5. Can you learn something by reading FW? Can you find literary techniques to use from reading FW?
A. Walton Litz wrote (in The Art of James Joyce in 1961; Oxford University Press) ---- (Page 77) These four early fragments, which were revised and incorporated into the Wake late in the process of composition, indicate the nature of Joyce's mature method. Instead of following a narrative sequence and beginning with a draft of the Wake's first episode (which actually was not written until 1926), he first explored four of his major interests: the artistic possibilities of Irish history (King Roderick O'Conor), the seduction motif (Tristan and Isolde), the figure of Shaun (St. Kevin), and the argument between St. Patrick and the archdruid. The last of these sketches is extremely significant. When Frank Budgen failed to take the 'pidgin fella Berkeley' passage seriously Joyce wrote to him:
Much more is intended in the colloquy between Berkely the archdruid and his pidgin speech and Patrick in answer and his Nippon English. It is also the defence and indictment of the book itself, B’s theory of colour and Patrick's practical solution of the problem.
The druid defends in obscure terms the language and design of Finnegans Wake, borrowing his arguments from Berkley’s subjective theory of vision, but common-sense Patrick dismisses the druid's reasoning and with it the night-world of the Wake. It was almost inevitable that this passage, which ultimately found its place near the end of the Wake, should have been one of the first written. Joyce in writing it seems to have been debating with himself the advantages and disadvantages of the task he was about to undertake. On 2 August 1923 Joyce, who was then vacationing in Sussex, sent Harriet Weaver three early drafts of the 'pidgin fella Berkeley' episode. By comparing these versions we can gain some measure of his stylistic aims at the outset of Work in Progress. In the first version the archdruid explains his theory of colour in an abstract style less complex than that found in many parts of Ulysses.
(Page 79) Comparison of the two versions of the passage reveals several important characteristics of Joyce's method. As in Ulysses the revisions are expansive, an elaboration of the basic text. The names 'Berkeley' and 'Patrick' have been introduced in the final draft, but more important the language has been turned into Pidgin English so as to 'express' Joyce's conviction that early Irish religion was Eastern in nature. This process was continued in 1938, when Joyce re-worked the final 1923 version of this sentence for inclusion in Part IV of the Wake (611/4-24). He added allusions to several themes developed after 1923: the passage in Finnegans Wake opens with 'Tunc', a reference to the 'TUNC' page of The Book of Kells, whose design Joyce felt was analogous to his own method. 'Berkeley' was also changed to 'Balkelly' in 1938, to remind the reader of 'Buckley' (who shot the Russian General). But these changes were not extensive, and the general level of allusiveness and compression achieved in 1923 met Joyce's exacting standards of fifteen years later. In the revisions of 'pidgin fella Berkeley' made during July 1923 one can see Joyce moving toward an extension of certain technical goals already evident in the writing of Ulysses.
E. L. Epstein wrote ([James Joyce and the Body; pp. 73-106] in A Starchamber Quiry edited by E. L. Epstein in 1982; Methuen, New York) ---- (Page 73) Many writers treat the body only as a lay figure, or as an armature necessary for the construction of the soul, but not of much importance in itself. Dickens, for example, does not change Esther Summerson's irritating mixture of self-praise and mock modesty even when Esther becomes disfigured by smallpox and (temporarily) blind. Henry James does not change the personality of Milly Theale even when she is dying, nor are bodies ever considered by James as important as annual income; both matters are irrelevant for him. Even Lawrence, surely an advocate of body consciousness, achieves, on the whole, a generalized picture of dark forces in the place of literal descriptions of bodily functions, of the body's interaction with the soul. Joyce, almost alone among novelists, seems to consider it necessary to describe even the most embarrassing bodily functions as matter suitable for literature. As I hope to show, Joyce considered that the most important functions of the soul -- creation and destruction -- were intimately associated with the growth and decay of the body. (Throughout this paper I will be discussing the male body. Only a woman can testify to Joyce' s accuracy, or lack thereof, in describing the female body.) James Joyce describes the surfaces of the world, human and non-human. In Dubliners, Portrait and most of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, he refrains from direct comment on the depths of the human soul. If we are to examine Joyce on the human personality, we must examine the evidence he has given us -- dialogues in the books, interior monologue (the surface of the mind), hallucination in 'Circe' (interpretations of the mind's depths), the verbal conveying of dreams in the Wake. Joyce seems to agree with Lawrence (one of the few points of agreement) that writers who regard the unconscious and subliminal as areas easy to partition and describe are not sufficiently respectful of the mysteries of the human personality. The task of examination is made easier for us in the case of Joyce than it would be for Lawrence. For Joyce, the individual soul and body -- is an assemblage of 'new secondhand clothes' that is gathered together for a voyage. The fundamental events in a man's life are basically the same as those in any other man's life; the fundamental events in a woman's life are basically the same as those in any other woman's life. A human life that is not cut short or otherwise aborted (morally or physically) follows the same pattern as those of the lives of other representatives of the species. This is the lesson of Finnegans Wake, a palimpsest which derives its complexities from the (ultimately) insignificant differences between persons and its simplicities from the (ultimately) significant similarities.
