Margot Norris wrote (in The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake in 1974; The Johns Hopkins University Press) ---- (Page 73) Joyce's fictional characters are always alienated from their worlds. In the paralyzed citizens of Dubliners and in Stephen's agitated defense against societal institutions in Portrait, the assault on the self is from without, and therefore defensible with silence, cunning, and exile, as Stephen concludes at the end of Portrait. Yet in Joyce's later works, the self becomes increasingly imperiled from within, as Stephen is gnawed by "agenbite of inwit," and Bloom tormented by sexual guilts in Ulysses. Joyce exquisitely balances the psychological and social processes of guilt in Ulysses. Bloom's alienation is simultaneously sexual and racial; as the Wandering Jew, subject to forbidden fantasies, he reflects an exiled Odysseus, driven and delayed by sexual desire. But Bloom most perfectly fuses the psychological and social functions of guilt in the mythic analogue of Christ, the divine masochist. The fundamental difference between Ulysses and Finnegans Wake is greater than the difference between day and night. In Ulysses, the differences between inside and outside, self and other, individual and society, are still clearly delineated. Ulyssean characters have stable identities, notwithstanding their mythical analogues, and a consistent and unitary consciousness through which they largely know who they are and who everyone else is. But Wakean figures, as figures in a dream, face the dilemma announced in a witty chapter title of Adaline Glasheen's Second Census, "Who's Who When Everybody is Somebody Else."
(Page 74) Guilt is one of the prime movers in the dream world of Finnegans Wake. The theme of guilt in Finnegans Wake, and the interchangeability of characters are related in important ways. Interchangeability in the Wake is too easily dismissed as a stylistic flourish, as an instance of the kind of typological cross-identification found in Joyce's work as early as "Counterparts." Substitutions of personae, composite figures, disguises, and other instances of shifting identity have important specific functions in the dream, as we know from Freud's work, and as Joyce is certain to have known. Besides gratifying the subject's wishes, the unconscious can simultaneously communicate and conceal unpleasant or painful matters by using various disguises.
(Page 75) The difficulty of distinguishing "self" and "other" makes the status of guilt extremely problematic in the Wake. Insofar as Wakean figures are often projections of themselves, the "other" can be regarded as the guilty self, and the characters' attitudes and comments toward others are often unconsciously self-reflexive. Joyce first suggests something of this sort in the description of Mr. Duffy in Dubliners. "He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense" (D, p. 108).
(Page 78) The problem of guilt in Finnegans Wake necessitates defining the reality, or level of reality, in the work. It is all too easy to treat Wakean figures as though they were characters in a nineteenth century novel, characters in fiction who mirror characters in life. But if we assume that Finnegans Wake represents a dream, then Wakean figures become the creatures of the dreamer, figures that may represent persons in an offscreen waking reality, or the dreamer himself, or a camouflage for others, or composites of several figures, like Freud's friend R and his uncle. The great problem, of course, is that the reader is trapped inside the dream in Finnegans Wake. A dream can't be analyzed from the inside, because the dream is precisely the place where self-knowledge breaks down. The dreamer confronts a disguised message from his own unconscious. He is unable to know his unconscious directly, and yet it is utterly and truly himself. The confusion of the reader of Finnegans Wake is a fitting response to a kind of terror implicit in the world of the dream, a terror confronted by Alice in Through the Looking-Glass when Tweedledee suggests that she is merely a sort of thing in the Red Knight's dream. The extent to which we can explore the problems of guilt and the self in psychoanalytic terms is limited by the absence of the frame of a waking reality in Finnegans Wake. In Ulysses, the fabulous distortions of "Circe" are fully intelligible in light of all we know of the day's events. The sources of the fantasy of Molly in Turkish costume (U, p. 439-41) are wonderfully diverse: Bloom's dream on the previous night; his thoughts of Agendath Netaim; serving Molly her breakfast in bed; his fear, pleasure, and shame at Molly's adultery; the scent of lemon soap in his pocket; and so on. But without the waking events and conscious thoughts of the subject, it is difficult to make sense of Wakean events in terms of the feelings and relations between individuals. Many of the issues raised in Finnegans Wake, like those in Carroll's books, are finally metaphysical rather than psychological or social. The subject of guilt in particular, is most profitably pursued as an ontological problem. In other words, events in Finnegans Wake elucidate the human condition, particularly the relationship of the self and other, in an abstract and timeless way, rather than in the concrete specific terms of the earlier works. The problem of guilt, the interchangeability of characters, the pursuit of truth, and the source of guilt through gossip and meandering talk, all of these issues conspire to represent a self utterly dislocated and lost. In exploring these issues, reference to the works of philosopher Martin Heidegger is particularly helpful, since Heidegger, like Joyce, is concerned with "everydayness." Moreover, Heidegger, in his contemporary concern with the relationship of the self to others, addresses himself to the ontological aspects of guilt in relation to the dislocated self.
(Page 81) A major difference between Ulysses and Finnegans Wake is the latter work's total submersion in idle talk. Stephen's cerebral musings on Sandymount Strand and Bloom's unflagging pseudo-scientific speculations are yet attempts at achieving a primordial grasp of one's world. But in Finnegans Wake the form and theme of every chapter is informed by a sham lust for knowledge, which degenerates all language into gossip, pedantry, tales, and slander.
(Page 82) The condition of idle talk and the thrust toward publication in Finnegans Wake manifest a self that has lost touch with its authentic being, and that takes its opinions and feelings from a disembodied, soulless public. According to Heidegger, this is the ontological condition of inauthenticity that constitutes everyday Being-in-the-world. The characters of Joyce's Dubliners are engaged in various degrees of resistance to this enthrallment to otherness, yet even the sensitive, intelligent Gabriel Conroy is a somnambulant dispenser of idle talk. When his inane gallantries are punctured by Lily's bitter retort, he is shaken. His dinner speech is a triumph of empty, rhetorical flourish ("Those days might, without exaggeration, be called spacious days: and if they are gone beyond recall let us hope, at least, that in gatherings such as this we shall speak of them with pride and affection, still cherish in our hearts the memory of those dead and gone great ones whose fame the world will not willingly let die" [D, p. 203] ). When Gretta's poignant memory of the dead Michael Furey invests his hollow words with sharply personal meaning, Gabriel is painfully awakened from his burial in inauthentic existence.
