2. Can you understand the plot while you are reading? What did Joyce want to describe in the book?
Walton Litz wrote ([The Making of Finnegans Wake; pp. 209-223] in A James Joyce Miscellany edited by Mavin Magalaner in 1959; Southern Illinois University Press) ---- (Page 209) Over a year passed after the publication of Ulysses before Joyce could muster the strength and determination to begin a new work. When Finnegans Wake was finally begun, in the spring of 1923, neither the structure nor the ultimate style of the book had been determined. Joyce had been preoccupied for years with many of the Wake's major themes and motifs: a number of them are foreshadowed in Ulysses, most notably Vico's cyclic view of history and the story of "How Buckley Shot the Russian General." Nevertheless, the manner in which these ripening themes would be presented was not clear. Joyce's early work on the Wake was exploratory, a clarification of basic ideas and stylistic aims. During the spring and summer of 1923 he composed four short passages which reveal his concern with Irish history but contain no mention of the Earwicker family and no hints as to the shape of his new work. One of these early sketches deals with King Roderick O'Conor (FW, 380~82), another with St. Kevin (FW, 604~6) , and a third with the story of Tristan and Isolde (FW, II, iv). However, the most interesting of these four sketches is the one which describes an encounter between St. Patrick and an Irish arch-druid who turns out to be Bishop Berkeley in disguise (FW, 611-12). Joyce once told his friend Frank Budgen that this passage was "the defence and indictment" of the Wake itself. The druid defends in obscure terms the language and design of Finnegans Wake, borrowing his argument from Berkeley's subjective theory of vision, but common-sense Patrick dismisses the druid's reasoning and with it the night-world of the Wake. It is significant that this passage, which ultimately found its place near the end of Finnegans Wake, should have been one of the first written. One might speculate that Joyce in composing it was debating with himself the advantages and disadvantages of the task he was about to undertake. After a brief flurry of revisions in the summer of 1923 these four early sketches were put aside, only to be introduced into the text of the Wake fifteen years later during the last-minute rewriting of 1938. Joyce's work on these sketches evidently dispelled the depression which had followed the completion of Ulysses and confirmed his interest in the new project, for in the autumn of 1923 he turned his attention to the Earwicker family and began to draft episodes with amazing rapidity. During the autumn and winter of 1923-24 six of the eight episodes which now comprise Part I of the Wake were begun, in addition to an episode concerning the Four Old Men ("Mamalujo"). The various members of the Earwicker family began to assume individuality, and the major themes associated with each were developed. Then in the spring of 1924, with the basic design of Part I already established, Joyce focused his interest on the figure of Shaun and began work on the "four watches" which were later to become Part III of the Wake. Although the drafts and revisions for Part I were far from satisfying to Joyce he preferred to start on new material, since it was his method to work on several sections at the same time, allowing the composition of one to illuminate the problems of the others and relying on later revisions to bring the whole work into harmony. Joyce never tried to force his preliminary sketches into a rigid pattern, but patiently waited for relationships to develop. In one of his letters to Miss Harriet Weaver he refers to these early pieces as "not fragments but active elements" which will "fuse of themselves" in time, and in a subsequent letter he speaks of the book as writing itself. During 1924 and 1925 Joyce worked assiduously on the four chapters or "watches" of Shaun, solving internal problems of structure and gradually developing the character of the blustering twin. Occasionally he would return to Part I in order to prepare one of its episodes for magazine publication, but Shaun remained his chief interest. However, the further Joyce advanced with his work on Shaun the more puzzled he became by the problem of the Wake's total structure. At first he may have thought of constructing the book in two major parts, but this plan soon had to be modified. The problem was how to effect a transition between the chapters of Part I already drafted and the "four watches" of Shaun. "I am boring through a mountain from two sides," Joyce told a friend. "The question is, how to meet in the middle." Finally, however, he began to see his way clear out of the maze he had created. In the spring of 1926 he could announce: "I have the book now fairly well planned out in my head." By this time he had arrived at a clear conception of the four-part structure which governs Finnegans Wake. He had visualized the four chapters of Part II, which form a bridge between the Anna Livia Plurabelle episode at the end of Part I and the first chapter of Part III. He had also foreseen the role of Part IV as both beginning and end of the book's cyclic structure. Not only was the Wake's total structure now determined, but the disposition of material within the major sections was fairly clear. From 1926 onward the writing of Finnegans Wake entered a second phase, with Joyce laboring like a mosaic worker on a predetermined pattern, turning first to one part and then to another of his basic design. During 1927, '28, and '29 he prepared most of the episodes already written for separate publication. By 1930 Parts I and III of the Wake had been printed in their preliminary forms, and at this point Joyce felt "a sudden kind of drop" in the impetus behind his writing. The shaping of Part II proceeded slowly and under great