Patrick A. McCarthy wrote (in The Riddles of Finnegans Wake in 1980; Associated University Press) ---- (Page 103) On another level the riddle refers to the paradoxical language of Finnegans Wake. If a pun may not be a pun, perhaps the Wake-language is not language at all ---- "nat language in any sinse of the world," as Joyce puts it (83.12). Joyce is right in more than one way: the language of the Wake is not a language in the usual sense of the word, but it is a night-language (Danish nat = night) about the "sins of the world"; the many puns on insect names and the frequent confusion of insect and incest may even lead us to describe the language of Finnegans Wake as "gnat-language." Paradox is implied even in the title of the book, which means both "the wake of Finnegan" and "the awakening of the Finnegans," and "Finnegan" itself implies the paradox of death and resurrection, since it contains both fin and "again." On this level, paradox is the real subject of Shem's riddle, but the answer -- "when he is a . . . Sham" -- does not mean that paradox is merely an illusion or that it is solely the concern of the artist-forger. Joyce's themes, like the "O felix culpa!" theme which resounds throughout the book, are those of real life, concentrated and compressed into a book that is honest enough to look as complex as the reality that it attempts to simulate.
Margot Norris wrote (in The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake in 1974; The John Hopkins University Press) ---- (Page 119) When Samuel Beckett wrote of Work in Progress, "Here form is content, content is form," he seemed to beg the same question that Yeats so wisely left in rhetorical form at the end of "Among School-children." Beckett goes on to support his comment by noting, "His writing is not about something; it is that something itself . . . When the sense is sleep, the words go to sleep. . . . When the sense is dancing, the words dance." True, of course, but the same could be said even more convincingly about Ulysses, particularly the tour de force of "Oxen in the Sun," and the musical form of "Sirens." Questions of content and form in Finnegans Wake must at least explain its difference from Ulysses, and this difference is quite simple. Whatever its mythical underpinnings, Ulysses is about three people, Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and Molly Bloom, in Dublin, Ireland on 16 June 1904. On Bloomsday, every 16 June, we can take Bloomsday pilgrimages in Dublin because we know exactly where Bloom spent his entire day. In fact, we know Bloom as well as we are ever likely to know any fictional character. On the other hand, Nathan Halper notwithstanding, we don't know when Earwicker dreams, or if he dreams, or if his name is really Humphrey (it could be Harold) Chimpden Earwicker (it could be Porter or Coppinger or O'Reilly). We know that Molly is voluptuous, but Earwicker's hunchback, for all we know, could merely be that suspicious parcel he is sometimes reported to be toting around. The major difference between Ulysses and Finnegans Wake is clearly that in Ulysses we can be certain of most things, whereas in Finnegans Wake we must be uncertain. The greatest critical mistake in approaching Finnegans Wake has been the assumption that we can be certain of who, where and when everything is in the Wake, if only we do enough research. The discovery that Maggie is ALP may be true enough, but it doesn't mean anything. ALP is also Kate, the old slopwoman, and Isabel, the daughter, and Biddie Doran, the hen, in a way that Molly Bloom is decidedly not Mrs. Riordan, or Milly, or Josie Breen. In the course of several chapters, I have examined this lack of certainty in every aspect of the work. Events in Finnegans Wake repeat themselves as compulsively as Scheherazade did, spinning her tales until there are so many versions of the event that one can no longer discover the "true" one. Wakean events can reverse themselves so that we do not know if father seduces daughter or daughter tempts father. The Wakean family is therefore in chaos because, through incest and parricide, family roles and family relationships are violated in such a way that figures can no longer be defined. Consequently identities are unstable and interchangeable, and the self is constantly alienated from itself and fails to know itself. This self-alienation is manifested in a language which is devious, which conceals and reveals secrets and therefore, like poetry, uses words and images that can mean several, often contradictory, things at once. The formal elements of the work, plot, character, point of view, and language, are not anchored to a single point of reference that is they do not refer back to a center. This condition produces that curious flux and restlessness in the work which is sensed intuitively by the reader and which the Wake itself describes as follows.
