Monday, April 20, 2015

Sir Tristram, violer d'amores

Apart from the camaraderie of the project, one of the main reasons I agreed to read The Life and Adventures of Tristram Shandy, Gent. by Laurence Sterne with some friends recently was in hopes that it might throw some light on Finnegans Wake, as I knew Joyce to be an admirer. I emerged from the book not a lot the wiser, unfortunately. But as I'm now settling down to read some essays on Tristram Shandy in a volume of Modern Critical Editions edited by Harold Bloom, I am learning a bit more, and I thought I'd share this tidbit from an essay by Dorothy Van Ghent called "On Tristram Shandy", as I don't suppose it's something anyone reading here is likely to stumble upon randomly.

Van Ghent tells us that Stern's concern is to create a world.

"The world he creates has the form of a mind. It may perhaps help us to grasp the notion of a structure of this sort if we think of the mind in the figure of Leibniz's monads, those elemental units of energy that have "mirrors but no windows": the mirroring capacity of the unit makes it a microcosm of the universe, in that all things are reflected in it; and yet, because it lacks "windows," it is a discrete world in itself, formally defined only by internal relationships; while the reflections in its "mirrors" have a free energetic interplay unique for this monad--this mind--differentiating it from all others at the same time that it is representative of all others."

After comparing Sterne's project to Proust's, Van Ghent goes on to say:

"We think of Tristram Shandy, as we do of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, as a mind in which the local world has been steeped and dissolved and fantastically re-formed, so that it issues brand new. Still more definitive of the potentialities of Sterne's method, as these have been realized in a great modern work, is James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, where the hero's dream swallows and recomposes all time in its belly of mirrors, and where the possibilities lying in Sterne's creative play with linguistic associations--his use of language as a dynamic system in itself, a magic system for the "raising of new perceptions as a magician's formulas "raise" spirits--are enormously developed. Joyce himself points out the parallel. In the second paragraph of Finnegans Wake, "Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, arrives over the sea "to weilderfight his penisolate war" in "Laurens County," and we know--among these puns--that we are not wholly in unfamiliar territory."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 15th, or Mr. Browne the Jesuit

It's not quite April 15th here yet (and many Americans may be adding "Thank God", as it's also tax day) but Ed has sent our group a post about its other significance which is that it's the day the Titanic sank. Of course there is a Joycean significance to all of this. The "Mr. Browne the Jesuit" of Finnegans Wake was an actual man who was on the Titanic but did not go down with it. Read all about it HERE.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

More on Waywords and Meansigns: Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone Contributes Music for Experimental Audiobook of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone Contributes Music for Experimental Audiobook of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

hey all...

"Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone has composed an hour of original music for an experimental audiobook of James Joyce’s classic 1939 novel Finnegans Wake....."

stewed letters

“(and may his hundred thousand welcome stewed letters, relayed wand postchased, multiply,
ay faith, and plultiply!) page 404 to 405

The question came up as to what Joyce was driving at in the phrase 'stewed letters' , and though we came up with some thoughts about the general sort of stew that the Wake is, I thought I'd search around in case there were any other ideas about it. So I came eventually to an essay called "Their Synaptic Selves: Memory and Language in Beckett and Joyce" by Dustin Anderson, and you can read the whole thing right here if so inclined. As I don't really know much about Beckett other than seeing a play or two, I just skimmed on through to the part I was looking for. In Chapter 4, which he amusingly titles "A Digestive Tract: or a Journey Down the Gullet with Shaun the Post", Anderson says

Letters are what are stewed here, but as we have seen earlier in Book II, chapter II writing/letters and the body are interchangeable: first in “it’s me chews to swallow all you saidn’t you can eat my words” [FW 279:4], and later in the twins’ essay assignments we find, “And Trieste, ah Trieste ate I my liver! Se non é vero son trovatore.” [FW 301:16-17].

Anderson goes on to note that there's a lot going on about food here, as we noticed too, especially as it was getting on for seven and none of us had had our supper. He points out that the burning of Giordano Bruno is presented as a death/food pun on the words "stake" and "steak" and that there are "at least a dozen examples of steak and staking on pages 405-406."

"But what he really thinks we should notice is a point Anthony Burgess first pointed out, which is that Shaun is the “greedy eater of his father’s substance” (259). The ceremony (be it execution or consecration) is only of peripheral importance."

As we had talked initially about a passage from Campbell that Tom read to us, which among other things tells us that HCE is only dreaming of an idealized son's future, a future that will never be because the son is all mixed up in waking reality and cannot just be the simple projection of his father's wish even if he wants to be, this image of the greedy eater Shaun was arresting to me, and even a little creepy. But Anderson doesn't mean it so:

"The real meat of the issue is what we see appear during “Oxen in the Sun,” which is the process of
transforming or recreating the consumed into a new product."

Still, though.