, lest there be no-one left to read Finnegans Wake. This would be the harm. Joyce has long since given up being interested in the decline of values; Ulysses had already settled accounts with humanism. After Bloom, the deluge, but Joyce had already prepared Finnegan as an ark to contain all human myths and types; the world, in its blind lust to seek its own destruction, could wipe itself out, for Finnegans Wake had saved its symbols, its notations, and its cultural patterns.
(Page 65) Basically the union of Jim and Nora is not radically different from the type of marriage that horrified the eighteen-year-old Jim; both forms of human relationship are scarcely discreet disguises for masculine selfishness of the John Joyce type. He needs always to feel free, within a certain constancy; and it is necessary for Nora to be always a woman met casually, to remain like the little blue flower one picks after the rainstorm. Joyce must eliminate "duties" and "rights," so that she may never be able to call upon the occult powers of the Church or of motherhood. Nora has to be as submissive, within the framework of this imitation freedom whose yoke she alone bears, as May Joyce was to John. Eventually Jim was to succeed so well in destroying the characteristics of marriage that little or nothing remained of the couple's subjection to the function of procreation; he was only tempted to leave Nora when she took on the appearance of the mother, signifying constraint. The children had to be sacrificed to Jim's happiness with Nora, and this was what happened in Joyce's lifetime: Lucia and Giorgio had to pay for their parents' decision to be first and foremost Nora and Jim, in order that Jim might freely be James Joyce. This is why Nora's maternal feelings gradually atrophied as she became more and more Jim’s companion. Later Joyce would see the double consequences of this wilful deformation of marriage: on the one hand, the children of a couple who live like Adam and Eve in a world unlike Eden are directly afflicted by an overwhelming freedom (when they need Nora's protection she could only answer that she had but one "child" - her husband); and on the other, Lucia as she grew up found Nora be "father's companion" rather than "mother." This was a cause of that tragically violent jealousy whose movements can be perceived in Finnegans Wake. The couple Jim and Nora is succeeded by that of Jim and Lucia; Finnegans Wake is a work of fatherhood and incest, whose language echoes that of the daughter.
(Page 281) On the sexual level, which in Joyce's thought must always be present in all metaphysical meditation, the fragility of the symbol and of the fullness of meaning signifies that the man to whom woman does not respond is a mere nothing, scarcely extant at all. If the word Bloom is not listened to by Molly, it becomes worthless. On the aesthetic level this thinking makes Joyce will all his speaking to be intelligible, since he is so acutely conscious of the need to be read and well, correctly, read. It eventually brings him to the attempt to save his work from death through inaudibility, gradually reducing the distance between the word and its appeal to the senses, and trying, particularly in Finnegans Wake, to create a full kind of writing -- a language that would be immediately understood and meaningful.
(Page 355) Joyce's most subtle transposition is surely that which turns the Augustinian theory of the felix culpa into a theory of sin as an instrument of art. For Saint Augustine, Adam's sin is "happy," insofar as it already contains within itself the promise of the Redemption, and, in effect, God creates only good, since evil is by definition nothing but non-good. As darkness is only absence of light, so evil is the absence, loss, or lack of good. Being -- all that is -- is good. Joyce's intellectual manoeuvre consists of suppressing certain points in this argument, so that he only keeps those which are relevant to his theory, or rather to his heresy, of creation; thus, sin is an act which may be criminal or anti-social, but which cannot be "bad"-- on the contrary, it is an act whose consequences are good. This transition from morals to aesthetics takes place in the silences between the sophisms in Portrait and under cover of some transparent word-play in Finnegans Wake.
(Page 735) Joyce is a learned man of language, a prey to despair and a rival of God, whose ambition is to create the ever-elusive -- not Mallarmé's "The book," but the Book which, once read, would not contradict its creator even by its "impression," the Book that would remain alive, ever-changing, moving, aging, never fixed on the page as a given, signed, complete universe, But every book must die when the pen stops writing, ink is the blood of sin (Stephen's history book is streaked with blood), and the writer who stops writing is the murderer of his own art as soon as he ceases to invent. Joyce well knew this successive death that catches up with the writer; every book of his, as soon as he had finished it, disgusted him, like a corpse, and sent him on eagerly to the next that was not yet written. The need to speak, to hear the spoken word with its assurance that he was alive -- to say merely "I am he who writes" -- was what drove Joyce to seek out and invent a kind of writing that would not stop its evolution and development once the writer had left it, which would continue developing because it contained an infinite supply of meanings. This explains the pride behind the apparent raving of Finnegans Wake, which is not a finite book but an example of this writing that withholds the last word, that is intended to last forever, mouthing a breath that never ceases to be, like Stephen's lips when he walked on the beach at Sandymount. This was Joyce's ambition and we must examine his success. The final discovery that keeps the reader forever in suspense on the brink of the last page of Finnegans Wake, that the which opens on recommencement, is an admirable but unique contrivance; but it is not that infinity of Joyce's dream but rather the suppression of the ending, which is instead replaced by the beginning. In this, Finnegans Wake is indeed Joyce's last will and testament. And after all, the work is still limited, by the very fact of its having a beginning. "At the end," it succeeds itself, and since its beginning is its end, it is both mother and murderer of itself, giving both birth and death to itself, it is therefore not surprising that the word chosen to be the last designated to be the first should be "the" -- the definite article, the word which points out but which by itself means nothing, a dead word, a sign which depends upon what follows it. When Borgès speaks of Joyce, who was like himself caught in labyrinth of mortality, he understands him, follows, holds and enfolds him -- embraces him in their shared misfortune; he calls him "the entangled and almost infinite Irishman who could weave Ulysses." This is true; he is entangled, and he is almost infinite. This almost is an infinity that separates him from infinity just as Bloom is separated from a successful squaring of the circle. The thirst for the absolute cannot be quenched. This is what makes it absolute. And the entanglement is the multiplication of language and of possible meanings to the very limits of one's creative powers, carried out within the boundaries of a radical knowledge that admits its contradictory nature. To attempt the impossible with all the energy and eagerness one would employ in attempting the possible, knowing all the while that it is impossible, is the type of the heroic duel that is pursued to the last gasp -- heroicaly, but to no purpose. In uselessness, madness. and terror, the hero writes, like Joyce, until he is himself nothing but the effort of writing.
