Understanding the (Net) Wake

Page 2


A. And now this: Before launching on an examination of the 'hypertextual' computer-networked documents that were originally the sole co-occupants of this study along with Finnegans Wake, it might be useful to flesh out the ideas of Umberto Eco on the Open Work structure that distinguishes net-works from their linear counterparts.

Before launching on an examination of the Open Work, I thought I might briefly explain, for the benefit of those already jeering from the bleachers, why I am paying so much attention to what Eco has to say on the subject of openness and networks, and so little attention to Derrida, Barthes, and other New French theorists.

It is not that I deny these men and women their valid insights -- but the Rimbaudian Necessity of being Absolutely Modern which exudes from their work is distasteful to me, and not conducive to an understanding of the 'isochronic' material at hand. Coming from a nation which has had about sixty governments since World War Two, Eco understands that verily, there is no new thing under the sun, no matter what unheard-of revolutions the moment might appear to bring.{1D}

More importantly, Eco simply came first. He started his work on the Open Work in 1959, years before similar notions began to surface in the work of Derrida, Barthes and others. As with opera, so with this cornerstone critical concept: the Italians invented it, and the French followed fast on their heels and added lots of ornaments and trills. It is difficult to say with certainty whether contemporary French theory has produced a Bizet, or simply turned out many Jean Baptiste Lullys. Back to our scheduled program--

B. There are, says Eco, "latent possibilities of a certain type of experience in every artistic product", a degree of openness to interaction, to the unearthing of buried treasures. At the end of each sentence of a book, there is a potential disjunction where the reader can stop to wonder what is going to happen next, thus creating a tree of possibilities.

But an Open Work, as such, represents a divergent evolution away from 'every artistic product', one in which the 'mutation' of openness develops to the point of making the Open Work a different species all together; in Open Works, there is an "invitation to confront". The optical disk on the Voyager spacecraft, with its obviously 'unnatural' and 'intelligent' design, creates a context in which the disk will be perceived by an alien civilization as an object to be decoded (or that is the idea). Similarly, in our civilization, with its rules about what a book is 'supposed' to be, Finnegans Wake sets up a new 'cognitive relationship' between the reader and the text from the first line. The reader knows to widen her interpretive scope. Actually, she is given no choice -- the ropes on the back-and-forth trapeze are cut, and she falls into the net of interconnections and simultaneity {4D}. As soon as we begin reading the Wake, "We are once amore as babes awondering in a wold made fresh where with the hen in the storyaboot we start from scratch."(336)

C. The Open Work is not read for the pleasure of formal resolution and dramatic catharsis, but for the joy in the constant, organic unfolding of possibility. The following diagrams represent the 'branching tree' of Open narrative {4A}, as against the one-dimensional, 'tree of collapsing possibilities' which could represent, say, a detective story:

[missing picture]

To be sure, we can read any book in any way we like; we can read Curious George as a crypto-anarchist manifesto, or The Firm as Nazi propaganda. Such random wanderings through the woods of interpretation do not always go unrewarded in undergraduate literary study. But a true open work validates the freedom applied to its interpretation by a carefully 'plotted' flexibility that saturates it to its foundations:

"....in a 'well-made' literary work....there is no openness at a given level which is not sustained and improved by analogous operations at all other levels."


D. By pushing the reader into potentially endless chains of association and meaning at every juncture, and thus forcing him to draw heavily on his own stores of experience to inform his understanding of the book, the Wake sets a process in motion that inevitably extends beyond its own pages:

"Many of the allusions, in fact, escape the author himself, who has prepared a machinery of suggestion which, like any complex machine, is capable of operating beyond the original intention of its builder."

A reference to Bugs Bunny does not have to be intended to be contextually meaningful {19A}. Neither does a reference to the atomic bomb{29A}. The Wake is a system -- it is not intended as a completed production, but as a thing constantly becoming, evolving. {8B} Perhaps this a mark of the influence of Vico's New Science, which also has the potential for endless application (according to Bergin and Fisch):

"....just as Euclid's Elements as a system is susceptible of indefinite further development without addition to or change in the definitions, axioms, or postulates, so Vico's new science is susceptible of indefinite further development without change in its principles, whether in the narrower or wider sense."

The Wake's capacity for transformation and adaptation to new historical and literary circumstances is a product of its complexity; it has attained the critical mass of complexity necessary for evolution {32C} without ever leaving the page (though it may have to, sooner or later). Constant becoming is also vital for a work trying to mimic a universe that exhibits the same restless behavior. {11A}


A. The Uncertainty Principle and Relativity are rarely invoked in practical physics situations, and Openness is rarely called upon in the reading of most literature; often principles such as these only complicate things, causing needless confusion. In Finnegans Wake, however, Openness is the only option, as 'normal' reading is impossible. To understand why this is so, we must spend some time on the lower levels of the Wake, figuring out how its underlying semantics and codes function.


"(who meanwhile, with increasing lack of interest in his semantics, allowed various subconscious smickers to drivel slowly across their flickers)..."(173)

Using parentheses to mark one of many guides to deciphering the Wake coded into the Wake itself, Joyce locates the source of his book's Openness for us: it orginates from the most basic semantic level. The term 'lexeme' (derived from cognitive anthropology and structural semantics) is used to denote the currency of exchange on this level, being the "elementary unit of 'content' meaning that may or may not be regarded as a distinct 'word' in a language."

Heeding Pound's dictum that "Every word must be charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree", Joyce hit upon the notion of making a significant proportion of his lexemes extremely dense puns, often so dense that they cannot be said to have any 'primary' signification, or even share two primary significations. Like Humpty Dumpty's portmanteaus in Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky", many Joycean 'words' are not carriers of ordinary meaning, but 'exciters' or catalysts of nearby words and concepts.

Joyce's 'words' exist in-between our words, at some interstitial point in our multidimensional semantic networks; "this backblocks boor bruskly put out his langwedge and quite quit the paleologic scene."(72-73) Joyce stormed the linguistic sub-basement and hammered a wedge into the machinery. The words to which we are so addicted for expression and interpretation are suddenly no longer there for us. We have no choice but to follow him down into the dark, and do our own rewiring until things start moving well enough to pump some raw material up to the higher floors. Portrait of the Author as Linguistic Luddite.

C. H.G. Wells, an ardent admirer and supporter of Joyce, got off the train as soon as he realized that the Wake was derailing it:

"You have turned your back on common men, on their elementary needs and their restricted time and intelligence and you have elaborated."

This is not a criticism to be brushed aside simply because one is lucky enough to have the leisure time to explore and re-explore Joyce's palace of human memory. The question, 'How much do you concede to the common reader?' was one of the major wedges that separated Plato from Aristotle, and has been a point of contention ever since. This is not the place to open up the argument; but to what extent the 'elementary needs' of common men are fixed, and to what extent those needs change with the cognitive shifts brought about by the advent of new standards of communication, is an open question. {19B}

The Wake's bottom-level manipulation of the code certainly makes things difficult for the common man, and for the not-so-common man {2B}; but is the aim of this difficulty exclusion, or liberation? Joyce himself said:

"I'd like a language which is above all languages, a language to which we all will do service. I cannot express myself in English without enclosing myself in a tradition." {22A}

Whether or not the "Oxen of the Sun" chapter of Ulysses represented the "futility of all the English styles" as Eliot believed, none of them came to fruition for Joyce. The desire to "Herenow chuck english and learn to pray plain"(579) springs from the desire to turn back the clock -- or push it forward -- until we are all woven together the way we were before Babel. The semantic confusion is not divisible from the act of reintegration that is one of the Wake's ultimate goals. {36A}

D. Back to the Wake's lexemes. Or 'superlexemes', or 'hyperlexemes', or 'metalexemes', for the neologismically minded. These polygonal words are the lowest level of 'code' in the book, and as in any book, they are thus organized into higher levels of order; sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters, books; phrases, themes, variations upon themes; specific figures, melting up into more general figures, melting into blanketing archetypes who in turn are absorbed into more inclusive archetypes until all find shelter in HCE.

The difference between the Wake and other books, of course, is that the elementary building blocks are themselves open and ambiguous, and this openness and ambiguity thus radiate upwards into all the levels of Finnegans Wake's organization, as the shape of the initial molecule determines the shape of a crystal. AASB -- or in scientific terminology, the Wake exhibits the property of self-similarity, the manifesting of a motif within a motif within a motif, on every scale. To borrow and tamper with a term from H.A. Simon, the Wake is a "partly decomposable system" -- one in which the basic parts of the system, discrete enough on their own, are altered once they enter into the system, opened to the combined influences of the other basic parts, and made to contribute to the cohesive behavior of the whole system.

This is an idea which can be applied to language as a whole -- although Simon's original idea of a 'nearly decomposable system' better applies to everyday language. In everyday language, even every day literary language, there is usually 'closure' enough for us not to worry whether the "ceramic pig salt-shaker" our friend is telling us about now is somehow integrally connected to the "human sacrifices to Baal" he was describing for us about an hour ago.

With the Wake, however, it is not only fair for us to assume the kind of interconnectedness that would bring "goddinpotty" on page 59 into a relationship with "cultic twalette" on page 344 - it is crucial, if we are to gain anything from the book. Our understanding of a word or phrase can totally revise our understanding (or overlooking) of a word or phrase on an earlier page. We might not notice "La arboro, lo petrusu" on page 53, but when the washerwomen at the river start to change into a tree and a rock on page 213, the earlier phrase takes on a new cast. The same can be said of the way "by way of final mocks for his grapes" on page 72 foreshadows the Mookse and the Gripes story that starts on page 152. From the center of any lexeme, the center of any other can (and should) be reached.


"All the world's in want and is writing a letters. A letters from a person to a place about a thing. And all the world's on wish to be carrying a letters. A letters to a kind about a treasure from a cat."(278)

The [square] sigla in Joyce's Wake notebooks {6D}, according to McHugh, can represent any document, and the container of that document, not to mention the house or coffin of HCE. This is a concatenation of 'message' and 'carrier' that is worth looking at.

For our immediate purposes, let us assume with Hofstadter that any message carries three fundamental levels of information:

1)The Frame Message: this is the physical feature of the message that says, "I am a message! Decode me!" In the case of Finnegans Wake, the frame message is the fact that it is printed on pages between two cardboard covers, and not in microscopically in peppermint ink on the back of a postage stamp.

