3. Do you think FW concerns sexual matter too much?
Fritz Senn said ----- Hard to say, “too much” is a value judgment. There is a lot of sexual content, for some readers there seems to be nothing else. One unfortunate result of finding something sexual in every passage is that thereby SEX is removed from the book. What I do miss, however, is anything erotic. --- Totally subjective. In my response none of the abundant parts with sexual content, or overtones (or vibrations, etc.), are erotic as something pleasant or stimulating, or cheerful. Other readers I am sure feel different. However, I believe that some of us engage in Joyce's text (the language, the interaction with the text, not any erotic content, I mean) is a kind of substitute for what cannot be had in real life. Many of us are amateurs in this sense as well. Reading is a kind of intercourse, almost in the original sense of a merging of the courses of the text and our own mind. A sort of sublimation: the next best thing, perhaps. (Maybe not well expressed).
Liam Mac Sheoinin said ----- Joyce appears to be playing with Freudian theories. After all, a Freudian reading of King Lear yields the conclusion that Goneril and Regan were sexually abused by their father. All the sexual allusions in FW are humorous. The insect incest thing is brilliantly hilarious. It could be I have a warped sense of humor.
Joan Peternel said ----- No. Sex is the basis of Life above the lowest forms, above those cells which divide to reproduce themselves. And so is spirit the basis of Life--"to rise" is meaningless without "to fall," but "to fall" is meaningless without "to rise." Joyce's vision was double, balanced-in other words, whole and harmonious. This is from the last section of the Wake: "Because graced be Gad and all giddy gadgets, in whose words were the beginnings, there are two signs to turn to." These signs are the yest and the ist (yesterday, the past, and “ist,” German for present, the present), the wright side and the wronged side, feeling aslip and wauking up, etc. All the author knows is that his purpose has been to total the tattle. Why? Because every "talk" has his "stay." Every dog has his day. There are the god/dog doubles so important in Ulysses. The author of the Wake is both "talk" and "gadget," both dog and creator with a small "c." HCE and ALP are beginning to wake. "Lok! A shaft of shivery in the act." The next word, "anilancinant," seems to be an image of copulation, "lancinant" meaning in Italian a stabbing as of pain, a penetration. The "ani" tacked onto the "lancinant" is a reference to Annie. Thus, sex. But the shaft of shivery is a "flash from a future of maybe mahamayability." Roland McHugh's gloss on "mahamayability" is simply "Maya: illusion." But "illusion" in this context does not refer to a mirage or a delusion. Jung explains. The male Shiva creates when the female Shakti becomes involved. From Shakti comes Maya, the "Spinning Woman," the "building material" of all things-matter. She creates illusion with her dancing, seducing a man into life's practical aspects, but also into paradoxes, where good and evil, or hope and despair, counterbalance each other. Thus, it seems more accurate to consider the Maya of the "mahamayability" not an illusion but a "fiction" or a "dream" of "possibilities." Therefore, Joyce is envisioning a future which is not a false picture but all possibilities. He is able and willing to look through a window of wonder into the wilderness that is a "weltr" of "whirbl."
Katarzyna Bazarnik said----- There is certainly a lot of sex in it, but how much depends to a great extend on how much you yourself read into it and see in it. Let me give you an example: I have just read an analysis of the Polish edition of ALP chapter (published in Polish and accompanied by beautiful designs drawing on Celtic, Egyptian and sea motifs) in which the author complained about the edition (both the text of the translation and the illustrations) being too obscene and vulgar. He was genuinely shocked by an illustration resembling a penis and a sketch of women exposing their drawers (mind you, not what's under them). The trouble here, I think, was that the translator saw "too much" sex in FW and the scholar "too little", so their readings were incompatible.
Catrin Siedenbiedel said ----- The theme of FW - if you can reduce this work to a single theme - is, I believe, the representation of world or life in language. Sexuality is life's and therefore the world's regenerating force. As FW attempts to be a regenerating force of language, it does not come as a surprise that sexuality is one of its central motifs. --- I only know the text and what he said about it. Well, he said to Eugene Jolas about FW. "I might easily have written this story in the traditional manner. [...] But I, after all, am trying to tell the story of this Chapelizod family in a new way. Time and the river and the mountain are the real heroes of my book. [...] Only I am trying to build many planes of narrative with a single esthetic purpose"(Ellmann, James Joyce, p. 554). And as regards the language of FW he said: "I have put language to sleep" (Ellmann, James Joyce, p. 546). Accordingly, he was quite aware of his focussing on language in the text. That is all I can prove on Joyce's intention to write the "book of language" from the beginning. And in the text you can find this in many parts, but for example, in the description of the Wellington monument as "that overgrown leadpencil" (FW 56,12) (a writer's instrument) with its phallic connotation.