Jacques Derrida wrote ([Two Words for Joyce; pp. 206-220] in James Joyce: A collection of Critical Essays edited by Mary T. Reynolds in 1993; New Century Views) ---- (Page 210) So. yes (I'm replying to your suggestion), every time I write, and even in the most academic pieces of work, Joyce's ghost is always coming on board. Twenty years ago, in the Introduction to 'The Origin of Geometry', at the very centre of the book, I compared the strategies of Husserl and of Joyce, two great models, two paradigms with respect to thought, but also with respect to a certain 'operation' of the relationship between language and history. Both try to grasp a pure historicity. To do this, Husserl proposes to render language as transparent as possible, univocal, limited to that which, by being transmittable or able to be placed in tradition, thereby constitutes the only condition of a possible historicity; and from this point of view, it is necessary that some minimal readability, an element of univocity or an analysable equivocality, resist the Joycean overload and condensation for there to be a reading, and the work's legacy; something of the meaning of He war must cross the threshold of intelligibility, through the thousand and one meanings of the expression, for a history to take place, if at least it is to take place, and at least the history of the work. The other great paradigm would be the Joyce of Finnegans Wake. He repeats and mobilizes and babelizes the (asymptotic) totality of the equivocal, he makes this his theme and his operation, he tries to make outcrop, with the greatest possible synchrony, at great speed, the greatest power of the meanings buried in each syllabic fragment, subjecting each atom of writing to fission in order to overload the unconscious with the whole memory of man: mythologies, religion, philosophies, sciences, psychoanalysis, literatures. This generalized equivocality of writing does not translate one language into another on the basis of common nuclei of meaning (Introduction to 'The Origin of Geometry', pp. 103ff); it talks several languages at once, parasiting them as in the example He war to which I shall turn in a moment. For there will remain the question of knowing what one should think of the possibility of writing several languages at once.
Philippe Sollers wrote ([Joyce & Co., pp. 107-121] in In the Wake of Wake edited by David Hayman and Elliott Anderson in 1978; The University of Wisconsin Press) ---- (Page 107) Since Finnegans Wake was written English no longer exists. It no longer exists as self-sufficient language, no more indeed than does any other language. Joyce introduces a permanent carrying over of sense from language to languages, statement to statements, punctuality of enunciation subject to series. Joyce -- a whole demography. I compare this situation with that of Dante in the fourteenth century: Dante perceives and inscribes not just a fundamental economico-political shift (the emergence of capitalism) but a transference from language to language, from Latin to Italian; Joyce traces the limits of any maternal, national language. What is a meaning in the language of mother country? The private property of child speech, which makes groups of adults reprieved children; but also a referential functioning of the subject toward his or her bodily matrix and a barrier erected by the preconscious against the unconscious. Joyce says: Finnegans Wake is the language and writing of the night, in dream. Yet the dream of one language may be the wake of another night in one latitude, day in another. Thus Joyce dreams of a book that will be inseparably dream and interpretation, ceaseless crossing of boundaries -- precisely a waking. It is naively believed that Joyce had no political concern, because he never said or wrote anything on the subject in a dead language. The same old story: art on one side, politics on the other as though there were a place for politics or for anything else for that matter. Joyce's refusal to indulge in the slightest dead pronouncement is exactly itself the political act, an act which explodes at the heart of the rhetorical polis, at the heart of the narcissistic recognition of the human group: the end of nationalisms decided by Joyce at the time when national crises are at their most virulent (fascism in Europe).
