THE HIEROGLYPHS OF ENGINED EGYPSIANS: Machines, Media and Modes of Communication in Finnegans Wake

By Donald Theall

(Published in: Joyce Studies Annual. Ed. Thomas F. Staley. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1991, 129-76.)

.... those ars all bellical, the highpriest's
hieroglyph of kettletom and oddsbones.. .
--James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

We are not physicists nor metaphysicians: we must be Egyptologists. For there are no mechanical laws between things, nor voluntary communication between minds. Everything is implicated, everything is complicated, everything is sign, meaning, essence. Everything exists in those obscure zones which we penetrate as into crypts, in order to decipher hieroglyphs and secret languages.
--Gilles Deleuze

In 1922 when Joyce began working on Finnegans Wake, mechanization, electricity and electrification were already central aspects of everyday life and consequently destined to become part of the night world of Here Comes Everybody. Mechanization Takes Command, the title of art historian Siegfried Giedion's "anonymous history" of cultural objects, which traces the evolution of the increasing application of machinery and electricity in contemporary civilization, provides one of the key descriptive tags for our century. Mechanization and its transformation through electrification were phenomena that fascinated the European artistic community from shortly before the First World War until the outbreak of the Second. Whether adulatory as in Futurist paeans of praise (i.e. Boccioni, Dynamism of A Cyclist), or satiric as in Dadaism (i.e. Fanncois Picabia, Machine Tournez Vite and Duchamp, The Large Glass or The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors), or reflective as in Cubism and Constructivism, the phenomenon of mechanization permeated the visual arts. It also pervaded the arts of literature, music, architecture and the dance, leading ultimately to contemporary alliances between art and technology.
Let's reflect for a moment on the particular historical context in which Joyce matured as an artist. In the fifty years prior to Joyce's birth, telegraphy, the telephone, photography, the typewriter, the rotary press and electro-magnetic power had been developed. Within the five years before Joyce's birth, Edison developed both sound recording and the electric light. During the early years of his life the Eiffel tower was erected; Lumiäre explored moving pictures; Marie Curie discovered radium; Marconi completed the first transatlantic broadcast; the Wright Brothers developed the airplane; Einstein articulated the Theory of Relativity; and Ford completed the process of mass mechanization taking command, by developing the assembly line for the production of motor cars. Joyce stressed the importance of mechanics, chemistry and mathematics for his work. When Harry and Caresse Crosby suggested someone write an introduction to Tales of Shem and Shaun (fragments from Work in Progress) that they planned to publish, Joyce first suggested Julian Huxley and J. W. N. Sullivan:

". . . when the scientist and the musicologist made excuses, he then proposed C. K. Ogden, rightly surmising that the co-author of The Meaning of Meaning and the inventor of Basic English would not resist an invitation to discuss this linguistic experiment. He wished also for Ogden to comment, as a mathematician, upon the structure of Finnegans wake, which he insisted was mathematical."

As a sequel to Our Exagmination Round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (the title of which, it should be noted has its own complex references to building, fortifying, producing, laying out roads, etc), Joyce suggested that there should be "a book of only 4 long essays by 4 contributors." Although he had not decided on the subject of all four essays, the subjects of three of them were to be: the treatment of night; mechanics and chemistry; and the humor of the Wake. Electric power and the further evolution of mechanization are natu- ral outgrowths of this trio: chemistry, mathematics and mechanics. Awareness of machinery, science, and technology as aspects of the everyday world of contemporary wo/mankind, abounds in Finnegans Wake. All sorts of processes and machines play a role in the "retelling" of the Wake, although those processes and machines having to do with everyday communication occupy a primary place. The new world of communication technology, the new modes of popular culture and electrified mechanization held a particular attraction for an author recon- structing the night of an "Everybody" (H.C.E), for the dream action which takes place that night also retraces the social evolution of technology: "First you were Nomad, next you were Namar, now you're Numah and it's soon you'll be Nomon (374.22)." The history of "the people" making themselves unfolds: first as early wanderers ("Nomad"), then as warriors ("Namar"), next as the lonely, alienated one ("Numah") and soon to transcend beyond the limits of the human like a hero, the cunning Odysseus ( "Nomon", a complex pun probably involving elements such as: nomos + gnomon + noman, i.e, law & custom + one who interprets or knows + no man + know man + Ulysses' name = no one).
Since complex communication technology is characteristic of the later stages of the book, cinema, radio, newspapers, "dupenny" maga- zines, comics (contemporary cave drawing), and telecommunications materialize again and again throughout the night of the Wake. The "tele- " prefix appears in: "teleframe", "telekinesis", "telemac", "telepath", "telephone", "telepho- ny", "telescope", "telesmell", "telesphorously", "televisible", "televi- sion", "televox", "telewisher," as well as in a variety of "messes of mottage" such as "velivision" and dullaphone."The Wake refers or alludes to a wide variety of processes associated with communication such as photochemistry ("any photoist worth his chemicots" [111.27]), printing, electrolysis ("helixtrolysis", [163.31]), waves, electronic scanning ("the bairdboard bombardment screen" in the "charge of the light barricade" [349.9,11]), and electromagnetism. In addition to machines and processes involved with communications there are all sorts of "giddy gadgets" (597.9) and other machinery that surface at one point or another during the dream action. Yet the starting point for an understanding of the role that machines play in the Wake and of the interrelationship between the machinery of dream and this nightworld is to be discovered by paying particular attention to the communicating machines.
Joyce described the composition of Finnegans Wake as a feat of engineering early in the gestation of Work in Progress, for he wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver that this work would prove him to be "the greatest engineer" as well as a Renaissance man, who was also a "musicmaker, a philosophist and heaps of other things." His writing the Wake was a process of designing a wheel and squaring the circle. "I am awfully solemn about it, mind you, so you must not think it's a silly story about the mouse and the grapes."
If Joyce called himself an engineer, he was first and foremost a poetic engineer utilizing mechanics, mathematics and chemistry to design a "Nichtian glossery" (83.10), just as earlier he had developed a schematic chart for the complex macrostructural design of Ulysses. Such a process could certainly be described as engineering. This con- cept of a "poetic engineer" was part of the artistic sensibility from about 1905 until 1946, the end of World War II. Joyce and his contem- poraries were acutely attuned to the import of science, technology and human invention. Paul ValÇry, a friend of Joyce who participated in the process of reviving and re-evaluating Leonardo's image, argued that the method of the engineer and that of the poet were the same, re-articu- lating a frequent theme of Renaissance poetics, which Vico also endorses.
In a letter, Malcolm Lowry made an extraordinary observation about this newly emerging sense of the modern work of art as a machine:

It can be regarded as a kind of symphony, or in another way a kind of opera -- or even a horse opera. It is hot music, a poem, a song, a tragedy, a comedy, a farce and so forth. It is superficial, profound, entertaining and boring, according to taste. It is a prophecy, a political warning, a cryptogram, a preposterous movie, and a writing on the wall. It can even be re-garded as a sort of machine: it works too, believe me, as I have found out.

Lowry's description of his own novel, if taken more literally than he intended, could easily be mistaken for an attempt to describe the scope of Joyce's Wake, since that work embraces all of these things and even more. Above all others, it certainly is "a sort of machine" which works and which was designed by a poetic engineer.
To interpret Joyce's serio-comic statement to Harriet Shaw Weaver describing himself as "the greatest engineer," three aspects of his use of this concept of engineering must be considered. First, he viewed his work as a sort of machine, approaching it as an engineer. Second, the Wake encompasses many aspects of engineering: chemistry, mechanics, mathematics, geography and strategic planning. Third, in the more specifically delimited area of the arts and communi- cation of the period contemporaneous with the writing of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Joyce realized how extensively these activities involved new modes of social organization and of technological production, reproduction and distribution that insisted on the exploration of the relation of all poetic communication to the "machinic." The term, machinic, calls attention to the fact that all machinery is first and foremost socially grounded, as Gilles Deleuze declares when he observes that "Tools always presuppose a machine, and the machine is always social before being technical." Poetic communication, like the "machinic," is an assemblage which is social before being technical and which stresses the diagrammatic and the designed. Awareness of the social role of such machinic phenomena as the city, the medicalized body of organs, the psychoanalytic machinery of the dream work or the cinematic machine freed Joyce from the organic thinking of romanticism and the mechanistic thinking of Cartesianism.
Joyce often talked of the Wake as if it were an engineering project, while simultaneously viewing it humorously as an example of Swiftian projecting:
In the meantime I am preparing for it . . . by pulling down more earthwork. The gangs are now hammering on all sides. It is a bewildering business. I want to do as much as I can before the execution. Complications to right of me, complications to left of me, complex on the page before me, perplex in the pen beside me, duplex in the meandering eyes of me. And from time to time I lie back and listen to my hair growing white . . . .
These gangs, which he regarded as tunnelling under a mountain starting from different directions, are carrying out a mining operation worthy of a mole. When asked by August Suter about the title of the book he was working on, Joyce replied, "I don't know. It is like a mountain that I tunnel into from every direction, but I don't know what I will find." Building, burrowing, constructing, surveying, planning are just as primary components of the Wake as language, legend, myth -- "machinic" activities appropriate for an engineer. The "tolling" of his tale about an incident in Phoenix Park, in which HCE spies on two girls, declares that "Imagine twee cweamy wosen" (wosen Ger. = roses = girls = two roses, or is it three?). Next follows, "Then inmaggin a stotterer," for HCE is a stutterer. Since three soldies spy on HCE spying on the two girls, this is a process where next we "immengin three lurking lobstarts," for the imagination is an engine producing images of and for a "stotterer" who is "one biggermaster Omnibil," a super-automobile or an omnibus (337.16;18-19;20) -- a machine trying to get started. Even when we "inmaggin," it is a mechanic process, since the "maggies" (maggots) are associated with the burrowing gangs in the Wake: the beetles, scarabs, earwigs, moles and others.
Joyce further insists that the Wake's structure is mathematical. This is certainly consistent for a book whose beginning pages include a discussion of "caligulating by multiplicables the alltitude and malltitude" (4.32). In the schoolroom, or the "Triv and Quad" section, the children learn geometry, algebra, combinations, permutations and probabilities, activities which receive equal emphasis with language, humor and the arts of the trivium. Joyce approaches language as a mathematical structure and as an engineering problem. At the very simplest level of playing with the phonological material, he employs the science of his- torical phonetics in designing many of his overlayerings and chainings of linguistic units. John Bishop has shown the common derivation of the conceptually distinct terms, "phonetics", "phenomenon" and "phantasm," in an etymological chart illustrating how the proto-Indo- European root *bha- (to render luminous, to bring to light, to enlighten) produces the "funantics" (450.27) of "phonemanon" (258.22). Both phonology and phonemics provided Joyce with ways of seeing language as an assemblage both synchronically and diachronically. The sound- sense ratio in poetry which had traditionally been spoken of as numbers -- "I lisp'd in numbers" (Pope) -- is treated by Joyce in interplay with arithmetic in such examples as "zeroic couplet." But then that phrase appears in a passage which also involves references to communication, electricity, mathematics, surveying, and geography (all associated with engineering). Furthermore, there are also references to voiceless phones, irrational numbers, and deafness (i.e, both of these latter references are implied in the "surd") :

