Saturday, September 7, 2013

General themes

Joyce claimed to be writing a history of the world in the style of dreamspeech. [overview]

No one seriously doubts that Ulysses was the most masterful display of English prose style ever, and dreamspeech is right up Joyce's alley, so it should be assumed that all apparent shortcomings in FW's prose style may well turn out to be our fault, not Joyce's.

He packed it with puns, but they had to meet his very very very high standards. We have dozens of notebooks where he jotted words and phrases that tickled his fancy, and we can trace many to their sources in his reading, and to their destinations in FW. (Google Books has scanned many of these source texts.) He intended it as a puzzle that would take centuries to solve, and he had an eye for historical obscurities, starting with anything related to Dublin.

It's cyclic, like Vico's model of history. The title summarizes the cycle: Finn wakes again. It also puns on the song "Finnegan's Wake" (the book title omits the song's apostrophe)

There seems to be an archetypal family:

HCE = E = father
ALP = △ = mother
Shaun = ⋀ = 'good' (conformist) son
Shem = [ = 'bad' (artistic) son
Isolde/Iseult/Issy = ⊥ = daughter
Tristan = Shaun + Shem? = young HCE?

The earliest drafts offer simpler vignettes about Tristan, Isolde and Mark, St Kevin, St Patrick, an archdruid (aka Berkeley), four old Masters (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John aka MaMaLuJo).

1 comment:

  1. One thing that troubles me about FW's legacy, as opposed to Ulysses's, is that Ulysses evokes a single lost time (1904) in exquisite detail, while FW tries to evoke all times at once, each time getting only a few specific details that require outside research to flesh out... and worse, this melange stops abruptly in 1938, which grows a year farther away every year.