Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Manual for the Advanced Study of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

I know you will all be eager to read this...

Joyce Lexicography - Contemporary Literature Press:

A Manual for the Advanced Study of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

in one hundred and eleven volumes

by C. George Sandulescu and Lidia Vianu

26,000 pages

'via Blog this'

Sunday, November 2, 2014

And yet more news from afar

For various reasons, we've been having a little trouble getting a quorum together here at the Santa Cruz Wakers over the last month, but this is down to scheduling problems, not lack of enthusiasm. As if in compensation, there's been quite a lot of news from outside sources and so I thought I'd assemble another links post.

First off, our Austin correspondent PQ has announced the completion of his four part series on John Bishop's Joyce's Book of the Dark. If you're reading anywhere near the time I'm writing this, you can probably see the fourth part posted in the sidebar. In any case, PQ has posted links to all four parts over on his other website, A Building Roam. It's quite an ambitious project. I bought a copy of this book at the beginning of the year and have recently been thinking about finally digging in. Obviously this whets my appetite.

Next, we had an email from the folks at Waywards and Meansigns , announcing their project of recording the Wake in its entirety. Seventeen parts, done by seventeen different groups or individuals. Sounds fascinating. They are asking for participants, so check out their website and get involved.

And finally, in talking with a fellow Waker about the dance project on Finnegans Wake that Joseph Campbell's wife, the dancer Jean Erdman, did, which I mentioned in my last post , I learned of another dance/multimedia project that just happened in San Francisco. It's over, unfortunately, but there's an extensive description at SF Arts. It's a piece by Jenny McAllister, who founded the 13th Floor Dance Theatre, and is called "A Wake". Which you know Joyce would have liked.

As a sort of postscript, Kathleen Kirk, who originally clued me in to it, suggested contacting the Jean Erdman Dance website to see if there was any film record of Erdman's Wake-inspired  "The Coach With Six Insides". I haven't gotten around to that yet, but don't let that stop you from inquiring if you're interested.

Friday, October 17, 2014

News from afar

I just thought I'd link to a couple of posts that have come my way related to the Wake. One can be found in the sidebar here anyway, but as that at some point will disappear, I'll just mention that PQ has posted a YouTube that he learned of from his Austin Wake group. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet--it's fairly long--but I will be. It's a discussion by Terrence McKenna about the Wake, and I suppose it's a small world kind of thing that it was filmed at Esalen, which is retreat center just a few hours down the road from Santa Cruz in Big Sur. It's from 1995.

Here's the link to the video on PQ's site, Finnegans, Wake! which is always worth dropping by in any case. 

The other comes from Kathleen Kirk's site Wait! I Have a Blog?! Kathleen is describing her current read, which is a biography of Joseph Campbell called A Fire In the Mind. Most Wakers who have made any headway with the Wake at all will have at least some familiarity with Campbell's work A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, which he wrote with Henry Morton Robinson. If you're like me, though, you don't know that his wife, Jean Erdman, composed a dance theatre piece based on Finnegans Wake called "The Coach with Six Insides." Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be any video available of this, although I see that there are some rare LPs out there. It doesn't really seem like quite the right format to get what's going on, but I could be wrong. Wake fans, you may want to see what else you can track down about this one.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

His Story is a Nightmare From Which I am Trying to Awaken (with apologies to Stephen Dedalus)

I have my different phases with Joyce. I am often content to just sit back and admire his marvelous inventiveness, his sly humor, his virtuosity and, yes, I said yes, his genius. Other times, I feel both compassion for his suffering and admiration for his tremendous perseverance, feelings I definitely had in my recent reading of The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin  Birmingham. But running along as another undercurrent to my Joycean musings I also frequently feel a sense of alienation. Every once in a while it comes  right up to the surface, as it did at our latest Wake reading the other night. Afterwards, I was trying to remember what set me off this time, and realized that it was his whole raven/dove dichotomy as related to the feminine. Frankly, it just bugged the hell out of me.

First off, I don’t really have a huge taste for these kinds of polarities. I don’t like ravens being the symbol for dark, the sinister, or any of the underworld side of things. Ravens are smart and resourceful and are a lot more like us than we probably realize, and it’s a bum rap to cast our own shadow on to them. Doves, despite being appropriated by Christian iconography are probably mean and vicious sometimes themselves. I get a little tired of doves, rabbits, lambs all being the symbols of innocence when they’re actually a bit on the dim side.

