Monday, December 9, 2013

Rare recording to have Joyceans swooning at literary auction

The rare signed limited edition recording of Joyce reading aloud from the celebrated 'Anna Livia Plurabelle' passage from 'Finnegans Wake' is expected to fetch up to €2,500 when it goes under the hammer tomorrow....

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Goodreads Review of Finnegans Wake

I had a half completed review of Finnegans Wake  on Goodreads that I have updated from time to time over several years.  I have always meant to finish it, and have been adding bits and pieces to it over time.

I think it is a pretty good explanation, in case you want to give one to somebody a quick answer as to just what "why the heck are your reading that"?

  Finnegans WakeFinnegans Wake by James Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)

Fourth time through! The date is set to the date I read the final word "the".

(Read twice before and a third time selected passages.)

This is my favorite book of all time. Admittedly it is challenging, but what it does is simply unique in all of literature, beautiful, silly, inexhaustible and, perhaps, exhausting.

I don't want to say that you should read this book, unless it calls to you. It is not for every one. ...

Anyway here's the link:

Review of Finnegans Wake

Monday, November 11, 2013

T.S. Eliot Prufrock comic book

Because there is a big link to Eliot in the Wake and more importantly, because I know there is a bit of a crossover in terms of Joyce fans and Eliot fans in my circle of acquaintance, I thought I'd post a link to a Slate piece about an upcoming The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock--the comic book. First 9 pages featured HERE.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Are Parnellites Just Towards Henry Tudor?--page 307

Our roving correspondent PQ has alerted us to a new Finnegans Wake blog which seems well worth reading. This most recent post on From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay has to do with the tragic love triangle of Percy and Edith Thompson and her overly ardent lover, Frederick Bywaters. The story fascinated Joyce and it pops up frequently in the Wake, so you'd be  well advised to give it a gander.

We've made, as Ed mentions in the last post that we've begun a new chapter in the Wake, but I'm going to take a moment to mention something that came up as we summarized the Children's Study Hour chapter. For some reason or another, we,  or at least I got stuck on one of the many little headings that form a kind of cascade at the end of the book, "Are Parnellites Just towards Henry Tudor?" So, as we have just recently read the article on Joyce and Parnell, we were trying to figure out how Henry the Eighth might have had an effect on Parnell in terms of politics or women or whatever.

I can't say I've come up with any definitive answer on that. But there is a simpler answer to that. Who was Henry Tudor to Charles Stewart Parnell?

His younger brother. Henry Tudor Parnell, born in 1850 to Charles Stewart Parnell's 1846. Whether the Parnellites were just to him or not, though, I cannot say.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It may not or maybe a no concern of the Guinnesses but....

...In honor of our starting a new this new chapter, a note about the pub James Joyce in Prague:
Irish pub James Joyce celebrates 20 years with custom beer - PRAGUE POST | The Voice of Prague:

'via Blog this'

"that host of a bottlefilled, the bulkily hulkwight, hunter’s pink of face..."

"We rescue thee, O Baass, from the damp earth and honour thee...."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Finnegans Wake--for children?

When I was putting up the last post on the paper John found on Joyce and Parnell, I was trying to remember what you call the portion about the children's study hour which we had just gotten through. So I was Googling it, as you do, and Google started supplying answers, as it does. And one of the things it suggested was, Finnegans Wake for Children. You're having me on, I thought, so I went ahead and saw what it had come up with. And sure enough there was a link to Finnegans Wake for Children.

So I clicked it...

Go ahead--you'll like it. And thank you, Mr. Rosenbloom.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Page 308--Joyce and Parnell

At our meeting last night, we came to the end of the children's study hour section of the book. As Ed pointed out, it will be a relief of sorts not to have to orchestrate the left and right hand side of the page as well as the footnotes in our reading anymore, although actually the positive side of it is that it lent itself to more of a group reading.

John has emailed the rest of us that the talk of Parnell (which came up after the various misspellings of "hesitancy" in the last section. So he went out and found this essay on Joyce and Parnell, which was apparently a student paper. As John said, "I wish I could have written as good an essay when I took my Joyce course in college."

There is not a whole lot on Finnegans Wake in the paper, but it is a good account of Parnell's life and an evaluation of how Joyce was affected by this larger than life hero.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Assorted links

A commenter on my last post provided a link to his Finnegans Wake page-a-day project, which looks like a very interesting way to proceed. Check it out.