(Page 84) Heidegger speaks of the condition of the fall, Verfallen, not as a traditional moral lapse but as a falling away from one's authentic self into a state of "otherness" or inauthenticity. The questions of the fall of man, guilt, and the self, finally constitute a closed circlc in the Wake. Primordial guilt prompts evasion and the search for guilt in the "other," which results in the inauthenticity of the self. Inauthenticity, in turn, itself constitutes the fall of man in the modern intellectual arena that has dealt the most serious blow to a cherished belief in the primacy of man's self-knowledge, and his consequent free will. The reader's difficulty in "relating" to Finnegans Wake in identifying with its characters, stands in an inverse relationship to the ease and clarity with which we understand Joyce's boy protagonists in "The Sisters," "Araby," "An Encounter," and young Dedalus in Portrait.
(Page 85) The quest in Finnegans Wake, like the quest in Portrait and Ulysses, explores the problem of knowing and the nature of the truth that is accessible to man. Stephen Dedalus's affinity for Aquinas in Portrait first suggests that Joyce understood epistemology to stand at the nexus of art and philosophy. The spectacular stylistic innovations of the later Ulysses and Finnegans Wake respond not only to a holistic view of man's everyday activities and thoughts, but also to a growing awareness of the complexity, as well as the limitations, imposed on human knowledge by our intellectual history, language, and man's own unconscious.
(Page 87) Questions of sincerity and authenticity are topics of discussion by Joyce as early as the conclusion of Portrait. -- Did the idea ever occur to you, Cranly asked, that Jesus was not what he pretended to be? -- The first person to whom that idea occurred, Stephen answered, was Jesus himself. (P, p. 242) Yet the sincerity and veracity of the narrator of Portrait is never an issue. In fact, the narrator has been so perfectly identified with Joyce that readers and critics alike feel at liberty to use Portrait as a biographical source. In Finnegans Wake the nature of the work as a resentation of a dream confirms the impossibility of truth in discourse ("Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude, the evidencegivers by legpoll too untrustworthily irreperible" [57.16]). The "evidencegivers" are indeed untrustworthy, as untrustworthy as the psychoanalytic patient telling the history that hides the oedipal trauma ("Be these meer marchant taylor's fablings of a race referend with oddman rex? Is now all seenheard then forgotten?" [61.28] ).
(Page 91) As Joyce's interest shifted from consciousness to the unconscious, he was increasingly forced to recognize the inauthenticity and self-delusion that the artist shares with the philistine. In the world of the dream, every individual is a demon and an angel, a pharisee and a holy man, a charlatan and an artist. The artist enjoys no corner on truth; he merely constructs more elaborate and elegant myths and lies more convincingly than the man on the street. Only when he recognizes and exposes his own fakery, and, like Joyce, acknowledges the artistic creation as a "song of alibi"(193.30), does he arrive at some truth of the human condition: the paradoxical truth suggested by Heidegger when he writes "Dasein is equiprimordially both in the truth and in untruth." Joyce comes to maturity when he replaces the artist's epiphany as the moment of truth with the oedipal insight into his own blindness and hypocrisy. The question of knowledge in Finnegans Wake takes its most mythic and primitive form in the riddles that dot the book: the Prankquean's "why do I am alook alike a poss of porterpease?" (21.18), Shem's "when is a man not a man?"(170.5), the heliotrope riddle of the game of colors in II.1, and the question, "where was a hovel not a havel"(231.1). It is interesting that neither these riddles, nor ones found in Joyce's earlier works, the Athy riddle in Portrait and the fox and grandmother riddle in Ulysses, are ever answered correctly. Riddles require no outside or new information. They generally deal with the familiar, the obvious, but they do require that new connections be made between perfectly ordinary things. In other words, riddles presuppose knowledge, but they require recognition. Oedipus easily guesses the Sphinx's riddle as "man"; he does not recognize that the references to feet and walking have a highly singular meaning for him and that the riddle depicts his own past, present, and future. Perhaps Wakean figures fail to guess riddles precisely because they lack the power of recognition, or because they are blind to their own conditions. Shem/Glugg can only guess the heliotrope riddle if he recognizes his enemy twin's dominance and sexual triumph, since Shaun/Chuff represents the sun whom the rainbow girls adore. The "home," which is the answer to the hovel riddle, is associated with guilty sexual experiences and wishes, as Benstock points out. The self-awareness and self-recognition are too painful, and the questioned fail and err instead. The knowledge that is finally sought by all Wakean figures is the truth of their own being, the answer to the question that lies at the heart of the Oedipus myth: "Who am I?" Wilden writes of the oedipal question, "To pose the question at all is the subject's way of recognizing that he is neither who he thinks he is nor what he wants to be, since at the level of the parole vide he will always find that he is another." Like Ulysses, Finnegans Wake is a quest for the nature of the self -- a quest conducted in error and doubt because the truth will not be comforting or reassuring.
Attila Fáj wrote ([Vico’s Basic Law of History in Finnegans Wake; pp. 20-31] in Vico and Joyce edited by Donald Phillip Verene in 1987; State University of New York Press) ---- (Page 27) It is an illusion that the division of Finnegans Wake into four books is in strict correspondence with the Vichian stages, namely, that the Book of the Parents is analogous with the stage of gods; the Book of the Sons, with the stage of heroes; the Book of the People, with that of men; and that the Book of Ricorso makes us feel the imminent resumption of the cycle. Margot Norris observes, with reference to such a parallelism, that each Vichian stage is present in every phase of the plot of Finnegans Wake. Norris's remark is very proper indeed; only the consequence she draws from it, inferring that the Vichian law of history proves to be ineffective through the whole novel, lawlessness being the unique law in it, seems erroneous to me. The novel, in Norris's opinion is "the triumph of freedom over law!" And Anna Livia Plurabelle, the mother-river, embodies this "law as a lack." I think this rush statement springs from the scant knowledge the author of The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake has about the stage of the new barbarism, the most critical stage of the Vichian periodization.