personal difficulties; Joyce was still laboring on sections of Parts II and IV while Part I was entering galley proof in 1936 and '37. The entire work was not completed until 1938, with Joyce making last-minute revisions on the galley proofs. Joyce's method of composition, which might best be described as ceaseless elaboration upon a static pattern, was one he had followed during the last stages of the writing of Ulysses; as a result of it, his revisions were almost always expansive rather than selective. The obvious comparison to mosaic work (like that to the intricate elaborations of the Book of Kells) was one he encouraged, and one which emphasizes what I would call the "Imagistic" nature of his art. Ezra Pound defined the Image as "that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time," and it is my belief that Joyce intended the whole of Finnegans Wake to be regarded as a single vast Image. The development of the Wake is pictorial rather than temporal, and an understanding of any one passage depends as much upon what follows it as upon what precedes it. Ideally the Wake should be read many times, since we must hold the entire work in our minds as a single image if any one element is to be fully understood. In effect, Joyce is demanding that the reader visualize the total structure of the book in the same manner as he did while writing it. But this heavy demand on the reader is not the only result of Joyce's aesthetic aims as revealed by his mode of composition. A process of constant elaboration has no inherent boundaries, and revision tends to degenerate into mere embroidery and lead the reader further and further from central thematic concerns. As Joyce progressed in his revisions his interest in details of texture often overshadowed and even permanently obscured major elements that appear quite clearly in the early versions. During the first and most important phase of composition, which lasted from 1923 to approximately 1927, Joyce not only discovered the appropriate structure for the Wake but developed its "final" style as well. The first sketches begun in 1923 and 1924 differ little from the more complex sections of Ulysses in their preliminary versions, but in his revisions of them Joyce was clearly shaping a more intricate style. Their revisions reveal a process which he was later to call "stratification," the expansion and thickening of the text through the addition of related themes and motifs. The ultimate result of this Process was the characteristic language of the Wake, in which a number of associated ideas are stated simultaneously by means of portmanteau words. Joyce's revisions of the period 1923-27 reflect his desire to exploit what might be called the "musical" potentialities of language in two ways: (1) By creating an "orchestrated'' prose which sounds a number of themes and motifs "in an instant of time"; and (2) by utilizing the "expressive" powers of language to their fullest extent, so that his prose embodies as many qualities of its subject-matter as possible.
Michael H. Begnal wrote (in Dreamscheme; Narrative and Voice in Finnegans Wake in 1988; Syracuse University Press) ---- (Page xiv) Arguably, Finnegans Wake is the most experimental work attempted in prose fiction, and it will not yield to examination easily, but it need not remain a complete enigma. Though the book does not offer a conventional narrative, elements of a plot do continue to drift to the surface. Granted, nothing very much of a physical nature will happen, but as Ivy Compton-Burnett commented, "Real life seems to have no plots." The Wake's narrative proceeds vertically, rather than horizontally, as one separate incident after another is piled upon what has gone before. The reader must swivel backward and forward and around like the Joycean lighthouse. By concentrating upon these individual incidents, by locating them and analyzing them carefully, we can begin to understand what Joyce is doing with plot and narrative. There are delineated characters immersed in specific situations, whether they be Shem and Shaun, the Mooksc and the Gripes, or Burrus and Caseous, and language, not at all simply gesture in Joyce's hands, can help us to identify them. The critical need, then, is for the reader to penetrate into the text, to become accustomed to the various dialects of this night language, while remembering that this is a very funny book. Whether or not there is a single dreamer in Finnegans Wake, and I am fairly convinced that there is not, it is clear that there is an abundance of voices to be heard in this Wakean night. Their cadences and their thematic concerns will sooner or later give them away, if the reader looks and listens closely enough. Though individual scenes and situations are often set up and structured by an unnamed narrational voice, this stylistic entity cannot ever exert total authority over what has once been set in motion. There is no controlling consciousness to which the character voices can be subordinated, so that occasionally they can take off on their own to discuss whatever it is they wish. It has often been written that one salient characteristic of these Earwicker speakers is their obsessive desire to hide the centers of their respective psyches from their follows and from the reader, but instead it appears that in their long and meandering monologues, in their staccato question-and-answer sessions, they almost tell us more than we need or want to know. And they are not so difficult to discover behind their narrational masks since they always make their appearances in virtually the same combinations -- brother warring against brother when Shem and Shaun are on the stage, and the suitor looking for a wife when the turns come for Anna Livia and Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Unfailingly, when Issy comes forward at all, she will adopt the role of the supporting actress.
