Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I'll start out this post with a couple of asides. First, our roaming correspondent, PQ, has posted the news that he will be giving his paper on Joyce and Dali at the Huntington Library on Bloomsday of this year, and how cool is that? If you're going to be in Pasadena mid-June, you might check out the four day festival. You can get further news about it and PQ's part in all this here.

Secondly, I have just started S. J. Parris's Heresy, her Elizabethan thriller starring of all people, Giordano Bruno as the medieval sleuth. Bruno, as anyone reading here must know, is crucial to the Wake and it's already obvious that Parris knows her monk. Uh, man. It looks to be a good read in its own right too so I am very excited to have stumbled upon it.

Okay, back to the real, or at least ostensible reason for posting here. For some reason, I've had a hard time settling down to do this after our last meeting. I even have notes, but I guess it's been a little hard to find the focussed time lately. Then on Sunday, when I did carve out some time, I almost found myself getting in too deep into this fairlly brief little portion. But let me take another go at it.

Over the last two meetings, we've been on the part where the professor is taking yet another swing at making his point, this time with the examples of Burrus and Caseous, Brutus and Cassius, or butter and cheese. C. had pointed out the difference between butter and cheese the time before, one being fresh and new, and one being aged. This time we stumbled upon Joseph Campbell's remark:

"This machine for splitting butter and cheese out of a single emulsion, milk, represents allegorically the world process itself, which bring thesis and antithesis out of synthesis."

Now as I'm writing this, I remember comment (of Campbell's?) about the mother always being prehistory. History is, I guess, the result of splitting up this original synthesis. Somewhere in the course of my reading along on Sunday, I learned that the professor, a Shaun type, who is still all along making the case for why he would not stop and help a Shem type, really wants to say that the Shaun and Shem types, as opposites, are eternally different, while actually, as opposites they are 'doomed' to be synthesized into unity again.

As I was  thinking about this also, I wondered how exactly Brutus and Cassius are opposites. They are different types, but both types end up being assassins. So what does this tell us about Shem and Shaun?

We all agreed that reading the Wake might be helpful in dealing with a world with so many competing strands of information flying in so many directions. C. spoke again of her ongoing interest in Emergent Theology,
and the ideas implicit in it. We are all struggling to grasp the idea that we are in a kind of 'hinge' time, where we aren't really able to see the new paradigm, but get glimpses, largely through struggling along with Joyce. Giordano Bruno and his fearless embrace of the idea of an infinite universe, when others were still trying to cling to the old model, is something of our guide in this. I'm pleased to see that Heresy is faithful to this vision of him.

Finally, we have T.'s comment that 'if we think we're getting somewhere, we're not'. Which wasn't the indictment of  our efforts, but rather a reminder that the Wake is circular, and that getting anywhere is not the point. In this it reminds me of a recent radio interview that I heard with the poet Billy Collins, who was talking about poetry on the page versus prose. Poetry, with it's big white margins, reminds us in a way that other forms of writing doesn't that the goal is not to race through to the end, but to stop and contemplate what's before us. The Wake doesn't have very wide margins at all, but the lesson, I think, is somewhat the same...


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