Anyway.  Joyce and women. I really don’t buy his take at all. I have virtually no empathy for Molly Bloom, patron saint of the affirmative way of life though she well may be, and find Leopold Bloom himself much more a kindred spirit than his lie-abed counterpart. I mean, don't we all? Isn't that why we read Ulysses in the first place? Leopold Bloom, c'est moi?

As far as the Wake goes, well, Izzy is all right, in her dovelike, lamblike, cloudlike way, but ALP, the river, the past present future, fecundity, etc., I don’t get her. I know she’s not exactly meant to be a naturalistic figure of course, but it’s exactly in Joyce’s mythologizing of the feminine where I tend to run afoul of him. It’s not just an ideological disagreement. It's more visceral. The best I can say is that I start to feel in a trap or a bind, like I’m caught inside his way of seeing, and I feel like flailing against the bars. I find myself wanting what is outside his mind. Reality as it is not known, or dreamt of in the philosophies of James Augustine Aloysius Joyce. I want the feminine equivalent of Joyce to represent reality from her own point of view.  

I bring this all up not just to rehash my rant yet again, but because just now, today, I seem to have been presented with a partial possible answer to that. I came across a glowing Slate book review on a novel called A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and if you think that the book owes a little bit to Joyce himself, you’d be right, as she had a quote from Joyce’s letters taped above her desk as she wrote it:

“One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutanddry grammar and goahead plot.”

A woman novelist’s response to Joyce in his own sort of vernacular? This is either a case of “Ask and it shall be given.” or “Be careful what you wish for.”  In any case, I’ve ordered the book. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Review of The Most Dangerous Book at Escape Into Life

I was fortunate recently to have fellow Waker Leslie lend me her copy of The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham and have just posted my review at the website Escape Into Life. I haven't really come across that many books in my life that really help you connect so many dots, and even if it isn't strictly about Finnegans Wake, I do highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Excellent Discussion on Literary Modernism and Joyce


Guest List

• Howard Eiland, modernist scholar, editor of the modernist philosopher, Walter Benjamin, and author of the biography Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life.
• Eve Sorunprofessor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, currently writing a book on empathy and elegy in British modernism.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


...Coming to terms with “Ulysses” inevitably means realizing what Joyce had to overcome when he brought it into the world—first in writing it, then in finding a publisher, and, finally, in getting it printed....Joyce was writing the novel knowing that to publish it was nearly impossible, and likely illegal. ...


Monday, June 2, 2014

Page 335--haka

I want to say my fellow Wakers were impressed by desire to share sports lore in reference to the Wake, but I think the better word would probably be 'flabbergasted' or 'dumbfounded'. Sports isn't really my particular métier. Nevertheless, when I learned from John P. Anderson's multivolume work on Joyce's Finnegans Wake: the Curse of Kabbalah that there was a haka coming up in the pages we were about to discuss, I was quite excited. I had learned about hakas from Adrian McKinty's excellent blog.They were and are Maori war chants, but have also have been incorporated into the opening of rugby games.

Here is an example of New Zealand's fearsome team the All Blacks doing one:

Now, it turns out that this very same team came to Paris in 1925 and were so formidable that they were nicknamed the Invincibles. A new haka called Ko Niu Tereni was written on the voyage over from New Zealand and this is what Joyce heard when he came to the Paris game.

Kia whakangawari au i a hauLet us prepare ourselves for the fray
I au-e! Hei!(The sound of being ready)
Ko Niu Tireni e haruru nei!The New Zealand storm is about to break
Au, Au, aue hā! Hei!(The sound of the imminent storm.)
Ko Niu Tireni e haruru nei!The New Zealand storm waxes fiercer
Au, Au, aue hā! Hei!(Sounds of The height of the storm.)
A ha-ha!
Ka tū te ihiihiWe shall stand fearless
Ka tū te wanawanaWe shall stand exalted in spirit
Ki runga ki te rangi,We shall climb to the heavens
E tū iho nei, tū iho nei, hī!We shall attain the zenith the utmost heights.
Au! Au! Au!

According to Wikipedia, there was a second verse, but as this had to do with friendship between teams, it was of course quickly scrapped.

