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1

Introduction

Like the religious texts which Ulysses and Finnegans Wake parallel, Joyce's revelations appear to contain answers to everything. Yet in constrast with those texts, the structures Joyce portrays in his art do not purport to be incontrovertible. On the contrary, such social constructs are culturally determined, and are continually and self-consciously subverted by his art. The simultaneous presentation and withdrawal of an ideological framework of understanding occurs in both works, and is evident, for example, in Ulysses with Stephen's assertion of disbelief in his theory of Shakespeare's creativity. Notably, even Stephen's disbelief is couched in a critical awareness of a potentially wider social conflict: 'I believe, O Lord, help my unbelief. That is, help me to believe or help me to unbelieve? Who helps to believe? Egomen. Who to unbelieve? Other chap' (U 9.1078-80). His desire to disbelieve, however, distinguishes him from Shakespeare who, as a reincarnated version of the deity, 'passes on towards eternity in undiminished personality, untaught by the wisdom he has written or by the laws he has revealed' (U 9.476-78). If Shakespeare did not learn from 'the wisdom he had written', it was in part because the message from the murdered father in Hamlet, which Joyce and Freud both explore in different contexts, insisting upon the celibacy of his surviving females and revenge upon his usurpers, is duplicated in what Stephen perceives as Shakespeare's vengeful characterisation of his wife and brother in his plays, and in his silent accusation of Anne Hathaway in his will. In Finnegans Wake, Joyce delivers the project that Stephen describes in Circe, '(he taps his brow) But in here it is I must kill the priest and the king' (U 15.4436-37), where the cyclic reproduction of the masculine, deified logos is both exposed and simultaneously undermined. This thesis similarly both reconstructs and deconstructs the cycles of reproduction and domination in Finnegans Wake in its elucidation of male and female creativity.

The picture and letter motifs delineate two ostensibly separate acts of creativity in the Wake. The former can be observed in numerous allusions to pictures, scenes, paintings, photographs, chiaroscuros and other visual forms of creativity depicting the original sin and HCE's consequent fall. The nature of the letter, problematic as it remains, has been well documented by Finnegans Wake criticism. Yet the inclusion of the letter motif in this study necessarily must be central to any analysis of gender-related creativity in the Wake. Finally, the title does not imply that the picture is a masculine event and the letter feminine; both acts include a male and female creative contribution. The use of the terms 'male' and 'female' in the title of this thesis is not entirely consistent with general usage, which usually employs 'feminine' and 'masculine' to describe social constructs of gender, and 'female' and 'male' to indicate biological sex. This study has settled upon the latter terms in the title because it argues that sexual roles are differentiated in Finnegans Wake ultimately on the basis of biological differences; the biological imperatives of sexual reproduction are perceived as implicit in the contribution of each sex to creative acts. Sexual difference as a culturally instilled phenomenon is described as a symptom of the deified male ancestor's escape from death and requirement for reproducing himself as the logos. His culturally perceived immortality is achieved in two related ways: through biological and cultural (or textual) reproduction. The creator in the Wake's cycles is overtly male and, in possession of both pen and penis, his genetic and artistic signature is placed upon and encapsulated within a female materiality. The bifurcation of creativity into masculine and feminine, or male and female roles, is central to the cycles of the Wake. As shall be discussed, however, Joyce's writing nevertheless undermines the process of masculine reproduction it describes.

The assimilation of an extraordinary amount of information, culled from diverse sources covering almost the entire history of writing, into a unified underlying structure of understanding, namely the family romance of the Earwicker family, makes it a monument to synthesis, the intertextual novel par excellence. On the other hand, the playful evasiveness of its language operates to reverse the synthetic process where, instead of producing unity, it engenders a rebellious variety of signifieds. It is politically revolutionary in its combination of both subversive language and content, although its writing is not characterised by a partisan approach so much as an anarchic resistance to political systems of any form. Finnegans Wake encourages scepticism towards all authority through an appreciation of the ever-recurring sources, motives and forms of social domination. The historical sweep of the Wake precedes to some extent the genealogical project of Michel Foucault, who in providing information concerning the historical genesis of power structures promotes an analytical distance from, and a consequent undermining of, their unquestioned position in culture. Joyce's works similarly encourage understanding rather than any specific social action, and to have entered the political process directly would ultimately have contributed to the replication of the very power structures he intended to undermine: the patriarchal logos portrayed in Finnegans Wake is one which appropriates all new value systems over time. Thus the cultural reworking of the Judeo-Christian spiritual faith into a mythology based upon sexual and textual reproduction in Finnegans Wake likewise forms part of that assimilation process, where Joyce's works can be perceived as displacing the Christian texts in culture.