Michael H. Begnal also wrote ([A Skeleton Key to Campbell and Robinson; pp. 36-45] in Re-Viewing Classics of Joyce Criticism edited by Janet Egleson Dunleavy in 1991; University of Illinois Press) ---- (Page 36) When A Skeleton Key to "Finnegans Wake" was published in 1944, it was the first attempt at a full-length treatment of the narrative of Finnegans Wake, which had appeared in its final form only five years earlier. As might have been expected, the interpretation put together by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson met with more catcalls than cheers, ranging from Harry Levin's opinion that "the collaborators 'render him no service' in making 'assertions which cannot withstand scrutiny'" to Edmund Wilson's conclusion that the study "'strips away most of the master's poetry.'" More recently, the critics may have changed, but in general their reactions of irritation and dismissal remain the same. Assessing his experience of Finnegans Wake as interpreted through the Key, Roland McHugh says that "Campbell and Robinson paint over everything they don't understand and they are followed in this by their weaker imitators." John Bishop fumes: "An example of coherent nonsense is what one will find elaborated in some of the commentary on Finnegans Wake, which explains, without irony, that the book is about a Nordic hunchback saddled with the improbable name of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, who is married to someone even more improbably named Anna Livia Plurabelle, and who has committed an indistinct crime involving two temptresses, three soldiers, and unclear quantities of urine in Dublin's Phoenix Park." Yet A Skeleton Key, still in paperback, continues to be the first book of criticism read by the newcomer to Finnegans Wake. It is a fixture on every critical bibliography. Just how can this be? What Campbell and Robinson set out to discover is a traceable narrative line in the Wake, the hint of a plot that may help to codify the chaos. As they say: "Then the enormous map of Finnegans Wake begins slowly to unfold, characters and motifs emerge, themes become recognizable, and Joyce's vocabulary falls more and more familiarly on the accustomed ear." Their work was never intended as a trot, a paraphrase, or a substitute for Joyce's novel, but rather as a supplement and an encouragement to an understandably baffled neophyte reader of the Wake. The authors repeatedly declare that this or that observation is only a guess, that this or that reading may be palpably incorrect, but they constantly exhort the reader to forge ahead, much as do Joyce's own narrative voices. Most importantly, they are convinced that the Wake does make sense and that it is the reader's burden to catch up with the artist's expansion of the guidelines for what might constitute a contemporary work of art. Certainly, they are proselytizers, and certainly they occasionally demonstrate excessive zeal in their pronouncements, but they are sincerely confident that the novel is not a hoax and that, through dedication and effort, it will be revealed as a monumental reaffirmation of human existence. Consequently, the authors of A Skelton Key begin in their "Introduction to a Strange Subject" to unveil the basic, underlying propositions that give a thematic form to the novel. They link Joyce's title to the Irish music-hall ballad, "Finnegan's Wake," and they introduce the concept of the Fall as essential to the evolution of all human history. In a single paragraph, they outline Giambattista Vico's theory of the four-part cycle of universal history (though they miss the fact that it is really a three-part cycle followed by a ricorso, or waiting period), and they indicate some parallels with Goethe; Spengler, and the Hindu Round of the Four Yugas. Their method is eclectic, inclusive, and quite Jungian in its emphasis, but it establishes their contention that Joyce's novel is a vast collection of histories and mythologies, allusions and references, which provide a vision of archetypal man and woman. It is in the introduction to A Skeleton Key that the foundation for a novelistic approach to the text is most directly laid. The body of this section is devoted to descriptions of the narrative's principal characters and to the trials and tribulations of the Earwicker family in their residence at Chapelizod, just outside Dublin. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker is a newcomer to Ireland, the successor to Tim Finnegan of a previous epoch, one of a series of the many earlier invaders of the Emerald Isle. His precursors are legion, ranging from, among a multitude of others, Thor, Manannan MacLir, Saint Patrick, and Oliver Cromwell. Yet Campbell and Robinson are insistent about one critical aspect of HCE: "He emerges as a well-defined and sympathetic character, the sorely harrowed victim of a relentless fate, which is stronger than, yet identical with, himself." Though it is not quite clear exactly what the last clause of their descriptive sentence means, the authors view Earwicker as a traditional character in an apprehensible plot. Though he can be seen as a representative of all humankind, his individual characteristics and foibles allow us to follow him through a series of narrational happenings in something much like a conventional manner of reading. HCE is no Leopold Bloom but he is also not so elusive or sigla-like that we cannot get a reasonable understanding of what he does in his dream. Thus the Key fills in the background to Earwicker's guilty dilemma, his Sin in Phoenix Park, which causes him to dream the nightmare of the Wake and which the authors do indeed take as having been a literal transgression. "Briefly, he was caught peeping at or exhibiting himself to a couple of girls in Phoenix Park. The indiscretion was witnessed by three drunken soldiers, who could never be quite certain of what they had seen; from them it went out to the world." Continuing to transcribe an unfolding narrative whose basis is essentially cause and effect, Campbell and Robinson relate that the secret comes to be public knowledge when HCE is accosted in Phoenix Park a day later by a certain Cad with a pipe who not so innocently asks for the time. Caught off guard (though why should he be on guard?), Earwicker blurts out a long defense of his actions, which the Cad takes home to his wife, and soon the rumors are spread across Dublin and result in the satiric and insulting "Ballad of Persse O'Reilly." In the course of their account of the gossip's transmutations the authors touch on some of the peripheral characters, such as the Twelve drinkers at the pub owned by HCE, and the Four, whom they identify as senile judges who preside over the ill doings of the present. They are historians, the Four Masters of the Irish Annals as well as the Four Evangelists, and they drift in and out of these pages seemingly at will. Armed with this knowledge of what has been involved in Earwicker's past, the reader is now prepared to deal with the effects and consequences of the Sin. "In the last analysis the universal judgement against HCE is but a reflection of his own obsessive guilt; and conversely, the sin which others condemn in him is but a conspicuous public example of the general, universally human, original sin, privately effective within themselves." The plot, then, revolves around the central figure of the Father.
Clive Hart wrote (in Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake in 1962, Northwestern Univ. Press) ---- (Page 16) In common with all other Joyce critics I am greatly indebted to the pioneer work of Messrs. Campbell and Robinson, whose A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake was the first brave attempt to evaluate and explain the whole book, page by page. Remarkable though it is, however, the Skeleton Key's strong influence on Joyce studies has not been altogether salutary. Tentative, exploratory, and often ill-informed, as its authors were the first to admit, its analyses and judgments have nevertheless been accepted virtually without question by most later critics, with the result that a number of untenable interpretations have been perpetuated year after year. Such points are dealt with in this dissertation only when they impinge on my line of enquiry. My most radical departure from the interpretation of the Skeleton Key lies in my view of the horizontal structure, which I believe to be considerably more subtle than the neat Viconian outline on which Messrs. Campbell and Robinson base their study. In Chapter Three, in particular, I have made the first attempt at an extended analysis of the regressive pattern of dreams within dreams -- an aspect of Finnegans Wake which is almost wholly ignored by the Skeleton Key.