2)The Outer Message: This is the information implicit in the symbol patterns and structures which tell us how to decode the message. The Wake's top-level symbol pattern is the ambiguity and openness it inherits from its bottom-level semantic constituents {21D}. The Wake's outer message is the overarching form of its indeterminate crystal.

3)The Inner Message: What is to be transmitted. 'But what is the Wake about, really?' So if we can understand the outer message, then we can get to the meat of the thing....

But that meat is only a distraction. What the Wake has to transmit is information that is inherent in the nature of the outer message, and its relation to the world it purports to mirror in tangled microcosm. Our true burden is to understand the nature of the outer message, of the form, of the 'something itself'; "if one truly understood all the finesses of the outer message, the inner message would be reconstructible...if you could ever plumb a style to its very bottom, you could dispense with the creations in that style." {1E}

This is not possible, of course -- it would involve a complete mapping of Joyce's mind onto our own brains, a strain that I for one would not want to put on that organ. It does tell us where we should be looking in any search for the Wake's 'meaning', though. If the Postman and the Penman are really the same person, then the medium really does contain the message, and we should step back and focus on the whole network before concentrating on the various interesting sparks that travel its many paths.


A. Diversions, diversions. Actually, beginning a (brief) discussion of Joyce's Irishness in close physical proximity to a discussion of his semantic subversions is not submitting entirely to stochastic processes. Joyce told one of his Berlitz English classes in Trieste:

"The Irish, condemned to express themselves in a language not their own, have stamped on it the mark of their own genius and compete for glory with the civilised nations. This is then called English literature...."

The dichotomy cut to the quick, all the more since he could not bring himself to sit through more than one of Padraig Pearse's classes on the language that was his own. Rather than abandoning the language of the invader for one of the others he spoke fluently, Joyce understood the centrality of English to contemporary European culture and world culture (a state of affairs that continues to this day), and set about Cooling it off {13A}. He breathed into it the aural intelligence that was his birthright, and turned it into "noirse-made-earsy"(314).

Ireland was in a similar position relative to England in the early twentieth century as America was a hundred and fifty years previous; they were the margin while England was the center, the consumers of the culture 'published' in England. The fact of Joyce’s Irishness coupled with his speaking English and his acting an English 'cultural script' were a source of great inner tension for Joyce. They led to a kind of split personality, which he resolved in his own way (as all Irish men and women must).

In Joyce's case, the dialectic led to a synthesis, a resolution on a higher level. When someone is at home in their deep-pile chair, they do not need to go outside and search for somewhere comfortable. Joyce did not feel at home in a country which appeared to offer him only the high-chair of the subject or the crooked stool of hard-line Catholicism. So he left. The initial exit was a journey taken by his body with Nora Barnacle, but he kept on leaving until he finally jettisoned the very language of the Irish subject -- or subverted it, twisted and distorted it beyond all recognition.

In doing so, he inadvertently became a mediator between the old order and the new. This fits a general historical pattern; as the intelligentsia among the Greek slaves saw to the education of the new Roman arbiters of law and culture, so the English subject James Joyce codified, indexed, and to an extent helped create the new paradigm under whose sails the locus of world power would eventually float from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

B. To fall prey to a post-colonialist reductionism, however, by positing the mechanistic emergence of Finnegans Wake from the cogs and gears of the British colonial apparatus is to do a grave disservice to James Joyce and to the culture from which he emerged. The Irish were possessing of considerable Coolness long before it became a countertheme to the Hotness of Industrializing England. From the very introduction of large-scale literacy with the Christianization of Ireland, "The Irish received literacy in their own way, as something to play with....They began to make up languages." When Latin was the lingua franca of the intelligentsia, they made up new patterns of Latin called Hisperica Famina, indecipherable to anyone but themselves - prefiguring both the 'little language' of Swift's Journal to Stella, and Finnegans Wake.

There was also an extra-literary Coolness and fluidity to the Irish tribal culture before the modern British came. When the Elizabethan colonizers did make it over, they could not harbor the lack of fixity in the Irish system of land transmission, or tanistry, whereby a chieftain's land was divided by means of election among his kindred, without rules of lineal 'inheritance'. A young man could also give his allegiance to whatever chieftain he wished. "'Gaelicism itself was a spectrum, not a clear demarcation." The English saw these wrinkles and fluctuations as anarchy, and proceeded to iron them out.

The Irish resisted, of course, but in the face of overwhelming English military superiority, language was one of the last bastions for such resistance. If English was to be forced upon them, they would twist it with "exaggerations, strange uses of words, deliberate pleasure in paradox." And with their 'wild shamrock manners', they would refuse (passively or actively) established English formality, as Joyce would later refuse established English literary form in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. {21C}

C. Gaelicism began to become inextricably identified with Catholicism after the failure of the last 'interfaith' revolution under Wolfe Tone in 1798. By the early twentieth century, the statement of hardline Nationalist D.P. Moran that "the Irish nation is de facto a Catholic nation" to which no Protestant (much less anyone else) could ever truly belong was generally accepted as an admirable patriotic credo. This concentric, uncatholic Catholicism was no more amenable to Joyce's eccentric mind than the monolithic English influence.

In one of the biting ironic reversals intrinsic to cyclical history, the established guardians of the Gaelic culture which helped endow Joyce with his remarkable ear and polymaniac sensibility had become more repugnant to him than those who had burdened him with the yoke of their language and occupation. So in 1904, like Giordano Bruno in 1576, Joyce left them both church and country behind, and went to the continent to seek a heretic's fortunes. Possibly recalling what happened to the Nolan when he made the mistake of returning to Italy, Joyce returned to Ireland only a few times, and never for very long.


A. Anyone who has plugged into the growing web of telecom-linked computers around the world generally known as the Internet has had some practical experience with hypertext {4C}. Hypertext is the form of document organization whereby one document is connected to a number of other documents (within the same computer or on other distant computers) by way of 'links' through boldfaced 'keywords', or nodes. When my modem finally settled down after a long history of misbehaving and allowed me access to the high-tech procrastinations of the internet, it was not long before the hypertextual nature of the Wake began to suggest itself to me.

B. The brainchild of Vannevar Bush, the contemporary concept of hypertext was introduced to the world in a 1945 article to the Atlantic Monthly magazine, wherein Bush postulated a device called the Memex to deal with the information overload that comes with an ongoing written history. The Memex would allow two or more texts to be displayed at once, and the mutual participation of one piece of information in numerous documents. It would also allow the Memex user to add her own margin notes and comments, which would become permanently incorporated to the document itself.

The technology of 1945 was not equal to the task of creating the Memex; like Babbage's Difference Engine, it remained an idea. By the time Ted Nelson coined the term 'hypertext' in the mid 1960's, however, it was already becoming a practical possibility, and the burgeoning of the personal computer market in the 1980's and 90's has brought hypertext into tens of millions of homes, universities and businesses. Programs like Intermedia, Hypercard, and Storyspace have been developed to speed up the usual connection-making process that has always been a part of literary study; they have also fostered experimentation with non-linear, interactive forms of story-telling.

C. The concept of "non-sequential writing with reader controlled links" is revolutionary -- and like any revolutionary idea, it is fueled by numerous past sources. One need go back no further than the late 1970's to find a number of interactive children's adventure books published in the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' series, in which the reader reads a block of text, makes a choice concerning the action of the characters in the story, and flips back and forth through the book until he comes to one of the endings. Before computer modems were de rigeur, text adventure computer games like Zork, published by Infocom, provided ongoing surrealistic fantasy worlds which devoured the hours of many, young and old. Prosaic as they are, examples like these have as much bearing (probably more) on the immediate pre-history of interactive story-telling than more often critically-cited works such as S/Z by Roland Barthes, and Glas by Jacques Derrida.

D. Another relatively prosaic source, an article on "Cinema Theory, Video Games, and Multimedia Production" by J. Christopher Westland from the University of Southern California, hits upon a version of As Before, So Again {10D} that is frequently overlooked in more erudite circles: "The concepts and capabilities offered by multimedia technology have existed in one form or another for centuries." Intratextual reference -- moving non-sequentially through a single text -- began when the Pergamon sheet book replaced the unwieldy 30-foot papyrus roll, and spread with the spread of Christianity. Marginal criticism encumbered the Alexandrian manuscripts of Homeric texts. The "bored scribblings of Irish scribes" who copied out Irish lyrics in the margins of their books "left for our enjoyment a whole literature that would otherwise be unknown." {5A}

Many other literary works, from Tristram Shandy to Tale of a Tub to Tennyson's "In Memoriam", have been cited as hypertextual precursors, which is not surprising. As McLuhan says:

"....every innovation must pass through a primary phase in which the new effect is secured by the old method, amplified or modified by some new feature." {1C}

And the Wake, of course, is the primary example at hand. Each word we look at is a 'link' to many other conceptual 'sites'. In the palimpsests of the earliest versions of the Wake, "Revisions are written on top of revisions, additions are squeezed in wherever room can be found for them". Joyce was conducting a never-ending hypertextual conversation while writing Finnegans Wake -- with his predecessors, with his contemporaries, with himself. {25A}


"For that (the rapt one warns) is what papyr is meed of, made of, hides and hints and misses in prints. Till ye finally (though not yet endlike) meet with the acquaintance of Mister Typus, Mistress Tope and all the little typtopies. Filstup. So you need hardly spell me how every word will be bound over to carry three score and ten toptypsical readings throughout the book of Doublends Jined...." (20)

In the above encapsulation of the history of the written word, we move from papyrus to calf-hide books to the printed word until we end up with Joyce's intuition of the zig-zagging journeys that will be possible through hypertextual narratives such as his own. One of the most liberating -- and the most problematic -- features of hypertextual narratives is their nonlinearity, their abandonment of the beginning-to-end method of exploring a text. With each word standing in a potential relationship to all the other words, the reader of the Wake moves through the text sequentially like a computer's CPU, until he comes upon a 'cue' to jump to a different part of the 'memory' of the text {21D} Each time one of the variations on the Prankquean's riddle comes along, for example,{9C} the option of returning to that section presents itself.