(Page 28) It seems unquestionable to me that both the synchronic on the scene of all Vichian development-stages and the incessant change of the characters, what is more, their transition into one another, show clearly that the author of Finnegans Wake does not break with the Vichian law of history; on the contrary, he presents the epoch of the barbarism of reflection in perfect keeping with it. In this case too, Joyce used as pattern a famous literary work inspired by Vico, namely, Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Firmly convinced to live in the chaotical epoch of the new barbarism when all past stages of human history reappear simultaneously in a degenerated form, the great Russian writer, in harmony with the Vichian periodization, distributed the single stages as roles among the members of the Karamazov family. Fyodor Karamazov represents prehistorical barbarism; Alyosha, the age of gods; Dmitri, the ex-officer, the age of heroes; Ivan, the age of men; and Fyodor's illegitimate son Smerdyakov, the barbarism of reflection. Dostoyevsky had in mind to proceed with the plot, but death prevented him from realizing his intention. Anyway, the gist of the second part of the novel is known from the author's plans. He proposed to show that at the climax of the second barbarism the past "epochs" with all their concomitant phenomena necessarily reappear also in a single person's life. Thus, Alyosha, the angel of the Karamazov family, was to pass through all stages of human history; and at the end of his microcycle, after many delusions, he was to turn back to the monastery where once he had been a devoted seminarist, that is, to live the age of gods again. When Hermann Hesse became acquainted with this plan, he exclaimed, "It is a fortune, that Dostoyevsky did not bring his Karamazov to an end. Otherwise not only the Russian literature but Russia itself and the whole humanity would have blown up!" It is likewise a fortune that Joyce had time enough to carry out the plan his favorite writer could not actualize.
Northrop Frye wrote ([Cycle and Apocalypse in Finnegans Wake; pp. 3-19] in Vico and Joyce edited by Donald Phillip Verene in 1987; State University of New York Press) ---- (Page 6) Finnegans Wake was published in the year that I began continuous teaching; and within a few months I bought the copy that I still have, for ninety-eight cents from a remainder counter in Toronto. I was fascinated by the book but was preoccupied at the time with the Blake prophecies and was in no position to go into orbit around it. When the Blake book was off my hands and I started working on the Anatomy of Criticism, I had to account, so to speak, for the existence of Finnegans Wake. True, there was a popular fallacy at the time, which I kept hearing for the next twenty years, that all works of literature were "unique," and the critic should not try to detract from that uniqueness. The notion rested between criticism as a body of knowledge about literature and the experience of reading, which is central to criticism but not part of it. Every experience is in some sense unique but the unique as such cannot be an object of knowledge. So the task remained, as did, of course, the confusion.
(Page 7) It was perhaps not until Jacques Derrida and his "deconstruction" techniques that the theory implied by Finnegans Wake really came into focus. The deconstructing critic tends to approach every text in the spirit in which Joyce approached the first drafts of his Work in Progress fragments. Finnegans Wake is a book in which practically every word provides, in addition to a surface meaning that may or may not be there, a great variety of "supplements" that lend a number of further aspects to the meaning. Deconstruction implies a concept not far removed from Freud’s concept of the censor, the process of achieving meaning by excluding unacceptable meanings; and Joyce's dream language, while the activity of censorship is certainly recorded in it, escapes, to a very unusual degree, from the kind of psychological gaps that mental censorship leaves in narrative-directed writing. Then again, Finnegans Wake is a book of "traces." The central character, Finnegan himself, is effaced by his "death," or falling asleep -- the two things seem to be much the same thing at the opening of the book -- what follows is a "differential" pursuit of echoes and reverberations into a world of words rather than a "logocentric" invoking of a presence. It is natural that commentators influenced by Derridean theories should be doubtful about the presence in the book of any continuous "story line" and regard the identity of the dreamer as an irrelevant question in a book where nothing has any consistent identity at all. I think however that Joyce, belonging to an older generation, was old-fashioned enough to prefer a set of narrative canons, however distinctively handled.
Kimberly J. Devlin wrote (in Wandering and Return in Finnegans Wake in 1991; Princeton University Press) ---- (Page 17) Reading the Wake demands simultaneous attention to several textual dimensions: a vertical axis along which one finds multiple meanings and images in isolated words or phrases; a horizontal axis along which one finds threads of narrative; and a recursive axis along which one finds earlier parts of the dream returning in altered form. Michael Begnal suggests that the recursive dimension of the Wake is rooted in textual linearity and yet contributes to the vertical density of the dream:
We arrive at Wake meaning through a process of accrual, so that each new element or piece of plot makes sense only as it reminds us of what has gone before and as it restates a basic crux or situation. The repetition of theme or incident [along the horizontal axis] necessitates the building of vertical towers of information which require immediate reference back to their analogues.
Exactly how much "plot" can be found along the horizontal axis has been the source of critical disagreement. While stressing the obstacles to narrative found in the techniques of digression, interpolation, and recurring leitmotiv, Begnal maintains nonetheless that "Finnegans Wake does have a plot, it does tell a story, if only a reader can bring new critical perspectives to bear upon the text." Bishop, on the other hand, argues that "if one operates on the premise that Finnegans Wake reconstructs the night, the first preconception to abandon wholesale is that it ought to read anything at all like narrative or make sense as a continuous linear narrative whole." Neither critic is absolutely wrong, for at points linear narrative does disappear in the Wake (as Begnal himself argues for certain parts of the text), and yet at others clear dramas and stories emerge. The Wake lacks "a plot"--multiplicity is one of its governing principles -- but it does contain what Begnal more accurately describes as "a series of incidents or miniplots." The logic of the dreamtext hinges upon several, textual axes that often compete with one another for our attention; while a reader may choose to concentrate on one dimension over others, none of them should be categorically dismissed or ignored. One limitation to both Bishop's and Begnal's different approaches to the Wake can be found in their shared elisions of the dream's affective import. Bishop argues that Joyce's "book of the dark" is embedded with representations that refer back to the somnolent body, that spring from somatic sources. In reading the Wake, he claims, "one [has] to become familiar with a set of representational mannerisms peculiar to the working of the night, one of which has to do with the latent omnipresence of the sleeper's body beneath all the manifest appearances of his dream" (emphasis added). This thesis is convincing (if overstated), but it ignores the psychological sources of the Wake, the intangible wishes and anxieties the unconscious labors to articulate in dream representation.