Finn Fordham wrote ([Mapping Echoland, pp. 167-201] in Joyce Studies Annual 2000 edited by Thomas F. Staley; University of Texas Press) ---- (Page 167) Finnegans Wake, as it cautions us here, is an "echoland," a resonant novel full of reverberations where every element has or is an echo, where everything is a response to something, and even, at over-whelming moments, to everything else. Though one paragraph does not always seem connected to its neighbor, a phrase on one page can echo with a phrase at a considerable distance. These uncanny echoes are unsettling for readers used to the forward movement of novelistic narrative. In terms of it being a novel, the extremity of this technique is something peculiar to Finnegans Wake which, skirting round singular narrative linearity, famously avoids ''goahead plot"(Letters III 146). On the other hand, though we may lose the thread of the narrative, certain figures, patterns, phrases, motifs or themes, recur to give us the curious sense of a continuous discontinuity. If the writing doesn't resemble anything recognizable, at least it somehow resembles itself. The echoes are then reassuring for a reader frequently lost in the dense dark "woods" of dense dark "words." It is a similar reassurance the detective feels on perceiving a connection in a tricky case. In this essay we will follow just such a thread, reconstructing a "vertical linearity" through elements in the manuscript archive. By vertical we mean reading down through the fabric of the text, rather than "going ahead" horizontally alongside (or above) it. This involves first choosing a "figure" or "motif," then finding the appearances of its variations in the text, and then tracing their origins in amongst the manuscripts. The instances of the motif are then arranged chronologically, so a narrative of their evolution and development during the composition process can be reconstructed. The Garland Archive allows this since it provides textual and historical contexts, showing where and more or less approximately when the figure or a version of it was inserted or evoked. Approximate dating is a problem here, especially for the latter stages of composition. However, one use of the results is that they may help us to trace the timing of Joyce's revisions, along the mapped paths of self-referential revision. The method is distinct from other genetic practices which are continuing to develop. With its attention to revisions in the drafts it refers little, unlike the majority of genetic work, to the notebooks or source-hunting. This refocusing qualifies in an important way how Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon, according to Joe Schork, perceive Finnegans Wake. Schork writes that they "insist . . . that almost everything in the Wake first appeared (in some form or the other) in the notebooks." But, through Joyce's acts of rewriting, scoring over one word and inserting another, many elements first appeared in the drafts themselves. Joyce's processes (of notetaking-then-insertion and insertion-then-revision) need comparative evaluation. It is distinct also from the laudable work now in progress for "The Genetic Guide to Finnegans Wake" being compiled and edited by Luca Crispi and Sam Slote. Where their work treats each chapter of Finnegans Wake separately, our approach recognises that Joyce composed not simply chapter by chapter, but also according to an ever-expanding set of motifs which, after an initial display, reappear frequently, scattered throughout the work. This scattering sets up networks which seem to criss-cross and link up disparate sections. The method can be applied to different "figures" of course. Clive Hart has written about the "skillfully varied organisation of more than a thousand little leitmotivs" though his own index has some curious omissions including the motif we have chosen here.
(Page 169) The method has several other uses, as we shall see: it gives us in-sights into the nature of Joyce's composition methods, how they altered and what preoccupations prompted his additions. With the appearances of a motif linked together through time, a hidden narrative of its evolution appears. Micro-narratives of Joyce's composition emerge, sequences located within the larger flow of the creative process. It is also a useful tool for detailed interpretation at the level of close-reading. Since the contexts can be read as prompts, coloring the significance of the inserted figure, then the method contributes to our understanding of the figure. In turn, we may understand the context of insertion too, since addition and context act as glosses for each other. Above all we come to see a text which was always porous if unevenly so. At different periods, different parts of the text were more or less capable of receiving new material. By revealing the moment of insertion, we come to see a text which has fault lines concealed in it, where, under certain kinds of pressure, it opened up, took in new matter, then reformed itself. The source of this pressure is both in-side the text, where there is content which invites revision; and out-side the text in Joyce's life, where events reformed the visions of his work, forming some of its revisions. That is the method and some of its uses put simply. It will radically effect the way we conceive Joyce's structure for Finnegans Wake and how he continually restructured it. Any general theory, however, will have to wait until there is comparative work on both other motifs in the text, and on how other authors make use of motif. But it will be useful here to locate "motif" besides some definitions. In addition we would like to formulate an initial notion of intratextuality.
(Page 170) As a way then of situating motif, we can briefly use concepts from the work of one of the former generation of Wake scholars: Hart's seminal Structure and Motif in "Finnegans Wake." Extremely useful and provocative, it is also pre-structuralist and humanistically inflected, and so is now consequently overlooked. For Hart, motif ties "the sprawling cycles together with taut bonds stretched from point to point" and it "provides a skeletal grid-pattern" while the "ordering and unifying function of the leitmotif is probably its greatest strength." But is Joyce's structure necessarily so schematic and static? What is it that the motifs are supposed to "order" and "unify?" The book as a whole, in its various parts? If so, how are they to do this especially given the multiplicity of its parts? Without necessarily establishing answers, this preliminary research will subvert some of Hart's definitions.