McHugh notices that "Some of the events in book III proceed forwards, others backwards." Even if he is reading straight-through, the linear-minded reader will find to his chagrin that the events in the text have reversed themselves, when St. Kevin metaphorically reenters the water/his mother on pages 605-606. With the footnotes, double margin notes, diagrams, and typographical chimeras of chapter ten, it is all but impossible to maintain a sequential approach; the reader is caught in the middle of a four-voice fugue, an array of meaning, a macrocosmic version of the microcosmic 'caught between the words' effect that the Wake achieves with each of its portmanteaus {21B}. Clearly, Joyce "disliked anything anyway approaching a plain straightforward standup or knockdown row."(174)


"Of the persins sin this Eyrawyggla saga....no one end is known."(48)

The most obvious and perturbing result of a non-linear narrative is that it is a never-ending narrative; even for the reader reading from page 3 to page 628, the Wake does not stop, but rolls over and starts again. This implies a perpetual reading, as well as a reading that can effectively begin from any point in the text. "This is not the end of this by no manners means"(373) - or as Ted Nelson says about hypertext, "There Is No Final Word". If the 'sense of an ending' is a necessary component of successful narrative, we must either forget about the possibility of non-linear storytelling, or reconsider what it is that makes a narrative 'successful'. {35D}

G. Like Vannevar Bush's Memex, the Wake incorporates preliminary criticism of itself into its very structure; but not with footnotes. The only footnotes are satirical. As in a hypertext document, the 'links' to other sources are incorporated into the body of the text itself, not relegated to an inferior position on the bottom of the page. The mention of the "exagmination"(497) of Beckett and others; the inclusion of Wyndham Lewis' Time and Western Man ("Spice and Westend Woman"(292)), which panned Joyce's experimental techniques; a reference to Ezra Pound's 'only a new cure for the clap could be worth so much trouble' remark about Joyce's new difficult style ("A New Cure For An Old Clap"(104)); and a lampooning of psychoanalytical and Marxist readings of the Wake before they happened (115-116) are all to be found within the Wake.

Electric documents gather sections of texts from outside writings and entwine them in their own structures until the notions of 'outside' and 'inside' become suspect, and the text begins to follow Flann O'Brien's advice that "The modern novel should be largely a work of reference." Finnegans Wake does this as well -- "murmurrandoms of distend renations from ficsimilar phases" can be "dugout in the behindscenes of our earthwork"(358), bringing its identity into question. Joyce could not ignore the 'docuverse' network in which he was a part, a node; but like any creator with completely unlimited aspirations for his own achievement, he was not happy about owing anything to anyone {24D} Before exploring this point further, a quick mention of electronic prospects for the Wake.

H. It is my opinion that Finnegans Wake is a book that was written about sixty years too soon. A hypertext adaptation of the Wake, exhaustively cross-indexed, with added visual and audio files in the appropriate places, would pull the book wide open, and allow us a level of understanding not possible at the current time.

There have been Apple HyperCard translations of Joseph Andrews, and some Kipling and Lawrence stories have been done at Brown University...but Finnegans Wake is in a different class altogether. The hypertext translation of the Wake is a task which will separate the wymyn from the girls. There are rumors about Gerrit Schroder and Tim Murphy putting together a hypertext version of the Wake with links to files based on the Census, the Gazeteer and other Wake reference books. Fritz Senn is supposed to be working on a hypermedia version of one paragraph of the Wake (6.13-28) which will contain voices, translation, development history, and annotations. Soon enough, someone will harness the power of electronic hyperfictions to bring the premiere non-electronic hyperfiction to life, to get the riverrun running.

Before we get too excited about the New and Improved literature, though, we ought to remember: on the most fundamental level, the reading of a 'normal' hypertext fiction is still sequential. Our eyes pass over the words in a straight line, and then go on to the words after them, experiencing only occasional disjunctions at crucial points. With the Wake -- even the paper Wake -- the non-linearity permeates the book right down to the words themselves, each one sending us on several 'links' simultaneously, often without prioritizing. I have not yet seen a hypertext novel which produces anything approaching such wonderful confusion. 



"Its importance in establishing the identities in the writer complexus....will be best appreciated by never forgetting that both before and after the Battle of the Boyne it was a habit not to sign letters always."(114)

Joyce shows an understanding of the problems that an intertextual book like the Wake poses for the notion of authorship. The uncertainty which accompanies the authorship of hypertext documents (many of which have multiple authors), has a predecessor in the Wake, which itself has a predecessor in the illuminated manuscript. E.P. Goldschmidt's Medieval Texts and Their First Appearance in Print is worth quoting at length:

"....the Middle ages...did not possess the concept of 'authorship' in exactly the same significance as we have it now....The indifference of medieval scholars to the precise identity of the authors whose books they studied is undeniable...The writers themselves, on the other hand, did not always trouble to 'quote' what they took from other books or to indicate where they took it from...."

The medieval author belonged to a 'partly decomposable system' of authors {21D}; once he entered the network of literature, his individual identity was not as fixed as it was for the headstrong Romantic author. The Book of Kells, for example, had four major authors, and was later embellished further by artists such as Gerald Plunket in the 16th century (folio 76V). Joyce saw this disregard for individual contribution coming again in the New Theocracy -- perhaps epitomized by the group effort behind every movie {18A} -- and duly noted it.

On the cover of my copy of Finnegans Wake, however, the author's name is far larger than the title of the book. There is a double-meaning behind the question: "So why, pray, sign anything as long as every word, letter, penstroke, paperspace is a perfect signature of its own?"(115) The author can be nowhere in sight, as long as his footsteps echo through every line. The New Theocratic Age is at hand, in which single egos will unite under a larger enterprise -- but a Divine Age needs a God. {35G}

B. In a way, Joyce's works had one primary author, and many lesser authors. He used his friends as research assistants; they became what Stuart Gilbert called "Joyce's runabout men." When his eyesight began to worsen, his most trusted research assistants became his scribes, introducing the effects of textual drift and plain chance into his works. Robert McAlmon typed some of Molly Bloom's thoughts out of place in the "Penelope" chapter, and Samuel Beckett included Joyce's "Come in" response to a knock on the door in a transcription of Finnegans Wake - in both cases, Joyce let the alterations stand.

When Joyce said to a friend in a cafe, "It is not I who am writing this crazy book. It is you, and you, and you, and that man over there, and that girl at the next table", he acknowledged the Wake's implication and indebtedness to everything and everyone around him. But again, there is another side to this acknowledgment; they are writing it, but he is writing them. Who can write others without being written by them? {25A}


"His producers are they not his consumers?"(497)

The sfumato that the Wake casts over the line between authorship and readership makes it particularly applicable to hypertext, in which the reader chooses his own path through the text, each reading becoming a de facto re-authorship of the material {23E}. As all readers of the Wake have no choice but to 'wipe their glosses with what they know', so anyone who uses hypertext organizes the text around her own interests and decisions. With the new version of internet browser Netscape 3.0 (due out in June '96), "Employees will be able to communicate with one another as they work on the same document simultaneously." From boardroom to writer's drawing-board is only a matter of time.

Indeed, someone has even done a partial rewriting of Finnegans Wake. Lawrence Garfield's "Jams Jaws: Funnygames Work" is a parodic tribute to the original, truly 'reauthorizing' Joyce while throwing Yippies, Nirvana, intifada and thousands of other post-1939 concepts into the mix:

"snakeslide, through Byanu and Mabones, from mesh of diamond to coil of back, schwings us by a conjunctus insidiosus of intifagga down to High Civilization and Entertainment..........................................................................Heapunto me, heapus three. ET. The Biggy too. Giddeup. Let tick the tock, a bloom at cook o'clock.....[back to beginning]"

D. And so with Finnegans Wake literature becomes less like a sermon, and more like a conversation, open, a two-way communication {15A}. The sunnier democratic implications of this are always the first to surface. But we ought not forget what lies beneath the surface of many (most?) conversational pleasantries. With "a multiplicity of personalities inflicted upon the documents or document and some prevision of virtual crime or crimes"(107), we should not be surprised if Joyce does not take kindly to the 'team effort' of writing from inside the network.



"Joyce waged literature like a battle."
--Richard Ellmann

The problem with existing inside the vast, transhistorical network of interconnected documents that is literature is summed up in Shem's "first riddle of the universe: asking, when is a man not a man?" The answer, "when he is a - yours till the rending of the rocks,- Sham"(170). If every work is a channeling of other works, then every author is a plagiarist. I think Joyce's problem with plagiarism had more to do with metaphysical dilemmas than moral scruples; Joyce asked, with Harold Bloom, "what strong maker desires the realization that he has failed to create himself?"

Joyce wants to be "The Man That Made His Mother"(105) -- and his Father. The double-entendre connecting incest and self-creation echoes Otto Rank's insight that the Oedipus complex is actually about self-begetting. To go into a detailed study of the Anxiety of Influence in Finnegans Wake would lead too far afield for even this discussion; but it will not do too much damage to give it a few paragraphs.

B. Bloom's basic insight, that "strong poets [and writers] make poetic history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative space for themselves" is hard for a writer to argue with; any heated denial of the Anxiety of Influence tends to backfire and make the denier seem more in thrall to that anxiety than most. Aside from that, it is a sound observation. The Kabbalists knew that creation first required a clearing out{8C}, and Joyce knew it too. From his youth, he set about making room for himself. Getting Shakespeare out of the way was important, as Bloom rightly observes; to his brother Stanlislaus he disparaged Shakespeare in favor of Ibsen.

According to Ellmann, Joyce felt that "Relations between men...must inevitably have this coloration of uncertainty, jealousy, hostility, and affection; the usual name for this hodgepodge was friendship." The 'men' in question include the long-dead authors whose wake he was trying to wash over with his own. The Wake is a conversation with all the living and the dead; but it is a conversation as laced with tension as Gabriel Conroy's 'conversation' wtih Michael Furey in "The Dead". Linguist Roman Jakobson posits that all linguistic expressions can be broken down into six categories -- and the 'conative', an expression seeking to produce behavior in another, is among the most ubiquitous. Like conversations between living men, Joyce's conversations with the dead have strong overtones of dominance and submission.

Joyce swallows his predecessors through an act of sympathetic magic {3C} -- by naming them, by including them in his work. The truth of their continued existence lies in their names and their words, and those are free for the taking. If, as has been claimed, all of the major monologues of Shakespeare appear scattered throughout the Wake, then what do we need the originals for? Joyce wants a book that stands on its own, like the Koran (which may prove to be the new holy book for the New Divine Age, if Islam ever fully opens up to the electronic medium which will dominate it). He opens his work to the dead, but he is "anacheronistic"(202) - he ferries dead forms, dead authors, dead modalities in his own boat, across the riverrun to his own book where they will reside forever in stony silence.