Suzette A. Henke wrote (in James Joyce and the Politics of Desire in 1990; Routledge) ---- (Page 165) It is with Finnegans Wake that Joyceans tend to divide into two separate camps - those who, like Joseph Campbell and Henry Robinson, attempt to extract from the text a recognizable narrative and those who celebrate the Wake as a post-structuralist oeuvre, free of character, story, or identifiable subjects. Although I recognize the need to suspend traditional notions of "go-ahead plot" in the Wake, it nonetheless seems fruitful to extrapolate tessellated, fragmented personae from the Wake's labyrinthine prose and to interpret these fabulated subjects in terms of mythic, sexual, psychoanalytic, and cultural productions.
(Page 255) Characters in the Wake, says Margot Norris, "are fluid and inter-changeable, melting easily into their landscapes to become river and land, tree and stone, Howth Castle and Environs, or HCE. We find in the Wake not characters as such but ciphers, in formal relationship to each other" (The Decentered Universe, p. 4). In "Finnegans Wake": A Plot Summary John Gordon seeks "to extract a coherent narrative form this least reducible of masterpieces (p. 8). Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon undertake a similar project in Understanding "Finnegans Wake," as do Joseph Campbell and Henry Robinson in A Skeleton Key to "Finnegans Wake." In contrast, post-structuralist critics like Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida have celebrated Joyce's deconstructive "free play" with language for its unique qualities of indeterminacy and unlimited semiosis. In an essay entitled "Two Words for Joyce," Derrida compares the Wake to a " 1000th generation computer" and confesses that "every time I write, and even in the most academic pieces of work Joyce's ghost is always coming on board"(pp. 147 - 9).
Grace Eckley wrote (in Children’s Lore in Finnegans Wake in 1985; Syracuse University Press) ---- (Page xi) Finnegans Wake offers endless fascination, and Stanislaus Joyce approximated recognition of this attraction when he called it a giant crossword puzzle. In this sense my position regarding criticism of it is that it can be appreciated and understood -- and it is enjoyable -- when sufficient information is gathered to improve comprehension of it. To that end, this study of children's lore in the Wake is dedicated. My view almost diametrically opposes that of Margot Norris, who writes in the conclusion of The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake (1974):
The greatest critical mistake in approaching Finnegans Wake has been the assumption that we can be certain of who, where, and when everything is in the Wake, if only we do enough research. The discovery that Maggie is ALP may be true enough, but it doesn't mean anything. ALP is also Kate, the old slopwoman, and Isabel, the daughter, and Biddie Doran, the hen, in a way that Molly Bloom is decidedly not Mrs. Riordan, or Milly, or Josie Breen.
The viewpoint that research will not pay off -- that no one can know anything -- seems to me extreme futile; moreover it blinds the vision. The Maggies are plural, although one at a time is sometimes referred to and -- as the motif method shown here in appendix 3 makes clear -- they certainly are not ALP; Anna Livia and Kate are not even present in the same incident, and their characters and occupations are distinctly different; ALP is not Isabel when both are present on the same page -- as in Anna Livia's comments on her daughter in the Wake's last chapter; and the text indicates the distinctions between ALP and the hen. My view almost diametrically opposes this, because I find logic and order where Margot Norris finds chaos; but not quite. I believe the Prankquean motif, simplified as why do I look alike a poss of porter peace with its prominent variations, contains an element of mischief, such as child's nonsense rhyme does. Like the fun of a pun, these elements do not require syllable-by-syllable breakdown and often do not profit thereby.
Margaret Mills Harper wrote (in The Aristocracy of Art in Joyce and Wolfe in 1990; Louisiana State University Press) ---- (Page 142) Finnegans Wake, with its extreme transformations of language and form, is designedly difficult to categorize. Wolfe's last books which were posthumously compiled and heavily edited, even rewritten in parts, by an editor, are also difficult to regard as texts with a recognizable author or novelistic purpose, even though they were intended to be marketed and sold as such. Nonetheless, several of the prominent concerns and phenomena of these last books are derived from the issues of autobiographical fiction and social class that I have been considering in the previous chapters of this study. Even though the issues are not embedded in novels with necessarily linear plots, consistent characters, stable architectonics, or unified expression, Finnegans Wake, The Web and the Rock, and You Can't Go Home Again have nevertheless inherited much from the books that preceded them in the close family of texts that autobiographical fiction makes of a writer's corpus. In this chapter I intend to explore what is made of that inheritance. Despite the prodigious amount of criticism of Finnegans Wake, the distinguished Joycean Fritz Senn could complain as recently as 1983 about the widespread impulse to reduce the Wake to "the formula 'FW is X"': it is, he asserts, "the prototype of the algebra that we are lured into using against better judgment" when we approach the book. We misjudge Finnegans Wake as we do Joyce's other works, he maintains, when we insist on beginning any inquiry with pronouncements about what is, or is not, absolutely true about the texts. To eliminate doubt is to falsify, even if that doubt is over the simplest of matters, such as the genre to which the texts belong. As Bernard Benstock observed about another basic question that is equally difficult to answer ("But what is it all about exactly?"), with Finnegans Wake "it seems preferable to beg the question rather than beggar the work."
(Page 144) In the essay mentioned earlier, Fritz Senn calls the language of Finnegans Wake, which "tends toward instant contradiction" of itself, "the microcosmic verbal integration of doubt." He correctly notes what such language allows Joyce to do with characters in this book: "Verbal options favor suggestive possibilities more than distinct identities. If we do not want to determine whether some person is a hunchbacked pubkeeper, or an English king, or a Shakespearan character, or the actor on the stage, in a pub, on a battlefield, or from a book or a nursery rhyme, there may be no more concise way than 'when Dook Hookbackcrook upsits his ass booseworthies jeer and junket but they boos him oos and baas him aas when he lukes like Hunkett Plunkett.'"