(Page 109) Not enough attention has been given to the fact that throughout his life Joyce wrote with money provided by women -- the point at which a romance "novel" knits together, notably between literature and psychoanalysis. Joyce's first patroness, Mrs. McCormick, was absolutely bent on having Joyce psychoanalyzed by Jung at her expense. Joyce refused the proposal and Mrs. McCormick stopped his allowance. We begin to see here the exact antithesis of the classic analytic situation, a question of no longer paying someone who does not want to be psychoanalyzed. Nor is this the end of the story, since Joyce's daughter Lucia, who early shows signs of serious mental disturbance, will be treated by this same Jung, the Jung who had written a highly critical article on Ulysses accusing Joyce of schizophrenia. A woman gives Joyce financial help so that he can write. But she wants him to have analysis. Joyce refuses. Punishment: no more money. Joyce's daughter is ill. She is treated in place of him. Suppose that Joyce's daughter is one of his letters: the letter falls into the hands of Jung, which is to say that it misses Freud. An affair of no importance for the first half of the twentieth century? I think not, insofar as all of us are either Freudians or Jungians which is at any rate easier than being Joycean. Joyce, who alludes several times in Finnegans Wake to these veritable power relations played out round his writing (power relations -- the stake was indeed that of knowing who was in possession of the meaning of what he was writing), complained on a number of occasions of the "spontaneous" crudeness of Jung's behavior toward him. Now if "joyce" is translated into German, it gives "freud": through Joyce, Jung was attacking Freud, and through Freud -- why not? -- he was attacking Joyce. In the Wake, Joyce talks of the "law of the JUNGle." Jung is finally the set of spiritualist or para-occultist resistances to psychoanalysis; the hope of a possible "beyond," something which the surrealists, for example, did not fail to clutch at; in short, in relation to the sexual question radically affirmed by Freud, a metaphysical counter-investment. It is particularly important, therefore, to emphasize that such resistance is also manifested with regard to Joyce's writing. Why? Consider the scene for a moment: a woman + a psychoanalyst wondering what on earth Joyce could be, which brings us as close as possible to the traumatizing function of a written work. The female character says: "It's mine"; the psychoanalyst: "I know what it means"; Joyce remains silent, or else simply elusive. And so there he is, without being but yet being an analyst. Caught between the circulation of money and that of meaning but exceeding them by sense and pleasure, joycity, joyance, joysense -- jouissens. Writing as multiplication of languages is not the property of a one-language check. It is clear that Joyce's position at the time is paternal to the maximum and it is thus since his death, his absence, that his writing beckons to those who are, by definition, the privileged thresholds of the neurotic enigma of the dead father -- the hysteric and the analyst. Had Joyce been living, a living being? or is his writing really posthumous? or else. . ? That is what they have to doubt, to question. It was in a certain manner fatal that surrealism should miss Joyce and Freud, and that the English-speaking countries should have been naturally Jungian.
Philippe Sollers also said (in [David Hayman’s An Interview with Philippe Sollers; pp. 122-141] appeared in In the Wake in the Wake edited by David Hayman and Elliott Anderson in 1878; The University of Wisconsin Press) ---- (Page 139) There is a structure for the Wake. But that isn't the only structure of the Wake. The structure of Finnegans Wake is also the fact that Joyce wrote it over a period of seventeen years, that during that time readers didn't really know where it was taking them (perhaps it doesn't lead anywhere), that during that period he took people's money (that is also a part of the Wake), that during that period he had people try to guess the title of the Wake, that he even set up a contest complete with a prize for the one who guessed the title. That constitutes suspense. I don't think it was only a game, a joke. I believe it was part of his writing. He watched the reactions of others throughout the composition period. Their reactions nourished the book. I'm convinced that one of the principal sources of his inspiration was the reactions produced by the extracts he published through the years, even though he transposed all of this inscribed it in a much greater project. That's how I perceive it. Perhaps other writers can say the same thing, but I'm sure that the time that passes during the writing process automatically produces effects which are written into the work.
Donald F. Theall wrote ([The Hieroglyphs of Engined Egypsians: Machines, Media, and Modes of Communication in Finnegans Wake; pp. 129-152] in Joyce Studies Annual 1991 edited by Thomas F. Staley; University of Texas Press) ---- (Page 132) Joyce described the composition of Finnegans Wake as a feat of engineering early in the gestation of Work in Progress, for he wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver that this work would prove him to be "the greatest engineer" as well as a Renaissance man, who was also a "musicmaker, a philosophist and heaps of other things." His writing the Wake was a process of designing a wheel and squaring the circle. "I am awfully solemn about it, mind you, so you must not think it's a silly story about the mouse and the grapes." If Joyce called himself an engineer, he was first and foremost a poetic engineer utilizing mechanics, mathematics, and chemistry to design a "Nichtian glossery," just as earlier he had developed a schematic chart for the complex macrostructural design of Ulysses. Such a process could certainly be described as engineering. This concept of a "poetic engineer" was part of the artistic sensibility from about 1905 until 1946, the end of World War II. Joyce and his contemporaries were acutely attuned to the import of science, technology, and human invention. Paul Valéry, a friend of Joyce who participated in the process of reviving and re-evaluating Leonardo's image, argued that the method of the engineer and that of the poet were the same, re-articulating a frequent theme of Renaissance poetics, which Vico also endorses.