Criticism of Finnegans Wake since the publication of Our Exagmination round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress by Samuel Beckett et al, was dominated by a process of reconstruction until the mid-seventies. Even so, more philosophically-based perspectives advanced since that time nevertheless rely upon the work of reconstructive critics, and in particular the considerable advances made by genetic criticism. Jacques Derrida similarly notes that it is necessary to first reconstruct Finnegans Wake even before deconstruction can take place. 1 Almost all readings must conduct a reconstruction of the Wakean text, with an inevitable centring of certain aspects over others, for in order to perceive what is not said in a text, to elucidate its revealing lapses, it is reciprocally necessary to have an understanding of what it does signify. This study will attempt to do both, to reconstruct the Wake's cycle in a largely original reading, explicating creativity in terms of a cycle of the picture and letter, and modelled upon the immortality of the deity, and yet also point out where Joyce resists the very cycles of masculine reproduction he elucidates.

To some extent the two approaches of deconstruction and reconstruction, annul one another. On the one hand the subversive nature of the novel's signifiers denies socio-political constructions and resists all critical reconstruction, or any unified readings; on the other, the manifold potentiality of its signification allows many different themes, theories, ideologies and philosophies to be traced through its fractured prose: '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 20.13-16). The polarisation of these positions is reflected, on the one hand, in Margot Norris's Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake, where she describes how the text has been constructed without a centre, without a series of stable truths which can be used by the reader as anchors to attach a structure, and, on the other, in Beryl Schlossman's suggestion that in Joyce's works language is the 'hero' and is 'at once center and decentering'.2 In Schlossman's analysis, the language of the Wake is both a condensation and a dissolution of meaning, where 'a given signifier corresponds to several signifieds, in several languages, at the moments of its enunciation' and accordingly 'the textual density of the Wake is such that the analysis must often ignore vast territories of meaning in the passages cited'.3 This latter position enables a multiplicity of readings and would allow quotations to be used repeatedly in a variety of different contexts to elucidate different, even opposing, ideas.

As this thesis provides a new centring of the Wake, it provisionally privileges its selective reading, and yet it does not claim to eclipse all other readings. No single reading, or anti-reading, can be privileged in an unqualified manner, given the Wake's subversive text; a multiplicity of understandings, however, more closely matches the spirit of the Wake's textual 'plurabilities'. Similarly, in a discussion of how readings centre aspects of a text, Bonnie Kime Scott describes the way feminists centre their readings of Joyce away from patriarchal social and political constructs, encouraging a pluralism of feminist approaches to match the plurality of male centred criticism.4 While this thesis certainly centres the text according to the perceptions I consider relevant to its argument, it is intended as an addition to the body of pre-existing critical readings, and thereby extends the frontier of the composite, largely cooperative appreciation established by Wake criticism. The approach taken in this study synthesises rather than confronts readings such as those proposed by Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer which emphasise its protean textuality over and above any particular reconstruction:

the aim is not to produce a reading of this intractable text, to make it more familiar and exorcise its strangeness, but on the contrary to confront its unreadability [...] not to reconstruct the world presented by the text, but to follow up within it the strategies that attempt a deconstruction of representation.5

However, an emphasis upon the signified as well as the signifier is critical to appreciating Finnegans Wake as literature; the alternative is to risk placing it outside the logos and thus outside language. In a much wider context, Derrida has stated that in using language an absolute break with Western logocentrism is impossible, for 'the simple practice of language ceaselessly reinstates the new terrain on the oldest ground'.6 Moreover, he notes that 'we can pronounce not a single deconstructive proposition which has not already had to slip into the form, the logic, and the implicit postulations of precisely what it seeks to contest'.7 If the logos cannot be avoided in language, in Finnegans Wake it is both explicated and distanced. For the reader, such a project entails that the signified first be reconstructed to enable its subversive text to participate in the realm of language, in order to have a text to undermine.