(Page 145) The phrase quoted by Senn illustrates an important aspect of the Wake, since we will not be able to read it well without recognizing its unusually direct references to contemporary events in the "real world." The book is full of seemingly trivial references gleaned from newspapers, city directories, history books, atlases, and actual conversations among Joyce's acquaintances. It is far from mimetic in the ordinary sense, since it deliberately avoids fabricating a literary facsimile of an intelligible world, but in another sense the book may be unsurpassed in the extent to which it draws upon the life outside its pages. Here, we recognize, is a new way to create art out of what Stephen Dedalus called "the reality of experience"(P.253). Unique as it is, Finnegans Wake is also recognizable as the successor to A Portrait and Ulysses in many ways, not the least of which is its preoccupation with the joining of literature and life.
Matthew Hodgart wrote (in James Joyce, a Student Guide in 1978; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London) ---- (Page 133) Finnegans Wake is supposed to be a novel, with a plot and characters in the traditional sense. The chief character is one H. C. Earwicker, supposedly a publican of Chapelizod, a village near Dublin; and the book on one level is Earwicker's dream. He has committed some kind of misdemeanour in the Phoenix Park involving two girls and three soldiers; it is never clear just what he has done, but it seems to be exhibitionism, a common offense in parks. All night long his unconscious mind broods on this action, guiltily and obsessively: it is transformed, like everything else in the book, into a hundred different shapes. Earwicker dreams of the other characters: his wife Anna, his daughter Isabel, his twin sons Shem and Shaun, the servants and the customers of the public house, and so on. Again, the reader soon begins to recognise these personages, each of whom speaks in a different voice. Joyce uses the modulation of style for narrative purposes even more subtly than he does in Ulysses: there is no mistaking the dactylic, tumbling rhythms of Anna, the sleepy repetitive gossip of the four old men, or the unctuous sermonising of Shaun. The two sons are twins and rivals, Shem being a Bohemian artist, Shaun a successful man of the world, combining the roles of tenor, politician, and priest. But as the story is told with an infinite number of evasions, and ambiguities, it becomes clear, if clear is the word, that the basis of the Earwicker and associated plots is simply James Joyce's biography in a disguised form: the book is a confession, like those of, Augustine and Rousseau, in which the author accuses himself of various crimes or shortcomings -- in Joyce's case mainly sexual malpractices which are more probably fantasised than real.
(Page 132) Finnegans Wake is a book entirely suited to the modern universe, as revealed by scientists in the decades before and after Joyce's death gave a name to a fundamental particle, postulated by theoretical physicists only a few years ago: this is the 'Quark', taken from the seagulls' mocking cry at the beginning of Book II, chapter iv (383.01): '-- Three quarks for Muster Mark!' True, that is only a whimsical choice of a meaningless word, without connotations, for an entirely new concept; but it is appropriate that it should be drawn from the verbal universe, which Joyce tried to make as mysterious and complex as the physical universe. Joyce evidently studied such popularisation of the latest physics as he could find, and makes allusions to Einstein and Relativity, and to Eddington's 'expanding universe'. Joyce's world, with its continuous series of transformations, resembles the world of Lewis Carroll (one of his favourite authors) and both seem to be analogous to the post-Newtonian cosmos. On the level of biology, too, Finnegans Wake seems to be appropriate to the twentieth century, with its emphasis on the cycles of nature: the nitrogen cycle ('dust unto dust') and above all the water cycle.
Harry Burrell wrote (in Narative Design in Finnegans Wake; The Wake Lock Picked in 1996; University Press of Florida) ---- (Page 7) Joyce, however, goes far beyond just incorporating the Bible along with all other literature. He actually rewrites it, creating a new text and a new theology. Furthermore the third chapter of Genesis, reinterpreted and repeated hundreds of times, is the narrative base of Finnegans Wake. All of the events are simply reenactments of the Fall story. There is no action which does not contain Adam and Eve's travail in the Garden of Eden. All conversation relates to it. All of the characters are united into the four mentioned in Genesis 3 except St. Patrick and the evangelists, who merely discuss the actions of the four. It has, of course, always been known that Finnegans Wake is "about" the Fall of Man. Joyce's admission from the beginning can be accepted as one of his completely true statements, although much of his explanation was misdirective and diminuating. What has not been realized is that that is all it is about. Virtually every page has the Bible story as its basic level of communication. To understand Finnegans Wake readers must maintain a mind set that what they are apprehending is fundamentally nothing but the Fall story with all the other levels of meaning and reference grafted onto and embellishing it. This approach allows us to understand who HCE and Earwicker are and why there are earwigs; the connection among the prankquean, ALP, Issy; and Kate; the relationship of Shem, Shaun, and the ass; and how the Greek fables of the ant and the grasshopper, and the fox and the grapes; and the episodes of Buckley and the Russian General, and the Norwegian Captain are related to the story of Adam and Eve. The rest of this book shows how this was done. Wake criticism has worked itself into a position of denying that there is a basic narrative but does not give up the plaintive hope that one exists. David Hayman, Bernard Benstock, John Bishop, and Margot Norris, for example, have all concluded that there is no underlying narrative and have evolved different systems of dealing with the dilemma. Others, particularly those older scholars who have devoted a lifetime to Wake studies such as Fritz Senn, still yearn for some "unknown design, matrix, concept, blue-print, gestalt, configuration . . . some germinal deep structure." Clive Hart pleads, "We are still in need of a satisfactory perspective which will allow us to respond more fully to the whole . . . a thread of English meaning. . . . I plead for a simple meaning because I should like to pay as much attention as possible to the surface . . . its colour, wit and pathos, achieved through the immediacy of image and pattern." Two other early commentators intuited the deep structure but were unable to bring it to full expression because they looked for the same pattern that Joyce had used for Ulysses. Adaline Glasheen said, "The story of our first parents in 'Milton's Park' underlies all falls in FW. It does not, however, dominate FW as the Odyssey dominates Ulysses, making events assume a predetermined form and sequence." Atherton. ventured, "No single book serves the same purpose [as the Odyssey for Ulysses] in Finnegans Wake; perhaps the Bible comes nearest to it, but it is Joyce's bible." He further noted that even though "the parallels between sections of Homer's Odyssey and Joyce's Ulysses are also occasionally labored and doubtful we have Joyce's authority for their existence." Actually, any connections one can find with Homer are tenuous at best and provide but little help in understanding Joyce's work. Nevertheless, no one has pursued these leads to Finnegans Wake. Furthermore, Joyce does provide the authority for the biblical parallel, but until now, it has not been recognized. Chapter 2 of this book details the evidence showing how the Bible was rewritten. Joyce carefully followed a series of structural parallels that call attention to the form of the Wake as being similar to the Bible's. There is also a wealth of internal evidence supporting this proposition. A considerable portion of the Wake is devoted to asides to the reader, purporting to instruct him or her on the book's content, structure, and intent, and to explain (or obfuscate) the stories. One group of such recurring asides points out that Finnegans Wake should be read as the rewritten Bible.