This reminded me to put up some links to a couple of other relevant posts. I've been remiss in not posting part 2 of Leslie's essay on Wagner's influence on Joyce over at Wagner Tripping. And more recently, PQ has written up a nice piece on Joyce's eye problems. As someone who is not always as sympathetic to Joyce's problems as I might be, I was definitely left feeling more charitable toward him.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Page 297: Fin for Fun!

Thanks to posts from Ed and links to posts from Leslie and PQ, this blog is not totally moribund. Though I have gotten a ways off from recording the actual progress of our stalwart cohort, don't be mistaken into thinking that the group itself has slacked off in its project of reading the Wake together. In fact we chug along as gamely as ever, despite our various comings and goings. In fact, we have actually reached the diagram at the heart of the book, which some take as the actual center, though pagewise, it is not so.

Other than mentioning the actual text "Fin is fun!", which Tom has declared he will take for his motto, or mantra, I forget which, I thought I'd mention where the Wake finds us in time rather than concentrate on our current passages. We are holding pretty steady with a membership (though there are no actual membership requirements) of seven, though in actual practice it's usually more like four or five at a session.We've also got a connection with the Austin Wake group, with one of its members here for the summer, which was very helpful while one or two of our regulars were away.

Perhaps through this cross-fertilization, we've changed it up a bit lately, after a long time of doing it pretty much the same way each meeting. We used to always read a section and then discuss, then another session and discuss. Lately, we've tried reading two lines at a time in turn, and also reading through all the pages for the session at once and then discussing for the rest of the time. I don't know that any way works better than any other, but it does seem good to try new things.

For quite a long time we had a fairly strong taboo against electronic devices, but that has broken down over the summer, and now there is usually an IPad or IPhone in our midst. Because of such devices, we've actually had contact with the Austin group while in session, as they have with us. For a long time we thought that the devices might get in the way, but in fact, we've always had supplementary help in the form of an ever growing stack of books, so it doesn't make as much difference as all that.  

As a group, we have gotten to know quite a lot about each other over time, though it's more in terms of the way we think than it is about our outer lives. We all have our particular hobbyhorses or favorite angles into the text, which works out fine, as its a text that benefits from multiple perspectives. The funnest part for me (Joyce would like, I think, the way that Word is trying to suggest funniest, finest and 'fun nest' in place of funnest) is when one person's thoughts spark something in another person's mind and we take off for awhile on some wild ramble.

It's been fun and appropriate to read this in a pub, although I'm sure some readers would be taken aback at the way we read over sometimes very loud music blaring from a speaker. Sometimes we get a little Joycean synchonicity with the song selection, once or twice it's happened with the weather. In fact, I think the Poet and the Patriot has become a kind of dream place in its way. Odd things sometimes happen.

We have become regulars over time there and our bartendress is always happy to see us, and we her, especially after some health concerns she had at one point. The other regulars tend to hang out at the bar and chat and watch sports together, but every once in awhile, someone will come up and inquire as to what we're up to. No one yet has ever crossed over to join us, but no one's ever crossed over to scorn us either.

Although I always find it rewarding when I do take some time to go deeper into the text after a meeting, I think most of us find that we don't actually study up much in between meetings and that it doesn't matter that much, which is probably part of the reason we've been able to sustain this project over the years . We've all gone off on our different side journeys with this, though. Tom has waded into the discussion of the thunderclaps by Eric McLuhan, and Leslie and Cathy have deepened their understanding of Ulysses by listening to the podcasts of Frank Delaney. John has been missed over the summer for his more mathematical leanings. Ed has gone looking after Lewis Carroll, to name but one interest. Ann can always relate the Wake to the mystical and cabbalistic. I've gotten interested in reading mystery novels featuring Giordano Bruno.

My current interest has to do with the fact that we are now on the other side of the mirror, where things have been reversed. Through the looking glass, if you will. I led my friends down the primrose path wondering what it means to be in this other place and they indulged me by talking about symmetry and reflection and a dome with mirrors.

I'll conclude with a little joke I heard yesterday. It's taken from Stephen King's On Writing.

A friend finds James Joyce sprawled across his desk in despair, and asked if it's the writing that has him down.

"Of course it's the writing."
The friend asks, "How many words did you write today?"


"For you, that's not bad."

"But I don't know what order they go in."


Don't forget. Fin is fun.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Here Comes Everywagner

At last, a post by another member of our group! True, she didn't post it here, but I can link to it. Her partner Robin is doing a year long blog in celebration of Richard Wagner's bicentennial, and asked Leslie to write a couple of posts on the Joyce-Wagner connection. The first part is here.