Joyce understandably was intrigued by both the display of ferocity and the words and wanted to incorporate these into his book in some way. As luck would have it, he had a source in New Zealand, none other than his own sister, who had moved there when she became a nun. So he wrote her and asked her for the words and she apparently got a version out of the newspaper to him.

And so, eventually, the Wakian haka, the last part more hakian than the first (page 335):

Au! Au! Aue! Ha! Heish! ... how Holispolis went to Parkland with mabby and sammy and sonny and sissy and mop's varlet de shambles and all to find the right place for it by peep o'skirt or pipe a skirl when the hundt called a halt on the chivvychace of the ground sloper at that ligtning lovemaker's thender apeal till, between wandering weather and stable wind, vastelend hosteilend, neuziel and oltrigger some, Bullyclubber burgherly shut the rush in general.
Let us propel us for the frey of the fray! Us, us, beraddy!
Ko Niutirenis hauru leish! A lala! Ko Niutirenis haururu laleish! Ala lala! The Wullingthund sturm is breaking. The sound of maormaoring The Wellingthund sturm waxes fuercilier. The whackawhacks of the sturm. Katu te ihis ihis! Katu te wana wana! The strength of the rawshorn generand is known throughout the world. Let us say if we may what a weeny wukeleen can do.
Au! Au! Aue! Ha! Heish! A lala!

There is a good article on all this by Dean Parker of the New Zealand Herald HERE.

John P. Anderson also has some very interesting stuff on this, but maybe I'll make that another post.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thornton Wilder--Joyce scholar?

PQ, leader and chronicler of the Austin Wake group on his blog Finnegans, Wake!, has sent a couple of leads on a (to me) previously unknown fact--playwright Thornton Wilder was a Wake enthusiast. I thought I would put up the links PQ gave us in the comments field so that others can enjoy them as well. I was quite surprised to see an article by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson in a Saturday Review of December, 1942, showing how Wilder had lifted much material for his play The Skin of OurTeeth straight out of Finnegans Wake. Campbell and Robinson declare themselves perplexed by the lack of acknowledgement. I suspect that Joyce, greatest lifter of them all, would not be. It's kind of fun to see the pair described as working on something called "A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake", which subsequently became a book that we have availed ourselves of no end.

I have seen The Skin of Our Teeth at least once but have never thought of it in relation to the Wake--though it seems obvious enough now.

If homage was owed, then Wilder made amends in this rather brilliant analysis of a segment of the book that we haven't reached yet, which (among other things, it goes without saying) seems to depict the death by burning of Giordano Bruno. I have a great affection and sympathy for Bruno of Nola, which is really down to Joyce, although helped along by a well written mystery series by S. J. Parris featuring the exiled monk as a detective.

Here's a little bit about both Joyce's intent and his effect in the Wake, which I must say rings true for me.

"The first impression one receives is that it is a work of comic intention, for verbal distortions always appear to us as proceeding from wit, even when they arise from the unconscious; but though there are innumerable puns in the novel, Joyce's interest is not primarily in the puns but in the simultaneous multiple-level associations which they permit him to pursue. Finnegans Wake appears to me as an immense poem whose subject is the continuity of what is Living, viewed under the guise of a resurrection myth. This poem is conducted under the utmost formal rigor controlling every word and in a style that enables the author through apparently preposterous incongruities to arrive at an ultimate unification and harmony."

Thanks, Thornton.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Chunag Tsu: Wake and Dream

Just ran across this quote:

Those who dream of a banquet may wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow may wake to join a hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will even experience a dream within a dream; and only when they awake do they realize they dreamed of a dream. By and by comes the great awakening, and then we may find out that this life is really an extended dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or peasants. Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams—I am but a dream myself. This is a paradox. To-morrow a wise man may come forward to explain it; but that tomorrow will not be until ten thousand generations have gone by.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Joyce was a multisociator

I don't usually attempt to cross-pollinate the blogs I write, as I think reading one of my blogs is more than enough to ask of anyone, but as I just made mention of this blog on my Confessions of Ignorance blog, I am going to return myself the favor. The reason is that the word I chose to talk about, "bisociate", seems to have a lot to do with Joyce. The links there are definitely more interesting than anything I have to say about it. 