James S. Atherton wrote (in The Books at the Wake in 1959, Southern Illinois Univ. Press) ---- (Page 13) There are too many real -- or rather, fully realized -- characters taking part in the action for the book to be anything except a novel of the naturalistic type. Joyce, who admired Flaubert and claimed to have read every word of Defoe, created as his hero H.C.E., whose ‘vitality is immense, his spirit unquenchable . . . no featureless abstraction labeled Everyman, but a real character, almost a Dickensian one, conceived in comedy, executed in admiration’; His supporting characters are almost equally vivid: A.L.P., ‘Anna Livia’, who is at once, mother, wife, and the River Liffey, grows old as the book progresses, and her final speech (619.20 et seq.) in addition to being a wonderfully beautiful piece of prose, contains a complete and coherent picture of a change in family relationships shown in full perspective. Shem and Shaun, the warring brothers, may be based upon Joyce and his enemies and friends who form what Kenner has called ‘his shadow selves’, but in Finnegans Wake they are characters in their own right. In fact, Finnegans Wake is, as M.J.C. Hodgart insists, ‘primarily a novel.’ This may seem to be establishing the obvious, but it is an important fact which must be borne in mind when considering two secondary questions that arise: what is the novel about, and what - if anything - is it besides a novel? Any attempt to answer these questions must take into account Joyce's own attitude to his book. One of the certain facts about Finnegans Wake is the high and earnest sense of dedication with which Joyce wrote it. He saw himself as the Vates, the poet and prophet, and work as the sacred book of a new religion of which he was the prophet and priest. Without this sense of dedication he could never have continued so long at his self-imposed task. But he felt that if it could only be written down correctly it would have a power of its own. His attitude bordered, perhaps, on madness; he himself admitted that he was superstitious about the power of his words. As early as 1919 he wrote to Miss Weaver, ‘The word scorching has a peculiar significance for my superstitious mind not so much because of any quality or merit in the writing itself as for the fact that the progress of the book is like the progress of some sandblast. As soon as I mention any person in it I hear of his or her death or departure or misfortune and each successive episode, dealing with some province of artistic culture leaves behind it a burnt up field.’ In his introduction to Joyce's Letters Stuart Gilbert reports that ‘on more than one occasion Joyce told me that certain incidents in his writings had proved to be premonitions of incidents that subsequently took place’; When the Russo-Finnis War broke out shortly after the publication of Finnegans Wake Joyce wrote, ‘A foretold by the prophet, the Finn again wakes.’ He add ‘I should not jest’, but the next letter in the collection contains the passage, ‘My daughter-in-law staged a marvelous banquet for my last birthday and read the closing pages on the passing-out of Anna Livia to a seemingly much affected audience. Alas, if you ever read them you will see they were unconsciously prophetical!’ And the letter ends, ‘I have received a number of foreign notices of my book . . . the most curious comes from Helsinki where as was predicted, the Finn again wakes,’ In fact Joyce believed that his words were ‘Words of silent power’ (345･19). Eugene Jolas relates that Joyce once said to him, ‘I have discovered that I can do anything with language I want.’ Yet Jolas goes on to say that Joyce seemed to be constantly listening, constantly on the look-out for interesting or significant phrases which could be used in his book. The book was indeed his life and he believed that he was entrapping some part of the essence of life within its pages.
(Page 17) The most detailed of Joyce's explanations are contained in his letters to Miss Weaver to whom he sent each section as it was completed, and often accompanied it with a note of explanation. Miss Weaver is always ready to help students of Joyce's work, and when I wrote to her some time ago to ask her opinion of the various interpretations of the Wake she replied, “I own that the Skeleton Key, though extremely useful in many ways, has its irritating features -- at least it has to me. The authors seem to me to read unwarranted things into the book. In particular their ascription of the whole thing to a dream of HCE seems to me nonsensical...My view is that Mr. Joyce did not intend the book to be looked upon as the dream of any one character, but that he regarded the dream form with its shiftings and changes and chances as a convenient device allowing the freest scope to introduce any material he wished -- and suited to a night-piece.” Another account of Finnegans Wake was given by Miss Weaver to Professor Joseph Prescott, to whom she wrote, “In the summer of 1923 when Mr. Joyce was staying with his family in England he told me he wanted to write a book which should be a kind of universal history and I typed for him a few preliminary sketches he had made for isolated characters in the book.”