And then I suppose you're going to want to go back and read Wagner Tripping from the beginning...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

James Joyce’s historic sojourn in Nice recalled - Book News | Literature & Books Reviews & Headlines |The Irish Time - Tue, Jul 16, 2013

Yesterday was the anniversary of Joyce's start on Finnegans Wake!
He started to take notes musing about a new work there.

A mixed assembly of diplomats, city councillors, writers and a rock star gathered on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice yesterday to commemorate James Joyce’s brief stay at the Hôtel Suisse in 1922.... Read more: James Joyce’s historic sojourn in Nice recalled - Book News | Literature & Books Reviews & Headlines |The Irish Time - Tue, Jul 16, 2013:

'via Blog this'

(From left to right) Ambassador Paul Kavanagh, John Montague, Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi and Bono at the inauguration of the plaque to James Joyce on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Contemporary Wake Humor

"The first thing I did after I heard about the highly classified NSA PRISM program two years ago was set up a proxy server in Peshawar to email me passages from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. A literary flight of fancy. I started sending back excerpts from Gerard Manley Hopkins poems...I acknowledge now, of course, that the venture was not the wisest idea. "

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Belated Bloomsday

We had our Bloomsday celebration a day late, and now another day later, I am passing along this 'three minute Ulysses' from the Irish Times.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Finnegan reading--the Mookse and the Gripes

I meant to put this up some time ago, but life got away from me. Our sometime correspondent, Steve Farrell, sent me a link to his part in the James Joyce Ramble in Dedham, Massachusetts. He had attended last year, but this year was able to read from the Wake, as some regular reader on the course had had to be absent. His wife took a video of him reading from the Mookse and the Gripes section, and with his permission,  I offer it below...


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Poldy's book

For various reasons, some collective and some personal, I seem to be deeply disoriented right now. So, after seeing Ed's last post, and  the one I'm going to mention, I thought yesterday was Bloomsday and that in my distraction, I had missed it. Right day, wrong month.

Well, regardless, this conception or confection of the LiberateUlysses Collective looks pretty cool. Check it out.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Coin of the Realm

Joyce family split over error on new coin

Grand nephew says Dubliners are pleased to honour Joyce and proud of his writing...

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Just noticed this very nice short essay on the Wake on a blog I visit sometimes, but which usually has nothing at all to do with Finnegans Wake. The slightly mysterious Pykk is worth reading in its own right...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I've been a bit too busy to think much less post about our last meeting and Wake discussion. But I thought I'd at least mention a felicitous moment. In another book discussion I was involved in this past month or so, we undertook to read The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, by Tobias Smollett. An expedition I actually only got halfway through, but never mind. I happened to be with a couple of my fellow Wakers directly after the discussion, and it was only then that I realized--or it was realized for me, I forget which--that the very title of the book was a good old HCE find, given that Joyce never seems to care much about letter order here.

Given this, I of course began to wonder if Smollett might show up in Joyce in other ways. A quick web search reveals that the answer comes as early as page 29, lines 4-8:

“(Ivoeh!) the breezy side (for showm!), the height of Brewster’s chimpney and as broad below as Phineas Barnum; humph — ing his share of the showthers is senken on him he’s such a grandfallar, with a pocked wife in pickle that’s a flyfire and three lice nittle clinkers, two twilling bugs and one midgit pucelle.”

Finnegans Wiki expands upon that phrase "lice nittle clinkers" HERE . It mentions Humphry Clinker, and also tells us that Smollett=smolt, or salmon, which is nice.

So Joyce certainly knew Smollett's work (who is surprised?) and even had a copy of Roderick Random in his Trieste library. And it was interesting in the portion of Clinker I read to see some early forms of the word play that would later show up in Joyce, although Joyce of course takes this to the nth degree.

In fact...I just came across this interview with the poet Michael Graves (Happy National Poetry Month, by the way) in which he quotes his mentor James Wright:

He said Tobias Smollet wrote as if he had an erection and all the blood in his body had rushed to it. He also said Smollet's epistolary novel Humphrey Clinker was an influence on the deliberate mispellings of Finnegans Wake.