A Tullagrove pole to the Height of County
Fearmanagh has a septain inclinaison and the
graphplot for all the functions in Lower
County Monachan, whereat samething is rivi-
sible by nighttim, may be involted into the
zeroic couplet, palls pell inhis heventh glike
noughty times Ï , find, if you are not literally
coefficient, how minney combinaisies and per-
mutandies can be played on the international
surd! (284.5)

Associations between telecommunications and language abound along with associations of poets with mechanics. Reference is made to Roof Seckesign van der Deckel (a Shem-like figure), a "gendarm auxiliar," an "arianautic sappertillary" (530.18), who is "relying on his morse-erse wordybook" (530.19). Echoes from a network of allusions to policing, infantry, artillery, air, land, sea (the military machinery - army, navy and air force), opera, morse code, language and excrement are woven to- gether, for this is a world of semiotic codes where the "seckesign's" (seek-a-signs) associate all signs. A machine can be considered to be "a clustered `proximity' between independent terms (topological proximity is itself independent of distance or contiguity)" and for that matter, therefore, an engineering principle particularly adapted to the crafting of a semiotic system which is "nat language in any sinse of the world" (83.12).
Imagine Joyce around 1930 asking the question: what is the role of the book in a culture which has discovered photography, phono- graphy, radio, film, television, telegraph, cable, and telephone and has developed newspapers, magazines, advertising, Hollywood, and sales promotion? What people read, they will now go to see in film and on television; everyday life will appear in greater detail and more up-to-date fashion in the press, on radio and in television; oral poetry will be reanimated by the potentialities of sound recording. Joyce's conscious- ness of everyday culture is apparent in his use of a multitude of forms (crosswords, riddles, logical puzzles) and content (comics, movies, sports events, radio broadcasts) to make the Wake the poetry of everyman. Umberto Eco has shown how intricately Joyce could integrate a popular cultural form such as comic strips like Mandrake the Magician and Felix the Cat into the "meandertale" of the Wake. References to comics and popular films often occur, including Thimble Theatre ("Popeye"), Little Orphan Annie, Moon Mullins, and Shirley Temple's Wee Willie Winkie.
Adopting a position consistent with (yet critical of) Vico's theory of historical evolution, Joyce is acutely sensitive to the problems of speech, script and print and their inseparable involvement with the visual, the auditory, the kinesthetic and other modes of expression. He roots all communication in gesture for "In the beginning was the gest he jousstly says, . . . (468.5-6). Here the originary nature of gesture (gest, F. geste = gesture) is linked with the mechanics of humor (i.e., jest) and to telling a tale (gest as a feat and a tale or romance). The grounding of communication in gesture is underlined by the obvious play of the quote which Joyce lifts from Jousse on the opening of the Gospel of St. John: "In the beginning was the Word . . ." Gestures, like signals and flashing lights that provide elementary mechanical systems for communications, are "words of silent power" (345.19). A traffic crossing sign, "Belisha beacon, beckon bright" (267.12), exemplifies such situations "Where flash becomes word and silents selfloud." (Note again the playing on John 1:14 " The Word was made flesh" [267.16- 17]). Since gesture and ultimately communication are generated from the body " . . . for the end is with woman, flesh-without-word" (468.5- 6), an integrated process of communication arises which embraces all signs. The "gest" as "flesh without word" is "a flash" that becomes word and "communicake[s] with the original sinse" (original sin + originary sense + the temporal, "since" [239.1]). The reference in "communicake" to the mechanism of eating as paralleling the mechanism of speaking and of commun-ion as participation in and consumption of the Word, attributable to Jousse's title, La Manducation de la Parole ("The Mastication of the Word"), treats the gest as a bit (a bite). Orality and the word as projections of gesture arise from the body as a communicating-machine.
Orality, particularly song, is grounded in the machinery of the body's organs: "Singalingalying. Storiella as she is syung. Whence followeup with endspeaking nots for yestures" (267.7-9). The link is rhythm, for "Soonjemmijohns will cudgel some a rhythmatick or other over Browne and Nolan's divisional tables" (268.7-9). Gesture with its affiliation with all of the neuro-muscular movements of the body is a natural script or originary writing, for the word "has been reconstricted out of oral style into verbal for all time with ritual rhythmics" (36.8-9). Since the oral is "reconstricted" (reconstructed + constricted or limited) into the verbal, words also are crafted in relation to sound, a natural development being "wordcraft": for example, hieroglyphs and primitive script based on drawings or mnemonic devices. Runes and ogham are literally "woodwordings," so pre-writing (i.e, syllabic writing) is already "a mechanization of the word," which is itself implicit in the body's use of gesture. An entire episode (I,5) is devoted to the technology of manuscripts and the theory of their interpretation -- textual hermeneutics -- for "the proteiform graph is a polyhedron of all scripture" (107.8). Even at this stage, the machinery of codification is implicit, for:

. . . on holding the verso against a lit rush this new book of Morses re- sponded most remarkably to the silent query of our world's oldest light and its recto let out the piquant fact that it was but pierced butnot punctured (in the university sense of the term) by numerous stabs and foliated gashes made by a pronged instrument. These paper wounds, four in type, were gradually and correctly understood to mean stop, please stop, do please stop, and O do please stop respectively, . . . (FW: 123.34-124.5).

The beginning of electric media (the telegraph) is a transformation of the potentialities of the early manuscript, just as the manuscript is of the "wordcraft" of "woodwordings."
The mechanics of codification are important for the Wake, since they represent the moment when the mechanical is electrified. In III,iii (the inquisition of Yawn), one of the four "annalists" (analysts), the inquisitors, provides his explanation of the process of encoding and decoding required to interpret an encoded text, which itself is charac- teristically mechanical. Earlier, it has been asserted that Shem, the poet, is a Hermetic thief, an "outlex" (169.3) -- i.e, an outlaw, lawless, beyond the word and, therefore, the law. Now this "annalist" tells us the poet who originally discovers the reading and who did so by "raiding" (i.e, "plundering" [reading + raiding]), ultimately invents a "writing." Seeing and hearing are intricately involved in this, so the reader in reading this night-book also becomes a"raider" of the original `reading-writing' through the machinery of writing. The resulting book is compared to an artifact of visual design, the Bookof Kells -- a book "in soandso many counterpoint words" -- but it can be read only by the machinery of decoding for: "What can't be coded can be decorded, if an ear aye sieze what no eye ere grieved for" (482.34). This requires seeing the whole process as an extension of gesture language: " . . . I will take it upon myself to suggest to twist the pen- man's tale posterwise. The gist is the gist of Shaum but the hand is the hand of Sameas" (483.1).
As mass communicating machines appear, the machinery of writing intensifies and the encoding becomes more complex. First of all:

. . . Gutenmorg with his cromagnon charter, tintingfast and great primer must once for omniboss step rubrickredd out of the wordpress else is there no virtue more in alcohoran. 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. Fillstup. 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 . . . (FW: 20.7-16).

Topics (Gr. topos) and types (L. typus) as figures, forms, images, topics and commonplaces, the elemental bits of writing and rhetoric, are now realized through typesetting. Printing sets in place the "root language," which resides in the types and topes of the world through a multitude of codes of sounds, images, objects, movements, and gestures. References to the production of books and newspapers abound, including the rise of publicity: "the latterpress is eminently legible and the paper, so he eagerly seized upon, has scarsely been buttered in works of previous publicity wholebe it in keener notcase" (356.21-23). "ABORTISEMENTs" (181.33), "newslaters" (390.1), dailies, weeklies, magazines and other products of the printing press appear: e.g, "Reading her Evening World . . . News, news, all the news (28.21); "Fugger's Newsletter" (97.32); or "the Frankofurto Siding, Fastland payrodicule" (70.6). Machineries and technological organizations accompany the development: reporters, editors, interviewers, newsboys, ad men (cf. Bloom in Ulysses). A new sense of urgency related to time emerges: "Stop. Press stop. To press stop. All to press stop. . . ." (379.6). Further effects on the ecology are noted for "All the trees in the wood trembold, humbild, when they heard the stop-press from domday's erewold" (588.33). This motif is related back to the beginnings of language in "woodwordings" of a different kind, for "The war is in words and the wood is the world" (98.34). Joyce's Dreamland is also a world of cinematic flow. Just as Hol- lywood saw itself as a dream factory, so the "cinemen" (6.18) can "roll away the reel world, the reel world, the reel world!" (64.25), a world attractive to a Joyce who had toyed with being a cinematic entrepreneur and who had met with Sergei Eisenstein (November 1929) and talked with him about doing a film version of Ulysses. Joyce could see in film an engineered art of light, sound, movement and later, color -- all generated (as in a dream itself) by electricity, mechanics, chemistry, and electric illumination. The action in the "Feenichts Playhouse" (II, i: 219.2) is a transmitted (wirelessed) script for a film, "wordloosed over seven seas crowdblast in certelleneteutoslavzendlatinsoundscript" (219.16), with "Shadows by the film folk . . . longshots, upcloses, outblacks and stagetolets" (219.23). In the closing book of the Wake, the coming of day which illuminates a stained glass window is projected as "Moviefigure on in scenic section. By Patathicus" (602.27). Along with the reference to the Path News, there is also a reference to the "conic sections" of light and sound that are important in cinematography. Crucial passages at the beginning, the mid-point and the conclusion of the Wake all involve motifs of engineering and the mechanics of popular media. The opening presents Master-Builder Finnegan, "Bygmester," who is also a mason and a Freemason, "freemen's maurer" (4.18), and man of "hod, cement and edifices." Finn, who "piled buildung supra buildung" (4.26), "would caligulate by multiplicables the alltittude and malltitude" (4.32) to produce "a waalworth of a skyercrap- e" (4.35) (i.e., the Woolworth building), a Roman wall, "Oftwhile balbulous" (Balbus was the builder of the Roman wall) and there are also references to the Tower of Babel ("with a burning bush abob off its baubletop" [5.2]] ) and to L. balbulous, stuttering, suggesting bibulous. Further, in the context there are also references to other building terms; e.g., "habitacularly," from Latin, habitaculum, dwelling place. At the mid-point, in one of the densest passages, the innkeeper is seen as "This harmonic condenser enginium (the Mole)" (310.1), where his presence is embedded in a description of an ear, of a transmission-receiver system and of the nature of the human body (309-10). In the conclusion, the process of producing the book, of consuming breakfast and a multitude of other processes all appear to be involved in a description of the operation of "Our wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer, a tetradomational gazebocroticon" (614.27).
This "vicociclometer" passage clearly demonstrates both Joyce's engineering and scientific interests, while revealing Finnegans Wake as a poetic machine. It brings to a climax the association motifs of uttering (speaking or speaking through writing) and eating (consuming and digest- ing) as well as suggesting other processes of production and consump- tion. This linking of drinking and eating with speaking or articulating, has parallels in the Alice books, for Alice is frequently involved in the con- flict be-tween the use of her mouth for speaking or for eating and drinking:

One of the most murmurable loose carollaries
ever Ellis threw his cookingclass. With Olaf
as centrum and Olaf's lambtail for his spokes-
man circumscript a cyclone. Allow ter! Hoop!
As round as the calf of an egg!" (294.7)

Shem as poet is particularly associated with these motifs of consumption through eating and drinking. After all, a Wake can be associated with Hegel's definition of truth, as "a bacchanalian revel where not a member (soul) is sober." Poets composing are compared to people consuming food and drink. For example, we are told of Chuff, a Shem figure "as pious alious" (240.33) (Alice + alias), who is "bringing his portemanteau priamed full potatowards." In Shem's study "the warped flooring of the lair and soundconducting walls, therof . . . were persianly literatured" with "bust loveletters, telltale stories, stickyback snaps, doubtful egg- shells . . . alphybettyformed verbage . . . curried notes . . . once current puns, quashed quotatoes, messes of mottage . . ."(183.8-22) among other things -- a veritable cupboard for a recipe for making a "bathetic" epic. What with "curried notes", "quashed quotatoes", "potato- wards" and Alice's "cookingclass" with its egg-like productions, the interplay of eating and speaking, consuming and producing -- "His producers are they not his consumers?" (497.1) -- comes to a conclusion with the description of this "wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer" (the "Mamma Lujah" known to every schoolboy scandaller . . . .)" (614.27- 9). For this "Mama Lujah" (the history of the four annalists-analysts) produces (like the poet produces the poem or book or the digestive system the human body and its waste products) and consumes (as the poet produces by interpreting and reading the runes of his world, or the stomach and intestine digesting the eggs for the body to process). The same duplex relationship between production and consumption will be found again at the mid-point of the Wake where the "eclectrically filtered" engine (309.24), a "tolvtubular high fidelity daidial- ler" (309.14) produces and transmits, while the "lubberendth" of "his otological life" (310.21) (labyrinth as part of ear and of the cognitive process), receives and consumes. Just as this description of the "harmonic condenser enginium" at the mid-point of the Wake concludes with a discussion of images, mirrors, prophecy and memory, since "its cartomance hallucinate like an erection in the night of the mummery of whose deed . . . immerges a mirage in a merror" (310.22-4), so the "wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer" begins with forgetting and remembering as the night world "days": "Begin to forget it. It will remember itself from every sides, with all gestures, in each our word" (614.20-1). Memory, is constructive, describable in machine-like ter- minology of mirror optics. During the "night of mummery" as in the `Triv and Quad' episode (II,ii) , this mirroring effect recurs: "In effect I'll remumble, from the yules gone by, purr lil murrer of myhind " (295.04). Memory, associated with sound, light and heat -- "After sound, light and heat, memory, will and understanding" (266.19) -- depends on the sensory mechanics of the nervous system ("Meminerva" [61.01]). Sound and light as shaping memory are linked to optics and the mechanics of sound:

. . . . A halt for hearsake.
A scene at sight. Or dreamoneire. Which
they shall memorise. By her freewritten
Hopely for ear that annalykeses if scares for
eye that sumns. Is it in the now woodwordings
of our sweet plantation where the branchings
then will singingsing tomorrows gone and
yesters outcome . . . (279.9; 280.1-7).

