4. Do you think that Lucia's madness affected Joyce's writing? Do you think Joyce had writer’s block at any time?
Fritz Senn said ----- It most likely did. --- I can’t tell about writer’s block. Obviously there were long periods when Joyce did not work on the Wake, because of problems, eyes, Lucia, lack of inspiration, maybe writer’s block. (This is not my area). --- [Another question: Do you suppose Lucia could read FW? If so, do you think she could understand it better than others?] No idea. If she had read it, or ever could, she might well have picked out meanings that are hidden from us.
David Hayman said ----- Of course it did, but not in any simple or straight forward fashion. Joyce's relationship to his daughter, his wife, his son and himself figures in the book on many levels and defies analysis. It is prime matter if not primal matter. On the other hand, he wrote the book with Lucia firmly in mind. She figures in some of his earliest conceptual notes as a model of young femininity. If her madness predated the composition, then it may have infected that part of the book, but madness is a theme in Joyce at least from Portrait. It frightened him as it does most of us. His daughter's madness left him helpless and in denial, but the Wake is bigger than that. --- See "Her Father's Voice" (much reprinted but available in the James Joyce: the Centennial Symposium). That essay treats Lucia's [auto]biographical papers and her dreams. See also "I Think Her Pretty" [James Joyce Annual 1990] in which I treat the responses to her behavior that I have found in one of Joyce’s notebooks. They may give you some ammunition.
Roland McHugh said ----Yes, he could obtain inspiration from seemingly unlikely sources. --- Lucia probably understood next to nothing of what Joyce was doing. When I met her shortly before her death, she asked me whether FW was a play. But probably odd little expressions of hers interested Joyce enough for them to find their way into FW.
Patrick A. McCarthy said ----- Yes, I think Lucia's mental problems affected the book in some ways, both good and bad. Their effect was negative when Joyce was so worried about Lucia that he had trouble concentrating on FW. On the other hand, those problems helped to shape Joyce's portrait of Issy, the daughter. Joyce tried to put everything he knew into the book, and many of its sources are personal: Joyce's bad eyesight is passed along to Shem, for example. It was inevitable that he would try to make use of a family tragedy. ---You asked Fritz Senn whether Joyce had writer's block at any time. I think not, at least as I understand writer's block, which is a psychological condition. Other writers have been afflicted with writer's block in one form or another: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Malcolm Lowry, and Dashiell Hammett are examples. One factor in some cases of writer's block is an obsession with originality, but I think Joyce avoided that by seeing all previous writings as something he could appropriate. In any event, apart from times when problems of health or other personal problems kept him from writing, he never had trouble writing--and he did bring his projects to completion. As to whether or not Lucia could read FW, I don't know. --- [Another question: Didn't Joyce think that splitting seen in Issy might be a normal psychological phenomenon rather than a mental disorder?] I think Joyce regarded mental disorders as extreme manifestations of tendencies in the "normal" mind. So in that sense you're probably right.
C. George Sandulescu said ----- Not at all. Neither the direction of his work, nor its very essence: He was far too single-minded for that. He was set on his course like a space rocket is set on its course: Linguistic acrobatics was, beyond doubt, Joyce's forte, and he was sure to go the whole hog. Give me six months, and I'll have any language. Volubly. Joyce was the same. Not even his wife ("Jim, how about writing a best-seller?") the War, the European mess, the Irish mess could set him off his course. He finished FW, published it, as usual, on his Birthday, had it reviewed in the TLS in the very same issue with Hitler's Mein Kampf, and then, not having much else by way of plans, chose to pass away (13 January) his work completed. With a little effort he could even have managed to die on his Holy Birthday (2 February): Like Shakespeare (23 April & St George, Patron Saint of England). Joyce was no ordinary man at all: he went for a Massiveness & Meticulousness in both Ulysses (10 years) & FW (17 years), precisely because of Lucia's mental illness, (b) his own blindness (please try and dictate to somebody a difficult passage from FW!) and (c) his own wife's inability to understand what he was after ("Jim should write a bestseller!").