Roland McHugh wrote (in The Finnegans Wake Experience in 1981; University of California Press) ---- (Page 48) I now began the famous Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake of Campbell and Robinson. This came out in 1944 and was the first serious attempt to do justice to its subject. It was clearly a more honest appraisal than Our Exagmination. Joyce had been dead three years and the authors were enthusiastic American amateurs. As I read the introduction I saw plenty of familiar landmarks: Vico, Tim Finnegan, Finn MacCool, Tristan and Isolde, The Annals of the Four Masters and so on. But the curiously literal nature of the interpretation seemed very questionable. Campbell and Robinson's FW was a novel with a plot:
But to return to HCE. He is a man who has won his place in society, a place not of high distinction but of decent repute. He is a candidate in a local election. Gossip, however, undoes his campaign and his reputation as well. It was in Phoenix Park (that Garden of Eden), near his tavern, that he committed an indecorous impropriety which now dogs him to the end of his life-nightmare. Briefly, he was caught peeping at or exhibiting himself to a couple of girls in Phoenix Park. The indiscretion was witnessed by three drunken soldiers. .
And so on. Now, most of this draws on I.2, which is written in a much simpler language than most of FW and is especially amenable to paraphrase. It is true that 034.12-30 gives roughly the same story as Campbell and Robinson: 'Slander . . . has never been able to convict . . . Earwicker . . . of any graver impropriety than that, advanced by some woodwards or regarders, who did not dare deny . . . that they had . . . that day consumed their soul of the corn, of having behaved with ongentilmensky [ungentlemanly] immodus opposite a pair of dainty maid-servants in the swoolth of the rushy hollow. . . ' But the part about the local election comes from Book IV, and the reporters are not soldiers but 'woodwards or regarders', an old term for forest officers protecting venison. (Phoenix Park was noted for its deer.) The soldiers are taken from the page preceding, which states that Earwicker '1ay at one time under the ludicrous imputation of annoying Welsh fusiliers in the people's park' (033.25-7). Never mind the fact that the People's Park is in Dun Laoghaire, nowhere near Phoenix Park.
(Page 50) But I could see no utility in the selecting of a particular combination of compatible elements to frame a 'plot'. The same naive realism was evident in Campbell and Robinson's treatment of III.4: 'It is the morning after the night of the winter solstice. A dry leaf still clinging to the tree outside the window has been scratching at the pane; and this sound has drawn the inexhaustible dream from the depths of the psyche.' I could see no evidence whatever for this kind of inference concerning phenomena outside the sleeper's mind. Campbell and Robinson paint over everything they don't understand and they are followed in this by their weaker imitators, such as Burgess and Tindall. In contrast to these 'popular' books -- ultimately surrogates for reading FW -- a different kind of study began to appear in the 1950s. I had with me in Paris Adaline Glasheen's A Census of Finnegans Wake (1956), James Atherton's The Books at the Wake (1959) and Matthew J.C. Hodgart and Mabel P. Worthington's Song in the Works of James Joyce (1959). The last-named is a fine and accurate collection of spot-on allusions, but as it says comparatively little about the mechanism of FW, I found most of my attention focussed on Glasheen and Atherton. Both these books continue to uphold the novelistic approach to a degree.
Roland McHugh also wrote (in The Sigla of Finnegans Wake in 1976; Edward Arnold, London) ---- (Page 2) Apart from Mr Hart's Concordance to 'Finnegans Wake' and the second edition of the Census, the most important products of the 1960s were language lists. The Newslitter published studies of various minor languages, and three extended linguistic analyses also appeared, Scandinavian Elements of 'Finnegans Wake', Gaelic Lexicon for 'Finnegans Wake', and A Lexicon of the German in 'Finnegans Wake'. Unfortunately, much published exegesis exhibits a depressing indifference to context and continuity, which results from the disproportionate acquaintance with the text possessed by most exegetes. Chapters I.1 and I.8, for example, are more familiar to most of us than, say, the book II chapters. The cohesion of parts will be appreciated only when the reader has formulated canons for distinguishing them. I propose here to try to assist him. Ideally, we should try to remain conscious of the dual function of every word. There is a linear function, a contribution to the syntactic complex in which the word stands. We must be able to account for the position of any unit in FW as a transition between the units on either side of it. Secondly there is a systemic function a contribution to the tone of the section. Very common words are chiefly linear in function; names such as the thousand or so rivers mentioned in I.8 are chiefly systemic, in this case enhancing the watery quality of that chapter. But every word must be allowed its contribution to texture. Just as the eighteen chapters of Ulysses possess individual styles, moods and atmospheres, so each of the seventeen FW chapters has a private aura. It was very rare for Joyce to transfer any partly-composed material from one chapter to another. The only instance of any length which I can give is the paragraph 223.35-224.07, which if retained in its original place would have separated 369.05 and 06. The reader who has not recognized chapter unification may assume that, since almost any passage includes the main themes or obsessions of FW, he need only pick one at random and admit every allusion its words can be contorted to produce. The usual consequence is temporary fascination followed by loss of the faculty for drawing lines of exclusion, leading to conceptual over-load, psychic saturation. In the initial stages I consider familiarity to be more important than comprehension. Although in the present work I have tried to restrict the repetition of other exegetes' conclusions, I think that a reader lacking experience of other FW studies should be able to understand and derive benefit from the things I have to say. Painful as it may seem, I would urge the reader to make some attempt at reading through FW before beginning this book, if only to form some idea of the physical dimensions of the chapters. The distinguishing feature of my approach to FW is my concern with Joyce's sigla. These marks appear in the author's manuscripts and letters as abbreviations for certain characters or conceptual patterns underlying the book's fabric.