If creativity has to do with connecting two previously unconnected things, as I think is what's being said in the articles I linked to, then Joyce was a bisociator  par excellence. But I've taken the liberty of coining a new word for him (if Arthur Koestler can do it, why can't I?), because I'm not sure anyone knows how many things Joyce was able to connect through one or two words. Maybe Joyce himself didn't even know. Anyway, "multisociator" will suffice.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Promptings by Elanio Vitale (FW 221.22)

Not entirely by coincidence, a fairly large percentage of us SC Wakers ended up at a lecture on  process theology given by John Mabry in Santa Cruz yesterday. That's because a couple of our members were interested in getting him to come to town to speak at their church and also because in the course of discussing the Wake, these ideas of process theology have been coming up from the members who know anything about it.

I'm not going to go into the whole thing right now, but I will say that during the breaks in the talk, we were all meeting up and excitedly talking about how much relation there might be between Joyce's system of thought as expressed in the book and the concerns of process theologists. What I will bring up as just a taste of all this follows.

Mabry did not address present day process theologists, but instead helped us understand a little about their antecedents. So, Spinoza, Hegel, Bergson, Whitehead and de Chardin, with a little bit of Kazantzakis thrown in on the side. I was just doing a preliminary Google search to try and see if I could find the overlap, when I came across a page from Joyce's Book of Memory: The Mnemotechnic of Ulysses by John S. Rickard. What first struck my eye was "Promptings by Elanio Vitale". This was way back on page 221 of the Wake, under a long list which I think is a kind of playbill. Bergson's thoughts were 'in the air' in Joyce's day, Rickard tells us.

Now, we heard a bit about Henri Bergson and his concept of élan vital from Mabry yesterday, which Rickard describes as the 'motive force' in 'creative evolution'. Rickard tells us that Bergson's position is difficult, as he wants to  stake out a position between determinism and indeterminacy, as well as between two different systems of evolution.

I don't think Joyce would have had a very hard time with this position at all. Here's a nice little quote from Rickard which parallels what we were learning yesterday--"the role of life is to insert some indetermination into the matter. Indeterminate, i.e. unforeseeable, are the forms it creates in the course of its evolution. More and more indeterminate also, more and more free, is the activity to which these forms serve as the vehicle." That's from Bergson's Creative Evolution, pages 139-40. The page I'm quoting and paraphrasing from in Rickard is page 33.

Anyway, this is just the start of where I think many of us are going to let process theology take us as we wend our way through the Wake. Other thoughts are, of course, always welcome.

Henri Bergson

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Dubliners at Slate and the Wake at 75

I hadn't realized that this year marked the centenary of The Dubliners till Mark O'Connell put up a post about it yesterday on Slate magazine. Time to reread Dubliners, I'm thinking. Check out his piece HERE .

And now I see that I entirely missed the 75th birthday of the Wake itself yesterday, but as Peter Chrisp tells us over on his blog From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay, although Joyce himself got a copy for his birthday earlier, the official release date was May 4, 1939. He also tells us that this is the day when the title finally became public.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Twain Meet

"The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book--a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.
- Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, Ch. 9

Here's an interesting paper on Twain's Huckleberry Finn and its relation to Finnegans Wake and The Egyptian Book of the Dead:
Death on the Missisliffi: Huckleberry Finn in Finnegans Wake

by Kelly Anspaugh

Thursday, May 1, 2014

You want a timeline? I'll give you a timeline

Actually, it was me who wanted a timeline. We met last night and were caught up in the environs of pages 332-334, and among other things there seemed to be a lot about war, but with some passing reference to the situation of the Jews. I found myself wondering what Joyce understood about what was to befall them in the years to come, and was already beginning to happen then. Finnegans Wake was published in 1939, which means that the book missed most of the actual war, which started in the same year.

Anyway, the idea came up to have an actual timeline of Joyce's life, and I felt sure that I would not have to do this myself as there would be one online somewhere. In this I was correct, and so I'm going to post links to several.

The first comes from the International James Joyce Foundation and is the most concise. It doesn't really go into enough detail to suggest Joyce's comings and goings in the pre-war years, but is a useful overview in brief form.

The Modern Word in contrast covers each year of his life in short paragraph form. It is probably the best for the kind of thing I was wondering last night.

A site called Mantex offers something in between these two extremes.

I suppose a timeline of important events seems obvious until you try to make one.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Collective Unconscious reviews Ulysses

I know that this blog is supposed to be about one great work and not the other, but I just came across this "review" over on GoodReads of Ulysses. I perhaps should say to people who are not acquainted with GoodReads, or for that matter Amazon, I believe this is compilation of one star reviews and not a reflection of the reviewer's own sense of the book...All I can say is, let them read Wake.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Proclamation of 1916

Certainly a thunderword.