C. I disagree with Bloom, however, that Joyce's primary manifestation of the Anxiety of Influence was an agon with Shakespeare. I will grant that Shakespeare was -- and is -- the dominating literary figure for Joyce, the Father that continues to write even those who write about him. But Joyce's struggle was a struggle against literature. As long as he existed within a tradition, all of his works would be "piously forged palimpsests slipped...from his pelagiarist pen"(182) {21C}. Literature made him see and hear ghosts, and Joyce would not have a litany of dead fathers screaming commands at the porches of his ear.

In writing Finnegans Wake, Joyce would pull off the ultimate feat of prestidigitation; he would create a tangled web to rival that of literature and the world itself, and when he was finished he would be found standing outside of it, in the margins, unencumbered by centuries of governing connections. He refuses to accept the hierarchy of the Great Chain of Literary Being as it stands, so he creates his own, and subsumes the original. My choice for the best microcosmic statement of the Wake's intentions to be found inside the Wake is: "How to Pull a Good Horus-coup even when Oldsire is Dead to the World"(105).

The author who has achieved this, or is well on his way to achieving this, can afford to sit back and make magnanimous statements about the Wake that is written by everyone everywhere {24C}. At that point, he will be Horus Rising, the Lord of the New Divine Age, and the entire cosmos will be floating in the bubbles of his coffee.

But everybody knows that the dragon in the M.C. Escher etching does not really escape the page, however he may maintain that illusion through skillful contortions. The Osiris of Stratford, and the other emanations of Osiris spanning the history of narrative art, they all weigh heavy on Joyce's shoulders like the Old Man of the Sea. Joyce is an epic hero {35G}, trying to fight the old-boys network the way Achilles fought the river Scamander; but without Gods to intervene, his "epical forged cheque" will remain just that. Whether he can cash it or not is another matter.



"....through all Livania's volted empire, from anodes to cathodes...."(549)

The New Divine Age of Finnegans Wake is not the product of a mind given to neo-primitivist longings; Joyce was a product of the modern city. He got allergic smelling hay, and could not relate well to the idealization of the rural that ran through the works of the Celtic Twilight. The theocracy to come is mythical like the one that preceded it -- but with a difference.{10F} The new Kingdom of Heaven will be an Electric Empire. Joyce understood implicitly what McLuhan stated explicitly:

"Myth is contraction or implosion of any process, and the instant speed of electricity confers the mythic dimension on ordinary industrial and social action today. We live mythically but continue to think fragmentarily and on single planes."

Shaun's new technological post office abolishes space and time, turning Dublin into the Eternal City of the Eternal Now {17B}. The electric cross-linking of everywhere with everywhere else blends out differences between East and West: "In that earopean end meet Ind."(598) Recently, an article in the International Herald Tribune commented detailed how "Netmyths explode instantly around the globe, duplicated word for word with the click of a mouse." It does not matter that the stories are about microwaved poodles, or rocket-fueled cars, or Neil Armstrong's off-color murmurings on the moon; at 186,000 miles-per-second, gossip becomes myth, and the prattle of two washerwomen at the ford becomes Divine History.

B. The Gods, too, have changed. Richard Rorty sees the wired web of hypertextual communications as an instantiation of what he calls "edifying philosophy", the point of which "is to keep the conversation going rather than to find objective truth." A more succinct statement of consumerist ideology is not to be found. HCE has returned to preside over the Electric Empire, and he is "fortiffed by my right as a man of capitol."(548) Money is the new Divine Right of Kings, proffering unlimited license, as evinced by the O.J. Simpson trial.

"O, I adore the profeen music! Dollarmighty!"(562) Only the impish Joyce or the world itself could produce a profane theocracy in which money teams up with electricity to knock down the walls of nation-states in the name of the multinational corporation. The prophecy was there all along, hidden in the 'phonetic connection of signifiers' -- Hermes, the messenger and carrier of Hermetic secrets and unified of microcosm with macrocosm {10B}, is also Mercury, god of commerce and merchandise. The Wake is intersected by trade routes as well as concepts, like the Book of Kells with its costly pigments from the Mediterranean. The Great Letter even has a "serial number"(188). Naming is claiming is commodity.


A. Lulled by their ubiquity, entranced by their promises or revolted by their baseness, it is easy to forget that commercials are the speech of Joyce's Electric Empire, as the printed word was the speech of the nation-state. {12B} Joyce was not one to overlook such things; the advertisement of Araby's bazaar could not but help stir its boy protagonist to fantasy, and "Plumtree's Potted Meat" refuses to leave Bloom's head in Ulysses.

In the Wake, commercials and advertisements are everywhere, from the "Kommerzial....from Osterich"(69-70), to the advert for HCE's inn at "Lucalised"(565), and the word from our sponsors: "This eeridreme has been effered you by Bett and Tipp"(342). Shaun throws a plug for himself in the middle of his telling of the tale of Shem: "[John's is a different butcher's. Next place you are up town pay him a visit. Or better still, come tobuy...]"(172) A few pages later, Joyce inserts a similar piece of self "ABORTISEMENT", associating himself with Shaun: "[Jymes wishes to hear from wearers of abandoned female costumes....]"(181) {32E} {35B} He knows the new language.

B. Finnegans Wake is one of the few artifacts that rivals the collected power of advertisements as "the richest and most faithful daily reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities." Like illuminated manuscripts, they do this through iconic techniques {6A}; more effort probably goes into designing the fonts of many ads then is spent on the articles on the opposing pages. Appropriately, they can convey subtleties which mass-produced prose cannot, a quality they share with the Wake.

Joyce is guilty of successful sleight-of-hand in his use of advertisements. Again prefiguring McLuhan, he knows that "Any ad put into a new setting is funny. This is a way of saying that any ad consciously attended to is comical. Ads are not meant for conscious consumption." Those scouring the Wake for 'content' will find many advertisements and immediately pronounce them ridiculous and satirical -- which they are, when looked at with the careful scrutiny of literary interpretation.

But as Bloom the Little Tramp {18C} rides the rail between ironic and lyric, so Bloom the Ad Man is poised between satire and appropriation. Joyce shows us the ads themselves and invites us to call them ridiculous, while behind his back he is hiding the effective ad techniques of iconicism and repetition which the Wake uses to the fullest -- a trick he also pulls with newspapers {14A}. Like Swift in "The Battle of the Books" and A Tale of a Tub, he insults modernity's content while adopting (and creating) its form.


A. Modern physics provides the ontological backbone for Finnegans Wake, as Olympian-sponsored rules of kleos and time did for Homer, and the universe of medieval cosmology did for Dante {1B}. They're "Not Here Yet (Maxwell, Clark)"(130) in Book I, but by the time the Human Age comes around, James Clerk Maxwell will have penned the equations which describe the unified field of electricity and magnetism -- an enveloping domain like that of sound, one that makes the Wake a possibility {34C}. Maxwell's electric field provides the Divine Sparks which flow through the Wake's many vessels, {8C} uniting them all and providing a standard of exchange between them.{8B} {27B} From the way "their ulstravoliance led them infroraids"(316) to the electric insects with their "langtennas" and "elytrical wormcasket"(316), EM waves are more pervasive than sound waves can ever be.


"....in reality only a done by chance ridiculisation of the whoo-whoo and where's hairs theorics of Winestain."(149)

It was Lewis Carroll who first gave the Victorian contemporaries of James Clerk Maxwell a taste of a twisted relativistic universe which might replace the ordered regularity of the one described by Newton. Only at the beginning of the next century, though, did Einstein translate this universe into mathematics, and show that contrary to intuition, it was the one in which we lived.

Of all the signatures on his letter protesting Roth's piracy of Ulysses, Joyce was most proud of Einstein's; the universe described by the latter was in many ways a precursor to the one created by the former. Einstein's cosmology was one which merged incommensurates {32B}, putting time and space on the same footing, revealing the potential one had to replace the other: "Eins within a space and a wearywide space it wast ere wohned a Mookse."(152) Clerk-Maxwell's electromagnetic energy was itself 'chunked' {3B} into a larger whole, drawn into the exchange of E=mc2. The flux of Heraclitus was married to the changelessness of Parmenides -- there were constant exchanges between the two mediums, but as Joyce said, "Rein ne se crée, rien ne se perd" (nothing is changed, nothing is lost). And as it is with time and space and energy and matter, so it is with Shem and Shaun. Eternal opposites come together: "BUTT [Shem/time] and TAFF [Shaun/space]... now one and the same person...."(354) {36A}

The notion of an expanding space-time continuum that curves back upon itself, one of the many difficult implications of General Relativity, provided the impetus for the circularity of Joyce's own model of the universe, which bends back upon itself to end where it began.{23F} And what relativity did to the notion of the objective observer is also imitated by the Wake's acentric network: "Here are no privileged points of view, and all available perspectives are equally valid and rich in potential."{2B}

Another twentieth century scientific revolution, less well known because more difficult to encapsulate than Einstein's, has even more impact upon the structure of Finnegans Wake {31A}. But of course, Einstein made one more reluctant contribution to science which provided inadvertent material for Joyce. It will appear more intentionally in the next chapter.


A. Try as we will, it is difficult to forget Einstein's unwilling role in paving the theoretical ground on which the Manhattan Project scientists could build the Enola Gay's terrible cargo. That the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima six years after the publication of Finnegans Wake does not prevent many uncanny references to atomic explosions in its pages. When we read of "hriosmas, whereas take notice be the relics of the bones"(91), and when "he is consistently blown to Adams"(313) appears only two pages from "Whatthough for all appentices it had a mushroom on it....nogeysokey first"(315), we experience the kind of frission usually reserved for the end of a Poe or Lovecraft story.

When Joyce describes ALP's "birthright pang that would split an atam"(333), or "the abnihilization of the etym"(353), he is not quite anticipating "a future scientific and conceptual discovery" as Eco suggests. In a rare display of non-omnipotence, Eco forgets that Lord Rutherford's atom splitting experiment took place in 1919. The division of the Democritan indivisible was already an established scientific possibility.

What Joyce's 'prediction' of atomic warfare does is to demonstrate the ability of a system with a 'critical mass' of complexity to produce novel forms independently of the creator of that system (more important than freak demonstrations of clairvoyance).{20D} Eco gets back on track when he reminds us that any discovery represents "an excess of disorder in respect to existing codes". Joyce sets loose his original organization of disorder, and lets the "flash from a future of maybe mahamayability"(597) take care of itself. {32C}



"Sankya Moondy played his mango tricks under the mysttetry."(60)

At the risk of being flogged for impertinence -- and without constructing a ridiculous transition sentence to link the subject to atomic explosions -- I will move on to a compact discussion of Buddhism. Those who do not like it can move on to the next chapter, which once again takes up the sober threads of science.{31A} In truth, Buddhism is not irrelevant to Finnegans Wake, not at all. An expert in Buddhist epistemology could come to a far deeper understanding of the Wake's gestalt than all but the most rarefied of literary critics.