Thomas E. Kennedy said ----- I suppose it would have had to, but I have no actual knowledge about this. --- Clearly he was a very extraordinary man of great determination and ambition. When I think of him nearly blind, laboring over his texts with a magnifying glass, I am filled with admiration, awe. Because what he created has great value for the world. And of course his daughter's illness must have been a terrible sadness for them all. All artists have dealt with adversity, but the greatest thing I admire about Joyce was the sheer unyielding determination of his vision, his will to achieve that which he was able to bring forth from within his mind, his soul, his heart.
Joan Paternel said ----- That was his tragedy, of course, but I don't think it affected his writing. Going to visit Lucia in an institution saddened him as a father, but he was able to return home and continue with the great comedy of the Wake. Many artists have transcended grief and pain in their work. Sublimation. I believe Henry Fielding's beloved wife was dying during the period in which he was writing Tom Jones.
Alfred P. Crumlish said ----- Undoubtedly Lucia's madness had some impact on Joyce. Joyce as a human being must have been influenced by all manner of things. l have not however looked specifically in to the question of Lucia madness. --- [Another question: Lucia was the largest concern for Joyce. Why do you say she had 'some impact'? The main figures in FW are splitting. As Joyce was writing FW her influence must become larger and larger. However, I guess Joyce could be enough cunning to hide his feeling or opinions behind the literary fogbow.] I agree that Joyce was greatly concerned with Lucia, and that this found its way either directly or indirectly into his work. It would be out of keeping with Joyce's practice if it were otherwise, since aspects of his personal experience find their way into all his books. In my response I did not intend to express an opinion on exactly how much impact since I have not studied the issue. Nor did I intend to downplay Lucia's significance in FW. That said, I do not believe one needs to be aware of Lucia's situation or any details of Joyce's life to respond to FW as a work of art. However, studying the issue can provide insight into Joyce's practice in writing FW in showing how he incorporates autobiographical elements. That has merit from the perspective of literary criticism and explorations of how artworks are made.
Geert Lernout said ----- In the strict sense of having an influence on the practice of writing, of course; just read Joyce's letters of the thirties. But I don't know if her illness is an integral part of the book. --- If you look at the history of FW you would have to assume that Joyce was being prophetic about his daughter's mental problems because most of the writing of the Wake precedes their first appearance. For that reason alone it is difficult to argue that in any useful sense FW is "about" Lucia's problems.
Mikio Fuse said ----- I thought her father didn't choose to call her mad? --- [Another question: Probably Joyce might not have believed the diagnosis of his daughter as schizophrenia even when she was institutionalized to the mental hospital. However, her sickness and eye problems occurred during the writing period of FW. Do you recognize such Lucia's influence on FW?] I guess her "case" confirmed and affirmed what he had to logically deduce in himself and in every human being as a "type." In Wildean paradox, it's Finnegans Wake that influenced Lucia--and everyone, whether one likes it or not.
Sam Slote said ----- I prefer not to answer questions like this (Lucia’s madness). --- Definitely (writer’s block). For the first four years of writing FW (1922-1926), Joyce worked without the benefit of a clear template for what he was writing (unlike Ulysses where he had the basic scheme in mind from day one; Ulysses did evolve over its seven years of writing but the basic template had been set from the beginning). In October 1923 he wrote Weaver: "The construction is quite different from Ulysses where at least the ports of call were known beforehand. ... I work as much as I can because these are not fragments but active elements and when they are more and a little older they will begin to fuse themselves." For those first few years, each new piece would lead to something else which in turn would lead to something else and so on. By 1926 he had enough written that the basic structure was finally apparent to him (the fourfold Vichian scheme, etc.). It only "fused together" in 1926. But, by 1927 Joyce's productivity declined sharply. One could say that Joyce had difficulty writing once he had a clear idea of what he was doing; from that point on he only could work in fits and starts with several lengthy periods of virtual inactivity. It was only in the mid-late 30s, with the final revisions and the writing of II.2, II.3, II.4 and IV that he built up sustained momentum again.
John S. Gordon said ----- It interrupted his work on it; he made it into one of the themes of the book. --- [Another question: Do you suppose Joyce had had a plan to write the duality or splitting personality like Lucia from the start of his writing? ] I think Lucia brought out a theme always latent in his writing.