The union of signified and signifier as masculine and feminine aspects of the Wakean text is portrayed as an act of desire. As discussed below in the Kaleidoscope chapter, such a union occurs in the acts of both writing and reading and is represented as sexual union. Derek Attridge has outlined a principle of pleasure in criticism which emphasises the process of critical centring as an act of desire. In general critical hedonism has been censured by Frank Lentricchia for separating aesthetics from ideological reference, and who has suggested that it would provide the ultimate formalist bastion of traditionalism.8 Yet, Attridge's position transcends this perspective, for assigning ideological reference is also recognised as an act of desire, rather than a separate, superior activity. The relativity implied in Attridge's position undermines all centrings of the text and is also self-consciously pleasure-oriented. This view is not far removed from Joyce's suggestion that the humour in Finnegans Wake is an end far preferable to the warfare associated with Realpolitik: 'Now they're bombing Spain. Isn't it better to make a great joke as I have done?'.9 Nonetheless, the humour of Finnegans Wake is not light on ideological reference, nor is it politically escapist. On the contrary, in Finnegans Wake humour is used as a subversive strategy: it is not only a means of giving pleasure but a mode of combative resistance.

Different readings of the Wake need not be mutually exclusive. As noted above, its variable signifiers can frequently contain a number of potential signifieds, and the semiotic possibilities consequently are quite diverse. No doubt there is a point of physical impossibility for simultaneous comprehension, and yet, the Wake invites an attempt to comprehend its difference, its manifold possibilities and the subtlety of its self-ironisation. The pleasure of reading its difficult text is largely sourced in a simultaneous appreciation of its concurrent possibilities. Moreover, recognising its simultaneous historicity, the interweaving of allusions to many different historical events, the compression of etymological development implicit in the collage of its languages and an appreciation of its kaleidoscopic signifieds, directs the reader to reflect upon the world outside Finnegans Wake, making us aware of how hopelessly hidden and complex is the immense historical significance which potentially lingers on our each word and accordingly inhabits even the least remarkable of objects about us. Comprehension of the Wake, like that of the world, relies upon numerous disciplines of analysis, and is similarly reliant upon the edifice of a problematic language.

Overtly, the cycles of the Wake lock humanity into a series of cycles of warfare, sexual repression and violence. Joyce provides no vision of the future in either Ulysses or Finnegans Wake, except to indicate a potential resurgence of masculine control and potency in a return of the past, whether as Bloom's reassertion of authority, or the resurrection of HCE. In Finnegans Wake the return of the patriarchal singularity must have appeared a gruesome possibility not easily dismissed, given that Hitler was concurrently preaching his vision of a thousand year Reich. Joyce had good grounds for being sceptical of all power structures, having grown up with the military presence of the British in Ireland and having lived through the unprecedented carnage of the first world war. Even outside war-time activities, Joyce consistently demonstrated that the basis and maintenance of political power in peace is founded upon violence. The repression of Shem by Shaun is indicative of this stance, and the underpinning of all power upon a bloody violence is graphically contrasted with its sentimental trappings in Ulysses in the character of Rumbold, whose execution of the Croppy Boy (who like Stephen did not pray for his mother's rest) is conducted on behalf of the king of England and paid for by the queen:

Ten shillings a time. As applied to Her Royal Highness. (he plunges his head into the gaping belly of the hanged and draws out his head again clotted with coiled and smoking entrails) My painful duty has now been done. God save the king! (U 15.4555-58).

Shem's response to the authoritarian dogma of Shaun is an informed non-participation, the anarchic refusal of civilian protest. The letter writer Shem conducts his war with words. Nor is this attitude toward power portrayed in simplistic terms, for the Wake also recognises that civilisation depends upon the sublimation of individual desire. This perspective is intertwined, however, with the recognition that complete subordination to the dominant ideology implies the end of individual artistic vision, the ultimate source of cultural development and achievement. This study suggests that Joyce portrays a balance between the masculine and feminine, between the logos and difference. Joyce withholds defining a utopia and a corresponding value system, for he was well aware how any utopian vision of peace (for instance Christ's teachings) can be used by the acolyte to justify murder and repression (see below, p. *). Accordingly, in the balance that constitutes the Wake the acolyte does not disappear, but functions as the essential disseminator of the creative innovation produced by the artist of a previous age.