-- every person, place and thing in the chaosmos of Alle anyway connected with the gobblydumped turkery was moving and changing every part of the time: the travelling inkhorn (possibly pot), the hare and turtle pen and paper, the continually more and less intermisunderstanding minds of the anticollaborators, the as time went on as it will variously inflected, differently pronounced, otherwise spelled, changeably meaning vocable scriptsigns. (118.21)
The substitutability of parts for one another, the variability and uncertainty of the work's structural and thematic elements, represent a decentered universe, one that lacks the center that defines, gives meaning designates, and holds the structure together -- by holding it in immobility. Samuel Beckett acknowledges this when he calls the book a purgatorial work for its lack of any Absolute. The literary heterodoxy of Finnegans Wake is the result of Joyce's attack on the traditional concept of structure itself. This attack was not isolated, but belonged to an "event" or "rupture" in the history of the concept of structure, which, according to philosopher Jacques Derrida, took place in the history of thought sometime in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The destructive impact of this "event" becomes clear only in view of the history of metaphysics, which Derrida characterizes as belief in being as "presence." "The whole history of the concept of structure, before the rupture I spoke of, must be thought of as a series of substitutions of center for center, as a linked chain of determinations of the center."
(Page 122) Among these destructive discourses of the early twentieth century, Finnegans Wake served as a literary exemplar, and in doing so inaugurated a new concept of literary structure, which itself could not be deciphered so long as critical formalism was ruled by concepts like Hulme's. As an artist deeply concerned with the philosophical implications of the creative process, Joyce must have faced the special difficulties of trying to create something truly "new" in his last work. He was clearly aware of a problem whose linguistic and anthropological implications are of great interest at the present time: that the Weltanschauung of a writer is limited by the language he employs. The image of Shem writing with his own shit on his own body about himself indicates not only the scatological and solipsistic nature of the creative act, but also the entrapment in what is apparently a closed system. The writer who tries to escape the epistemology of his culture is confronted by a language embedded with inherited concepts; to criticize these concept he must still make use of a language in which they are embedded. Jacques Derrida writes, "It is a question of putting expressly and systematically the problem of the status of a discourse which borrows from a heritage the resources necessary for the dcconstruction of that heritage itself." In other words, a "new" literary vision that seeks to critique previous literary modes must use the tools of those same modes -- 1anguage, concepts, themes, conventions -- in the process of the critique itself.
(Page 123) It is freeplay that makes characters, times, places, and actions interchangeable in Finnegans Wake, that breaks down the all-important distinction between the self and the other, and that makes uncertainty a governing principle of the work. In order to effect this "new" decentered literary structure and to implement freeplay not only in the themes of the work but in the language as well, Joyce instituted two major techniques: a new application of "imitative form," and a building technique I will call bricolage, borrowing a term from anthropologist Lévi-Strauss.
(Page 127) The task confronting Joyce in letting the language reflect a universe whose structure is determined by substitutions and freeplay, is to deconstruct the language itself. Of course, this involves the paradox of critical language, the need to use language to represent the deconstruction of language. One of the strategies Joyce uses to communicate a deconstructed language involves his interesting manipulation of structure words. Structure words -- articles, prepositions, auxiliaries, intensifiers and the like -- have essentially no semantic content but act like the mortar that holds the lexical bricks of the sentence in place.
(Page 129) Joyce's inclusion of multitudinous fragments of foreign languages in the Wake is also consistent with the principle of freeplay. Unlike artificial or "auxiliary" languages whose purpose is to overcome the Babelian diversity of national languages, Joyce's "mutthering pot" (20.7) in the Wake appears to be a dump or rubbish heap like ALP's scavenger sac, in which the fragments merely mix and mingle to be distributed anew. Citing examples, Ronald Buckalew notes, "Joyce's foreign language is often distorted and mixed to produce puns and jokes." The mixing of various languages in the same work may represent a type of linguistic miscegenation that imitates the thematic incest. The parallel is not inappropriate, particularly since we speak of the historical development of languages in terms of the relationships of language "families." Joyce once wrote of Finnegans Wake, "What the language will look like when I have finished I don't know. But having declared war I shall go on jusqu'au bout." If Joyce violates the laws of language, he does no more than to adapt the language to a vision in which law has been supplanted by play -- a linguistic freeplay that is the fertile ground for new semantic and syntactic forms, for a thoroughgoing linguistic originality.
W. Y. Tindall wrote (in James Joyce: His Way of Interpreting the Modern World in 1950; Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York) ---- (Page 51) Finnegans Wake is a dream. What happens in that vast, genial book happens in the conscious mind of a sleeper. Beneath this mind, directing it, the unconscious is at work. The sleeper is tolerant. Sometimes his unconscious acts like Freud's and following "Jungfraud's Messongebook," sometimes like Jung's. Such references to Freud and Jung fill his learned sleep. None of these references is solemn; for Joyce's night is as comic as his day. Only pathos and tenderness and the memory of ancient guilt are allowed to interrupt the fun, and such interruptions are uncommon. Joyce has come to terms with reality. However serious about it he may be, there is "lots of fun at Finnegan's wake." Since Joyce is dealing with the unconscious, one is tempted to call Finnegans Wake surrealistic. His "furloined notepaper" reminds one not only of Poe's purloined letter and of the condition of mammals but also of the fur-lined teacup of the surrealists; and one of Joyce's ladies has a torso equipped with bureau drawers that slide in and out after the manner of Dali's. But these are pleasantries. Although Joyce and the surrealists deal with the same materials, they are in opposite camps. The surrealists pretend no conscious control of their unconscious materials. Joyce as always in full control. No artist was ever more thoroughly aware of what he was doing and of its meaning. Combining all conscious knowledge with what his unconscious supplied, Joyce made deliberate arrangements. Finnegans Wake is elaborate design. The first difficulty we encounter in this difficult book is the language. It is so strange and intricate that Joyce expected or at least, said he expected the "ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia'' to spend his life deciphering it. There are readers of this kind; but the others, who may want to read another book as well or do something else with what time is left them, may enjoy the surface and, with some help, penetrate it a little. The language of Finnegans Wake is based partly upon Freud. To understand it we must consider his theory of dreams.