C. George Sandulescu said ----- It must be understood once and for all that the 20th Century and its Great War (the First) brought about the collapse of the Victorian Puritanism in Literature and social morals, which had put Oscar Wilde into prison just before the Fin de Siècle (though it is still lingering on in some non-European cultural and political Establishments, such as China and Cuba and certain related areas). In the forefront of this change were writers like D.H. Lawrence & H.Miller. Joyce had identical intuitions with them and, in consequence, most, if not all, of his early books were banned for precisely the same reasons. The literary panorama nowadays is to such an extent overtolerant that the Joycean descriptions in --in Ulysses--of Poldy's defecation, Stephen's & Poldy's respective micturitions, and Molly's menstruation (there's symmetry in that!) look so benign by the side of the current literary output of, say, Anais Nin, Erica Jong, Régine Desforges, and even Alberto Moravia. To end this answer with a rhetorical question: how important is sex to current television programmes all over the world, with few totalitarian exceptions? It ultimately was Joyce who opened our literary eyes wide to it, though Stanley Kubrick wound it all up with his eyes wide shut. Then, on a lighter note, though wife sex & parents sex are never talked about in public, unless deviant, we shouldn't forget that we owe our own lives to our own parents' more than adequate sex life (singular, rather than plural; mutual & interactive, rather than individualistic & narrowly hedonistic). Joyce was more than aware as to how important Sex was to the newly set up Kingdom of Darwin, and, in incommunicado connivance with Lawrence (not the one of Arabia), helped bring down for ever the World Empire of Victorian Puritanism (which still survives in large pockets of the greenest Island of purest Ireland, where proper obstetrics is still practised only on board the Dutch ships). No, there is never enough Sex in the highBrow Dantesque Circle where our friend under scrutiny ―FW― sits. Just reRead Honuphrius etc. --- Joyce is the same (with the treatment of sex between Ulysses and FW): though his Freedom of Expression (on Sex) is far greater on account of his CRYPTIC discourse: that may have started it all! His cryptic stance, I mean!
Finn Fordham said ----- Not at all, there's hardly any sex in it. There is a lot of innuendo about genitals, and toilet humour but it's always a ridiculous surprise. In my opinion if there's too much of anything, it's obscure songs: they're hard to track down as a researcher, and you can't hear them unless you know them. --- [Another question: You wrote "FW and the dance" in the Abiko Quarterly #17. Doesn't the dance convey some sexual imagery?] Well dance is thought to be a vertical substitute for sex. Dancing is energetic and arouses. So the dance might seem erotic but no, there's a distinction in Joyce's world. Erotic dance involves issues of voyeurism, detachment from the body of another, a contract between dancer and audience: that's not sex as such. There's more dancing in the Wake than there is sex.
Donald Theall said ----- No, since embodiment is central to the core vision of the work. The entire sexual realm is relevant and significant. The celebration of the sacredness of human intercourse at all levels necessitates, even welcomes, the entire spectrum of sexual activity, including the tactility and sensitivity of the flesh of human bodies. --- [Another question: How do you think of the incest or triangular relationship in FW?] Incest is just one aspect of Joyce's encompassing all the modes of polymorphous perverse sexuality that permeate the Wake. It has a particular significance because of its association with the question of Freud-Jung and psychiatry which I'll comment on below, but it is only one of the modes of perverse sexuality that Joyce invokes and it is only one of the many sets of triangular relationship within the Wake. Joyce is not judgmental on any of these modes of sexuality, since he is reviewing the global modes of human existence through time and space that have been investigated anthropologically. Seeing he does approach these questions anthropologically through writers like Malinowski, Lévi-Bruhl, Jousse and others, he could approach the question of incest through its presence in tribal cultures as well as the early stages of biblical history. In this context it became an essential part of his Viconian history of the emergence of humankind.
Ryan Van Cleave ----- Much of the energy and power of life comes from sex, so in an effort to reproduce (pun intended) this energy, Joyce dives deep into the well of the body, the libido, the sexual character of life. Maybe I've watched too much late-night TV, but I see sexual matter all throughout FW. Perhaps I've been reading too much Freud, as well.
Tim Horner said ----- I must have missed that bit. . . seriously though, no I don't think so. Sexuality, particularly in its most primal, purposefully vulgar form, is a crucial thread to the Joycean tapestry. Whether it's the social commentary of An Encounter or the infinite loneliness presented during the Ulysses soliloquy, the sexual matter always serves the particular work as a whole. With FW, I would say that sex is not used gratuitously or in excess. There is nothing titillating about the sexual matter in FW; it serves the theme of repression in day-to-day Irish society and the manner in which it spills over into the night world. The central image of HCE, Issy and Phoenix Park is a case and point example of this duality of day and night, the consequences of repressed sexuality bubbling over. It brings to mind the recent headlines involving Irish Catholic priests, and the charges of sexual misconduct that have been laid against them by the (now adult) children who were trusted in their care. The sexual matter in FW serves as a statement about the dangers of repression, both on an individual level, and in Irish society as a whole.
Joe Schork said ----- There is sexual (and scatological) matter everywhere in the WAKE, but it generally takes a lot of digging to figure out what's going on, how, and to whom. The WAKE is not a pan-European KAMA SUTRA; on the other hand, there are many humorous and outrageous references to sexual matters of every sort -- and usually expressed in the language of clever, but raunchy high-school boys.
John S. Gordon said ----- No. --- I don’t see the distinction between erotic and comic sex in FW. It’s both. As, for that matter, is sex, period. --- Sorry for being facetious. What I mean is that, first, sex is in a way the most serious thing in life - it makes marriages, establishes families, produces children and love of children, lovers and love of lovers - and in another way the most ridiculous: the basis of a disproportionate percentage of the world's humor, jokes, ribaldry, farces, mixups, assuming of ridiculous positions. It has certainly been the cause of most of the bad or good or ridiculous or grand things I've done in my life. And none of that would be true if its (erotic) force were not very powerful. So its power to make people behave erotically is inseparable from its power to make people behave buffoonishly.
David Hayman said ----- Sexuality is a crucial part of (the) creation. By today's standards Joyce's sexual reference is hardly shocking. Joyce is honest and straight forward and never pornographic. --- [Another question: Was the sex in FW related to the Creation and the Fall in the biblical sense?] Yes, but much more generally to lived experience and to a broad range of myths.