So you don't have to take my word for it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's Diagram of Finnegans Wake (1946)

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's Diagram of Finnegans Wake (1946)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Introducing Orlando Mezzabotta

I swiped this from PQs blog, Finnegans, Wake!. The current post  has a lot of interesting things to say about the chapter we've just got done reading.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Instead of that chop suey you're writing you might try sensible books that people can understand.--Nora

On this day in 1923, James Joyce wrote to his patron, Harriet Weaver, that he had just begun "Work in Progress," the book which would become Finnegans Wake sixteen years later: "Yesterday I wrote two pages -- the first I have written since the final "Yes" of Ulysses. Having found a pen, with some difficulty I copied them out in a large handwriting on a double sheet of foolscap so that I could read them. . . ." Today in Literature 3-11

Friday, February 22, 2013

Eight Royal Terrors

What a mnice old mness it
all mnakes! A middenhide hoard of objects! Olives, beetskim-
mells, dollies, alfrids, beatties, cormacks and daltons. Owletseegs
(O stoop to please!) are here, creakish from age and all now
quite epsilene, and oldwolldy wobblewers, haudworth a wipe o
grass. Sss! See the snake wurrums everyside! Our durlbin is
sworming in sneaks.

-Archaeologists from the National Museum are excavating an ash pit at the rear of a house in which James Joyce and his family lived between 1900 and 1901.  The house is 8 Inverness Road, Fairview, which in Joyce’s time was known as Royal Terrace. This is the house where the family is recorded as living in the 1901 census....So far the main discovery has been a large collection of about 200 coloured glass slides, mainly on religious subjects.  It is possible that these were used in a magic lantern show or in some other form of display....
The Irish Times - Friday, February 22, 2013
Archaeologists hope to uncover secrets at James Joyce's house in Fairview

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The sixth thunderclap

We're meeting again tomorrow, and as is my wont, I have just gotten around to reading the excerpt Tom sent around to each of us from the book The Role of Thunder in Finnegans Wake, by Eric McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan's son. (I think Joyce would be pleased that, when I was looking this up to make sure I had the title right, I looked up the "roll" of thunder.Thank heaven's for Google, which knows my intentions better than I know them myself.)

We have just gotten through the sixth thunderclap, though are not quite through the end of the chapter itself. This portion of McLuhan's book deals with precisely the ground we have just covered with a small taste of what lies just ahead. I think it's comforting to know that with the help of each other and our copious commentaries, we do have the basic sense of the story, even if there are always fascinating new details to learn. Or new ways to synthesize the sense of the whole more completely.

Reading the thunderclap ourselves, we did learn that it contains many ways of saying "Shut the door", which is what HCE is saying, ending the children's play outside and bringing them in for tasks and food. The more ordinary world, the world that is not playtime. But McLuhan makes the case that in the larger sense, we are at the end of the reign of the visual sense and now in the realm of the ear. And Finnegan and the gods are rising again.

I found it interesting that McLuhan equates the supremacy of vision with the watchful eye of the matriarchal, and that this in turn is the world that is rational and desecralized. One thing to watch for is that this thunderclap apparently means an end of sequence, of things happening one after the other. In McLuhan's words, it is one of "cyclic simultaneity, freed of the strait-jacket of sequence." I find this a fascinating idea, although I have scarcely any idea at all of its implications.

Another thing that was interesting in the commentary was the reminder of how musical Joyce  was, and the quote from one Peter Myer that the sounds in the section "spiral towards a climax reached by thunder". As a group who reads the book aloud, we hear the words fairly well, I think, but this is a whole new exhortation to pay attention to the tempo, to the little motifs, and perhaps in general to think of the book more as we would an orchestral work. And orchestral work in human voices.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A dream

I had a dream last night in which I was attending a kind of reading of Finnegans Wake. It was almost more like a concert than a regular reading. About five or six men and women read in turn from the book, and they seemed to accelerate toward the end catching a fragment on one page and a fragment on the next. I realized that what they were swas the sharing here was actually the secret of time. I found it moving and even overwhelming and went off after without saying anything, but realized that this was rather rude. So I went back and congratulated them. Some of them were young people that I work with and one of them told me that they were glad to have pulled it off, and maybe weren't all that sure they had. It became clear to me that they were focussed on the performance and hadn't learned the esoteric lore of the text they were reading.

Of course, I hadn't either, but at least I understood that it was there.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

1132, or Happy Birthday, James Joyce!

Thanks to an early email from fellow Santa Cruz Waker Ed, I was not too tardy in learning that February 2nd is James Joyce's birthday. Don't judge me too harshly, Joyce fanatics--Bloomsday tends to eclipse everything else in my mind when it comes to Joyce dates.