Nelson's Pillar Destroyed. Known as Operation Humpty Dumpty, Irish Republican supporters blow up the Nelson Pillar in Dublin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Grunt unto us, I pray, your foreboden article in our own deas dockandoilish introducing the death of Nelson with coloraturas! (FW 466.22-24)
And... wait... there's more:

“The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly” itself, the name, according to McHugh’s Annotations to Finnegans Wake, refers simultaneously to “Pearse & O’Rahilly,” figures in Dublin’s Easter Rising against the British in 1916, and to the French word perce-oreille, “earwig,”-...[f]olklore has it that earwigs can enter the head through an ear and feed on the brain.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Fabulous New Illustrations for Finnegans Wake

Collaging Imagery from the Delirious Confusion of Finnegans Wake:

skawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!” It doesn’t get easier from there. Illustrator John Vernon Lord has valiantly distilled the imagery of the highly experimental literary experience into a gorgeous new edition from the Folio Society.

The Folio Society has come out with an illustrated version of Finnegans Wake:

'via Blog this'

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's not forget sylvia....

"On this day in 1887, Sylvia Beach, owner of the Paris-based bookstore Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, was born in Baltimore. Beach moved to Paris at the age of 14, when her father, a Presbyterian minister, was sent to France. She fell in love with the city. In 1919, she opened her bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which became a gathering place for American writers in Paris in the 1920s, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. 

Beach was a strong supporter of writer James Joyce, who lived in Paris from 1920 to 1940. The Irish writer had achieved fame with his 1915 novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and had started publishing his masterwork Ulysses in serial form in an American magazine called the Little Review. However, the serialization was halted in December 1920, after the U.S. Post Office brought a charge of obscenity against Joyce's work. Beach published the book herself in July 1922. It wasn't until 1933 that a U.S. judge permitted Ulysses to be distributed in the U.S."

-- Posting by the James Joyce fan page on FB, source unknown

Monday, March 10, 2014

In the beginning.

On this day in 1923, James Joyce wrote to his patron, Harriet Weaver, that he had just begun "Work in Progress"...March 11, 1923....


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Finnegans Wake and the Schizophenic English language.

This is my happy birthday post.  So first of all, Happy Birthday James Joyce!

I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts I recently had about the English language and Finnegans Wake.  

I was once discussing English and German with a young German woman, in a variety of broken phrases in each other's languages, that really, our languages were just not that pretty compared to French and Italian. English indeed lacks the elaborate social kabuki theater of Japanese, or the maddeningly complex case structure of Lithuanian, or even the arguably better structure for explaining the theory of relativity in Navaho.  It's not even that easy to spell.  And we know that when Joyce wished to relax he chose to speak Italian in his own home.

What marks off this particular language though, is the abundance of borrowings from other languages, and the rapidity with which it has changed over time.  It is a kind of Viconian embedment of human historical experience inside language.  And this has led to the curious characteristic that this is embedded into individual words themselves, and a much larger vocabulary than most other languages.  There are many different synonyms for the same word for almost anything.  Joyce took this one step further: the colonized Irishman decolonized the language of the conqueror by parodying and exaggerating its salient characteristics.

English was profoundly affected by the Norman conquest, which flooded the English vocabulary with a Romance vocabulary, but leaving the Germanic base vocabulary and grammar somewhat intact.  The Saxon words are perceived as blunt, coarse.  The Romance language words are perceived as classy, nuanced.  Joyce uses shifts of vocabularies, and shifting the dominant roots of words between different languages to create or suggest invasion, cultural confrontation, or assimilation.  The courtship of HCE for ALP, takes on connotations of invasion and plunder of Ireland by the seafaring Vikings and Anglo-Saxon English.

This brings us to ALP and HCE.  It has perhaps not escaped notice that Joyce uses leitmotifs for his different characters, each getting a different use of language.  But these two have the most profound differences when they appear in focus.  In the case of ALP, the language is smooth, flowing, dominated by liquids and vowels.  In the case of HCE the language is jumpy, dominated by consonants, especially awkward consonant blends.

For ALP we have a name dominated by vowels and splashy consonants

For HCE we have fewer and less pure vowels, and the consonants
h, n, r, and the ungainly  mphr,ch,mpd...