The lure of the East "cast an Eastern enchantment over" Joyce as it did over the Dublin Theosophical set, and he inundated Book IV of the Wake with Sanskrit. The comparison here is meant to facilitate understanding, not establish the historicity of influence, but that influence is real nevertheless.

The question-and-answer format of chapter six echoes not only Catholic catechism, Joyce's own "Ithaca" chapter of Ulysses, and a school quiz, but the form of most of the Buddhist sutras as well. One passage in that chapter is a direct lifting of a Buddhist concept:

"They war loving, they love laughing, they laugh weeping, they weep smelling, they smell smiling, they smile hating, they hate thinking, they think feeling, they feel tempting, they tempt darling, they dare waiting, they wait taking, they take thanking, they thank seeing...."(142)

Moving non-sequentially {23E}, another earlier Wake passage is even closer to the original:

"In the ignorance that implies impression that knits knowledge that finds the nameform that whets the wits that convey contacts that sweeten sensation that drives desire that adheres to attachment that dogs death that bitches birth that entails the ensuance of existentiality." (18)

This is Pratityasamutpada, the twelvefold chain of Dependent Origination. In Daily Buddhist Devotions, K. Sri Dhammanandai lists the twelve stages of Dependent Origination (Paticca Samuppada in his original Pali): Ignorance produces voltional acts produce consciousness produces mental and physical phenomena produce the six faculties (five senses and mind) produce sensorial/mental conduct produces sensation produces desire produces clinging produces the process of becoming produces birth produces decay, sorrow, death, pain, etc.

In the sutras, the Buddha enumerates the net of Dependent Origination slightly differently, but the basic idea is the same: all the aspects of maya, the illusory physical world, spring from one another in an endless chain of becoming (endless to those who have not achieved Nirvana) {36A}. What the Buddha himself has to say about Dependent Origination, and the language he uses (with the help of Henry Clarke Warren, his translator) are instructive in light of the present enquiry:

"Profound, Ananda, is Dependent Origination, and profound of appearance. It is through not understanding this doctrine, Ananda, through not penetrating it, that thus mankind is like to an entangled warp, or to an ensnarled web...and fails to extricate itself from punishment, suffering, perdition, rebirth...."

....namely, history. What the Buddha has to say to "anander"(581) shows a profound understanding of the interrelatedness of all things, of the network nature which lies beneath the illusory surface of our lived lives. That Joyce saw fit to recreate (and thus, of course, absorb) this insight with his own isomorphism of Pratityasamutpada not once but twice gives evidence of a similar understanding -- as does the Wake's entire structure {4A}, which is what this essay has been all about showing.

Even the Buddha was not unprecedented in his insight, though. The idea recalls Indra's Net, an earlier Hindu mythological representation of the universe. Indra's net is a net with a jewel at each nodal knot, and each jewel reflects the whole of the net. Indra's Net, Buddha's Dependent Origination, Joyce's Wake, InterNet. As Before, So Again. {10D}

B. The view reflected by the Wake's Dependent Origination concerning "atman"(596), the metaphysical concept of the absolute existence of an unchanging Self, is the same view held by Vico, "the negative view that there is no human essence to be found in individuals as such." Non-existence, or anatman, is a direct implication of Dependent Origination, and it is a form that appears and reappears in any examination of reality on any scale:

"Is it possible that one single symbol could be awakened in isolation from all others? Probably not. Just as objects in the world always exist in a context of other objects, so symbols are always connection to a constellation of other symbols."

In the metaphor-chains of Eco, each word derives its meaning from its position in the global semantic network; the divine permutations of Kabbalah brought about All That Is by connecting every letter to every other letter in an infinitely expanding web of creation. Like the quality of semantic openness (indistinguishable from it, in fact), the interrelatedness starts at the lowest level of the Wake and shines up through every tier of the work's organization {21D}, until the Wake and the world are ever-mutable anatman wherever you look.

Nagarjuna was an Indian Buddhist philosopher in the second century A.D. His Mahyadmikarika was the first true work of deconstruction, setting about to dismantle all manner of 'wrong views' on the nature of things, expanding the initial notions of the Buddha in a precise and systematic way to cover all existence, or lack thereof (if you think Derrida is difficult reading, try getting your head around Nagarjuna). His views were more soberly expressed, but his underlying assertion that the absolute being (svabhava) of any 'existent' is not evident (na vidjate) is whimsically mongrelized by the following 'mutto' from the Wake. Without presuming to have anything but the vaguest map of Nagarjuna's semantic system in my own brain, I have a feeling he would approve:

"....for if we look at it verbally perhaps there is no true noun in active nature where every bally being -- please read this mutto -- is becoming in its owntown eyeballs."(523)



"Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude, the evidencegivers by legpoll too untrustworthy irreperible..."(57)

For someone looking forward to returning to the calm and rational worlds of science and mathematics after trying to simultaneously consider the twin inscrutabilities of Buddhism and Finnegans Wake, great disappointment is imminent. We have reached the point in the history of these disciplines where the fortresses of orderly quantification are stormed by the barbarian hordes of Incompleteness and Uncertainty, who are cast out time and time again only to bounce back in an inevitable return of the repressed.

B. I will mention logician Kurt Gödel first; pure mathematics is even more abstruse to my layman's eyes than theoretical physics, and he will accordingly take up less space. In 1931, Gödel's paper "On Formally Undecidable Propositions" proved beyond a doubt the impossibility of reducing mathematics to a finite set of axioms and rules. In any mathematical or logical system, there must be statements whose validity cannot be determined one way or another without stepping out of the system in question, and 'looking at it from a higher level'. To give a more terse formulation of Gödel's Mathematics in Hofstadter's English:

"All consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions."

The inability of any system to completely describe itself from within itself {4G} poses a problem for those who, like Joyce, are trying to assemble a universal isomorphism {11A}. No matter how many steps one takes up the Ladder of Being, it is impossible to get a total and consistent view of reality, with "the infinisissimals of her facts becoming manier and manier" (298) the way they do. There is always a hole in the center; the model remains incomplete, like the Book of Kells. Either Totality or Consistency has to go.

C. Four years before Gödel gummed up the machinery of perfection in mathematics, physicist Werner Heisenberg did the same for physics. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, as summarized by Nobel physicist Richard Feynman in his Six Easy Pieces, states: If you make a measurement on any object and are able to determine the x-component of its momentum (a function of time) with an uncertainty of ÆP, you cannot at the same time know its x-position (a function of space) more accurately than Æx=h/Æp, with 'h' denoting Planck's constant. The uncertainties in position and momentum at any instant must have a product that is greater than Planck's constant.

Physicists David Bohm and B.J. Hiley try to prevent the possible misinterpretation of Heisenberg's ontological pronouncement as an epistemological pronouncement:

"Relationships of this kind [ÆpÆx3h] implied, for Heisenberg and Bohr, that the basic properties of the particle, i.e. its position and momentum, are not merely uncertain to us, but rather that there is no way to give them a meaning beyond the limit set by Heisenberg's principle. They inferred from this that there is...an inherent ambiguity in the state of being of that particle."

The twin qualities of space and time (momentum) cannot be entirely divided and separately quantified; they bleed into one another in the almost infinitely small space of 'h', Dependently Originating, a non-decomposable system like Time-Shem and Space-Shaun in the Wake {34A}. When Vico implies that he has "thereby proved to the Epicureans that their chance cannot wander foolishly about and everywhere find a way out" he is right about the 'everywhere'; but the Epicureans have found unassailable sanctuary in Planck's constant.

D. Joyce was well aware of "the planckton at play about him"(477); HCE's whole family is "mentally strained from reading work on German physics....following correspondence courses"(543) between the German theories and themselves. HCE himself -- Joyce's stand in for All That Is {8B} - is most obscure in chapters two through four, the chapters dedicated to investigating him most closely, on the most microscopic 'quantum' level. He has done something wrong, but it is impossible to pin down his crime with certainty, even by book II: "Auspicably suspectable but in expectancy of respectableness"(362). HCE's "sameold gamebold adomic structure" is "highly charged with electrons"(615), and like those electrons he can only be described in terms of a probability wave -- who he probably was, where he probably was, what he probably did, "in the best authenticated version"(30).

The whole Wake is washed over by a universal probability wave:

"...in this madh vaal of tares...where the possible was the improbable and the improbable the inevitable...we are in for a sequentiality of improbable possibles....for utterly impossible as are all these events they are probably as like those which may have taken place as any others which never took person at all are ever likely to be." (110)

From the individual words up through the characters they create and the stories those characters act out, the Wake is best looked at in terms of ambiguity and probability. It does not allow for dogmatic pronouncements and 'right answers' stamped with the seal of Certainty. One senses that the Jesuit Scholastic hiding in Joyce's backbrain bridled at this lack of rigorous completion in the act of categorization, but that part of him was overridden by larger concerns.

E. For Vico, according to Bergin and Fisch:

"....mathematics and physics fall short of perfect scienza. Mathematics falls short because its objects are fictions. Physics falls short because the scope of our experiments can never encompass nature as a whole. Scienza of the world of nature....is therefore reserved for God, who made it."

Joyce's hubris far outreaches Vico's. He says, "Let's hear what science has to say, pundit-the-next-best-king. Splanck!"(505); he listens to what the scientists say about the "true tree"(505), the core of being. Taking Gödel and Heisenberg's hint that even God cannot attain complete gnosis of all the particulars of his creation, Joyce attempts true scienza and total mimesis by including in his creation the Dice that even God cannot predict. {11D}

Putting the "AGNOSIS OF POSTCREATE DETERMINISM"(262) at the heart of Finnegans Wake overturns Joyce's Aristotelian-Catholic love for rigorous taxonomy in favor of his Irish 'deliberate pleasure in paradox'{22B} -- he makes a bid for completeness by his inclusion of incompleteness.

F. By his refusal to submit Finnegans Wake to Occam's razor of simplicity, he creates "a channel capable of conveying a great deal of information but with the risk of limited intelligibility." In the Wake, "that sword of certainty which would indentifide the body never falls"(51), and we are left with a book that makes plain the limits of interpretation inherent in all books -- though with the Wake it is almost impossible not to run up against those limits.

