Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vico, Language, Childhood, the Unconscious, and One Hundred Ways of theThe Dark Night

That Vico is associated with the four sided ("square wheel") of cycles is sort of a cliche of Wake scholarship.  Like many cliches it is true, as far as it goes.  However, Bishop drew my attention to a very interesting aspect of the psychological Vico and how it meshes with the Wake.  I really need to read some Vico to check into this more deeply, but this is what I have learned.  What actually is of interest in Vico is the Viconian idea of the unconscious, what Vico called "ignorance", and how the primitive consciousness comes into awareness, and how the enlightenment of full consciousness is reflected in language!

It is of special interest in the stories of the children and children's games and how they interface with sleep and the unconscious mind.  In Vico's imagination, the childhood of the world originates in a night of thick ignorance, where everything is "reveiled", as Joyce would put it.  Vico uses a term for the childhood of the human race that is usually translated as "ignorance".  But it in many ways anticipates modern psychology where childhood where one is "jung and easily freudened", is tied to the archaic, and that in turn is tied to the unconsciousness.  That must have been attractive to Joyce, who appears to have been deeply interested in how the night mind, the unconscious, represents a kind of cloud of unknowing, not just out of awareness, but forming a kind of erasure.  Certainly the term "ignorance" has an overlaid meaning, both simple lack of sophistication and knowledge on the one hand, but a dark vacuum of awareness.  Into that nothingness Vico posits the unnameable, "the fright of light" that is the first lightning spark of simultaneously, language ("O Loud") and consciousness, and the development of the individual mind (en-lightningment) on a parallel track with history.  Vico considers that the mind first frames consciousness in the form of poem and myth to react to this first flash, in confusion and fear, in "thud and blunder".  The Lord thundred from heauen: and the most high vttered his voice. ...2 SAMUEL 22:14 (1611 KING JAMES BIBLE).  Note that thundred implies both thundered, and hundred;  I have not heard this anywhere, but I suspect that's why Joyce uses a hundred letter word.

Here's a link with a discussion of the thunder words:
The hundredletter thunderwords of Finnegans Wake
For your convenience, I attach them here:

FW003 (thunder):
FW023 (thunder):
FW044 (clap):
FW090 (whore):
FW257 (shut the door):
FW414 (cough):
FW424 (Norse gods):
The tenth and last has 101 letters, making 1001 letters in all.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting point about the "veil." It seems to be not only a token of modesty and mystery, but also a disguise for the recondite wisdom forever eluding us in this tantalizing book. The besieged Earwicker dreams of those "lililiths undeveiled which had undone him". And at the rising of the moon after the Mime, the kids say "We are circumveiloped by obscuritas."

    Incidentally, the restored text has the last thunder-word as 100 letters: the 71st letter r above is missing: "baugimandodrrer" is actually "baugimandodrer".

    And one of the four old men even says to Shaun in reply, "The hundredlettered name again, lost word of perfect language."