(Page 134) To interpret Joyce's serio-comic statement to Harriet Shaw Weaver describing himself as "the greatest engineer," three aspects of his use of this concept of engineering must be considered. First, he viewed his work as a sort of machine, approaching it as an engineer. Second, the Wake encompasses many aspects of engineering: chemistry, mechanics, mathematics, geography, and strategic planning. Third, in the more specifically delimited area of the arts and communication of the period contemporaneous with the writing of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Joyce realized how extensively these activities involved new modes of social organization and of technological production, reproduction, and distribution that insisted on the exploration of the relation of all poetic communication to the "machinic." The term, machinic calls attention to the fact that all machinery is first and foremost socially grounded as Gilles Deleuze declares when he observes that "Tools always presuppose a machine, and the machine is always social before being technical." Poetic communication, like the "machinic," is an assemblage which is social before being technical and which stresses the diagrammatic and the designed. Awareness of the social role of such machinic phenomena as the city, the medicalized body of organs, the psychoanalytic machinery of the dream work, or the cinematic machine freed Joyce from the organic thinking of romanticism and the mechanistic thinking of Cartesianism.
John P. Harrington wrote ([Beckett, Joyce, and Irish Writing: The Example of Beckett’s “Dubliners” Story; pp. 31-42] in Re: Joyce’n Beckett edited by Phillis Carey and Ed Jewinski in 1992; Fordham University Press) ---- (Page 32) In early critical apprehension of Beckett as epigone of Joyce and often in critical consensus today, that confrontation and vanquishment were not of Joyce as overbearing personal example, or of Joyce as formulator of Irish experience in fiction, but of Joyce the author of Finnegans Wake. This notion was epitomized in the Shenker "interview" in 1956 when Beckett was characterized as saying "The kind of work I do is one in which I'm not master of my material. The more Joyce knew the more he could. He's tending toward omniscience and omnipotence as an artist. I'm working with impotence, ignorance". The emphasis on the amount Joyce "knew," presumably cumulative, and the omnipotence to which Joyce was "tending" imply preoccupation with Joyce's last work. Even Beckett's decision to write in French is phrased and depreciated by Ellmann in terms of Joyce and Finnegans Wake: Beckett's "boldness was almost without precedent. It freed him from literary forefathers. It was a decision only less radical than Joyce's in inventing his extravagant Finnegans Wake". The Shenker portrayal of Beckett's work as mired in a kind of inverse relationship to Joyce's, tending to ignorance while Joyce's tended to omniscience, encouraged perception of Beckett's early work in terms of Joyce, in terms of Finnegans Wake and in terms of Finnegans Wake-ese as a great mistake. Vivian Mercier, an acquaintance of Beckett's and an estimable commentator on Irish letters reiterated this view in the late 1970s: Beckett's "greatest folly consisted in attempting to imitate James Joyce: not the earlier work, either, but Work in Progress, the drafts of Finnegans Wake."
Forrest Read wrote (in Pound/Joyce in 1965; A New Directions Book) ---- (Page 262) Joyce may have perpetrated a preliminary spoof in 1929, after Pound had rejected Shaun for The Exile. The two "Letter's of Protest" in Our Exagmination Round His Factification For Incaminatian of Work in Progress are reputed to have been written by Joyce himself. Vladimir Dixon's "Litter" to "Mister Germ’s Choice" sounds like Joyce's parody, of a Poundian Uncle Remus parody, of Joyce's style. "I opened the window and in flew Enza," "the prewailent distemper," might remind us not only of the disagreements over Finnegans Wake but also of the fortuitous events that brought the two writers together; it might also suggest how despite differences they seemed unfailingly attached to each other, perhaps in ways not yet fully explored. In Finnegans Wake, Pound appears in various guises. Naturally, his name lends itself to associations with food and money, as befits his grubstaking and his later emphasis on economics and social questions. But he also appears through, or is associated with, the loud, public, authoritarian figures of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and Shaun the Post. In one sense HCE and Shaun are John Joyce Sr. and Joyce's brother Stanislaus; in another Earwicker is the complete artist, a divine figure, while Shaun and Shem the Penman (Joyce's figure for himself) are earthly aspirants who seek to encompass the antipodal roles of the common man and the perfect creator. In accord with his early promotion of Joyce's work, Pound is heard through the loud drum, the radio, and the signifying thunder. When HCE's voice comes through a babel of radio voices it is as though "the cockshyshooter's evensong evocation of the doomed but always ventriloquent Agitator, (nonot more plangorpound the billows o'er Thounawahallya Reef!" (page 56), were Pound's advertising of Joyce: the man in the street hears the popularizing barker as Joyce-Bloom dreamed of Pound in 1922. Shem hears the voice of Pound's letters in Anna Livia Plurabelle's, "as unbluffingly blurtubruskblunt as an Esra, the cat" (page 116 -- a pun on "arsE"-backwards Esra, the phallic poet who objected to the "cloacal obsession"). "A maundarin tongue in a pounderin jow!" (page 89), also like ALP's, expresses amusingly Pound's Chinese refinement but his thumping garrulousness; the play on "maundarin" (begging) may suggest how Joyce and Pound are complements of the artist. As in The Cantos, the Confucian element in Finnegans Wake is strong. HCE is in one of his faces a confusionist-Pound, a deal ringer for the sage who reverences Mt. Taishan, his chin playing footsie with an oriental cloudcuckooland: "has the most conical hodpiece of confusianist heronim and that chuchuffuous chinchin of his is like a footsey kungoloo around Taishantyland"(page 131).