Difficulty has its rewards. We recall that, with the names of God, "Their intrinsic value is proportional to their degree of incomprehensibility." {8D} Of any message, Eco says, "the larger the amount of information, the more difficult its communication...information and uncertainty find themselves to be partners." In a book that intends to reiterate (and replace?!?) the universe and all the information therein {11E} {35G}, we should be more suspicious of simplicity than near incomprehensibility.



"The danger is in the neatness of identifications."
--Samuel Beckett, "Dante...Bruno...Vico...Joyce"

We must take Joyce's declaration to Alessandro Francini with a grain of sand:

"Ideas, classifications, political terminologies leave me indifferent; they are things one has passed beyond. Intellectual anarchy, materialism, rationalism -- as if they could get a spider out of his web!"

Old Jesuit habits never die; they just fade to the back of the shelf. Joyce never completely lost his passion for systematizing, and the above statement is therefore an incomplete representation of the truth. As all representations of the truth have been shown to be incomplete {31B}, we can forgive him his trespass. This much can be said: neat identifications and strict dualistic certainties could not extricate Joyce from the web of history and influence, and he desperately wanted out {25C}. And so it was that James Joyce included Aristotle's Excluded Middle{31B(footnotes)}, washing out the 'Or' and wringing in the 'And'. Joyce moved beyond the simple Single vision of Newton's sleep, and conventional divisions.

B. To attempt to filter his work back through those divisions, therefore, is to run up against numerous contradictions. The Wake is a probability wave, defining not any single state of being, but all possible states; this leads to the dilemma that lies at the heart of the Schrödinger's Cat paradox, with its cat that is both alive and dead until someone looks and 'collapses the probability wave'{31D}. Joyce's characters are alive and dead and not-yet-born and just-sleeping-it-off. He sees with Blake's fourfold vision.

We do not even have to open to the first page to be hit with one of these contradictions, as the mutually-exclusive states of life and death are simultaneously implied in the title. It is a trick he might have picked up from the title of Bruno the magician's major work, The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, in which the said beast manages to be both victorious and defeated all at once.

The forced contiguity of words with mutually exclusive significations within the same Joycean 'lexeme' often leads to what Eco calls "ambiguous deformation" on the level of the 'etym' {21B}. When we read that "Humme the Cheapner, Esc" is "humile, commune and ensectuous"(29), we are presented with the simultaneous suggestions of humility, puerility, vileness, communality, commonness, sectarianism, arthropodism, and incestuousness. Moving beyond the contradictory nature of these qualities, if we apply ourselves, we can probably still imagine a real person possessing several of them concurrently, if not all of them.

Like contradictions pop up in phrases such as "this is nat language at any sinse of the world...."(83), which needs no further explanation so long as we know that 'nat' is 'night' in Danish. In chapter fourteen, Shaun's name becomes Jaun, suggesting Don Juan -- yet he acts the role of father-confessor to Issy and the twenty-eight rainbow girls throughout the chapter. And of course, his true lasciviousness shines through when he threatens to "give it to you, hot, high and heavy"(439) if the girls do not obey his proscriptions. There and back again...Joyce contradicts himself? Very well. He contradicts himself. To turn a McLuhan phrase: "You don't like those ideas? I got others."

C. In Books at the Wake, James Atherton sets out on the task of "resolving contradictions" within the Wake. In doing so, he misses the point; or more accurately, he gets the point, but misses the points, which are more important in this instance. One small step to a brain {4B}:

"....thoughts which clash totally may be produced by a single brain, depending on the circumstances. And any high-level readout of the brain state which is worth its salt must contain all such conflicting versions."

And one giant leap to networks of any kind:

"In order for the Global Semantic System to be able to produce creative utterances, it is necessary that it be self-contradictory and that no Form of content exist, only forms of content."

The co-existence of contraries, which reach Joyce from Nicholas of Cusa via Bruno of Nola, is a necessary property of any system which is has reached the level of complexity required to say anything interesting about itself or the world it presumably exists to illuminate {4G}. Oxford philosopher J.R. Lucas, speaking in a tone of haughty disparagement about Cambridge mathematician and computer forefather Alan Turing, said:

"Turing is suggesting that it is only a matter of complexity, and that above a certain level of complexity a qualitative difference appears."

The same thing that Turing suggested about computational devices such as calculators and brains I would suggest about the Wake; it is only upon reaching a critical mass of metaphoric density that the 'etymic explosion'{29A} occurs which gives the reader license to release the vast storehouses of meaning that are locked into our language and rarely used {4D}. There is a point in complexification where quantitative difference becomes qualitative difference. And at that point complexity produces contradiction:

"Now let the centuple celves of my egourge....by the coincidance of their contraries reamalgamerge in that indentity of undiscernibles...."(49-50)

This centuple-celled complexity of any creative system walks the middle path between Epicurean pure randomness and Stoic fated order, the floating spectrum between simple, microscopic, more-or-less predictable units (such as words) and the macroscopic collections of such units that evade all efforts towards stratification and description (such as a language). With the constantly circulating dialectic between order and disorder, elements of disorder can increase the level of information produced in a complex system, bringing out a relationship between the elemental disorder of entropy and the 'meaning' of creativity.{31F} As Vico sees it, poetry's role is "to perturb to excess, with a view to the end proposed", namely, "to invent sublime fables."

D. This puzzling intricacy by which the Wake operates to generate an endless "eeridreme"(342) is played out inside the book by the battle between Shem and Shaun, in which Shaun is the Order Principle. Whether it is the telegraph, first used to play chess and other games {15A}; the radio, the province of amateur 'ham' operators in its primary stage of development, who communicated for the love of communicating {17A}; or the internet, with its initial anarchic frontier atmosphere {23A}, Shaun will steal them all from Shem, appropriating the medium as he does the message, and use them to establish control and hierarchy.

Holding to the concept of order as it applies to information, we see Shaun taking a hard line against freedom of speech: "I am all of me for freedom of speed but who'll disasperaguss Pope's Avegnue or who'll uproose the Opian Way?"(448) Unchanneled openness of information leads to the kind of disorder represented by the Great Schism in 1309, in which Pope Clement V moved the papacy to Rome -- disorder that brings about a decline of Shaunian authority as it did for papal authority. Shaun notes that incest is only allowed "in Deuterogamy as in several places of Scripture (copyright) and excluded books (they should quite rightly verbanned be)"(537) putting himself on the side of censorship....

...and author's rights. That the freedom of speech does not include the freedom to print someone else's books and give them away for free is rarely mentioned, but interesting nonetheless. Shaun is right in thinking that nothing productive will be achieved in a state of complete anarchy. The unbridled explosion of disorder in information will only lead to white noise, static. {17D}

E. Shaun sees Shem's/Joyce's "root language" as "making act of oblivion"(424). In relation to himself, he is right; Shem is the Disorder Principle, as important as Shaun in the creation of the Wake, but not more so. Shem destroys Shaun's stable order -- linguistically, the linear, typographic order of official English, the language imposed on Celtic James. In its place, he puts the kind of network structure we have been trying to 'grok' here. As any departure from an established linguistic system of probability (often) leads to an increase in the signifying potential of the deviating message, Shem provides the chaos that gives birth to Zarathustra's dancing star.

F. But the increase in meaning is in relation to the established system, as contingent upon it as student revolutionaries are on mean and nasty university administrators to give them something to rebel against. Shaun is the necessary background against which Shem's noise becomes art. In time they become indistinguishable, as their contrary principles unite. Student revolutionaries major in education to kick out the jams from the inside, and twenty years and thirty pounds later they are the mean and nasty university administrators for the next generation of glass-smashing Shems.

I once thought that Shaun could be aligned with Freud's thanatos or death principle, and Shem with eros or the urge towards life, but have since realized that these categories are too tidy. The most profound insight of Beckett's "Dante....Bruno....Vico....Joyce" essay is that Joyce's circular purgatory, in contrast to Dante's teleological purgatory, is purgatorial "In the absolute absence of the Absolute". There is no unrelieved viciousness (Hell), or unrelieved immaculation (Heaven). Either of these is stasis, and stasis is death. Purgatory is life, and life is in the fluctuation, the fecund proliferation of matter and meaning from the interaction of opposites whose roots intermingle in the soil of Totality. Beyond the stratosphere, in the biosphere, around the datasphere of Finnegans Wake.



"The great fact emerges that after that historic date all holographs so far exhumed initialled by Haromphrey bear the sign H.C.E...."(32)

Normal photographs are made by using the ordinary light reflected from objects to burn patterns into photosensitive chemicals on a piece of film, and then enlarging and reversing that negative image, burning it into a piece of photosensitive paper, and chemically 'fixing' it. It is an explicit, or explicate representation; with differing degrees of accuracy, you can match up one square inch of the picture with a corresponding area of the object depicted, in a one-to-one isomorphism. {10A}

Holograms are different. Created with coherent laser light, they are the result of an interference pattern between the laser light that is bounced off an object (think Shem) and the laser light of the reference beam which is not (think Shaun). This pattern is burned into a holographic plate, in a process not unlike the regular photographic process -- but holograms are three-dimensional, not two-dimensional, and in the compression of three dimensions into two dimensions, a holographic representation becomes implicate. There is no immediate, one-to-one correspondence between its explicit, two-dimensional pattern and the object it represents {4E}. Looked at from the wrong angle, a hologram is meaningless, appearing to be nothing but amorphous ripple patterns. The information corresponding to the original object is coded into the hologram, and needs to be decoded, or explicated, by light of the right kind being bounced off its surface at the right angle.

The buried, coded information of the "holocryptogram"(546) has interesting properties. It collapses three dimensions into two in such a manner that all three can be retrieved again by someone who understands the hologram's 'outer code'. Moreover, each portion of the hologram contains all the information necessary to recreate the entire 3-D image -- as does each piece of a piece, and so on, in an exhibition of self-similarity {21D}. A broken hologram will show you the same picture as an unbroken one; the difference is in the resolution of the image, and the number of angles from which it can be seen. The whole hologram is in sharper focus than one of its parts; in the whole, the object is visible from many different perspectives. {3C}

B. The hologram is a global system -- one in which information is stored evenly throughout the system, and in which any part of the system contains a condensation of the whole. The hologram may be the first man-made global system, but the global nature of many natural systems was clear to philosophers as far back as Anaxagoras (500-548 B.C.). Thanks to the archival efforts of Simplicitus (the Roman Jostein Gaardner), we have fragments of Anaxagoras's thought:

"Together were all things, infinite both in quantity and in smallness -- for the small too was infinite."