So I thought I'd get a post up tonight in his honor, but little did I know that the post would be more relevant than I thought. I thought that at the very least, I could delve in a bit to a question that came up at our last meeting, which involved the significance of the number 1132. Tom knew it was a scientific measurement, the famous one from Ulysses, and when John arrived he knew it was a measurement about the speed of sound. I knew that it had to relate to some historic Irish date, probably that of an invasion. That's as far as we got.

Well, 1132 is, as John told us, 1132 feet per second is the speed of sound in air. And, as Tom was remembering, the famous 32 feet per second per second is the acceleration due to gravity at the surface of earth, and being about falling bodies, is relevant to Finnegans fall, and symbolic of other kinds of falling as well. As we know it appears in Ulysses many times as well as in the Wake, even if some of us don't always remember what the formula refers to. In fact, the number is significant in many other ways, as listed HERE .

However, this was not the first reference I found, and that was the one I found most interesting. I'll give you the link in a minute, but let me just say first that the writer, one "Riverend" Clarence A. Sterling wants to interest us in 1132 as a year, and sees certain 1132 street addresses as telling us that 1132 may not only be a year, but a place. He says that the last mention of 1132 as a number is in the phrase January 31st, 1132 AD. And I'm sure you are waiting with bated breath to know its significance, as I was.

St. Brigid's Well, Kildare

The good Riverend goes on to talk about St. Brighid, one of the three patron saints of Ireland. St. Brighid's Saint's Day is February 1st, and is followed by Imbolc, or Lambing Day, one of the four Gaelic Holy Days. He says that Joyce was very proud to have been born on Lambing Day, and thought of Brighid as his muse. It's interesting in relation to a discussion we were having about PQ's recent blog post about the Tunc page, and his group's thoughts about puncturing time. St. Brighid, somewhat like the Chasidic rabbis we were talking about, is said to have the ability to be anywhere, at any time. She is herself, she is also Mary. She is pagan AND Christian, not one to be pinned down. Yes, a perfect muse for Mr. Joyce.

All right, so what was January 31st, 1132 according to Riverend Sterling? It was the day that the Abbess of Kildare was raped, reputedly at the behest of one Dermot of MacMurrogh for the sake of destroying her sanctity and ruining her order. And who was this abbess? A direct descendent, according to the lore, of St. Brighid herself. Sterling says that the ruin of the abbey was the inside treachery that weakened the country and led to the possibility of the Anglo Norman invasion of 1169. As he says:

St Brighid's house had been purposefully shattered because it bred harmony. We are still trying to fit together the broken shards.

Another thing to think about. The Celtic calendar apparently doesn't coincide precisely with ours. This is because the day starts at sunset. So, as you will find in the page shortly to be disclosed, this way of seeing things blurs the boundaries between February 1st and February 2nd in our way of thinking. Totally appropriate, I'd say, to we aspiring Joyceans.

And do check out Riverend Sterling's essay HERE . You will find much fascinating food for  thought, more than I could relate here.

Joyce, Pound, John Quinn, Ford Madox Ford--Paris, 1923


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First Chinese edition of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce Sells Out

'Mentally ill' James Joyce is a surprise hit in China

First Chinese edition of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce sells out 8,000 print run in just weeks but faces backlash as author is called 'mentally ill'....

read more:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our latest meeting

Although I'm not going to get into the textual elements of our last meeting right now, I remembered some of the elements of it. We had a somewhat smaller group and so got on to some tangents before settling in. My own particular contribution was my native skepticism about pretty much everything. The thing I find myself trying to grapple with is my own rejection of the framework story. Or one framework story. We have HCE, ALP, their twin sons Shaun and Shem and their daughter Issy. Personally, I find myself struggling with this at heart traditional/patriarchal story of what human life is, and find myself wanting out of the story. As we continued to talk about it, though, I realized that this is simply the particular slant I bring to table. I feel very similar things about the Bible. Let me out of this particular masculinist way of viewing the world!

Tom came to my rescue, though,  in claiming his own resistance to the tale, and saying that many of us will bring a resistance to the Wake. We confront it, and it confronts us. I think the key is to realize that this is a work that is bigger than us, and, much like the Bible, we can challenge it and it is big enough to take that challenge.

The other pre-reading element of the evening was that we took a look at some type of the  Myers-Briggs spectrum of personality. As we tried to fit Shaun and Shem into one of the boxes, we slowly came to see that we were approaching this slightly wrong. It wasn't going to help to look at Shaun and Shem from the outside and try to diagnose them. The thing to do was to take the test and try to do it through the eyes of each of these opposed characters. That we will put in the "To Be Continued" portion of our studies...