Donald Theall said ----- No, not in the obvious way, but it did lead him into an intense interest in psychiatric literature which has a major role in the Wake. In other works, I think it opened him to influences he otherwise might not have pursued (e.g. Jung, whose analysis of Ulysses upset Joyce, but who, as a later contact through Lucia's problems intellectually involved Joyce). --- Joyce never "trusted" any theories. While he was intrigued and used the work of Freud, Jung and other writers on psychology, he contained it within an ambivalent satiric context, which he foreshadows in such quips as the one about Alice, who is "jung and easily freudened."
Catrin Siedenbiedel said ----- I am not really interested in a biographical explanation of the particularity of FW. I would argue, that Joyce himself had a difficult relationship to reality, which he - like many of his contemporaries - has experienced as fragmented and mediated by language and cultural heritage. FW could then be read as an attempt to transform this experience into a piece of literature that shows a fictional world that is diversified and fragmented to the utmost in a language that is highly ambiguous and in its artificiality is highly individual. --- [Another question: Isn't it an important task even for scholars to know the secrets of Joyce's life and his writing? Biographical explanation might be indispensable to explore such riddles. Don't you think so?] Well some of the allusions in FW are referring to anecdotes from Joyce's life. To understand them, it might be helpful to know some biographical background, but the question remains as to whether one should read FW to learn something about Joyce's private life or whether you should read the biography to understand some of the allusions. I would refrain from getting too deep into Joyce's private matters, because I am less interested in his erotic phantasies than in his writing fiction (and metafiction).
Finn Fordham said ----- Definitely - but in the latter stages more than the former. --- Just that Joyce turned his attention more to Lucia as she approached, and then began to go through her crisis in 1932. Details are in my thesis (unpublishable because the Joyce estate would not give me permissions to quote Manuscripts) which you can order from London University. Chapter II.1, the footnotes in II.2, Issy in II.3 and the revisions to the whole book, are frequently marked with references to Lucia's fate, her condition and prognosis. --- [Another question: It appears to me that Ulysses more reflected Nora's image whereas FW more reflected Lucia's image.] Interesting but I wouldn't agree. Molly's monologue is the "clou" or "star-turn" of Ulysses. I don't think Issy/Lucia features in the same way. She's just a component - large, but not dominating, especially when ALP is given such a prominent position at the end of Books I and IV. You could equally say FW reflects the image of the relation between Joyce and his brother, or Joyce and his family, rather than just Lucia. Lucia couldn't stick to anything, according to Joyce - but Finnegans Wake does: to itself, to its characters, structure, themes. Finnegans Wake was finished and was distributed out into the world. Lucia, sadly, ended in a home, protected from the world and barely engaging with it. (And, I'd argue that parallels between Academic Institutions and Mental Institutions don't wash).
5. Can you learn something by reading FW? Can you find literary techniques to use from reading FW?
Fritz Senn said ----- I suppose it reinforces a sort of skepticism. Its basis seems (to me) instant contradiction, or a choice of alternatives. Antidote to dogmatism. It may also teach that all is vanity, the same anew, but somehow must go on. --- Well, the polysemantic procedure is something (technique) writers could learn from. Even advertisers have taken over some techniques. --- “The polysemantic procedure”is making use of several meanings, ambiguities, what is commonly labeled (with utter lack of discrimination) “pun”.
Michael H. Begnal said ----- I don't think we read novels to learn things, like morality. --- [Another question: People may read novels for pleasure. However, don't people want to learn something useful by reading novels?] Yes, but what do we learn? I don't read Madame Bovary to learn that adultery is not a good idea, or Crime and Punishment to find out that one shouldn't bludgeon little old ladies with an axe. I knew that already. We know basic morality--we want to learn about the possible complexities of the human condition--what could be more useful? --- (Technique) Multiplicity of perspective, point of view, steps beyond Ulysses. --- [Another question: In order to use the Wakean techniques in voice, in language and in dream extensions, what structure or what means to express structure did Joyce search for in FW?] I am very interested in the model of the shortwave radio, with many voices listening in at once and answering or commenting at will. --- [Another question: Why are quite a number of scholars or students interested in FW?] I don't know. The geneticists seem to like the notebooks and manuscripts, and theorists like to say it doesn't mean anything. I still like to try to figure out little parts of the text, but, since no one seems interested any more, I keep these to myself. --- [Another question: How do you evaluate your wonderful book "Dreamscheme" now?] Probably very old fashioned, but it might still help a beginner.