(Page 53) Puns in two languages were not enough for the theme or for a linguist as great as Joyce. He compounded words out of such languages as he knew, and it is said that he knew about eighteen. Like his techniques, his languages suit the theme. Puns in Hebrew and Arabic embellish his account of Genesis, for example, whereas puns in Danish and Dutch accompany the Nordic moments of his hero. It is less easy to explain digressions into pidgin English, Esperanto, and pig Latin. To those who disapproved of his puns, Joyce said that the Church of Rome is founded upon a pun ---- that of Peter and the rock ---- and what is good enough for the Church is good enough for him. To those who found his punning trivial, he replied that it is more often quadrivial.
(Page 56) His language provided by Carroll, Freud, and his own verbal distortions in Ulysses, Joyce composed his dream. At the beginning and the end of Finnegans Wake, the ambiguities are less obscure than in the middle where sleep is more profound. "Who do you no tonigh, lazy and gentleman?" The puzzled sleeper is aware of external happenings -- the tapping of a leaf upon the windowpane -- and he is disturbed by his snores. Nothing is quite certain. "Things flow about so here," Alice complains, trying to fix an object with her rational gaze. Here too a person suddenly becomes his opposite; one place or object merges with another, and changes or disappears before it can be identified. This is what we are accustomed to in dreams. Yet Finnegans Wake is not a realistic dream. It is too long and elaborate, and although individual at many points, too general. The summary of all dreams ever dreamed, it reveals the sleeping mind of man. On the surface this general dream displays a rich confusion from which the story of a family emerges. The latent levels, at once hidden and revealed by puns, hints, and distortions, are various, sometimes sexual, but more often historical or philosophical. None of these is to be taken literally. Joyce's end was neither the naturalistic presentation of a night’s sleep nor the recommendation of a philosophy, but the use of a night’s sleep to represent the nature and condition of man and to create a work of art.
Eugène Jolas (in 1941-48) wrote ([memoir of Joyce; pp. 381-385] in James Joyce, the Critical Heritage, Volume 1 edited by Robert H. Deming in 1970; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London) ---- (Page 383) After a while I started making preparations for a new issue of transition, and this stimulated him to work. He attacked the problem with savage energy. 'How difficult it is to put pen to paper again,' he said one evening. 'Those first sentences have cost me a great deal of pain.' But gradually the task was in hand. It was to be known later as The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies. He wrote steadily on this fragment during those frenetic months [Autumn 1931], constantly interrupted by moments of anxiety about the health of his daughter, and his own resultant nervousness. At his hotel, where we would work in the afternoon, he gave me a densely written foolscap sheet beginning with the words: 'Every evening at lighting up o'clock sharp sharp and until further notice . . . ' which I typed for him. After a few pages had thus been transcribed, we began to look through the note-books -- which he lugged around on all his travels -- and the additions, set down years before for a still unwritten text he had merely outlined in his mind, became more and more numerous. The manuscript grew into thirty pages and was not yet finished. He never changed a single word. There was always a certain inevitability, an almost volcanic affirmativeness about his choice of words. To me his deformations seemed to grow more daring. He added, ceaselessly, like a worker in mosaic, enriching his original pattern with ever new inventions. 'There really is no coincidence in this book,' he said during one of our walks. 'I might easily have written this story in the traditional manner. . . . Every novelist knows the recipe. . . .It is not very difficult to follow simple, chronological scheme which the critics will understand. . . . 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. . . . Yet the elements are exactly what every novelist might use: man and woman, birth, childhood, night, sleep, marriage, prayer, death . . . There is nothing paradoxical about this. . . . Only I am trying to build many planes of narrative with a single esthetic purpose. . . . Did you ever read Laurence Sterne . . . ?' We read Goethe's Farbenlehre, but he finally said he could use nothing from it. He was interested in a comic version of the theodicy and he asked me to get one of the Jesuits nearby to give me an Augustinian text. . .He discussed Vico's theory of the origin of language. The conception of the cyclical evolution of civilizations born from each other like the phoenix from the ashes haunted him. He began to speculate on the new physics, and the theory of the expanding universe. And while walking with him, I always had the impression that he was not really in an Austrian frontier town, but in Dublin, and that he thought and wrote was about his native land. . . . A British clipping came saying that Joyce was trying to revive Swift's little language to Stella. 'Not at all,' said Joyce to me. 'I am using a Big Language.' He said one evening: 'I have discovered that I can do anything with language I want.' His linguistic memory was extraordinary. He seemed constantly à l'affut, always to be listening rather than talking. 'Really, it is not I who am writing this crazy book,' he said in his whimsical way one evening. 'It is you, and you, and you, and that man over there, and that girl at the next table.'. . . His knowledge of French, German, modern Greek and especially Italian stood him good stead, and he added constantly to that stock of information studying Hebrew, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Finnish and other tongues. At the bottom of his vocabulary was also an immense command of Anglo-Irish words that only seem like neologisms to us today, because they have, for the most part, become obsolete. His revival of these will some day interest the philologists. Language to him was a social as well as a subjective process. He was deeply interested in experiments of the French Jesuit, Jousse, and the English philologist, Paget, and Finnegans Wake is full of strange applications of their gesture theory. He often talked with a derisive smile of the auxiliary languages, among them Esperanto and Ido.
