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.