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.



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