The relation of the ear's digital analysis and the eyes' analogical aggrega- tion turns the scene of sight and the dream of ear (also Eire, Ireland and air) to memory which bridges past and future. "Tristan and Isolde" (II, iv), the particular episode that traces the waves of memory through the labyrinth of the senses, is immediately preceded by HCE's metamorphosis into His Most Exuberant Majesty King Roderic O'Conor the "last preelectric King of Ireland."
In 1922, Joyce began Work in Progress by composing an early draft of the passages that describe the innkeeper's metamorphosis into King Roderic O'Conor. As "the paramount chief polemarch and last preelectric King of Ireland," he gives a "socalled last supper" in his "umbrageous house of the hundered bottles with the radio beamer tower and its hangars, chimbneys and equilines . . ."(380.12-17). Like Walt Whitman, Joyce is announcing the coming of a new era of an "electric body," but about seventy-five years later than Whitman. Writing with greater certainty and attention to detail, Joyce envisions it as an electric age produced by mechanics and chemistry, motifs associated with the actual nature of the Wake and its effects. The nature of such a "deeply sangnificant" (357.15) [blood + song + significant] night book is intri- cately connected with the body itself. While speaking of the corpse being brought back to the flesh, the dream discourse continues: To proceed. We might leave that nitrience of oxagiants to take its free of the air and just analectralyse that very chnymerical combination, the gasbag where warderworks" (67.7). A truly remarkable electrochemical machine!
The action of the Wake dramatizes how electricity, machinery, me- chanics and chemistry perform central functions in everybody's body. At the most basic level, Anna Livia Plurabelle as flowing waters, is an engine ("an injon"), the circulatory system; while HCE is the electro- chemical nervous system. If the blood flows, it is because electricity keeps the heart beating: Here she is, Amnisty Ann! Call her calamity electrifies man.

No electress at all but old Moppa Necessity, angin
mother of injons (207.27).

When Humphrey appears center stage, he is described as an "eclec- trically filtered . . . harmonic condenser enginium . . . worked from a magazine battery" (309.36-310.1). If Anna Livia as the ever-flowing river is also the bloodstream of the dreamer in Finnegans Wake, and HCE is another major labyrinthine bodily structure, the neuro-muscular system, then their point of intersection is naturally enough the heart, an electro-mechanical muscular pump operated by the nerves to circulate the blood. HCE is fre-quently associated with pumps and pumping, since as innkeeper he "pumps" the draft, while ALP's movements are associated with the actions or results of pumping: "It is polisignstunter. The Sockerson boy. To pump the fire of the lewd into those soulths of bauchees . . ." (370.30). ALP, certainly thinking of the phallic pump as well, refers to her male as a "pumpadears":

Struggling forlongs I have livramentoed, milles on milles of manci- pelles. Lo, I have looked up my pumpadears in their easancies and my drummers have tattled tall tales of me in the land: . . .(545.24).

The flowing rhythm of the "languish of flowers" (96.11) of ALP is coun- terpointed by the discontinuous, up and down, telegraphic communica- tion of HCE, the stutterer or stammerer. The passage cited above, describing the corpse revivified as the electrochemical body, is prefaced by how bodies will be brought "rightcame back in the flesh, thumbs down, to their orses and their hash- es" (67.5-6). The "polisignstutter' is like an electric code, like dots ("orses") and dashes ("hashes"). As the rhythm of the blood is relatively regular and flowing, the rhythm of the nerves and muscles is dominated by the off-on electro-chemical contrasts of neuronic communication. HCE's rhythm is that of the striking of the bells, which are a code-like, on-off mode of communication: That he was only too cognitively conatively cogitabundantly sure of it because living, loving, breathing and sleeping morphomelos- ophopancreates, as he most significantly did, whenever he thought he heard he saw he felt he made a bell clipperclipperclipperclipper (88.7). Here the bells are not only the beating of the heart, but the breathing of the lungs, the kinesthetics of the orgasm and the stuttering rhythm of the neuro-muscular system which governs the other rhythms. The dreamer is cautioned about considering the book or the life it presents as explained by a naive or crude materialism or mechanism: Look at this twitches!

He was quisquis, floored on his plankraft of
shittim wood. Look at him! Sink deep or
touch not the Cartesian spring! (301.22).