Michael S. Begnal said ----- It prompted me to more fully investigate certain ideas/subjects contained in the book. --- Television kept jumping out at me - thus my article (shown in Abiko Annual #21). I am also intrigued by the various different languages Joyce incorporated into FW, especially Irish. --- In my own writing - the use of different voices, and the possibility of freedom from conventional form/syntax. --- (As techniques,) more or less sets the standard for 20th century experimentalism. --- Aside from the aforementioned Modernists, the Surrealists spring to mind (Breton, etc.). In America, William Carlos Williams was very influential, then later the Beats (Kerouac, for example). All tended to use a style that dispensed with traditional form/language, in order that it reflect new situations, states of mind, etc. --- Reading FW can be a trying experience. You need to be persistent to keep coming at it.
Leslie Hedley said ----- Joyce's technique is structural, brick by brick, word by word, nail by nail, humanity by humanity, ripple by ripple, a river constantly flowing. --- Joyce has had enormous influence, along with Dostoyevsky, the French Surrealists, Beckett, etc. --- Call it a stream of consciousness view from the mind-soul of the Dublin bartender. This becomes a cosmic game of extreme verbal punning and satire. (Long live satire!) Vocabulary is cut to shreds like a jigsaw puzzle. Joyce creates a forever nightmare of human language in flux. --- It's my view that in "Ulysses" nearly all characters are delineated clearly, if briefly. As you know, most of those characters were associates of James Joyce, from Stephen Dedalus (being JJ), Buck Mulligan, Byrne, etc. They were real people. A few pop up in FW. "Ulysses" barely uses some stream of consciousness technique. "U" is a combination of various styles, from newspaper writing to play writing, while in FW stream of consciousness is full steam ahead.
Virgil Suarez said ----- Image for image. Take the opening as an example. You are reading words, but the words are taking you somewhere, they are opening mental pictures in your mind. Giving you the details you need to feel, see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. --- Because it has managed to endure by being in itself an interesting work of art. One we can figure out. Like Pynchon's GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. We like puzzles. We like enigmas. --- The approach. You cannot read it as a conventional plot. You must like it like poetry, one page at a time. Study it slowly. Savor it. --- (Technique) Stream of consciousness. --- FW sheds all the conventions. All the handles and holds we need to put on plot, as readers, that is.
Liam Mac Sheoinin said ---- Gravity's Rainbow and A Clockwork Orange seem Wakean. --- I think I use many of its techniques already. Who knows. --- It used to be a lonely experience until I became a member of the Joyce Society of New York and got on the internet. I find the first two chapters of Book three of immense interest. I especially enjoy Shaun the Post retraveling events already narrated. --- [Another question: Would you show words, phrases or lines of your favorite in FW if any?] The stew of words ladled out to us throughout FW taste of genius: O foenix culprit! Ex nickylow malo comes mickelmassed bonum. Hill, rill, ones in company, billeted, less be proud of. Breast high and bestride!
Joan Peternel said ----- Oh, yes. Any writer of prose fiction can learn - and many have learned -about the stream-of-consciousness technique from both Ulysses and the Wake. Joyce taught us how to express the unconscious in the Wake. I'm working on a novel at present, and two other drafts of novels are waiting for further work. I feel sure I will use some of the Wake techniques in several scenes in these novels. I would like to try portmanteau and hybrid words, for example, to express a character's sleeping state.
Joe Schork said ----- Practically speaking, no -- because FW is unique; it cannot be imitated (and can be parodied only in small bits). Theoretically, yes: any masterpiece (and it is) requires years of planning and revision, as did the WAKE. Hence, my special interest in its genesis and gradual revelation.