(Page 6) We can recognize a balance between the inward-looking book II and the outward-looking book IV, and a further balance of book I against book III. So far the best analysis of the latter situation appears in the earlier parts of Clive Hart's Structure and Motif in 'Finnegans Wake'. Mr Hart constructs several schemas after the precedent of those made by Joyce for Ulysses. He subsequently declares:
Around a central section, Book II, Joyce builds two opposing cycles consisting of Books I and III. In these two Books there is established a pattern of correspondences of the major events of each, those in Book III occurring in reverse order and having inverse characteristics. Whereas Book I begins with a rather obvious birth (28-9) and ends with a symbolic death (215-16), Book III begins with death (403) and ends with a birth (590); 'roads' and the meeting with the King (I.2) reappear in III.4, the trial of I.3-4 in III.3, the Letter of I.5 in III. 1, and the fables of I.6 earlier in III.1. In his correspondence Joyce implicitly referred to this pattern.
Further parallels might be easily conjoined, for example Shem's biography (I.7) balancing Shaun's (III.1) or the mention at the beginning of III.1 (404.01-3) of the laundry deposited by the washerwomen at the end of I.8 (213.21-9). I believe that the greatest priority for the beginner is to acquire enough familiarity with FW to see the simple equilibrium of two symmetrical half-arches supporting a keystone of greater complexity. Comprehension of the great balance of parts may be facilitated by acquaintance with the history of FW's composition. The first large section to be drafted was book I (omitting I.1 and I.6): this process occupied the latter part of 1923 and the earlier part of 1924. Joyce then composed the four chapters of book III, returning periodically to elaborate book I. I.1 and I.6 were begun in 1926-7, and by the end of the 1920s Joyce had published versions of all the book I and book III chapters in the magazine transition. At this point ill health and family problems provoked a season of despair in which the work lapsed. In the early 1930s Joyce began carving the four book II chapters with agonizing slowness. He had become very secretive and we accordingly possess less information concerning the genesis of this section. In 1937-8 Joyce revised his entire text and also assembled book IV. FW was published in 1939.
(Page 7) It is frustrating to know of the existence of the Buffalo Notebooks but to remain ignorant of their content. There are sixty-six notebooks, most of them possessing around two hundred pages. They have been catalogued by Peter Spielberg but little has appeared in print in the way of transcription. Apart from the difficulty of interpreting Joyce's scrawl the great bulk of material involved makes complete publication an unlikely event in this decade.
(Page 135) In reading the Buffalo Notebooks one acquires a feeling for the relative gravity of the principal themes of FW, because one observes the amount of notebook space they command. The conviction that FW is exclusively dominated by a particular discipline is very common amongst explicators today. Some persons experience a series of mutually contradictory obsessions: perusal of the notebooks is a good antidote. Despite all this I would stress the urgency of performing several basic exegetical tasks currently outstanding, which I consider of greater importance than further study of the manuscripts. The Italian and Spanish elements in FW are in great need of attention. If the reader is then to ignore the notebooks, how is he to utilize their sigla in his own research? I consider the adoption of sigla concepts to be fundamental to the correct appreciation of FW. But beyond reinforcing the impression I have given I am dubious as to the utility of most notebook entries.
(Page 137) It seems a pity to trail off in this way but of course the blurred margin is a predictable aspect of Joyce. My object in any case has been to increase the accessibility of FW to the reader rather than to dictate rules for exegetes. Exegesis is necessary, but it presents a danger of distracting from its subject: there is no substitute for direct contact with the text. I must also observe that to appreciate the book fully one needs to live in Dublin. I earnestly recommend Finnegans Wake, as a human experience unlike any other.