As Joyce does not paint a potential utopia, nor the future at all except in terms of return to the past, the reader cannot assume that Joyce's overt depiction of an issue reflects the writer's perspective. The Wake's simultaneous undermining of the reality he propounds must also be taken into account, as Kimberly Devlin argues with respect to the portrayal of male perceptions of the female:

it is important not to confuse Joyce's representation of ways of seeing with Joyce's own way of seeing: for his works offer a recurrent subversion and critique of those androcentric perceptual patterns that function to reduce women, in visual terms, to the status of the object and, in political terms, to the status of the abject.10

Similarly, Richard Brown points out that in Finnegans Wake 'the world is pressed into gender. Yet there is considerable intentional disruption of sexual identifications'.11 The dominant ideology is not only produced by a ruling class, but a ruling sex, and it is the various means by which the dominant ideology perpetuates itself that is portrayed in the cyclic regeneration of HCE in the Wake. The subversion of that cycle conducted by Shem, and implicit in the evasive signifiers used by Joyce, is the subversion of HCE and his patriarchal hegemony over culture, as Suzette Henke notes:

A deconstructive reader, on the one hand, would be tempted to join Sollers, Norris, MacCabe, and the Tel Quel school in celebrating the Wake as linguistic subversion of the name and the law of the father, a revolution of the word that disrupts the traditional symbolic order and challenges bourgeois practices allied with the repressed desires of a male libidinal economy.12

Defining Joyce's portrayal of the feminine in the Wake can only be approached by an examination of the negation of the female, that aspect of the female which is eclipsed by the cycles of masculine return. In Book IV, however, a hiatus exists with respect to the future, where a potential melding of the intellectual and the female could occur. Nonetheless, in such a hiatus, the absence of a clinically defined future, whether political or gender-oriented, cannot be surprising.

In defining the feminine in Finnegans Wake an attempt must also be made to clarify the nature of the masculine cycles of history, and this thesis concludes that a theoretic practice of reading is required which incorporates both masculine and feminine elements of the Wake. Rather than stressing only the rebellious signifier, an empirically-based perspective is also used to focus upon a particular centring of the signified. The emphasis upon feminine textuality is balanced against the masculine logos, in effect acting as a correction to the oscillating 'all or nothing' excesses of history by preventing the unified return of the deity. As will be discussed at length, this particular balance is represented as sexual union in the Wake, and the discussion relies upon both an analysis of the overt cycles and an appreciation of the implications of the absences and negation to be found in its subversive language and suspended conclusion.

The union of signifier and signified in the Wake confirms the presence of the masculine in any future, and the motif of sexual union, representing not only sexual politics but politics in a much wider arena, itself portends an inevitability of masculine recurrence. Moreover, in Joyce's drama of the family, acted out across all history and encompassing all peoples, sexual reproduction is portrayed as both the psychic and biological equivalent of all culminating points of historical union and creativity. The desire, both male and female, for unity also plays a significant role in the familial history of creativity. Female sexual desire is delineated as the primal trigger of creativity, and in its appropriation of the masculine signals the male's fall but also provides his biological escape. Thus Eve's temptation of Adam is portrayed as a sexual event, and the myth is akin to the pro-active feminine desire exhibited by the Prankquean. On the other hand, the second coming of the deified ancestor is prompted by masculine sexual desire for one of his female descendents, and his return is similarly achieved through biological reproduction. Thus HCE's desire for Issy, and her fall into the river of biological life, is equated with the deity's selection of the Virgin Mary and her subsequent immaculate conception in an identification of Shem as a Christ figure. What the Wake's summary of history suggests is that the swings from masculine to feminine, from unity to the neutrality of difference, can potentially be flattened out into a union incorporating both, and without an automatic reproduction of the deity and enslavement of the feminine. On one level, this is achieved through free love, where sexual reproduction, or alternatively non-reproduction, is distanced from the value systems and biological imperatives of both Church and State (and other political, economic or religious value-systems). Freeing sexual choice from socially indoctrinated norms (the need for an implicit 'social approval') undermines the unity of the masculine logos by denying it a key means of manipulating social conformity, and alternately nurturing the difference sourced from the Wakean female.

1 'Two words for Joyce', in Post-structuralist Joyce; Essays from the French, ed. by Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 145-60 (p. 154).

2 Beryl Schlossman, Joyce's Catholic Comedy of Language (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), p. 70.

3 Schlossman, Joyce's Catholic Comedy, pp. 74-75.

4 Bonnie Kime Scott, James Joyce (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, 1987), p. 14.

5 Derek Attridge, 'Highly continental evenments', in Post-structuralist Joyce; Essays from the French, ed. by Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 1-14 (p. 10).

6 Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 135.

7 Writing and Difference, trans. by Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp. 280-81.

8 Frank Lentricchia, After the New Criticsm (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 169.

9 Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 693.

10 Kimberly Devlin, Wandering and Return in Finnegans Wake: An Integrative Approach to Joyce's Fictions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p.130.

11 James Joyce and Sexuality (London: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 100.

12 Suzette A. Henke, James Joyce and the Politics of Desire (New York and London: Routledge, 1990), p. 206.