Sean O’Faolain (in 1930) wrote ([re-reading of ALP; pp. 413] in James Joyce, the Critical Heritage, Volume 2, edited by Robert H. Deming in 1970; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London) ---- (Page 413) A re-reading of Anna Livia Plurabelle, with much more pleasure than at any previous reading, convinces me that in an article which you kindly published in the Criterion of September, 1928, I did not do complete justice to Mr. Joyce's new prose, and with your permission I should like to add a further word to what I said in that essay. I do not think that there is anything in that essay which I do not still believe, but it did not go far enough in its appreciation of the merits that do lie in Mr. Joyce's language. It becomes clear to me that a kind of distinction once properly made between prose and poetry is passing away. . . . This prose that conveys its 'meaning' vaguely and unprecisely, by its style rather than its words, has its delights, as music has its own particular delights proper to itself, and I have wished to say that for these half-conveyed, or not even half-conveyed suggestions of 'meaning' Mr. Joyce's prose can be tantalizingly delightful, a prose written by a poet who missed the tide, and which can be entirely charming if approached as prose from which an explicit or intellectual communication was never intended.
Margaret Schlauch (in 1939) wrote ([on Joyce’s language; pp. 722-724] in James Joyce, the Critical Heritage, Volume 2, edited by Robert H. Deming in 1970; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London) ---- (Page 723) The chief motive for Joyce's bizarre linguistic technique seems to be a revolt against one of the limitations of language hitherto assumed to be inescapable. It has been accepted as a necessary condition of speech that it must resemble a single melodic line in music, with the separate words succeeding one another in strict time sequence. . . For the polyphonic interweaving of themes he tries to substitute polysemantic verbal patterns. The method is quite simple: you distort the words in a given passage so that they suggest at one and the same time not only the original normal ones but also another series of verbalisms which they now resemble. In order to convey these multiple phrases at once, it is important to respect the intonation of the whole as well as the individual words whose units of sound are being distorted. The procedure is therefore more complicated than a series of puns on individual words. Moreover, the words heard in overtone must be semantically related and must contribute to a single planned effect. . . . So Joyce shows us a sing]e average individual lying asleep in Dublin: above him rise in vast concentric spheres the memories of all the earlier history and pre-history, the entire heritage of culture, which have made him as he is. Availing himself of the universal implications of his H. C. Earwicker, he has tried to pour through the man's sleeping consciousness all of past history and present civilization.
Mary Colum (in 1947) wrote ([James Joyce in Paris; pp. 160-164] in James Joyce: Interviews & Recollections edited by E. H. Mikhail in 1990; The Macmillan Press) ---- (Page 162) When we lived in Paris he would telephone every day to find out how we were and how things were going with us. On his side he expected a lot of attention and help of all kinds from his friends: he really was not very far from blindness, and consequently he had to have a great deal of help for Finnegans Wake, not only help in putting it together, but for the reading of the necessary obscure references, books of every kind from the Arabian Nights to old-time Dublin directories, from the works of Vico to that of some romantic lady author like E. Barrington, who dealt with picturesque historical figures: one volume of hers which particularly intersected him I remember because it was about some collateral connections of my own; he examined me minutely concerning what the family traditions about them were, for it was such items that he worked into his scheme of Finnegans Wake. Finnegans Wake, as his friend Eugene Jolas has pointed out, seemed in the end to be almost a collective work, so many friends helped him with the minutiae of it, though of course, the moulding of the material, the whole creative energy in it, the pattern, was Joyce's own. Stuart Gilbert, who wrote so much on his work, helped him regularly and tirelessly; my husband helped him whenever he was in Paris, and of his help he was very demanding because of the Dublin connection and because of a native knowledge of the history, the personages, the topography that Joyce was putting into the work. In Joyce's study in his apartment in Square Robiac, he would have a bottle of white chianti on the table, a medley of books and notebooks, a gramophone somewhere near: surrounded by such items, he and his helper set to work. The amount of reading done by his helpers was librarious, as he might have written himself, as were the notebooks filled with the results of their reading which generally boiled down to only a line or a paragraph. His great helper outside the literary people was Sylvia Beach, who, with her friend, Arienne Monnier, had been the original publisher of Ulysses, an undertaking of great financial risk.