Alfred P. Crumlish said ----- FW consolidated and expanded upon many literary techniques, including the cutup, stream of consciousness, and compound words for example. It basically pushed everything to extremes. Studying the techniques can be useful. Still, writers need to make techniques their own, as Joyce did. --- [Another question: Would you comment on the musical aspects of FW?] To start with, the title and basic starting point of FW was a song. The book is peppered with musical allusions. The best way to illustrate the book as music is probably to listen to it read aloud or to one of the recordings. FW has also been used by composers, notably by John Cage. My own "26 Songs" was structured to enable the exploration of FW as sound, as well as the way the book is a kind of "canon" in many respect since there are so many overlapping lines. It is also operatic in the use of motives (verbal and otherwise) to signify the presence of a theme. The recurrence of formulations of HCE and ALP is the most common example. Music was also important to Joyce, as you know, and played a part in his life. He had a piano and reportedly sang beautifully.
Margot Norris said ----- You learn how complex language is. You receive a practical, intuitive, fascinating linguistic experience. You see the way a single letter or a single sound can determine or change meaning. You learn the way different languages overlap or flow into each other or change each other over time. You learn that a single sentence can really be four different sentences packed into one and mean contradictory things. You learn the complicated and possibly contradictory intentions and attitudes and effects at play when someone utters a bit of speech or produces a bit of discourse. You hear the poetry that exists in all language, and you learn that seemingly undisciplined and excessive language can be just as interesting and enticing as seemingly beautiful and tightly crafted language.
Patrick A. McCarthy said ----- The techniques of FW are so daring, so revolutionary, that few writers have been able to adapt them successfully for the writers' own purposes. An exception is Samuel R. Delany, who has used some Wakean techniques in his science fiction novels: for example, his 1974 novel Dhalgren employs a variation on Joyce's idea that a book could begin in the middle of the sentence with whose first half it would conclude. Many writers have used puns that demonstrate the influence of FW, and in general I think Joyce's experiments with stretching language to its limit are important because they demonstrate the resources all writers have at their command. As Norman Mailer said some years ago--with reference to Ulysses--even a writer who chooses not to use these resources so extensively will benefit from the knowledge that they are available. --- [Another question: Why didn't Joyce use ordinary English expression in FW? Does creating new words in FW contribute to an improvement or in some a distortion? Can you guess necessary reasons for those changes?] I don't think I can improve on Joyce's 1926 letter to Miss Weaver (cited in the revised version of the Ellmann biography, pp. 584-85): "One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cuttanddry grammar and goahead plot." By use of polylingual coinings Joyce was able to combine many meanings into one word and thereby suggest the shifting, ambiguous nature of the dreaming state and simultaneously to universalize the characters' experiences.
Richard Kostelanetz said ----- Every innovative text ultimately teaches you how to read itself. --- This is not for me to measure. Its influence on my electro-acoustic music composition appears most clearly in my INVOCATIONS (1981, 1984), which is briefly described under the category of Inventories on my website, www.richardkostelanetz.com. Also see under the sub-heading of media commissions, itself under Proposals, ACOUSTIC FINNEGANS WAKE, which I describe an electro-acoustic composition I'd like to do, support willing, also titled WORLD-AROUND WAKE. --- In my own experience, working with words in languages one did not know particularly well, such as the "string" poems that I've written (and published) in French, German, and Swedish. --- In my extended description of INVOCATIONS, accompanying the commercial release of the piece (Folkways-Smithsonian) and then reprinted in my RADIO WRITINGS (1995), I specifically identify the WAKE as influencing the theme that prayer in all languages sounds alike.
Geert Lernout said ----- The encyclopedic nature of the book makes that you cannot read this book without learning something. Sometimes I find that a lot of what I know seems to come from various failed attempts to understand some word or passage in FW.
Katarzyna Bazarnik said ----- I feel that the most important lesson a writer can get from FW is to look for the most appropriate, most adequate way of expressing what s/he wants to say. Be brave, don't hesitate even if your "technique" seems obscure or crazy. But work hard and give yourself time before you show it to the readers. Use experiences of different cultures to enrich your techniques. Be imaginative, not in the sense that you produce new stories but in the way you convey them. Besides, it seems to me that some writers have already learnt to write "polisemantically". --- Let me quote Fritz Senn: "making use of several meanings, ambiguities, which is commonly labeled (with utter lack of discrimination) ‘pun’." But it does not have to have a humorous effect, rather it gives a stimulus to think and to look for links. It does not only give you several meanings, it makes you produce meaning. In this sense it is close to (if not the same as) Eco's concept of 'openness' of a work of literature.