(Page 257) As Pound's advocacy of the future grew more shrill and his expressions of support for extreme political forces in a disintegrating Europe began to harden into slogans, Joyce became uncomfortable about Pound's increasing hostility to his work and about their disagreement over the importance of economics and politics. Hemingway has recorded that the last time he saw Pound, in Paris in 1934, it was at Joyce's request. Joyce asked Hemingway to come along to dinner with Pound because Joyce was convinced that Pound was "mad" and was "genuinely frightened of him." Hemingway recalled that throughout the dinner Pound spoke "very erratically." Away from Pound, however, Joyce retained his combination of acerbity and wit. At the time of the Anchluss in 1934 (perhaps with the dinner in mind), when newsboys were shouting in the streets about "l'Autriche," he wrote to Miss Weaver, "I am afraid poor Mr Hitler-Missler will soon have few admirers in Europe apart from your nieces and my nephews, Masters W. Lewis and E. Pound." When Mussolini invaded Ethiopia a year later he joked to his daughter-in-law Helen Joyce about Pound's political zeal: May the 17 devils take Muscoloni and the Alibiscindians! Why don't they make Pound commander-in-chief for Bagonghi and elect me Negus of Amblyopia? Joyce's barb, in the lingo of Finnegans Wake, catches with amusing exactness an essential difference between the two men: Pound struts as the generalissimo of "big-muscles" Mussolini, attacker of Abyssinian cutups (who would rather be someplace else). Joyce, the peaceful bystander and victim, is the sultan of dim-sightedness, perhaps the vision-blurring vinous libation itself, both eyes ambling in a land of shades. Joyce was determined to finish his book and was burdened with family troubles. He expressed his long-standing indifference to political and social events conclusively in 1937 when Nancy Cunard sent him a questionnaire seeking his views on the Spanish War. When asked if he was going to answer it, he replied:
No! I won't answer it because it is politics. Now politics are getting into everything. The other night I agreed to let myself be taken to one of the dinners of the P.E.N.Club. The charter of the P.E.N. states that politics shall never be discussed there. But what happened? One person made a speech. referring to one angle of politics, someone else brought up a conflicting argument. a third paper was read on more politics. I wanted the P.E.N. to take an interest in the pirating of Ulysses in the United States, but this was brushed aside. It was politics all the way.
Anthony Burgess wrote (in ReJoyce in 1965; W.W.Norton & Company, New York) ---- (Page 270) If critics will accept the logic of Finnegans Wake, hidden beneath what seem to be mad words and intolerable length, they will still shy at the lack of what they call action. This, they say, is presented to us as a novel, and in a novel things are supposed to happen. Very little muscle is exerted in either Finnnegans Wake or Ulysses, but we have to avoid lamenting the fact that Joyce was never strong on action of the Sir Walter Scott kind, that, though he was drawn to epic he early rejected the bloody substance of epic. We have seen in his work how even the least gesture of violence will provoke earthquakes or Armageddon, even shiver the universe to atoms-events too apocalyptical to be more than static, comic rites, final mockeries of action as the best-sellers know action. He did not reject such action as a vulgarity, only as a property that might damage language by inflating it. The representation of passion or violence had best be limited to thought or speech, since the thrust of fist or phallus, being a physical cliché, seems to call for a verbal cliché in the recounting. The clichés of Dublin pub-talk or an advertising canvasser's interior monologue are mere naturalism; the frame of symbol and poetry is a new creation out of words and the rhythms of words, static rather than kinetic. The novel should aspire to Shakespeare's language, not Shakespeare's stage-directions. But, of course, Joyce was a family-man, and the small events of the family day had far more meaning than the big passionate public events of the books on the sitting-room shelves. In both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake he attempts to cut history down to size, measure it against his son's cold or his daughter's toothache, his wife's plea for more housekeeping money and the broken dental plate he can not afford to have repaired.
Anthony Burgess also wrote (in A Shorter Finnegans Wake in 1967; The Viking Press, New York) ---- (Page xii) What Joyce is doing, then, is to make his hero re-live the whole of history in a night's sleep. This history is not what we learned at school -- a chronological treadmill of kings and ministers and wars and revolutions. It is rather a special way of looking at history -- less a parade of historical facts than pattern which seeks to explain those facts. The pattern is as loosely derived from the Italian philosopher Giovanni Battista Vico (1668-1744), who wrote an important book called La Scienza Nuova, in which he presented history not as a straight line but as a circular process of recurrences. If we say that Finnegans Wake is based on this book we shall be right, but only in the sense that we are right when we say that the same author's Ulysses is based on Homer's Odyssey. Both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are primarily works of fiction, and Vico and Homer are enlisted only to help with the telling of a story. Finnegans Wake is not an interpretation of Vico, and Vico is not much of a key to the difficulties of Finnegans Wake. What Joyce found in Vico was what every novelist needs when planning a long book -- a scaffolding, a backbone.