The Cartesian spring, mechanically dividing subject from object, is coun- terpointed to the creative Pierian spring of Pope's Essay on Criticism. Here Shem's creative "twitches," like the nerves of everyone ("quisquis"), establish the mechanics of the individual as subject. Understanding the machinic requires a deep exploration of the world machine, which Joyce never separates from the book. Ulysses and the Wake comprehensively explore the body and its intersubjective activity in the social machine of city life. Muscles, nerves and the skeleton dominate the closing chapters of Ulysses in both the Linatti and Gorman versions of Joyce's master-plan. While the blood is the archetype for the flow of traffic through Dublin in the "Wandering Rocks" section of Ulysses, the archetype associated with the library, the brain inclusive of memory, reads the books of nature, decording the interplay of neuro- muscular and blood streams. In the Wake HCE and ALP constitute one body, that of the dreamer. Their conjunction (wedding and marriage) -- "from a bride's eye stammpunct when a man that means a mountain . . . wades a lymph" (309.4) -- quite literally plays on the two-in-one theme, the biblical motif used in the Catholic Marriage ceremony of two- in-one-flesh. But it is also always related back to the mechanics and chemistry of copulation, for HCE's wooing of ALP occurs through pumping "It was during some fresh water garden pumping/ . . . That our heavyweight heathen Humpharey/ Made bold a maid to woo" (46.30), and the four part rhythm of the pump (the heart as well as the penile movement and male orgasm) is the dance of life, for "the scheme is like your rumba round me garden" (309.7).
Even Joyce's methods of playing with anagrams and relating this to the conception of the two-in-oneness of a married couple are engineered. The highly technical discussion of color and light placed just before the concluding sections of Book IV marks the moment when the rising sun illuminates the stained glass windows of the Chapel at Chapel- izod. The generic name of the physical place where this manifestation (epiphany?) occurs is composed of an interlocking acrostic of the two sets of initials of the man and woman, HCE and ALP, in which one of Humphs initials, -C-, is the Alpha (or first letter) and one of Anna's, -L-, the Omega (the last letter). It also should be noted that in the central segments of the word are two letters of Anna's initials, AP, and that they are literally contained within the other two letters of Humph's name, HE, thus suggesting ALP nested within HCE, while Humph is also suggested as being the beginning and Anna, the end of the conjunction. Immediately preceding what appears to be the final version of the letter "written of Shem, brother of Shaun, uttered for Alp, mother of Shem" (420.17), which precedes Anna Livia's final monologue, there is one long intricate statement concerning "Our wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer" (614.27). In Understanding Finnegans Wake, Rose and O'Hanlon, commenting on this section, point out that it is breakfast time; eggs are being prepared and eaten, so there is anticipation that the process of digestion has taken or is about to take place. But this passage, inviting interminable interpretation, presents in highly abstract language a very generalized model of production and consumption, which is also the recorso of the schema of this nocturnal poem, that consumes and produces, just as the digestive system itself digests and produces new cells and excrement. How else could one be a writer of "litters" and be "litterery" (114.17; 422.35)? Or dig up letters in dung heaps, like Belinda, the hen?
This "wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer, a tetradomational gazebocroticon" may be the book, the letter, the digestive system assimi- lating the eggs, the sexual process. the mechanical "mannormillor clipperclappers" (614.13) of the nearby Mannor Millor laundry, the temporal movement of history, or a theory of engineering, for essentially it relates the production of creations such as writing the book (the "Mamma Lujah") or the consumption of matter, like reading the book or eating eggs (there is mention of "the farmer, his son and their homely codes, known as eggburst, eggblend, eggburial, and hatch-as-hatch- can," while the passage concludes " . . . as sure as herself pits hen to paper and there's scribings scrawled on eggs" [614.28;31-3;615.9-10] ). Here the frequent pairing of speaking (writing) with eating noted above is brought to a climax where it is related to all the abstract machines which shape the life of nature, decomposing into "bits" and recombining.
Joyce, like Lewis Carroll, "Dodgfather, Dodgson and Coo" (482.1), plays with the surfaces of art and nature. In one of the books of "Lewd's carol" (501.36), Sylvie and Bruno, where Carroll plays on the earliest meanings of a "bit" as a "bite," Sylvie says she must choose between eating soup "made of bits of things" and seeing and hearing Bruno perform "bits of Shakespeare." Joyce's Wake contains an entire "allforabit," (19.2) emphasizing this conjunction of expressing and digesting, for knowledge itself is a digesting of bits:

Many many many many
many manducabimus.2 We've had our day at triv
and quad and writ our bit as intermidgets. Art,
literature, politics, economy, chemistry, human-
ity, &c. . . . (306.12)