Mikio Fuse said ----- I don't think the techniques Joyce uses are worth learning, for they are all deliberately borrowed. It is his art that is unique and inimitable. His integrity as artist, and his faith in the calling.
Laurel Willis said ----- If you investigate all the Books Around the Wake, you can learn something. --- I think poets can learn literary techniques.
Ryan Van Cleave said ----- I learn something about the forced structure of the Traditional Narrative. I also learn something about the nature of language, how it exists in flux. --- The Traditional Narrative is similar to Freitag's Pyramid, the 5 parts to a story. (1) Beginning, (2) Rising Action (complications), (3) Climax (moment of greatest potential for change), (4) Denouement (falling action), (5) Conclusion. I like stories that deviate from this, as many Post-Modern writers try to do. I'm a big fan of Robert Coover, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and a host of others. It's no surprise that FW should appeal to someone like me. --- Using the unexpected - that's a lesson that can be learned from FW. --- Deviating from the expected (i.e. the Traditional Narrative) creates tension, and tension creates life, energy. I like stories that rattle around in my head rather than those that are simply sugar, saccharine.
Sheldon Brivic said ----- By teaching us that every word has an infinite number meanings and can be attached to every other word in the universe, the Wake expands on all possible techniques. At the Extreme Joyce Conference in Berkeley in June of 2001, I saw an amazing performance by Adam Harvey. Harvey had spent three years memorizing the entire "Shem" chapter and studying shamanism. He delivered the entire text in 75 minutes as if he were possessed by it. He accompanied it by vivid gestures that brought out many of the meanings of each word. His eyes glared and he seemed to turn into various animals, to pound his chest, to defecate, to stomp on himself, to turn into a mummy, and so forth. The effect was absolutely spellbinding, and demonstrated that on one level the Wake may be seen as the voice of the body speaking. Everyone in the audience of about 80 seemed to be astonished, and Harvey seemed to raise the performance and appreciation of the Wake to a new level. This was a powerful indication of the infinite possibilities for interpreting the text. All literary technique insofar as it is successful approaches the state of the Wake.
Tim Horner said ----- I've been reminded of the powerful relationship between the written word and the oral language, a relationship easily taken for granted. I've also learned that I am not nearly as clever as I think I am! --- FW has changed my perception of Joyce; I always thought of him as someone with all the answers, but now I view him as a searcher. While his previous works explored the human condition within (fairly) self-contained borders, and it is true that FW shares these geographical borders, FW searches for a universal truth that extends outside of the social world of western culture. --- (As technique) the advantages of the semi-colon; not to mention the power of the exclamation mark! --- This was my sad attempt at humor, sorry! If anything else, perhaps a comment on Joyce's use of the semi-colon, a usage that outnumbers all others!