(Page xxiv) so much for the story of Finnegans Wake, but the story is inseparable from the language in which Joyce tells it. It is the language, not the theme, which makes for difficulty, and the difficulty is intentional. The purpose of a dream is to obscure truth, not reveal it: reality comes in flashes of lightning out of dark clouds of fantasy, but it is the fantasy which it is the author's duty to record. Joyce is presenting us with a dream, not with a piece of Freudian or Jungian dream-exegesis. Interpretation is up to us: he makes up the riddles, not the answers. But, as with so much of Joyce, a key to the language awaits us in popular literature: the verbal technique comes straight out of Lewis Carroll. HCE is identified with that great faller Humpty Dumpty, and it is Humpty Dumpty who explains the dream-language of "Jabberwocky". What Humpty Dumpty calls "portmanteau-words
-- like "slithy", which means "sly" and "lithe" and "slimy" and "slippery" all at the same time -- are a very legitimate device for rendering the quality of dreams. In dreams, identities shift and combine, and words ought to mirror this. Waking life tells us that out of a buried body new life will spring, but it is our custom to work out the life-death cycle in terms of a logical proposition. The language of Finnegans Wake takes a short cut in the rendering of such notions, and the word "cropse" sums up in one syllable a whole resurrection-sermon. Waking language is made out of time and space, the gaps between the substances that occupy the one and the events that occupy the other; in dreams there are no gaps. The technique of Finnegans Wake represents a sort of glorification of the pun, the ambiguity which makes us see a fundamental, but normally disregarded, identification in a burst of laughter or a nod of awe.
Umberto Eco wrote (in The Middle Ages of James Joyce in 1989; Huchinson Radius) ---- (Page 84) But the proposal that Joyce makes is quite different. Not only the explicit declarations, but the letters, the interviews, the very tone of the work reveal an irony and distance in Joyce's handling of the cultural artifacts. The impressive aridity of his construction is evident: Joyce accumulates materials whose form captivates him but whose substance does not elicit his belief. It is as if Joyce offers us the entire wisdom of mankind, without determining whether or not it reflects a unique Eternal truth. He is concerned only with the cultural repertoire assembled by the whole of History. Theoretically, one could reach into this treasury of ideas, enjoying them with the complacency of the decadent who is resigned to celebrate the deeds of an exhausted empire but is unable to confer an order upon this legacy. For Joyce, however, there exists only one possibility: to engage the whole of this wisdom and to impose upon it a new Order, that of Language. Joyce engages a reality composed of all that has been said of it and organizes this world according to rules which are derived, not from the things themselves, but from words that express things. He proposes a form of the world in language, a hypothesis offered from within the linguistic format. The world as such is not Joyce's concern. In Finnegans Wake Joyce establishes the possibility of defining our universe in the "transcendental" form of language. He provides a laboratory in which to formulate a model of reality and, in so doing, withdraws from things to language. To understand the nature of reality itself, rather than the cultural models of reality, is a task that belongs neither to science nor literature but to metaphysics, and the crisis of metaphysics arises from its inadequacy to this task. The question is whether this repertoire of n-dimensional definitions valid for us, for no one, for the author, for the eye of God, for the dream of a fool, or for the readers of tomorrow -- for the readers of a possible society in which exercise in the multiplication of signs will not appear as a game for the elite but as the natural, constructive exercise of an agile and renewed perception.
(Page 87) Thus, Finnegans Wake is not for us the choice but only one possible choice. It is not the victory of a Verb that has succeeded in forever defining its own universe. As Joyce says, "condemned fool, anarch, egoarch, hiresiarch, you have reared your disunited kingdom on the vacuum of your own most intensely doubtful soul" (FW 188). If Finnegans Wake is a sacred book, it tells us that in principium erat Chaos. To make this statement, however, Finnegans Wake encloses Chaos within the framework of an apparent Order and thereby places us in the same situation as the apostate Stephen who uses the words of Thomas Aquinas in order to refuse family, country, and church. The only faith that the aesthetics and metaphysics of the Chaosmos leaves us is the faith in Contradiction.