[L. manducabimus = "we shall chew.."] Machines work with bits and pieces, just as books are composed of bits, actors play bits of Shakespeare (". . . shakeagain, O diaster! shakealose, Ah, how starring! but Heng's got a bit of Horsa's nose and Jeff's got the signs of Ham round his mouth . . ." [143.21] ) and stomachs digest bits of food. Electromechanical processes are also associated with "bits."
Joyce anticipated this relationship in speaking of "bits" in relation to TV broadcasting in a pub scene where the customers watch a fight on TV. (Possibly the first fictional TV bar room scene in literary history.) The TV image of two men (Butt and Taff) fighting, has its own metamorphic quality. Terms associated with TV technology abound in this passage about the transformation and "viseversion" (vice versa imaging) of Butt and Tuff's images on "the bairdboard bombardment screen" (John Logie Baird developed TV in 1925). "The bairdboard bombardment screen," the TV as receiver, receives the composite video signal "in syncopanc pulses" (the synchronization pulses that form part of the composite video signal), that come down the "photoslope" on the "carnier walve" (i.e., the carrier wave which carries the composite video signal). The receiver is conceived as a "light barricade" against which the charge of the light brigade (the video signal) is directed. "Tele- frame," "scanning,""spraygun," "caesium," and "double focus" also occur and refer to some aspect of TV.
While bit was not used as a technical term in communication technology at the time, it was not difficult for Joyce to think of the elec- trons or photons as bits of information which created the mosaic TV picture. This is reinforced by the reference to "guranium," a portmanteau formation from geranium (suggesting strong to vivid red) and uranium, for this reference links the TV passage with another set of references to the same telecast introduced by the phrase "the abnihilisation of the etym" (353. 22) -- a phrase which weaves together references to war, to the destructive transformation of the natural world and to the transmutation of language, and more particularly of writing, in our super-mechanized world. The etym, Joyce's imaginary unit for the true source of a word in historic terms, and the atom, as the basic unit of matter until 1931 when the possibility of atom smashing arose, are based on a conception of assemblages of different bits. In the case of the atom, the discovery of the presence and significance of other bits led to its potential annihilation -- smashing of the atom -- a process in which uranium played a significant role. For Joyce, TV's annihilating the etym alters the relationship of memory with the root language. Since the etym does not completely disappear, the process is an ab-nihilisation, not actually a destruction.
For Joyce, bits, "the dialytically separated elements of precedent decomposition," may be eggs, or other "homely codes" such as the "heroticisms, catastrophes and eccentricities" (the stuff of HCE's stuttering speech or staggering movements) transmitted elementally,"type by tope, letter from litter, word at ward, sendence of sundance . . ." (614.33- 615.2). All of these bits, -- matter, eggs, words, TV signals, concepts, what you will -- are "anastomosically assimilated and preteridentified paraidiotically," producing "the sameold gamebold adomic structure . . . as highly charged with electrons as hophazards can effective it" (615.5-8). It is essentially an assemblage of multiplicities, different from a synthesizing or totalizing moment, for it occurs by the crossing of pluralistic branches of differing motifs, through a process of transmission involving flows, particularly the flowing of blood, water and speech, and breaks such as the discontinuous charges of electrical energy, telegraphy, and punctuation -- those "end speaking nots for yestures" (267.8).
This is because the "man-god" that is Joyce's primary imagination, deus sive nature or Buddhistic nondualism of "tuone" (314.28), is also an assemblage, a god-machine or machine-god in a post-Nietzschean or "antechristian" (114.11) world where God has died:

But, vrayedevraye Blankdeblank, god of all machineries and tomestome of Barnstaple, by mortisection or vivisuture, splitten up or recompounded, an isaac jacquemin mauromormo milesian, how accountibus for him, moreblue? (253.33-6)

The response comes when "The mar of murmury mermers to the mind's ear . . ." that "his thousandfirst name, [is] Hocus Crocus, Esquilocus, Finnfinn the Faineant" (254.18). This man-god is a hocus crocus (hocus pocus), a builder who makes nothing, for all is "splitten up or recompounded" in a creation that is de deo not ex nihilo. As the mock Latin that plays with HCE's initials and the words of consecration "Hoc est corpus memum" suggests, this sacrament commemorates the fact of immanence. The "god of all machineries" is the food and drink, the body and blood -- the Bios. It is an androgynous compound, as the concluding monologue asserts, for this "mad Feary Father" merges with ALP, as goddess of mysteries, becoming a Parmenidean or Lucretian conception of "tuone" (314.28). As a god of earth, this "Loud" will "heap miseries on us, yet entwine our arts with laughters low" (259.7- 8)! This "god of all machineries" comes to be known through the machinery of "cycloannalism, from space to space, time after time, in various phases of scripture as in various poses of sepulture" (254.26), just "in the way television opes longtimes ofter" Books and telecommunication gadgets, the organs imposed on bodies or the geography imposed on spaces or meanings imposed across pluralities of signs and gestures are all part of the world of "Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities" (104.1). Probabilities are plural, only being recompounded in the mechano-electro- chemical structure of "Finnius the Old One," the Awakener of you, "the Cockalooralooraloomenos." Finnius is the boundary, the limit: the limit of the oneness of nature itself. The body or the body of a book is a surface, a topography, across which a multitude of "pluariblities" play. Upon that body is inscribed an assemblage, an abstract machine, just as ALP assembles HCE, as Egyptian goddess, as blood stream, as mother, as wife .
Joyce as a poet of his era involves popular culture, communicating machines, machinery and all the signs of the times in his book. But the engineering of the communicating machines occupied a role of particular relevance, for they were of three kinds: traditional sign systems (hiero- glyphs, alphabets, icons, drawings); technologically mediated modes of reproduction (print, telephone, film, television); and crafted modes of popular expression dependent either on the traditional or the technologi- cally mediated (riddles, comics). All these are communicating machines working on the same principles and they all are co-present in one integrated semiotic system. Joycean communication is "transverse," using the associative logic or alogic for "reading the Evening World," so comprehensively described by John Bishop. "Litters" connect across the pages -- as the term "litters" itself connects with letters, ladders and leaders, but also with mud, mounds, dungheaps, etc. This is the "machinic" design of a poetic engineer who in assembling his construction lets "every crisscouple be so crosscomplimentary, little eggons, youlk and meelk, in a farbiger pancosmos" (613.10). But that pancosmos, is a "chaosmos" of "plurabilities": where "every person, place, and thing . . . anyway connected . . . [is] moving and changing every part of the time . . ." (118.21).

Return to Joyce Papers