Wednesday, January 26, 2011

McLuhan--page 155-56

We had a very stimulating discussion this evening and I thought I would post in a more impromptu way while my thoughts are fresh, with less desire for mastery or completeness or whatever causes me to baulk at chronicling than I usually do.

We didn't get very far tonight. Although we would all like to be done with the riddles in some way, in another way, there is nowhere to get, except perhaps, and provisionally, to go deeper. Our discussion was influenced from the get go by the fact that a new book has come out on Marshall McLuhan and two of us happened to catch the cover story of the New York Times Book Review on it. One of us (not me) went on to do a bit more research on McLuhan, and found that McLuhan was a proselytizer for Joyce in a big way. According to T., McLuhan wanted all of us to be able to see reality as Joyce had seen it. (Never forget that if I was in a novel, I would be the unreliable narrator, so you can't totally trust me to have gotten the idea across.)

Add to this, the recent posting  by PQ about his latest trip up to see the Venice group of Wakers, who are also McLuhan followers in a big way. Although I was happy to hear of a vital group going in California, being me, I kind of sluffed off the McLuhan aspect without thinking much about it. But now I at least get a glimmer that one of the places that Finnegans Wake, which frankly doesn't seem to have a lot of literary children or grandchildren (though of course, I'm happy to be challenged or even corrected on this), may have led to developments in other spheres. Joseph Campbell's treating it as myth is another take on it.

T. brought out the idea that we struggled with for much of the night. He talked about FW as being Joyce's attempt to speak in one language. As I didn't really understand this idea, we continued on this thread, and got talking about one of McLuhan's tenets that "the medium is the message".  We started talking about media, well, mediating reality, and how Joyce's goal was, or at least may have been to take us beyond language in some way, to see through it. That the novel's goal was in some way to break through the constraints of language to the ground of reality. This reminded me of a quote I read on PQ's blog recently,

"One day it will have to be officially admitted that what we have christened reality is an even greater illusion than the world of dreams." - Salvador Dali

 We talked about whether everything Joyce wrote was artfully crafted into a unity, or if, in fact, as A. had it, within his bigger structure, he was fond of taking "excursions" into all kinds of things. Or was it both? We came back to something that C. had brought to our attention, which was that Joyce himself had thought that for a genius, there was no possiblity of mistake, because the mistakes become incorporated into the process. I hadn't understood this at the time, but feel closer to it now. It is the process of thought itself that is the medium. Following Joyce's thought, even when we don't understand it too well, we are still involved in a process that will help us see through the medium itself. I had this strange hope by the end of the evening that by the time I finish Finnegans Wake, I will lose the illusion that I am in a small room and discover I am in a much larger, perhaps even a  boundless one.

Perhaps I will say more about this evening before our next meeting.

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