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The Picture

The accretion of meaning and allusion in Finnegans Wake (and its critical elucidation) is akin to an archaeological excavation. Kimberly Devlin suggests that Finnegans Wake is 'an archaeological site of sorts, a tomb of the past, the dump contains crumbled buildings [...] that tell the story of previous civilisations, supplying inscriptions of their history; but the dump is also Finnegans Wake itself'.1 The Wake as a historical tip or archaeological site from which an understanding of the past is negotiated is thus the tip from which HCE is retrieved as 'document number one'. A view of the contents of the tip, however, allow an image of HCE to be formed, albeit distorted:

Well, almost any photoist worth his chemicots will tip anyone asking him the teaser that if a negative of a horse happens to melt enough while drying, well, what you do get is, well, a positively grotesquely distorted macromass of all sorts of horsehappy values and masses of meltwhile horse. Tip. (FW 111.26-30)

In Finnegans Wake there are numerous references made to such a picture of HCE, whether as a painting, print, photograph, scene, engraving, vignette, tint, or chiaroscuro. These pictures, which in general are discrete from the letter retrieved from the tip, portray the mythical sin and the consequent fall of HCE. The picture of HCE, visible amid the historical debris of the Wake's 'present', becomes a motif of the fallen HCE. Examples of the picture motif are found in passages subject to a wide variety of critical interpretations; for instance, Bonnie Kime Scott notes in the following that ALP

gives no particular prominence to ancient Greek patriarchal history in the passage, 'Hou! Hou! Gricks may rise and Troysirs fall (there being two sights for ever a picture) for in the byways of high improvidence that's what makes lifework leaving' (FW 11.35-12.2).2

The focus of the present study emphasises an opposite yet not exclusive perspective: namely, that the biologically-oriented notion of 'pricks' (or "grikes", clefts) rising and 'trousers' falling, combined with the material rise and fall of civilisations, produce the archaeological picture. Beryl Schlossman similarly notices a 'primal scene' in the Wake, but apart from alluding to its correspondence with Freud's From the History of an Infantile Neurosis, provides no further elaboration.3

The visual experience of the picture is complicated by issues similar to those accompanying the comprehension of the signified in Finnegans Wake. In its replication of an archaeological mound, the blurred nature of the Wake's languages produces a multi-layering and melding of possible signifieds. The complex language of the Wake does not necessarily discourage the reader from seeking out content; on the contrary, comprehension of a variety of perspectives is enabled. The language of the Wake, however, insists upon the reader's cognisance of the signifier, the facilitating container of all readings. The visual in Finnegans Wake also requires that the reader be prepared to comprehend more than one visual possibility from the text. Kimberly Devlin rejects John Bishop's suggestion that Finnegans Wake 'not simply resists visualisation, but actively encourages its reader not to visualise much in its pages' arguing instead that 'the Wake is pervaded throughout by an elaborate visual dimension governed by an imaginative visual logic'.4 Both comprehending and visualising the Wake's content depends upon a reciprocal regard for its elaborate textual differences. As the next section will explore, the picture of the masculine HCE is retrieved from the archaeological word horde of the female womb/tip. The viewer of the Wake's picture is paralleled in the scenario of the sin by the voyeuristic three fusiliers (see also, *) and the reader's perception of the phallus, the signified, within the Wake's feminine signifier is also reflected in the fusiliers' buggery of HCE where, rather than a perception of meaning, meaning is redefined as a 'new' patriarchal control is established.

1 Kimberly Devlin, Wandering and Return in Finnegans Wake: An Integrative Approach to Joyce's Fiction (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 10. See also, Jackson I. Cope, Joyce's Cities: Archeologies of the Soul (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), p. 109; John Bishop, Joyce's Book of the Dark: Finnegans Wake (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), pp. 134-35.

2 Bonnie Kime Scott, James Joyce (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, 1987), p. 44.

3 Beryl Schlossman, Joyce's Catholic Comedy of Language (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), p. 103.

4 Bishop, Joyce's Book of the Dark, p. 217, cited in Devlin, Wandering and Return, p. 15.