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The Wall

The wall is an intrinsic aspect of the recurring picture motif in Finnegans Wake. A reference to a wall is to be found in the first 1132 date of the Wakean time scheme, which on another level describes the creation of the picture as an original act of fornication: 'a groot hwide Whallfisk which lay in a Runnel' (FW 13.33-34). A number of references to the picture in the previous chapter indicated its presence upon a wall, and this is especially the case with allusions to the Magazine Wall of Phoenix Park. As an archaeological or pictorial representation of times past, the picture is incorporated into the wall as a projection of HCE's creativity forward into the present. The material aspect of the wall is frequently also associated with ALP, the preserver and regenerator of HCE, and the duality of gender roles in the depiction of artistic creativity mirrors their differing roles in sexual reproduction. The divergence of sexual roles affects all aspects of Wakean culture, and the dichotomy between male and female is similarly elaborated in Ulysses where Stephen asserts the basis of the catholic faith to be discovered in the separate roles he associates with biological reproduction: in the Scylla and Charybdis chapter, fatherhood is described as a 'mystical estate' and forms the basis of the church's foundation 'upon incertitude, upon unlikelihood' and the 'apostolic succession' of social power, whereas motherhood, or amor matris, conversely 'may be the only true thing in life' (U 9.838-43). The sexual act essential to the state of fatherhood, the 'necessary evil' (U 9.828) of Ulysses, is consistently portrayed as the essence of the original sin in Finnegans Wake. The dichotomy between masculine 'unlikelihood' and the feminine 'true thing' similarly converges with the Wakean contrast of the fragmented male image contained within feminine material substance. Stephen's opposition of Aristotle to Plato also accords with the duality between the material and the mystical, and his preference for the palpable and fear of the consequences of the Platonic ideal metamorphoses in Finnegans Wake into Shem's dedication to ALP and subversion of HCE.

The building of the wall, like the building of cities, is clearly a male activity in Finnegans Wake. Both the association of HCE with Ibsen's masterbuilder in the latter's play Bygmester Solness and the events described in the ballad 'Finnegan's Wake' indicate that HCE built the structure from which he falls. Moreover, Joyce's portrayal of set character-types confined within a cyclic history of human behaviour suggests that it might always be a male founder creating the material aspect of human culture. Female participation in the Wakean process of creativity is generally limited to biological reproduction and cultural conservation of HCE, in a process which emphasises the reproduction of male rather than female characters (see below, *). The female is frequently cast as a 'dumb' or 'mute' materiality, the signifier in which the reader struggles to perceive the masculine signified. In the first instance of creation, moreover, the materiality of the female is derived from the spiritual male signified in parallel with Judeo-Christian ex nihilo creation theology. Shaun's musical summary of the events of the Wake similarly reflects the myth of Eve's creation in Genesis, In Nowhere has yet the Whole World taken part of himself for his Wife (FW 175.7-8), and as Juan he warns Issy that she must remain healthy or Adam's rib may be taken back: 'before your corselage rib is decartilaged [...], making allowances for the fads of your weak abdominal wall and your liver asprewl, vinvin, vinvin' (FW 437.8-11). While the initial creation of the feminine material world connotes that the signified produced the signifier, the Wake's history also elaborates the opposite tendency, where the female materiality works toward reconstructing a fragmented original masculine logos.

The eternal recurrence of the Wake's cyclic structure is portrayed as associated with the inescapable mechanics of the human body. Male and female creativity is frequently associated with an orifice. If childbirth is one instance of creativity involving an orifice, the Russian General's fecal deposit is another. The fecal deposit upon the tip is accordingly equated in the text with the ejaculation of semen into the womb (see above, *). In general, gender determines the type of symbolic creativity a character engages in, with the vagina and/or urethra producing a river of life and the anus the stone of civilisations. In parallel with HCE's fecal proclivity, and consistent with ALP's symbolic existence as the river Liffey, women in Finnegans Wake are often depicted as urinating, and in a clearly sexual context.1 Both the Prankquean's and the Maggies' urination can be associated with sexual reproduction and a subsequent flood of humanity, but also as a highly charged sexual provocation to HCE.