"For in everything there is present a share in everything."

Joyce knew of "Inexagoras"(155), as he knew of Bruno, who (in Bruno's own words) "illuminated those who could not see their own image in the innumerable mirrors of reality which surround them on every side". He also knew of fellow illuminator Blake's Infinity in a Grain of Sand and Eternity in and Hour -- spatial and temporal holography. Whether or not he knew of the apparent equipotentiality of the brain, he had a solid practical and historical understanding of the global distribution of knowledge around a complex network system -- the only way to organize vast associational clusters of information for rapid access, and (in conjunction with sufficient redundancy) the best way to protect that information and insure its transmission {9E}. It is difficult to forget the omnipresent.


"Begin to forget it. It will remember itself from every sides, with all gestures, in each our word."(614)

Global dissemination of information appears before the Wake in Ulysses, where tiny details like Bloom's potato, his cake of soap, Alf Bergan's joke on Breen, and the Ascot horse race are thinly spread throughout Dublin on June 16, 1904. A piece of globally-present information like the occurrence of the Ascot race is always virtually present in the minds of the characters, and the reader; they are part of the semantic storehouse of the city on that day. It is only when they are unfolded from that implicate order that they appear in the text -- that is to say, in 'actuality'.

The repetition and variation mentioned elsewhere gives ample evidence of the global nature of Finnegans Wake. {9A} The most striking example, however, lies in one of Matthew Hodgart's findings:

"Hodgart demonstrates that the Macbeth act five, scene five soliloquy...is echoed almost entire, as is Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' monologue, but each is scattered and strung out through the text of the Wake."

If a Joycean version of the entire Macbeth soliloquy was localized on a single page, the reader who did not read through the Wake's entire text (probably a very large majority of the set of Wake readers) would risk missing it. Not in a global system, though; anyone reading a significant portion of the Wake who is familiar with Macbeth will catch a reference, and note the presence of the play in the book's microcosmic universe.

D.Following in Blake's feetstoops, Joyce's semantic hologram extends to four dimensions, asserting the embryonic presence of every historical moment in every other. This kind of globality or nonlocality comes closer to the nonlocality described by quantum physics {31B}, which depicts instantaneous action at a distance which seems like a violation of the "light barricade"(349) set up by Einstein (for complex reasons, it is not). Bell's Theorem, named after Irish physicist John Bell, predicts that according to the precepts of quantum physics, two particles which come in contact continue to have an influence over one another, even when separated. The Alain Aspect experiment, conducted in 1981, verified Bell's Theorem, as have several others.

Replace 'particle' with 'lexeme', and the above becomes a description of aspects of the Wake. The cross-book effects of one word on another many pages away are made without traveling respected narrative lines, violating the Special Relativity of literature. Without the annoying persistence of physical laws to trouble him in his creation, Joyce found a way to express 4-D space-time on the flat page. Careful consideration of the qualities of four dimensional space/space-time will lead to the conclusion that 4-D mobility allows one to get from point A to point B without covering the space in-between.



"...the infinite is principle and element of the things that exist...it is neither water nor any of the other so-called elements but some different infinite nature, from which all the heavens and the worlds in them come into being. And the things from which existing things come into being are also the things into which they are destroyed, in accordance with what must be."
--Anaximander of Miletus (610-540 B.C.) {4H}

The network is invoked approximately fifty-nine times between chapter 1 and this very point in the text, but there is a sense in which it is a misleading image. The networks depicted through word and image in these pages often give an impression of being comprised of discrete particulars connected to one another through one-dimensional 'link' pathways, like a beaded-seat-cover of Leibnizian monads. This is a reduction through which one can make a good deal more sense of Finnegans Wake than is possible with more traditional methods of interpretation, but it is still incomplete, like the physical description of the world as a collection of indivisible atoms. The atoms do not exist as indestructible islands, unrelated to one another; and neither do the words in the Wake. Their connection is really inextricable interpenetration, each participating in the (non)substance of the other.

B. Finnegans Wake actually possesses a quality of "unbroken wholeness" {10B}, a term David Bohm and B.J. Hiley use to describe the common ground of quantum mechanics and relativity, two systems that in other ways mutually exclude one another. Perhaps the term 'field' is a better one than 'network' to describe a continuous whole which contains various harmonizing and clashing domains within its boundaries.

The 'field' of General Number Theory (from which the 'field' concept in literary criticism was borrowed), which Kenner describes as "a collection of elements, and a system of laws for dealing with those elements" is almost what I am talking about, but not exactly. The infinitude of real numbers aside, the use of the term 'elements' connotes divisibility and separateness. It is unarguable, I admit, that a person can do what Clive Hart did in his Concordance, and break the Wake down into its individual elements, its lexemes (even if some of them are a hundred letters long). But it is also possible for a person to separate every cell of an earthworm from every other cell; this will not necessarily uncover the ultimate substrata of the earthworm's being. The 'wormness' of the worm is in the synergy of all its cells, working together. And so with the Wake. {1E}

The mathematical definition of 'field' can be salvaged, if we accept a level of uncertainty in each 'element' that we cannot penetrate beneath without branching out into other 'elements' - an 'unbroken wholeness' on the lowest level of the Wake's communication, in other words. The 'laws', in this case, are the various methodologies such as 'AASB' {10A}, 'ABSA' {10D}, variations on a theme {9C}, globality {33B}, etc., that we have been talking about.{1B}

C. The 'field' in which the Wake sits most compellingly, however, is the circulating ground of Anaximander's infinite, from which all things are born and into which they all return. This is the swirling vortex at the heart of the Wake's most difficult middle passages, from which a lone droplet of meaning will emerge occasionally, only to be sucked back into the darkness.

It took about 2400 years for physicist David Bohm to come into being and describe Anaximander's "some different infinite nature" more fully. Bohm's Implicate Order is his way of perceiving the fundament of the explicate or unfolded reality that is studied by particle physicists and chemists. It is an attempt to get to the "true tree"(505) of ontology that underlies quantum epistemology. {11D}

For Bohm, the field is the fundamental reality into which the explicate realities of electrons, protons, etc. are enfolded, like a drop of ink spread to superstring thinness in a circulating, viscous fluid. They can unfold into manifestation, and re-enfold into the Implicate Order. The Implicate Order is not a 'hidden-variable' reestablishing a comfortable certitude over Heisenberg's Uncertainty {31B}; it is not deterministic, but it can be described. Bohm cites the hologram as the closest analogy to the implicate order on the macro scale, with its nonlocality, its enfolded information, and the way a light source can cause forms to emerge, and sink back into enfoldment again when it is removed. {33A}

If we are willing to accept a meta-analogy, the Wake might serve as an even better example. Its globality is four-dimensional, extending through time as well as space {10D}; in the Wake, distant 'particles' of information are connected over spans of hundreds of pages; and like a quote of a showtune standard in the midst of a free-jazz blowout, pockets of meaning bubble forth in liquid mixed metaphors, and then burst and return to ALP's river.

D. Those who will be going directly from here onto the next chapter will surely appreciate the necessity for dramatic tensions in any fictional narrative, critical or otherwise. For their benefit, the next chapter will be a lengthy set of contradictions and qualifications of previous points, strategically inserted before the Grand Unifying Topics on which this dissertation will end, for the purpose of building a feeling of narrative suspense.


A. Contradiction is indispensable in the generation of creative utterances {32C}. The extent to which much Wake criticism is lacking this crucial component is alarming, and may account for its taxidermic quality. The mistake does not bear repeating. So, for those who think my fallacies are all wrong, I will now explore contradictory options for their reading pleasure.

Onward, then, to the curmudgeonly regions.


"Letter, carried of Shaun, written of Shem, brother of Shaun, uttered for Alp, mother of Shem, for Hek, father of Shaun."(420-21)

"Well, it is partly my own, isn't it?"(422)

--Shaun, speaking of the Letter

That the Wake is a profoundly democratic work {2B} without any single 'authoritative reading' is too often taken as a license for anarchy and random behavior. The confusion of 'democracy' and 'anarchy' is common enough, especially among Americans; indeed, I myself might be accused of adding to the overall amount of critical entropy with this very essay. To counter such accusations, I will briefly explain what has been already hinted at {32D}; that hierarchy, personified by Shaun, is as important to the Wake as Shem's freedom.

"The state is concentric, man is eccentric", as Joyce said -- but the Wake must represent both. It is concentric and eccentric, like a spider's web. Speaking of linguistic and non-linguistic signs, Jacques Derrida says that all signs "can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable." But to apply this dictum to the Wake would be a mistake, confusing an Open Work with a closed one.

A closed work is one whose creator has not taken into account the possibility of interpretation through different paradigms, and therefore a work that is 'open' to any interpretation whatsoever. Derrida neatly does away with this problem by doing away with the creator; but creators are not brushed aside so easily, and here the World's Greatest Living Philosopher shows his own Anxiety of Influence. Openness is developed "within the specific limits of a given taste". One of the best remarks relating this truth to the Wake comes from Clive Hart:

"Anything in Finnegans Wake is indeed about anything else -- but only in the last of an infinite regress of planes of meaning. The all important question, in my view, is how to get those planes of meaning in the right order, and into the right perspective."

I do not believe there is one right perspective for the Wake, or ten. All perspectives are created equal, but some are more equal than others. There is a deep structure to the Wake based upon Vico's historical cycles; and a massive parallelism along Vico's lines by which the third chapter in each of the four main quarters (chapters three, seven, eleven, fifteen) is a chapter of trial, and the fourth one of resurrection. Book I is a reflection of Book III in the mirror of Book II.

All of these things must be taken into account when considering the Wake as a whole. We wander freely in its maze -- freely, that is, with the exception of the maze walls:

"You cannot use the text as you want, but only as the text wants you to use it. An open text, however 'open' it be, cannot afford whatever interpretation."

C. 'The death of the book' is a phrase that has gained an increased currency of late, and suffers from concomitant inflation. It can be heard in conversations about the electronic word and hypertext, where it is often ritually recited. As a precursor to hypertext, the Wake is sometimes presented as the first shovel-full of dirt on the grave. But Donald Theall sees that:

"Joyce foresees the transformation (not the death) of the book -- going beyond the book as it had historically evolved....[to] resituate the book within this new communicative cosmos."