Sunday, January 27, 2013


PQ, who has put up the relatively new Finnegans, Wake! blog in addition to  his posts at A Building Roam, has done a yeoman's work in assembling various web based resources and group sightings. Check out his Walkthrough of Relevant Links .

We Santa Cruz Wakers even get a mention as a group that continues to update its content here. May it be so, PQ. May it be so.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

A different way of reading the Wake

I read an interview with the poet Susan Howe yesterday in the most recent Paris Review (No.203, Winter 2012, in case the link stops working). A big fan of Joyce--she read Portrait of the Artist in high school and it inspired her to move to her mother's native Ireland for a time in her youth--she mentions that she goes to her mother's copy of  Finnegans Wake whenever she gets stuck in her own work and finds inspiration there. She also said that, like the Bible, it is not something she could ever read straight through.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Blake's Prophetic Works and the Imaginative Thread of Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

Joyce was omnivorous. And as a result, it is possible to trace practically anybody as his predecessors and influences in the composition of Finnegans Wake. However, there appear to be a handful of influences on Joyce that are writ large, such as Bruno, Vico, The Egyptian Book of The Dead, and Lewis Carroll. I will suggest that the influence of Blake also played a major role (1).

Early in his career, Joyce gave a series of lectures mapping the realist and imaginative currents in English literature at the Università Popolare, Trieste (2). The twin poles he furnished for this literary cartography were Defoe, and Blake.

It is tempting to see in this dichotomy a foreshadowing of Joyce's development here: progressively more and more deeply imaginative and original treatment of more and more extensive exploration of the details of everyday existence. In doing so, by his own inner realist logic, when incorporating the conscious and finally the unconscious mind, his methods would take a decidedly imaginative direction. As Joyce extended his realist domain he successively exhausted and shed each progressively more original (and progressively darker) stylistic shell. First, exploring human drama and incident (Dubliners and Portrait), he then directed his scrupulous attention to human society, technics and conscious human awareness (Ulysses), and finally (Finnegans Wake) into a dim and blurry, yet paradoxically painstaking, comedy of myth, history, the unconsciousness, sleep, and dreams. Yet even in Finnegans Wake, Joyce's naturalism sought to build his imaginative structure on what Blake called the “minute particulars” of observation. I will argue that Blake's imaginative structures provided models for certain aspects of Finnegans Wake.

However, at first glance there would not appear to be a close relationship for Joyce with this Romantic and mystical poet he cited as his epitome of the imaginative pole. Joyce was a lapsed Catholic and materialist, with an aesthetic orientation, a realist in the technical sense, and a highly refined and subtly distanced intelligence, with a nuanced and somewhat whimsically earthy equivocating spirit that sought to simultaneously redeem and embrace everyday life, and therefore built upon the commonplace the “outward sign of an inward grace”.

Blake's orientation was primarily spiritual, and was a devout, albeit highly unorthodox Protestant Christian who fled from the ordinary, and urgently wished to redeem human beings from the oppression of religion, law, excessive rationality and sexual repression. Blake's mind had a decidedly otherworldly cast. Blake's humor lacks most of the Joycean whimsy and earthiness, and rather tends towards the choleric irony of the truly earnest. Although a writer, Blake was also a practicing printer and visual artist, whereas Joyce was neither.

Nonetheless both share a surprising number of traits. Both were unafraid of obscurity and ambiguity. Both attempted to describe nonrational states of consciousness. Both believed in the primacy of art. Both were highly unconventional. Both were largely self published, and marginalized. They were both interested in artistically totalizing universal experience. (3) And both unwaveringly followed a personal path into territories largely incomprehensible to their contemporaries.

Blake's major prophetic poems represent an earlier venture to create a universal myth, and provide many surprising thematic similarities to and anticipations of Joyce's final work. We also know that Joyce was quite familiar with Blake's poetry, and had read his unfinished major prophetic poem “The Four Zoas”, as well. Of all of Blake's works, the “Four Zoas”seems to bear an especially close structural affinity to Finnegans Wake, and I will argue that there are significant parallels between Wake, as well as other of Blake's work, such as “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”

In Blake's “Four Zoas”, Albion, Blake's Universal Man, and analog of the Kabbalah's Adam Kadmon(4), the primal soul that contains all souls within it, and an anthropomorphic representation of the universe, is shattered into partial aspects of reduced consciousness, through a dream sequence of nine nights, and reassembled into a spiritual and psychological whole. HCE in Finnegans Wake shares a similar role as the universal being, a Humpty Dumpty, that encompasses all, who has a great fall, and whose consciousness lies in fragments and seeks reintegration. In both cases the fragments take on independent existence as separate beings. And in both cases, the original pure and undivided consciousness has passed through a form of “forgetting”, where it no longer recognizes these beings as offshoots of itself.