The actual names themselves contain the two dominant strains of English.

For ALP, we have
anna (latin)
livy, livia (latin)
plur-,plural (French)
belle (French)

For HCE we have
hump (Dutch)
free, frei (OE,Germanic)
chip (OE, Germanic)
den (OE, Germanic)
ear (OE, Germanic)
wick, wicked, wiccan (OE, Germanic).

I leave the final word to the birthday boy himself:

"When morning comes of course everything will be clear again [...] I'll give them back their English language. I'm not destroying it for good."  (Quote from Ellman, James Joyce.)

February 2nd

Happy birthday, James Joyce. I take no credit for remembering the day, but was reminded by the better memory of PQ, who wrote a fine celebratory and informative post over at Finnegans, Wake! complete with links to some other fans' Joyce related blog posts. Check them all out.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Well Met by Flashlight

Another thing that happened at last night's meeting is that we had news of one of our roving correspondents. He happened to be visiting Zurich and thought it only right to visit Joyce's grave there. Unfortunately, the cemetery was closed. So near and yet so far!

But luck works in mysterious ways. Further examination revealed that there was a hole in the fence (the exact details of this remain hazy). Our intrepid reporter and friends stumbled around the graveyard in the dark. They managed to find the grave. Swinging the flashlight around, they also suddenly found themselves confronting this:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Plumped. 317-319

We met tonight and of course as usual talked of many things. But for some reason I got stuck on this one word sentence: "Plumped." Right there in the middle of 319.

Plumped. Plumped. Come on, I thought, this has come up before somehow, hasn't it?

It wasn't until I got home that I realized why it seemed such a Joycean word. Although it isn't from the Wake that I remember it...

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
Yeah, the opening sentence of Ulysses, one of those lines that everyone who has read Joyce is familiar with. Egad.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

We are on pages 316-17 and other miscellany

Happy New Year. Reporting in to say that we had our first meeting of 2014 last week, though I'm not going to talk about its contents today, other than to give you a progress point above. I wanted to add a couple of things I came across in other sources that struck me as interesting in the last little while and which you might not run across yourself unless by accident. One is an little aside I came across in Adam Thirwell's introduction to Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's story collection Autobiography of a Corpse, recently published in a new translation by the New York Review of Books. It is an excerpt of a speech by Karl Radek, addressing the Soviet Writer's Conference in 1934. His comments are not on the Wake, but on Ulysses which had arrived in the Soviet Union in 1922--still, I think, relevant.

"Just because he is almost untranslated and unknown in our country, Joyce arouses a morbid interest among a section of our writers. Is there not some hidden meaning lurking in the eight hundred pages of  his Ulysses--which cannot be read without special dictionaries, for Joyce attempts to create a language of his own in order to express the thoughts and feelings which he lacks...

[Joyce's method was perhaps] a suitable one for describing petty, insignificant, trivial people, their actions, thoughts and feelings [but] it is perfectly clear that this method would prove utterly worthless if the author were to approach with his movie camera the great events of the clash struggle, the titanic clashes of the modern world."

And Thirwell goes on to say that Radek concluded that "there was no need for the Soviet writer to consider Ulysses at all. The morbid desire to read it should be happily abandoned".

Makes you wonder what Radek would have done with Finnegans Wake.

My second entry here comes from a YouTube video related to an online course I've been trying to keep up with on the letters of St. Paul. It features a good video with a scholar named AnneMarie Luijendijk and in the course of showing examples of letters on ancient papyrus, she mentions that we have some of these because they were preserved in an ancient Egyptian garbage heap called Oxyrhyncus, where thousands and thousands of papyrus fragments were found. There were letters, marriage contracts, death certificates and even Biblical texts. Is this reminding you of any particular rubbish heap in a book we might all know?

So of course I had to find out whether Joyce would have known of Oxyrhyncus. It was a matter of a moment to discover that he did. In this paper by Nick De Marco on Ulysses use of gnostic and hermitic doctrines, he mentions in the first paragraph that Joyce had access to Oxyrhynchus Papyrus L3525.

And what is Oxyrhynchus Papyrus L3525?

A fragment of the apocryphal Gospel of Mary. Which may have some interest to our members interested in the way Joyce may have used the Wake to explore the feminine side of God. Just a thought.

Oxyrhynchus Papyrus L3525