(Page 9) Joyce's rewriting the Bible does not mean that he reworks the entire text. Rather, taking the simple Fall story, and repeating it again and again with embellishments and interweaving fables, bits of history, jokes, and personal biography he rewrites it in the sense of creating a new Bible with its own theology and rules of ethics. Indeed he does not often take the whole Fall story in sequence from the creation of man and woman through the Temptation, their confrontation by God, their being cursed by him, and then exiled. Most of the repetitions utilize the individual episodes either alone or in whatever order suits his purpose -- as is demonstrated in Chapter 6 of this study. Furthermore, he uses ancient mythological sources or Gnostic variants of Genesis to support his New Theology:
John Bishop wrote (in Joyce’s Book of the Dark in 1986; The University of Wisconsin Press) ---- (Page 3) Sooner rather than later, a reader of Finnegans Wake would do well to justify to himself its stupefying obscurity; for as even its most seasoned readers know, "Finnegans Wake is wilfully obscure. It was conceived as obscurity, it was executed as obscurity, it is about obscurity [Glasheen’s A Second Census]." And to this one might add that nothing will ever make Finnegans Wake not obscure. Stories of the pains Joyce took to deepen the opacity of Work in Progress during its composition only intensify the impression thrown off by the finished text. Jacques Mercanton recalls finding Joyce and Stuart Gilbert "going over a passage that was 'still not obscure enough'" and gleefully "inserting Samoyed words into it"; Padraic Colum recalls "from time to time [being] asked to suggest a word that would be more obscure than the word already there," only to have Joyce reply "five times out of six," in what amounts to an admission that his designs were darkly principled, "I can't use it." The essential question one wants answered in hearing these stories and in probing the murkinesses of the text itself is whether this relentless obscuration was really arbitrary and wilful "sheer perversity," in Louise Bogan's phrase or whether it was leading somewhere that would repay the study, time, and labor which Finnegans Wake demands of its reader. Joyce himself was unevenly helpful; as he put it to Frank Budgen on the less baffling matter of Ulysses, "If I can throw any obscurity on the subject let me know"(L, III, 261). Not very expansively, he replied to the growing news that his readers simply were not following him by wondering out loud, with lamblike innocence, to William Bird: "About my new work do you know, Bird, I confess I can't understand some of my critics, like Pound or Miss Weaver, for instance. They say it's obscure. They compare it, of course, with Ulysses. But the action of Ulysses was chiefly in the daytime, and the action of my new work takes place chiefly at night. It's natural things should not be so clear at night, isn't it now?"(JJ, 590). Typically, he defended his methods by displacing attention from his style to his subject, as he did again when replying to objections raised by Jacques Mercanton over the obscurity of a passage in Work in Progress: "It is night. It is dark. You can hardly see. You sense rather." In Joyce's view, all obscurity came with the terrain he surveyed, and not with his treatment of it: "If there is any difficulty in reading what I write it is because of the material I use. In my case the thought is always simple." He was only pointing out in all these remarks that "obscurity" is "darkness" rendered verbal (L. obscuritas, "darkness") and that the night, his subject, was intractably obscure. Only a little reflection, I think, will demonstrate that the systematic darkening of every term in Finnegans Wake was an absolute necessity, dictated by Joyce's subject; and that Finnegans Wake has exactly what so cranky a critic as F. R. Leavis wished it had and of course judged it did not: "the complete subjection -- subjugation -- of the medium to the uncompromising, complex and delicate need that uses it."
(Page 25) It was Joyce's lifelong rival Doctor Oliver St John Gogarty, who first reacted in exasperated disbelief to Finnegans Wake by calling it "the most colossal leg pull in literature since McPherson's Ossian." But even its most serious readers seem tacitly to have assumed that Joyce was only kidding when he said it was "about the night." The real obstacle to our comprehension of Finnegans Wake since its publication, in my view, has been a reluctance on the part of readers to think seriously about the very strange literally unthinkable, and only apparently trivial material that it richly explores. As a consequence Joyce's own many assertions about the book -- his reconstruct[ion of] the nocturnal life" and "imitation of the dream-state" -- have been dismissed out-of hand as unprobable, or else explained away either as "concerts" that Joyce found useful for his own eccentric purposes, or as impressionistic "devices" that in practice have licensed interpretive mayhem on the one extreme hand and pedantic irrelevance on the other. As one consequence, the text perhaps most widely regarded as the great monolithic obstacle to our understanding of modernism has remained inaccessibly obscure since its publication m 1939 -- and not simply to the interested lay reader but to many Joyceans as well. It is time that the putative bluff was called, and shown to be no bluff at all. Finnegons Wake is about "the night we will remember"(432. 1~2). "But we'll wake and see"(375. 8).
Derek Attridge wrote ([Finnegans Awake: The Dream of Interpretation; pp. 11-29] in James Joyce Quarterly Vol. 27, No.1 in Fall, 1989) ---- (Page 11) My first proposition is this: a reader approaching Finnegans Wake without any prior assumptions as to its content and method would be unlikely to regard the text as the representation of a dream. I would guess that, since the publication of Finnegans Wake, the majority of those who have made the attempt to read it have had the idea of a dream somewhere in mind, whether as part of general cultural lore or as specific information received from a critical study or a helpful teacher. To test my proposition fully this interpretive context would have to be wholly erased and Joyce's words read without any extratextual presuppositions. But this is an impossible exercise, since we cannot simply clear the mind of its contents like a magnetic disk, and for most of us the idea of the dream has already become an inseparable part of the text we encounter.