John McCourt wrote ([Reading Ellmann Reading Joyce; pp. 41-58] in European Joyce Studies 14 edited by John Nash in 2002; Rodopi,B.V., Amsterdam) ---- (Page 52) Ellmann’s biography portrays a presentable, tidied-up Joyce, a heroic figure whom Joyce himself would have been happy, a genius who was endlessly complex but never too anti-social. To give an example of how Ellmann avoided difficult or controversial issues: in the 1959 edition (and perhaps to avoid the ire of the Joyce family and estate) Ellmann simply ignored the 1909 "dirty letters" which he had read. While on the one hand, one can sympathise with the biographer negotiating a tricky course between presenting a true Joyce and offending relatives, the fact is that he wilfully omitted material which would have substantially changed the way Joyce was viewed and read from 1959 on. Although he belatedly righted this wrong in the Selected Letters, still in the 1982 revision he chose to make relatively little of the "dirty letters," which do, after all, contain extraordinary revelations about relations between Joyce and Nora, about Joyce's sexual activities, and about his possible contraction of a sexual disease. There is sometimes a more general sense that Ellmann is holding back: he himself seemed well aware of this when he wrote, "It would be possible to argue from all that I have told you and from other things that I haven't told you, that Joyce was in some ways a bad person, kinky in his sexual habits, and not very reliable in money matters, very ambitious in literary ones. I think it is simply that our styles of heroism have changed now, and that we can see that a man can be heroic in the midst of many frailties." In retrospect it reads as though Ellmann willingly shied away from Joyce's frailties, so convinced was he of his heroic nature. The 1982 biography is disappointing because it continues in large part to be limited by the mores of the 1950s, to be almost too delicate. Much of it is a product of another age and certainly it fails to take on board so much that was new, the fruits of the labours of so many important other scholars. Perhaps this was Ellmann's greatest limit. He believed in his own Joyce, disliked competitors entering his field, and bristled at criticism which threatened his version and its so-called definitiveness.
(Page 53) Another major omission was pointed out to Ellmann as early as October 1958 when he was still composing his book. This omission was noted by his father -- his very first reader and the one to whom the book is principally pitched -- who wrote, "I was expecting that you would stop somewhere along the way and give a more complete explanation of what makes Finnegan's [sic] Wake a great book, and why it has made the imprint which id [sic] did or should. [...] I believe you have left the major part of the book unexplained or not fully explained. Why did Joyce stick to it in spite of the many objectors to it? What has he actually achieved by it? What will the future literary historians do about it?" In a subsequent letter he writes "I miss some explanation in a few 'immortal' pages why Finnegans Wake should be considered a grand creation." E1lmann duly added the chapters.
(Page 57) Out of Ellmann's hands, various issues in Joyce's life remain to be explored further: among them, the extent and nature of his drinking, the possibility that he had syphillis, the real reason for his falling out with Gogarty, his tormented relationship with Lucia, and the reasons that induced Nora to destroy some 150 letters from Joyce to his daughter (some up to 15 pages long) if Maria Jolas's testimony is to be believed. These are all unanswered questions. Whole periods of Joyce's life remain shady. Far from being the end of the story, Ellmann's biography provides us with many possible new beginnings. While his life of Joyce remains the single most influential Joyce volume not written by Joyce himself, it is no longer the comprehensive closed book it once seemed to be. While it is still true that forty years on no single book has successfully challenged Ellmann's, his version is now seen as increasingly dated, partial and incomplete, a wonderful product of a particular time -- post-war, conservative, 1950s America -- but ultimately bearing marks of its era. It seems increasingly clear that Ellmann nobly and successfully endeavoured to write with a "typical" reader in mind, a "non-national" Joyce reader, "a cultured allroundman," much like his own father, much like himself, an American liberal humanist. This was the audience initially created by Ellmann, one which made Joyce available in the war-weary, battle-scarred post-war world, but which hindered his being claimed by the country which made him, Ireland, and the continent which formed him, Europe.
Joseph Kelly wrote ([Stanislaus Joyce, Ellsworth Mason, and Richard Ellmann: The Making of James Joyce; pp. 98-140] in Joyce Studies Annual 1992, edited by Thomas F. Staley; University of Texas Press) ---- (Page 123) Byrne apparently believed that the reader who looks to James Joyce for the origin of Lynch finds a character already fictionalized by Ellmann and Stanislaus, and that other versions, including his own, are completely effaced. Not that Cosgrave comes off very well in Byrne's version -- to sleep with Nora so casually and use that coupling later to hurt Joyce is certainly, in Byrne's view, contemptible behavior. But Cosgrave does come off differently in Byrne's version. He is not a vindictive liar plotting with Gogarty to bring Joyce down by cajolery and slander. He is no betrayer. Whatever led Ellmann to trust Stanislaus, it is certainly true that Stanislaus' version fit one of the major themes Ellmann was developing in his biography, and it is true also that Byrne's version would have diminished that theme. Betrayal is construed by Ellmann as central to Joyce's fiction and thus as crucial to his life. But it is a theme that was more important to Stanislaus than it was to James, and Ellmann found in Stanislaus great evidence to support such speculation. Stanislaus eventually saw betrayal in many of Joyce's friends and relations, including his father, John Francis Byrne, George Russell, and especially Oliver Gogarty. The case of Gogarty, the original of Buck Mulligan, is more famous than Cosgrave's, and his indictment by Ellmann was more thorough. But it was just as dependent on Stanislaus. In fact, it was Stanislaus who first convinced Joyce that Gogarty was not a true friend.