Frances M. Boldereff wrote (in Reading Finnegans Wake in 1959; Classic Nonfiction Library, Woodward, Pennsylvania) ---- (Page 2) This sentence contains the key to the method of Finnegans Wake and leads us to a knowledge of its contents. The questions which are asked me over and over again are, "Why did Joyce write the way he did?" "Why did he make his book so difficult that no one can read it?" How can he be a great writer if no one understands him?" The simple answer to these questions is that Joyce was an Irishman writing in a method established a thousand years before his birth in Ireland and he has as a poet the characteristics of the land of his birth, the only subject about which he has written. As we do not quarrel with Homer for being Greek, let us put aside our annoyance at Joyce for being Irish and examine into the literature of his country to find there the clues to explain his method. The first thing to observe in the sentence we have quoted is that he wanted to recite it aloud and that he remembered every word of it. The ability to remember every word of it may not particularly impress us because television programs have familiarised us with persons who have astounding photographic memories. The resemblance to Joyce's ability is a false one, as Joyce did not have a photographic memory; what he had was the inborn trait of a highly developed specialist, known in ancient Ireland as an ollave. That he so regarded himself is stated several times in Finnegans Wake. Long before the advent of Christianity in Ireland there was a profound respect for the poet. In the social structure of pagan times he held the foremost place. The great body of the people could neither read nor write. Yet they were not uneducated; they had an education of another kind -- reciting poetry, historic tales and legends, or listening to recitation -- in which all people, high and low, took delight.
(Page 10) That one who successfully became an Ollave had a memory which was trained to a capacity exceeding anything demanded in any department of learning today can be easily seen and equally apparent is it that Joyce, looking upon himself as one contesting for this title, would master the ability to “remember every word of it” as a matter of course. It was this inherited ability which he fostered by practice that enabled him to write Finnegans Wake, since it is attested to by those near him during his lifetime that he could call up at will any part of it, knowing in exact detail where such and such words were to be found, an ability born out by an examination of the finely woven texture of Finnegans Wake, interwoven so intricately as to imply on his part a memory constant throughout its composition of its minutest parts. He further exhibited his remarkable powers of memory by reciting his Anna Livia Plurabelle in a recorded recitation entirely without written aid or prompting.
Susan Shaw Sailer wrote (in On the Void of to Be in 1993; The University of Michigan Press) ---- (Page 137) Sometimes, however, the relation of the word clusters to the passage's characters is puzzling. In their dialogue, for instance, Archdruid Balkelly speaks in pidgin Chinese and St. Patrick in pidgin Japanese. Why Chinese for the archdruid and Japanese for the saint? And why pidgin, in any case? The pidgin language connects with those passages in the Wake where other dialects are presented in a similar manner, but why, for instance, do Balkelly and Patrick speak pidgin Chinese and Japanese rather than, for instance, Muta and Juva in the preceding section? Part of the answer lies in readers recognizing Chinese and Japanese as the languages of historically hostile cultures, with Japan as the invader/aggressor -- hence Patrick as Japanese and Balkelly as an invaded Chinese; another, in recalling that pidgining in language occurs as an effect of the process of blending cultures, as invaded people adopt features of the invaders' language and vice versa -- hence pidgining as another name for the over-all process of "the seim anew." Further, the association of British Patrick and Irish archdruid with Japan and China links West and Orient in the universality of the conflict between an older and a newer social/religious order.