In response to Sven Birkerts' premature obituary for literature, The Gutenberg Elegies, (ironically named) historian of the printed word Elizabeth Eisenstein notes in her essay "The End of the Book?" that film and TV were supposed to finish the book off in the sixties. It was one such prediction among many; she cites many past instances where individuals as noteworthy as Thomas Paine and Oswald Spengler predicted that newspapers would drum books out of business. They did not; the Wake did not; electronic media did not; more books were sold last year than in any previous year in mankind's history. {12E}

"The feeling of being 'in the midst of an epoch-making transition' serves to link our generation with several that have gone before", Eisenstein says. Or several thousand. As Before, So Again. {10D}

D. The death of the book is not apocalyptic to all; to some, it is a consummation devoutly to be wished for the betterment of mankind. Authors on hypertext {23A} "assume that the technology is essentially democratizing", as Thomas Paine assumed of newspapers two hundred years ago. Utopian World's Fair talk about the promise of the new, the non-hierarchical, the interactive stories where no domineering author pushes the reader around the narrative like a bully is widespread.

We would do well to remember what came of most of the futurist predictions made at the last World's Fair. Human beings have always been hierarchical creatures; it is one of the only human qualities which manifests itself in every group of people, in every age. They like Shem's freedom, but they also crave Shaun's order -- and nowhere more so than in the stories whose primary function is to forge a pattern of meaning from chaotic experience.

Without strict, dehumanizing hierarchies, multinational corporations {26B} would not exist -- those legal-fictional entities which can afford to spend the several billion dollars it costs to build a state-of-the-art microchip factory whose output is the bedrock of hypertext. Without the sponsorship of Harriet Shaw Weaver, Finnegans Wake would not exist. And without hierarchy and order-imposed-from-outside in story-telling, stories would cease to fulfill their primary function. {11A}

Science fiction author Bruce Sterling, editor of the Mirrorshades cyberpunk anthology and author of The Difference Engine with William Gibson, is without a doubt one of the premier living traders in narrative futures. He has pole position in the race to write the Great Hypertext Novel -- but he doesn't want to. He believes that "basically, hypertext doesn't work as entertainment, because a story with multiple possible endpoints lacks any thematic content or dramatic catharsis." (I agree more with the second item than the first.) Of the Great Hypertext Novel, he says:

"Hypertext has been around for quite some time now and there has yet to be a truly significant artistic work created for this format. The way I figure it, it ain't ever gonna happen."

A naysayer? Yes -- but also a man extremely knowledgeable in the fields of literature, technology and politics. His opinion merits consideration.

Joshua Wexler, a Hollywood producer and vocal advocate of technology, knows as well as anyone the role computers can play in creating Bruno's infinite worlds for everyone to see. But as for the democratically chosen plot twists of interactive film:

"Don't think it will ever work in movie theaters. You want to go to a movie where Gus the leper sitting next to you is going to be a part of the decisions behind the direction of the film you paid to see? I don't think so."

Perhaps these remarks douse the flame of tech-enthusiasm which threatens any discussion of future possibility. And perhaps they explain why almost nobody reads Finnegans Wake.


"The death of the author is a trope, and a rather pernicious one; the life of the author is a quantifiable entity."
--Harold Bloom

What may save Finnegans Wake from the obscurity and lack of readership augured in the section above is the expert control Joyce maintains over the text at all times. Openness and interactivity aside, if you think Joyce is really inviting you into an equal partnership with the 'text' of Finnegans Wake while he sits back and pairs his fingernails, you are sadly mistaken. "I overstand you, you understand"(444), he says through Shaun, never truly relinquishing control. You are in his maze.

G. In this section devoted to intra-essay contradiction, we now come to Joyce's Project -- the motivation behind the pained lengths to which he went to swallow reality intact. It is really nothing new, for the reader who has read uninterrupted to this point; the answer to the Why of the Wake is spread globally {33B} throughout this enquiry into the How, especially in the sections devoted to the Universal Isomorphism and the Anxiety of Influence. To say it bluntly:

Joyce (aka Herr Satan) aspired to a position of Godhood. He longed to replace the Creation with his own, and become an Unmoved Mover, the sole living figure who escaped the snares of Indra's Net. {30B}

Joyce took Bruno's haughtiness to heart: "Unless you make yourself equal to God, you cannot understand God: for the like is not intelligible save to the like." His first play, A Brilliant Career, is dedicated "To My own Soul". The explanation of why he could never write a great play is tacit in Portrait of the Artist: a dramatist has to empty all of himself into his characters. The epic mode, in which the artist broods upon himself as center in relation to others, was Joyce's domain. Atherton comes close to the Joycentric vision when he says that Joyce saw himself as "poet and prophet, and his work as the sacred book of a new religion", but he is too cautious to take the final step.

I do not make these suggestions in the spirit of naive literalism; I present the God Complex as the unavoidable, half-hidden implication of all that Joyce was trying to do in Finnegans Wake. Cataloguing, encompassing, mirroring the world as it was according to the deepest descriptions of reality's fabric -- Joyce did not underestimate the Creator. He marveled in the intricacy of Creation.

But his distaste for servitude was extreme, even more extreme than his passion for complex patterns. How to wonder through mimetic castles of beauty and proportion, without being a vassal to the King of the castle? There was only one solution.

Unlike the last to cry 'Non Serviam!', Joyce would not make the mistake of storming Heaven. He was a trickster, he would pretend to empty himself from his works while ransacking Kabbalah {8A} and alchemy {10A} and modern physics {28A} {31A}, and taking snapshots of the Creator's blueprints to use in the construction of own edifice. 'Refining yourself out of existence' was a ruse to get Shakespeare and Literature and God the Father to look the other way. When they all turned back around, it would be to find that Joyce the Creator had become King of the Castle than James Built on the rubble of Jehovah's. They would have no choice but to concede that 'that girl at the next table' was a marionette, that Joyce was pulling her strings. And theirs. {24B}

In the end, Joyce fell into the archetypal story-arc of the Rebel that he knew all-too-well. He underestimated the power of God's Creation-- a creation which included duodenal ulcers -- and was cast into heaven. Maybe, though, for at least a few moments before he died, he knew the lofty joy of the Man Who Scrawled the World. I would like to think so.


A. It exceedingly rare to find both Satan's contumely and Jesus's compassion for his fellow-traveler coexisting in the same human being with the mutual intensity with which they possessed James Joyce. Giordano Bruno may have come close; another Man Who Would Be God, he nevertheless sought to draw his opponents "in a subtly persuasive manner....as much as possible from their bigotry", and stripped the Gospels down to their memetic essence by saying "All religious persecution and all war in the name of religion breaks the law of love."

If one is going to say, as I did in the last section {35G}, that Joyce aspired to divinity, one has to follow it up with yet-another qualification: Joyce wanted to be the dictator of "mahamayability"(597), but only so he could wake everyone up from the nightmare. Maybe the best yardstick for his compassion is not Jesus, but the figure of the bodhishattva, who holds on to his self-hood in order that he might release all sentient beings from "Duhkha"(595), from suffering.

B. Joyce would carry this emancipation out through "The Resurrection of the Body", to borrow the radical usage of a stock Christian phrase from scholar-seer Norman O. Brown. As is common, the Buddha put into plain language an idea that is vaguely hinted at between the words of the Bible:

"In this fathom-long carcass....I postulate the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world."

The ego is a body ego; the battles fought amongst its senses recapitulate themselves up through rising expansions of scale, in conflicts between individuals and in wars between nations. Joyce's aim was wholeness, a unification of the Two Warring Brothers that would radiate upwards and heal the shattered vessels on all levels. {8C}

But it starts with the body. The many-sided dialectic of the senses is 'dialectical in Norman Brown's sense of the word: "By 'dialectical' I mean an activity of consciousness struggling to circumvent the limitations imposed by the formal-logical law of contradiction." Finnegans Wake is the progressive outstripping of limitations, an inward spiral whose terminus is a unified sensorium, an amalgamation of Shem and Shaun -- who in the final analysis are the binary on/off yes/no thesis/antithesis more than any specific associations. Brought together in the same body, they are what McLuhan called "the means of living simultaneously in all cultural modes while quite conscious", and what Brown called "The human body...become polymorphously perverse, delighting in that full life of all the body which it now fears."

Wholeness was Joyce's preoccupation from early on; the first page of Portrait presents a universal sensorium in incipient form:

"...his father looked at him through a glass...lemon platt...When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold...His mother had a nicer smell than his father...Uncle Charles and Dante clapped...."

In Ulysses, Bloom speaks for eros, the sublimated coming-together of heaven un-sublimated and brought back to the plain, the human, the efficient cause from which it came:

"-- But it's no use, says [Bloom]. Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life.

-- What? says Alf.

-- Love, says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred."

Ikey Moses sees the Promised Land, and in the Wake his successor is granted entry as "Shaun Shemsen"(533), the all-in-one, "Great sinner, good sonner"(607).Beneath the multiplicity, behind the strife, at the bottom of the battle lies an implicate reintegration.

C. Harold Bloom argues that aesthetic value can be recognized, but not conveyed to those incapable of grasping it, and that "To quarrel on its behalf is always a blunder." The razor-tongue of literary criticism's Henry VIII has sent many heads a-rolling, but I would venture to start a skirmish on Finnegans Wake's behalf. Understanding and reveling in the Wake's full field of frissions is understanding much else besides. And its wide-array ungulate vision has a survival-value on the predatory new-barbaric plain that might represent a 'last chance to see' for many jewels embedded in its network (to mix seven or eight metaphors). Pliny the Elder's Historia naturalis and the illuminated manuscripts of Irish scribes {5A} served to pass on classical and biblical sources to the dark ages; Ulysses preserved a virtual 1904 Dublin for the world; is it too much to expect that Finnegans Wake may achieve similar feats of conservation with the years?

I will close this final page with a quote from Giraldus Cambrensis, the thirteenth century historian, describing the details of an illuminated manuscript he saw at Kildare circa 1185:

"If you look at them carelessly and casually and not too closely, you may judge them to be mere daubs rather than careful compositions. You will see nothing subtle where everything is subtle. But if you take the trouble to look very closely, and penetrate with your eyes to the secrets of the artistry, you will notice such intricacies, so delicate and subtle, so close together, and well-knitted, so involved and bound together, and so fresh still in their colourings that you will not hesitate to declare that all these things must have been the result of the work, not of men, but of angels."

For the greater good of mankind, Joyce would have probably kicked the final term of Cambrensis's commendation one rung up the Great Chain of Being in reference to Finnegans Wake. Otherwise, the description is apt.


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