Catrin Siedenbiedel said ----- Sure, you can learn quite a lot by reading FW. I think, the first and most important task is a methodological one: you learn to question the term 'reading' by studying this text. You learn to query or to doubt the representablity of world in language and by doing so you learn something about communication and its difficulties. Even though it might also be argued that by reading FW, you can learn something about Irish literature and history, this is only partly true. FW certainly alludes to many historical events and diverse literary texts - but you rather need some information about these to understand the text than vice versa. --- You cannot read FW as you read an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica, since the words of the text are not to be found in a dictionary. But the words are constructed by bits and pieces of those that you find in the dictionaries of different languages. So you try to find these words which are "melted" in the language of FW and you combine the meaning of both to find out, what might be the meaning of the new word (the word in FW). Thereby you find out, that you cannot limit the meaning of the word to the meaning of one other word but rather derive several words: e.g. "a fadograph of a yestern scene" (FW 7.15) refers to photograph, to fade, graph, yesterday, western, etc., it is at once a photograph of a western scene, a fading photo of a scene of yesterday, or history as such; a fading memory of a past scene or of a western; an old western movie and so on... The meaning is not limited to one level and the question is, if it is more important to try to find out, what Joyce intended to write or what you could actually make out of it as a reader. Probably the reader makes more sense of it than Joyce himself. But who knows? Joyce does not live anymore, so he cannot authorize any particular reading of the line. And anyway, I would follow Gilbert in Oscar Wilde's "The Critic as Artist", who says: "...the meaning of any beautiful created thing is, at least, as much in the soul of him, who looks at it, as it was in his soul who wrought it." Accordingly, the meaning of FW has to be constituted in a new way by every reader. It is, as Eco calls it "an open artwork," which does not have a fixed meaning but one that is changing with every new reading process, which is of course a creative process in the reader's mind. Without the reader, every text remains just a piece of paper with some ink on it. --- There are diverse literary techniques and devices examples of which you can find in FW, yet to 'learn' them from FW is difficult since, I think, this text is unique in its use of form and not to be further developed, it marks in some respect a summit of the play with literary form.
Finn Fordham said ----- Yes - that all previous attempts at fiction come nowhere near Finnegans Wake does in coding, and in respecting the order and muddle of the world. But I should add, it doesn't reflect it but evokes it, by attempting to make something equally unique in its combination of order and muddle. Many techniques. Especially in the formal language-puzzle kind of area.
Donald Theall said ----- Personally I would consider FW one of the greatest books of the twentieth century and artistically on a par with Dante and Leonardo. Perhaps in the long run it is even more the unique epic of its time (like those of Homer, Vergil and Milton) than even his Ulysses is. It should be noted the impact that it has had on artist's and thinkers from diverse areas of interest such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Jacques Derrida, Marshall McLuhan, and Phillipe Sollers. Further in the popular cultural sphere there are people such as Frank Zappa, Robert Dobbs - the Flipside columnist, and even the Beatles. In reaching such an evaluation I personally unabashedly rate as a high factor that it is an intensely intellectual, yet intensely human and emotional work contrary to many of our preferences of the present moment. While my references are focussed on the West, it is only because the generic direction Joyce chose rose out of that tradition, but as many discussions of Joyce have pointed out, his challenge was to produce one of those globally significant books on a level with the Upanishads, the Koran, the Book of the Dead, etc.(and perhaps in the secularizing the sacred and re-inserting it within the everyday world of physical love, he has succeeded). --- FW is connected to the Beatles on various occasions by John Lennon himself (see, for example, The Beatles Anthology, 176). In a brief reply it would be hard to encompass all the complex inter-relationships of Joyce with Derrida, Lacan and for that matter, Deleuze. Derrida has explained his own fascination in two lectures on Joyce, which are well known in the Joycean world. Lacan incorporated Joyce into his lectures that have been published. These issues have been explored in Geert Lernout's French Joyce, in the essays in Post-Structuralist Joyce (ed. Attridge and Rabaté) as well as more specific studies such as Allan Roughley's work on Joyce and Derrida. But basically Joyce was a pre-post-structuralist who anticipated in his practice many of the issues that Derrida, Lacan and Deleuze later theorized. Their interest in the Wake was an interest into the intuitive realization within Joyce's art of what vitiates many aspects of their theories. --- Obviously from my previous remarks I believe that I have learnt something by reading FW. It is also apparent that people like Cage and Derrida feel that they have. For an exemplary account of how much someone can learn by reading Finnegans Wake read the chapters about Joyce and McLuhan in my recent book The Virtual Marshall McLuhan. --- The relation between Joyce and McLuhan is so extensive that it permeates three chapters in my recent book., The Virtual Marshall