 In both works, time is treated in an unconventional way. Events in Blake's treatment are atemporal everpresent archetypes, and in a sense constitute consciousness states that exist outside of time. (Blake uses the term “eternity”, not in the sense of everlastingness, but rather as a term for atemproality.) In Finnegans Wake, time is cyclical and therefore eternal, and also overlaid, so that the past and future are contemporaneous “forriver”.

For Blake the divided human soul is represented as a fourfold entity, the four Zoas, which represent creativity/imagination/spirit, reason/law/judgement, emotion/love, and body/desire/need. HCE, Joyce's Divided Man lies spread out and “dud” stretching to the four corners of the earth, the four “dimmansions” of space-time--between his bedposts which come alive as the Four Annalists/Evangelists, each the patron of one of the four Viconian Ages. These follow the archtetype of fourfold forms, “three and one different or special”: north is the compass point to which the needle points; time is the one dimension of the four that is consumed; John is the Evangelist who seeks to put a more spiritual/philosphic gloss on things; the Ricorso is the Age of Chaos, the “a-wake-ening” of all forms at once; Urthona, the Zoa that represents creativity/imagination/spirit, and thereby incorporates all the various energies that need to be reassembled.(5)

To the waking mind polar opposites are subject to the dissective hygene of Aristotelian logic, so that the inconvenient other can be disowned. But in a dream world, or seen from a non-rational level of consciousness, opposites become what Blake called “contrarities”, and are “equally true.” Blake tends to approach this as a drama in “eternity”, splitting off and recombining to reach resolution; since this is “eternal” (in the Blakean sense) these polar opposites coexist. Joyce's pun-language has the luxury of combining two meanings in the same word with true simultaneity, and therefore takes the form of an epiphany, or frozen continuous moment, rather than a drama (albeit understood in a special timeless way).

However, both authors have linguistic strategies for expressing simultaneous contrarities. Both use forms of humor. The Joycean weapon is the pun. Joyce very frequently uses them in such a way that they suggest not merely different meanings, but opposite meanings, rendering the reader gobsmacked, and even wondering, for example, “if life is worth leaving.” Although Blake's language is certainly obscure, he does not make such extensive use of puns. However he frequently makes use of irony, and deliberately uses certain words in a very special sense. For example, although very spiritually oriented, Blake's always uses the term “religious” in a negative sense, and treats“chastity” and “virginity” as opposites. In “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, he actually reverses the roles of Hell and Heaven, Satan and God; the proverbs in its “Proverbs of Hell” section are what Blake believes. There is one particular aspect of Finnegans Wake that particularily follows the ironic construct of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”.

The brothers dual/duel in Finnegans Wake represent the relation of the disinherited other, Shem, to the heir, Shaun. In the “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” Satan's account is that he really is Jesus, and that he “built heaven from what he stole from the abyss”. Taking the ironist view of “Marriage” opens a particular reading of the twins. A exoteric reading of Finnegans Wake would see Shem (Lucifer) as despicable merely. The ironist view suggests, rather, Shem is all of the scary needful bits of HCE that he cannot acknowlege, and is the gatekeeper of art, spirit and enlightenment; Shaun all that his repressive consciousness can accept and approve. In Finnegans Wake the Universal Man cannot live without the integration of these two contrarities.


I have dispensed with references to quotes from Finnegans Wake, and other quotes that should be familiar.--ES


Whose Blake Did Joyce Know and What Difference Does It Make?Anita Gandolfo
James Joyce Quarterly
Vol. 15, No. 3 (Spring, 1978), pp. 215-221

By Elaine Mingus (need to find)


Joyce's lecture on Blake, was part of the series announced as "Verismo ed idealismo nella letteratura inglese (Daniele De Foe–William Blake)" (that is, "Realism and Idealism in English Literature") and presented at the Università Popolare, Trieste. The first lecture on Defoe took place on 9 February 1912 (see John McCourt, The Years of Bloom [Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2000], pp. 178–179). This may be the faircopy from which Joyce presented the lecture.