(Page 17) The second proposition, which follows directly from the first, is this: the importance of the idea of the dream to our understanding of Finnegans Wake in 1989 is a direct historical consequence of extratextual commentary by Joyce and by others. It ought to be possible to trace this history and to ascertain whether it proceeds from actual engagements with the text or, driven by needs other than accurate representation, in parallel with the text but at some distance from it. For nearly four years, from early 1923, when Joyce began work on his last book, to late 1926, by which time he had perfected his stylistic technique, completed versions of twelve of the seventeen chapters, and worked out an overall structure, there is very little evidence to suggest that he associated his laborious project with the night, sleep, or dreams.
(Page 24) It might seem that my third proposition should be something like this: there is no internal evidence to support the use of the dream as the overriding interpretive context for Finnegans Wake, and no historical evidence to suggest that it was of major importance in the writing of the book, or that it arose from a close reading of the whole work; it should therefore be abandoned henceforth. But that is not the conclusion I wish to draw; in fact, such a conclusion would rely on precisely the kind of logic -- the absolute separation of internal and external -- that the Wake undermines. I would prefer to emphasize how productive the idea of the dream has been, in spite of its inadequacies as an interpretive frame, in creating an audience for one of the most complex of all literary texts, and in allowing commentary to flourish in the face of a work that might have been greeted with silence. To show, as I did earlier, that standard interpretive procedures applied to the text in isolation from any specific preconceptions do not foreground the notion of the dream is not to dismiss that notion as useless or invalid. It may be that standard interpretive strategies have no purchase on Finnegans Wake, and that we have to read in terms of some prior framework, derived from critics or from Joyce himself. It may be that what we think of as conventional interpretive strategies working on the text in isolation always make more use than we realize of already acquired schemata, and that what the Wake does is merely to render us conscious of this fact. If this is so, the concept of "correct" interpretation is complicated for every work of literature; different assumptions produce different readings, each of which may be perfectly correct in terms of its prior set of assumptions.
(Page 26) How well particular approaches work is also a matter of time and place, since our interpretive practice is imbricated with all our other intellectual and social practices, which change as we change, and as our own historical and geographical contexts change. . . . . My third proposition, then, is that the notion of the dream as an interpretive context for Finnegans Wake is one among a number of such contexts which, though incompatible with one another, all have some potential value. Or to put it another way Finnegans Wake is indeed, a "collideorscape." The question of the relative usefulness of these approaches cannot be separated from the cultural history from which they arise and in which they are, and always will be, embedded.
Vincent John Cheng wrote (in Shakespeare and Joyce: A Study of Finnegans Wake in 1984; The Pennsylvania State University Press) ---- (Page 6) Adaline Glasheen writes: "To my mind Shakespeare (man, works) is the matrix of Finnegans Wake: a matrix is the womb or mold in which something is shaped or cast." We have grown quite familiar with the ways in which Joyce uses such matrixes or molds: in Ulysses, Homer, Shakespeare, and Joyce's own life; in the Portrait, Daedalus-Icarus myth. These are scaffolds and skeletons which Joyce adopts in order to flesh his own creation. By Glasheen's own definition of "matrix," then, the scaffolding in Finnegans Wake is in fact multiplex (as one would expect in a work dealing with universal history). Glasheen herself has composed thirteen pages of charts (entitled "Who Is Who When Everybody Is Somebody Else") which schematize the many scaffoldings analogous the archetypal family of HCE, ALP (Anna Livia Plurabelle), Shaun, Shem and Issy. Nevertheless, she may be basically correct; I have come to believe that Shakespeare provides some of the central (perhaps the most central) matrixes in the Wake, and certainly the most important ones in terms of Shem-Joyce's vision of himself as an artist. Foremost among these Shakespearean matrixes is that of Hamlet which is undoubtedly one of the "books at the Wake." It is structurally and analogically important. There are by far more allusions to Hamlet than to any other play (Shakespearean or otherwise); and the parallels are more frequent, precise, and insistent: HCE as King Hamlet, Shem as the Prince, Issy as Ophelia, Shaun as Laertes-Polonius. References to Hamlet are ubiquitous; and as in the case of Ulysses, the themes and motifs in Hamlet are structural counterparts to those in Finnegans Wake. The other Shakespearean plays most alluded to are Macbeth and Julius Caesar.
(Page 17) James Joyce's mind is that of the essential poet: it works by analogy. A defecator, a lover, a father, a poet, and God are all, by analogy, equivalent -- because they each create, or produce, something. Therefore, those somethings are also, by analogy, equivalent; Finnegans Wake, like the letter unearthed by Biddy the Hen, is a creatio ex shitpile, a "letter from litter" (615.01). Joyce -- who, unlike his predecessor and fellow creator-defecator-poet Shakespeare, knew much Latin and some Greek ("he had have only had some little laughings and some less of cheeks" in 125.14-15) -- was aware that the Latin word for, at once, letters of the alphabet, epistolary letters, and belles-lettres, was litterae, a felicitous correspondence to the English word "litter" and its connotations of shit and birth. Thus, to the Joycean mind, poetic creations in English "litterature" are at once bilabial speech, biological offspring, and biodegradable waste. Each implies the others; the part reflects the whole. A poet is the god and creator of his own worlds -- "After God, Shakespeare has created most"(U, 212) -- while God is but a very major poet, "the playwright who wrote the folio of this world"(U, 213). HCE, the archetypal father who "Haveth Childers Everywhere" (535.34-35) and who thus also creates and populates a world, is but another version of both poet and god -- of "Great Shapesphere," as Joyce "puns it"(295.04). Joyce himself, of course, is all of these things: like Stephen Dedalus's Shakespeare, he is "all in all"(U, 212). As a god and an artist, a poet triumphs over confining reality by creating worlds through the imagination -- and each of his works is an exploration into the possible "history" of such worlds.