McLuhan (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001). Therefore, I would suggest to anyone interested in Joyce and somewhat interested in McLuhan to read it. --- In a certain way, the Wake is an encyclopedia of literary styles, techniques and structures. Just as in Episode 7 of Ulysses, Joyce incorporates a comprehensive display of rhetorical figures and techniques. But he also incorporates an extensive display of the wide varieties of prosody. Most obviously, though, is his extensive variety of elaborate paranomasia and other forms of verbal display. Along with microstructures, the Wake like Ulysses exhibits a wide variety of macrostructures both in its overall structure which is a dream vision, a learned transformation of Menippean satire, an extended dramatic monologue, a cyclical or helical celebration of death and rebirth, etc., and the included structures with each of the seventeen episodes demonstrating one or more different generic forms. It could provide a major source of new literary techniques for contemporary writers, just as the variety of uses made by aspects of it by such various writers as John Cage, Anthony Burgess, Stanislaw Lem and Phillipe Sollers. Of particular importance was the way that Joyce was designing a new language to cope with the complexities of exploring a world in which the book was being transformed as all pre- and post-electric media were rapidly converging. This theme is associated in studies of this aspect of Joyce with the prehistory of cyberculture and virtual reality, and the emergence of hypermedia. --- [Another question: Would you explain more about the study of FW through the Internet?] This cannot be outlined in a brief interview. Apart from material in my books on Joyce about this subject. I have two articles which would be particularly relevant to anyone who might be interested. The first "Beyond the Orality/Literacy Principle: James Joyce and the Pre-History of Cyberspace" can be found on-line in Postmodern Culture (May 1992) at the John Hopkins University site or the Finnegans Web site at Trent University (www.trentu.ca/jjoyce). The other, which is about using the computer technology in Joyce research is available through the journal Text Technology (Fall, 2001) and is available at the web site of the Centre for Computing in the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Toronto. The latter text is more specifically about using the powerful facilities of computers in textual analysis; the former is a more speculative consideration of the way Joyce's vision and the emergence of the Internet were connected. Neither fully examine the wide potential of the web for research for aids to understanding Joyce and the large number of Joyce aids available. Just the easy availability of the multitude of texts to which Joyce refers and the ease with which they may be searched is not only an impressive aid, but almost an anticipation of what Joyce's vision anticipated.
David Hayman said -----A great deal about yourself and your world and your traditions and society, but what you mainly learn is how flexible knowledge is, how many ways it can be rearranged. ---[Another question: Why was Joyce so flexible in his thought?] Joyce was a product of the end of the 19th Century, a period in which the encyclopedic impulses of the 18th C had their full impact. He must have been alert to the informational flux of the moment. On the other hand, Joyce was heir to writers like Flaubert and Mallarme. Flaubert's Temptation of St. Anthony, and Bouvard and Pecuchet were clear precedents. But I am simplifying this.
Aida Yared said ----- You can learn as much as you want. I have learned an enormous amount by reading books that have to do with the Wake one way or another. They include the Bible, Shakespeare's work, the Koran and many books about Islam and Mohammed, the Arabian Nights, books on African Exploration and the Discovery of the Nile, Irish life and politics... to mention a few. I think also that Finnegans Wake tends to bring people together: its readers have a very strong drive to understand or learn more about it, and therefore are eager to interact with other readers. This can be in reading groups or at Joyce conferences. In reading groups for example, many people have the intense and slightly anxious listening attitude you may see if a gypsy is reading your future in the palm of your hand or the grounds of your coffee. I have learned a lot for example from listening to presentations at the Joyce conferences, both about the topic the person was presenting and about the person presenting it. There is an enormous amount of humanity to these interactions. There is a group of people I really like that are my "Joycean friends" that I look forward to seeing once a year. The main one that I find interesting is the crossover of various languages as in the example I gave above. I also very much enjoy the punning and portemanteau words; when it is time for our evening meal, my children pretend to ring bells and call for "dinnerchime!" The most interesting technique I find in Finnegans Wake is the ability of a passage to relate some action in two totally different and parallel moods, with very different connotations. Joyce certainly wanted to push language to its limits. Although the language of FW may seem chaotic, I rather think that it is extremely precise. --- [Another question: Do you think FW concerns with politics?] FW is filled with references to various wars and historical events from Ireland and elsewhere. My particular interest is the British presence in Africa in the 19th century and the Sudanese war. There is no doubt also echoes of political events contemporary to the writing. --- [Another question: Is FW a book that has no censorship from the feminist viewpoint?] FW is a very interesting field for feminists, because it attracts very varied responses.