L. A. G. Strong wrote (in The Sacred River in 1949; Methuen & Co. LTD. London) ---- (Page 147) Finnegans Wake is a work of genius which labours under five main defects: 1. The two processes, from association to object, from object to association, seldom harmonise, and often create serious confusion. 2. The method depends not on selection, but on accretion. It would be idiotic to say that Joyce did not select, but his method is not selective. Where different drafts of his work have been published, the revisions tend to get longer and more elaborate. 3. Whereas dream material is ninety-nine per cent visual -- there is little sound in most people's dreams, and next to no smell or touch -- Finnegans Wake is very seldom visual. It is all addressed to the ear. 4. In his effort to cheat time and guard against the changing sense of words, in his endeavour to isolate meaning, Joyce has run a risk of locking it away in cold storage. 5. For the greater part of its length, it is a book written to a theory. We need not be bothered when Earwicker's mind commingles with Joyce's or anyone else's in a book wherein the destiny of the river is to "mingle with the ocean". Earwicker asleep is universal man, and can overhear and share in Joyce's jibes at Joyce as Shem the Penman, or in any man's mind at any time. Nor should our flesh creep at Mr. MacCarthy's picture of the unconscious. Once it can be to some extent integrated with consciousness, balanced life is a harmony between the two. That one should not get some of the main clues to the book's meaning till near its end we can also accept, for the book is by its nature circular, or static, not laid out in a straight line in time. Reading it is like rising in a balloon and watching the ground gradually take form and shape and its features assume relationship to each other, as in a map. But the five defects above are still serious. To admit them is by no means to disparage the book as a whole. The novels of Dickens gape and glare with faults, yet they are indisputably works of genius. The last scene of Twelfth Night, a perfunctory jumble of coincidences and inadequacies: Pursue him and entreat him to a peace . . . -- and this after Malvolio's exit, humiliated, raging, has stopped the play -- in no way detracts from the loveliest comedy in the language. The lyric harmonies of the fifth act of The Merchant of Venice do not resolve the discords of the trial scene, yet who would wish either away? We must face, as Mr. Powys points out, the possibility that Finnegans Wake succeeds in spite of its programme. That it achieves tremendous things grows clearer the more one reads it; long after the game of spotting significances has lost its early thrill. In any case, success or failure, it remains a brilliant and formidable feat of literary pioneering, to which all future artists in words must be in debt, if only because it shows some things to be impossible.
Ingeborg Landuyt wrote in ([Joyce Reading Himself and Others; pp. 141-151] in European Joyce Studies 14 edited by John Nash in 2002; Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam) ---- (Page 141) One of the main findings of genetic work on Finnegans Wake in Dublin, Paris Madison and Antwerp, is that Joyce's last novel is much more intertextual than even the most post-structuralist critics could have suspected. In many ways, Joyce was a reader before he was a writer: Finnegans Wake is made up of bits and pieces that Joyce took from a wide variety of sources, including reviews and criticism of his work. For an adequate understanding of the text, it is therefore crucial that we should find out what bits went into the text and where they came from. The answers to both questions may be found in the Finnegans Wake Notebooks, a set of workbooks that Joyce used between October 1922, when he began to write in Buffalo Notebook VI.B.10 and February 1939 when Finnegans Wake was finally published. Close analysis of these notebooks has revealed that the notebooks are not so much compositional or private documents, but an in-between station containing words and phrases which Joyce took from his reading and which at some point he intended to introduce into his new book.
(Page 142) Quite literally, Joyce began writing his last book by (proof)reading his earlier novel. The first of the Finnegans Wake notebooks opens with a number of misprints in Ulysses that Joyce planned to correct in the third printing of the book. But his interest in the earlier book did not stop: notebooks VI.B.10 and following contain regular references to Ulysses, especially to reviews of it, and in his letters too Joyce voiced his concern for the welfare of the book. This is most obvious in the earliest notebook. According to Danis Rose's chronology, VI.B.10 and a missing notebook (VI.X.1) preceded the writing of two new pages, "the first I have written since the final Yes of Ulysses," which Joyce announced in March 1923 (Letters I 202). VI.B.10 contains many references to his previous work, as well as loose notes on diverse topics, but no concrete new plans.
(Page 143) It is possible that the previous and other notes were triggered by reviews of or comments on Joyce's work. That Joyce informed himself on the reception of his book is obvious from his letters. In fact, a careful reading of the Ulysses reviews was necessary to promote the book: Joyce collected the press-cuttings for publicity purposes. It was on his behalf that Miss Weaver engaged several clipping agencies and the result of their selection was duly sent on to him. We may conclude from this fact that Joyce did not only read most reviews of his work, but even most articles in which his name was mentioned. Joyce duly dispatched messages of thanks to reviewers, suggested which extracts should be included in the Egoist Press publicity leaflets and harassed even more people into writing about his book. Undoubtedly he filed all his "Noise about Joyce" (Letters I 192) press-cuttings together and kept them in one of his folders or boxes.
(Page 145) Both the central idea that the letter had many authors and that these "contrarieties" were ultimately "eliminated in a stable somebody" (FDV 84) were based on a comment about Ulysses that had been published in a recent issue of the Dublin journal Claxon: "One might argue, some hundred years later, that Ulysses was the work of many hands, were it not for the fact that in the seeming medley of chapters and styles there is a form as rigid as that of a sonnet." When the text then adds "Now patience, And remember patience is the great thing" (FDV 85), this echoes the comment of John Middleton Murry that Ulysses is "extraordinarily interesting to those who have patience (and they need it)."