Kathleen Ferris wrote (in James Joyce & the Burden of Disease in 1995; The University Press of Kentucky) ---- (Page 153) The line of development delineated in my own work here is biographical, an attempt to compensate for omissions in the life story. For more than five decades, critics have been trying to decipher Finnegans Wake, or as Clive Hart describes his own efforts, to see the Wake as a whole and to determine where its center lies. The reason for this, I believe, is that without an adequate construct of Joyce’s life, we have not had the context in which to see the whole work. On one hand, Joyce tried to keep the nature of his illness from the public; on the other, he seems to have wished the truth someday to be known. Why else would he have strewn so many clues throughtout his writing? True, his confessions were made for his own emotional relief, but he also wrote for an audience that he must have hoped would someday understand and forgive, that would someday treat him with the enlightened compassion that a man deserves who has paid so dearly for his youthful folly and who has left so poignant and powerful a record of his remorse. It is time that the world should consider the suffering, the grief, the guilt that lay behind the laughter of this poor man, “mysterious Shaun’s Voice,” who told the truth in Finnegans Wake.
John Bishop wrote (in Joyce’s Book of the Dark in 1986; The University of Wisconsin Press) ---- (Page 433) This is perhaps the appropriate place at which to recall that Joyce underwent ten eye operations while writing Work in Progress, three of them in April 1923, a month after he started the project, six others between April 1923 and June 1926, the period over which he "solved most of [the Wake's] structural problems and determined the final sequence of episodes" (A. Walton Litz, The Art of James Joyce [New York and London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1964], p. 83; on the dating of Joyce's eye operations, see Richard Ellmann, The Selected Letters of James Joyce [New York: Viking, 1975], pp. 215, 261 ). We might think of aspects of Joyce's "book of the dark," then, taking shape in the forced study of "his optics" ("meoptics"). No single problem made Joyce's eye operations, most of them on the left eye, necessary. With varying constancy between 1917 and 1941, he suffered from glaucoma, synecchia, iritis, conjunctivitis, episclerotis, retinal atrophy, and primary, secondary, and tertiary cataracts -- all of them painful and incapacitating diseases whose gravity and scariness no healthy-sighted person should underestimate. Iritis, in early stages it is said to give the sufferer the sensation of having gritty sand in the eye, and so it forces him into incessant, involuntary tearing and blinking whose unrelieving effect is only to exacerbate the condition. Closing the eye, far from relieving the pain, deepens it, and in severe cases, the pain radiates into the brow, the nose, the cheek, and the teeth, ultimately to bring on severe headaches (see L, III, 113-14). While sand can be washed out of the eye, iritis cannot. It either goes away or it doesn't, and in the latter case it can spread. Left untreated, it can ravage the affected eye entirely and overtake the second by "sympathetic infection." Advanced cases of iritis were "cured," in Joyce's day, by removing the entire eye-ball. Hence the earliest of Joyce's eye operations: an iridectomy on the right eye (his "good eye" ) in 1917 was followed by two iridectomies on the left ( "the broken window of my soul" [L, III, 111]). The "cures" seem as painful as the affliction. Joyce would have been conscious during these operations, his eyelid forced back and held open with a speculum, his eyeball grasped with a pair of forceps to prevent any involuntary flinching. He would have ''seen" the surgical knife, razored on both edges to allow the doctor a minimum of movement, approach his cornea and cut its way, with a sawing motion, through to the anterior chamber and then into the iris, where its work would have been to slice out any infected tissue. Joyce would have undergone in reality, in short, a kind of horror conceived in a film like Le Chien Andalou to be surreal. And he would also have had occasion, during these procedures, to consider how objects can enter the eye of a subject in ways not usually explored in Newtonian or Helmholtzian treatments of optics. On iritis and iridectomies, see C. W. Rutherford, The Eye (New York and London: D. Appleton, 1928), pp. 144-47, 156-60, 250-55. Somewhere in the development of his system of "meoptics," Joyce's interminable visits to the eye clinics certainly had their effect on Finnegans Wake, though how little they did might be seen by holding the text against his letters; he writes there, for example, of intending to "go to see Dr. Borsch (of whom I dreamed last night) tomorrow . . . [to] ask him to let me finish ∧d before the next match" (L, III, 132). The letter shows him thinking all at once about his dreams, the Wake, his vision -- and an eye surgeon, whom he did not want to see but had to, invading all three. However dizzyingly intricated the relations between "blindness and insight" might be in this particular instance, no dream of Swiss oculists or anything at all comparable appears in Finnegans Wake because the blindness overtaking its "benighted irismaimed" is absolutely normal to the night. Joyce's eye difficulties impeded, rather than helped, the progress of Work in Progress. Richard Ellmann is therefore quite right to call "the theory that Joyce wrote his book for the ear because he could not see . . . not only an insult to the creative imagination, but an error of fact. . . . The eyes are closed in Finnegans Wake because to open them would change the book's postulate" (JJ, 716). Perhaps the best stance to take on this issue is one advanced by Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, who announces that "a man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery"(U, 190). These ringing words only mean, beneath all the rhetoric, that a resourceful person learns from his mistakes rather than letting them cripple him; and we might reasonably infer that a man of genius does not passively suffer victimage either. In considering the Wake's "meoptics," surely, we are seeing Joyce making his difficulties work for him, rather than against him.
[These parts were published in the Abiko Annual with James Joyce Finnegans Wake Studies #23 (2003)]---Thanks for reading a long time, TH