(Page 24) In a sense, all of Finnegans Wake deals with the basic question, "What did happen to HCE?" What happened in the Park by the Magazine Wall? What was the crime? Was there a crime? What took place in the encounter with the Cad? Nothing is certain, though there are many versions of stories bantered about: "aither he cursed and recursed and was everseen doing what your fourfootlers saw or he was never done seeing what you coolpigeons know"(29.09-11). Like the question that worries Hamlet, the question of Finnegans Wake centers about the fact that we are dealing with unsimple truth, that we are in the dark ("as any camelot prince of dinmurk" in 143.07) and do not quite know what happened. As with some of Shakespeare’s plays, this "drauma" (115.32), the gossip about HCE, is a tale of dubious accuracy and questionable authorship that has a great need for scholarship and critical interpretation; one way of looking at the Wake is to see it as a scholarly casebook on the HCE tale, including all the variant versions and interpretations thereof.
(Page 27) Finnegans Wake is Joyce's attempt to compile these error-possibilities of HCE's comedy of errors -- in other words, all history. A problem play has purple passages which engender much critical speculation and scholarly research; in this sense, Finnegans Wake is, like the letter unearthed by Biddy the hen, an attempt to dig into the middenheap and find the "gossiple" truth. Resonant with the pun of litterae, the "letter from litter"(615.01) is broadly symbolic; as Tindall puts it, "Plainly more than life from Alpha to Omega, the letter represents all literature as well especially Finnegans Wake."
Susan Shaw Sailer wrote (in On the Void of to Be in 1993; The University of Michigan Press) ---- (Page 58) The characters and "plot" of Finnegans Wake inhabit the condition of being "always already." We meet The Four, for instance, on page 13, where rather than presenting a sense of their physical appearance or their primary roles in the text, a narrator thrusts upon us their multiple roles and associations, overwhelming us with their bewildering fragmentation. Not until page 368 does a narrator give readers a sense of the physical appearance of The Four; but this, like their introduction, serves to enforce our sense of their fragmentation. They are treated as always already existing as traces incapable of assuming presence. As new readers of Finnegans Wake, we may have approached the text with the expectation that its realms would swallow us, at least temporarily, during which time we would develop a strong sense of the presence of its characters, setting, plot. This did not happen, of course. Instead, we find that though the narrators continually suggest places and times -- the Willingdone Museyroom, the midden heap, Shem's room, 1132, 566, dusk, dawn -- the continual destruction of continuity by the insertion of overlapping and juxtaposed fragments of varying lengths subverts and thwarts our orientation to seek textual presence.
(Page 190) Movies, movement, time, duration, whole: this is the melange through which we are approaching desire. But we have not yet arrived, Wakean desire exhibiting several components not yet identified. The movement of movies is time; movies move time for their duration, and the "whole" we experience in viewing them is duration. That whole-as-duration we experience as affirmation, even in painful reconstructions of human interaction as, for example, representations of the horrors of the Holocaust. Such affirmation affirms in several senses: in enunciating an historical or fantasized event, the film proclaims its possibility, against which we as viewers measure our responsibility, accepting or rejecting our role in the possibility. But in addition to such affirmation, a very different kind exists, which Michel Foucault describes in the context of discussing the role of transgression;
to measure the excessive distance that it opens at the heart of the limit and to trace the flashing line that causes the limit to arise. Transgression contains nothing negative, but affirms being -- affirms the limitlessness into which it leaps as it opens this zone to existence for the first time. But correspondingly, this affirmation contains nothing positive: no content can bind it, since, by definition, no limit can possibly restrict it. (Language, 35-36).
An affirmation containing nothing negative or positive but instead affirming the possibility resulting from the erasure of discarded limits: this is very much the kind of affirmation that Finnegans Wake makes. Like movement, time, duration, and a sense of the whole, affirmation is part of Wakean desire. Throughout Finnegans Wake, affirmation and chaos chase each other's tails, forming another of the giant polarities that move the text. Rather than "durable" knowledge, what the text shows us is a multitude of perspectives that compete to the point of chaos. But when readers reach that point, we begin to discover/create patterns of connectedness. This dynamics is similar to a position Nietzsche describes: "It is not the object of perspectives 'to know but to schematize -- to impose upon chaos as much regularity and form as our practical needs require.'" Joseph Valente maintains that both Nietzsche and Joyce wanted to discredit static, universal forms and to reanimate the play of appearances, of style, which they associated with the ancient Greek artificers, Homer and Daedalus. To accommodate contingencies within dynamic and always provisional or self-deconstructing systems was, they believed, to affirm the life-process itself. Paradoxically, Nietzsche's philosophy of the "dangerous maybe" and Joyce's aesthetic of incertitude both culminate in an exuberant "yes." This yes, embracing the absence of absolute meaning or value, becomes its own bond, taking all meaning and value upon itself. Concerned especially with Ulysses, Valente is referring to Molly's yes ending that text, but the yes of Finnegans Wake is closely related. Molly's yes is the nonpositive and nonnegative affirmation of the process of becoming; the Wake says yes through its version of the eternal return, manifested in so many ways, as for instance its "end" recycling to "begin" again and its play with variations on motifs, which in their returns are always "the seim" and always "anew.
Alan S. Loxterman wrote ([“The More Joyce Knew the More He Could” and “More Than I Could”: Theology and Fictional Technique in Joyce and Beckett; pp. 62-82] in Re: Joyce’n Beckett edited by Phillis Carey and Ed Jewinski in 1992; Fordham University Press) ---- (Page 62) Historically considered, Joyce and Beckett have become two of the most influential writers of our century through their inclusions of problematic interpretation as part of the aesthetic experience, a degree of complexity that requires readers to acknowledge their own complicity in making meaning out of what they perceive. Joyce pioneers the inclusion of indeterminacy in his narrative, first in the opening of Portrait and next in those later chapters of Ulysses where his method of narration takes precedence over who and what are being narrated. Finnegans Wake represents the culmination of a language and style which pre-empts that narrative guidance through a story line which has traditionally been central to the reading experience. Here readers must puzzle over each syllable of the language from beginning to end, being perhaps more consistently aware of their own attempts to interpret what is being said than of anything else. (Some would deny this account by concentrating on the organization of Finnegans Wake rather than on the chaos that is being organized. But the reader’s concrete experience of interpreting the language itself, word by word, is far removed from the critic's delineation of whatever overall abstract schemes the symbolic plot comprises. In Finnegans Wake the totality of the reading experience is that there can be no totality, only a multiplicity of proliferating alternatives.)