(Page 151) Joyce's reading of his own earlier texts, as witnessed in the Wake, is highly distanced and ironical. As far as possible, the writer tried to become his own very critical audience by adopting the tone and even the very words of the harshest critics of his earlier work. In one way Woolf may have been right about Joyce's mind. But his self-confessed lack of imagination was more than amply compensated by an enormous memory and a more than impressive breadth of reading. By studying Joyce's notebooks we can help to determine the exact role of his reading in the text of the Wake and, as we have seen in this case, even the role of his earlier works. A careful study of the notebooks will not just help us to find out what really went into the book, it may also give us an insight into the writer's poetics.
R. J. Schork wrote ([By Jingo: Genetic Criticism of Finnegans Wake; pp. 104-127] in Joyce Studies Annual 1994 edited by Thomas F. Staley; University of Texas Press) ---- (Page 104) Page after page of James Joyce's pocket notebooks for Finnegans Wake is crammed with clusters of words and phrases which look as if they had been assembled by a lexicomanic jackdaw. Often, merely deciphering the script can be hellishly hard. Determining connections, seeking sources, spotting and classifying the scattered disposition of these entries in the evolving text are equally challenging. Research into archival documents of this sort is usually (and necessarily) presented in formats that highlight their apparent banality. These notebook entries are the microscopic, pre-text details of a work which, even when complete, strikes many readers as devoid of design. It is not surprising, then, that hardly more than a handful of scholars, world-wide, regularly publishes their contributions to this marginal subsidiary of the multinational Joyce industry. The purpose of this article is, first, to outline what is involved in genetic research into Finnegans Wake, and then briefly to describe several different perspectives from which the task is approached. Finally, I shall trace the progress and procedures, from genesis to revelation, of an actual project involving what turned out to be a coherent and significant cluster of entries, thirteen in all, from just over a single notebook page. Fifteen thick volumes of the James Joyce Archive are dedicated to facsimiles of the 48VI.B (original) and the 18VI.C (transcribed) note-books, now on deposit at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Another twenty volumes reproduce drafts, typescripts, and galley proofs for various stages of the Wake's text; the originals of most of these documents are at the British Library. Al1, as well as similar material for Joyce's earlier works, are assembled in the massive James Joyce Archive. Only a few institutions have complete sets of these expensive, but basic and essential documents. The two primary outlets for genetic and related research A Wake Newslitter (1962- 1980) and even more so A "Finnegans Wake" Circular (1985-), had and have limited circulation and erratic publication schedules. The graphic conventions and the draft-stage indicators used for notebook transcription require quite a bit more practice to master than the apparatus in the average variorum edition. These practical matters tend to dampen fervid reader-response and to stymie hordes of eager imitators.
Aida Yared wrote ([Joyce’s Sources: Sir Richard F. Burton’s Terminal Essay in Finnegans Wake; pp. 124-166] in Joyce’s Studies Annual 2000 edited by Thomas F. Starey; University of Texas Press) ---- (Page 125) In this paper, I would like to focus on the presence of Burton's Arabian Nights in Finnegans Wake, and examine more specifically, a section from it entitled the Terminal Essay. I hypothesize that, early in his literary career, Joyce's knowledge of the Arabian Nights derived from the numerous versions he encountered in print or pantomime; many of the storylines and characters of The Nights hence made their way into Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. From the early 1920s on, Joyce's knowledge of The Nights derived mostly from the Burton edition and were extensively in Finnegans Wake, largely in a self-reflected process about the writing itself.
(Page 128) More precise information regarding the dating of Joyce's reading of Burton and the kind of information that specifically captured his attention can be gathered from "genetic" studies, i.e. examination of the material at the source (the "genesis") of Joyce's writing. During the composition of Finnegans Wake, Joyce jotted down abbreviated entries, derived among others from books he was reading (or that were being read to him), in some 50 Notebooks that he took great care to preserve. Scrutiny of these Notebooks and of the drafts for Finnegans Wake indicate that Joyce closely read (in some instance more than once) lengthy sections of Burton's Arabian Nights, including its marginalia. In particular, attesting to its importance as a source, Joyce read the Terminal Essay three times. Joyce's reading of the Terminal Essay spans the writing of Finnegans Wake. Elements from it appear in Notebook VI.A as early as 1923, i.e. when the Wake was still in a planning stage. He turned to it again -- enlisting the help of his friend and compatriot Padraic Colum -- in the early 1930's, when he was compiling Notebooks B.32 and B.28. He consulted it a third time in 1938, i.e. close to the publication of the Wake (1939). In addition to being by itself a source of information on varied topics such as religion and myth, story-telling, pornography and prosody, the Terminal Essay seems to have provided Joyce with an impetus to read the rest of Burton's work, which would extensively infiltrate Finnegans Wake.