(3) I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans--Blake 
In the religious writings of Kabbalah, Adam Kadmon is a phrase meaning "Primal Man". The oldest rabbinical source for the term "Adam ha-Ḳadmoni" is Num. R. x., where Adam is styled, not as usually, "Ha-Rishon" (the first), "Ha-Kadmoni" (the original).

It is said that Adam Ḳadmon had rays of light projecting from his eyes. In Lurianic Kabbalah, Adam Ḳadmon acquired an exalted status equivalent to Purushain the Upanishads, denoting an anthropomorphic concept of the universe itself. In this variant of mythopoetic cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis, the "Adam Soul" is described as the primeval soul that contained all human souls.

anthropomorphic concept of the universe itself. In this variant of mythopoetic cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis, the "Adam Soul" is described as the primeval soul that contained all human souls

In “The Four Zoas”, the quarrel between the Urizon and Urthona reminds one of the brother duel. However, in the “Four Zoas”, Urthona is not treated ironically, but heroically. The Zoa representing the mind usurps the the place of the Zoa that represents the spirit instead of confining itself to those things that are appropriate for rational consciousness, resulting in the fragmentation and disintegration of all aspects of being. )

Sunday, January 6, 2013

No light, but rather darkness visible

... is a phrase by Milton, but ---extremely apropos of  Finnegans Wake, the final essence of "darkness in literature".

Here's an article listing the five (Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, and last but not least dark, James Joyce):

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Mayan view of time

Wakers may find some resonance in this article about cyclical time in Mayan thought, now that the world as we know it hasn't ended...

The author, Barbara Rogoff, actually teaches at UCSC. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

End of the year meeting--253-55

I thought I'd try and do a little justice here to our last meeting of 2012 before 2013 gets far under way. We tweaked the schedule a little to include three visitors and Wake fans currently residing in Austin, which took some maneuvering but was well worthwhile. I think it's a good thing to start out the year as you mean to go on, and so I wanted to get up a post on the first day of the year. Probably short and scrabbly, but better than nothing.

I'll start by pointing out a couple of our participants' favorite lines. Peter is much taken with "for ancients link with presents as the human chain extends", which has both an ALP and a HCE linked together and which brings the past and future together in the present moment. It seemed very fitting to come upon this phrase in a moment at the very tip of one year and headed into another, where our graying regulars met for a night with the next generation of Wakeans.

He also pointed out the "Meereschal MacMuhun" reference, one of the many plays on the names of people Joyce himself couldn't have known, in this case Marshall McLuhan, an avid Joycean himself.

John's favorite line starts the next paragraph in the middle of 254: "The mar of murmury mermers to the mind's ear, uncharted rock, evasive weed." With its undertones of memory and and its overtones of the sea--or maybe the reverse, it indeed has a tidal kind of beauty.

Halley and Ann in took in turn to ask what Joyce was trying to do in writing the book, and Ann returned to a previous theme that she and Tom seem to jibe with which was his attempt to break through language to reach and have us reach an unmitigated reality. Tom maintains that every word is a possible portal. I asked even "A"? Not to be glib exactly, but because our paragraph had also included this sentence "A and aa ab ad abu abiad." He said yes, but I remain skeptical of A as a portal. Although it will probably turn out that the letter A was originally the diagram for a door or something. That would be my kind of luck.

The thing that struck me most was the way that language appears to be our all in all. It is not only that we don't really apprehend things without language, but also that we don't recognize being without language as equal to us in some way. In the kind of synchronicity we all like to talk about around Joyce, I had been thinking about this theme earlier in the day. About how there are so many being in the world that we ignore or don't think about simply because they don't speak or even just don't speak our language in one way or another. As happens when you are reading the Wake, many different kinds of sparks fly off the words and connect things and elucidate them further.

As it happened we ended up talking about what Tom called the limit we are most familiar with, which is death, and how Finnegans Wake is about a man presumed dead who is not in fact dead, and how we as human beings have a primordial uneasiness with how to figure out when life has really been extinguished. This led to talk of deathlike states induced by drinking from lead drinking steins, bells on strings which the dead could pull from their coffins if they turned out not to be as dead as all that, and Mary Baker Eddy with her telephone. (According to Snopes, this rumor is false.) The "locked in" state of some people in comas who cannot communicate their awareness.

Gruesome perhaps, but not inappropriate, either to the Wake or the end of an old sad year.

Happy New Year, and thanks for joining us, Charlie, Hallie and Peter!