The initial masculine production of the feminine signifier is also the original sin of HCE's fecal creativity which encapsulates the signified into material form. The consequent fragmentation of meaning and genetic difference resulting from textual and sexual reproduction, however, entails the fall of the HCE singularity. Following the carnal knowledge of the Maggies comes the buggery of HCE, which establishes a new regime of meaning, a new phallocentric centre, through the silencing of the receiving partner. In the Wake, the act of masculine fornication silences the other; whether as the buggery of HCE by his sons, or sexual union with Issy/ALP, the sexually receiving party is rendered 'dumb', a container or signifier of the masculine signified. The image of the Russian General defecating recalls Carl Jung's classic anal-sadistic dream of an enormous turd falling from the sky and demolishing a church. The apparent anal-sadistic nature of the General is matched by an equal anal-sadism of his descendants, particularly Butt, who takes pride in the annihilation of his father and the explosive destruction of the unity of meaning in an 'abnihilisation of the etym' (FW 353.22).2 Shem is largely excluded from the anal-sadistic focus upon power, but nevertheless is guilty by association in the composite 'BUTT and TAFF' (FW 354.7) character, for as an obedient citizen and 'durblinly obasiant to the felicias of the skivis' (FW 347.35) he defers to Shaun. Yet, Shem, as subversive writer, must avoid direct (and unequal) confrontation with existing power structures, consistent with Joyce's own role in the politics of Ireland (see below, *).

Conversely, women in Finnegans Wake are depicted as having little or no socio-economic power, but are endowed in the historic cycles with status on the basis of sexual attraction and amor matris. At the conclusion of the Wake, however, ALP revises her adulatory perspective of the HCE dominant in the age of humanity, and a potential break in the Viconian cycle arises. Sheldon Brivic notes that ALP considers HCE 'puny' and remembers with nostalgia her sexual freedom as one of the two Maggies.3 Yet, as the Liffey inexorably meets the sea, ALP ineluctably falls away into submission to the masculine deity, the original Humpty Dumpty/HCE figure: 'I sink I'd die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup' (FW 628.10-11). The cycle involving the perpetuation of the male signified within female form appears irreversible as Stephen's perception of the artist's role in Ulysses implies: 'Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read' (U 3.1-2). Certainly Joyce's representation of women is a 'staging of discourses' rather than a purely mimetic depiction, as Margot Norris argues, where Joyce parodies notions in popular culture.4 However, what makes Joyce's representation of women perturbing lies outside the question of whether his portrayal is mimetic, but in that the Wake's history appears unavoidably cyclic. There is no overt means of escape for women from its biologically determinist and ever-recurring social structures, irrespective of the subversiveness of the text. Moreover, to provide a means of escape, in effect a utopia of social and sexual relations, would theoretically precipitate the arrival of another HCE: it would in fact perpetuate the cycle by providing a unifying value system. This chapter explores the relationship between the wall motif and male creativity and further defines a perceived political/gender duality in the depiction of creativity in Finnegans Wake.

1 Sheldon Brivic emphasises the biographical underpinning of such events, particularly Ellmann's discovery of the contents of a lost letter from Joyce to Dr Gertrude Kaempffer, describing his first sexual experience at 14: 'He was walking with the family nanny through fields on the edge of a wood when she suddenly apologised and asked him to look the other way. As he did so he heard the sound of liquid splashing on the ground [...] The sound aroused him: ''I jiggled furiously, '' he wrote. (Earwicker was accused of the same offence.)', Richard Ellmann, James Joyce , revised edn (1959; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 418-19; cited in Joyce the Creator (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), pp. 36-37.

2 Nathan Halper glosses 'etym' (FW 353.32) as signifiying 'meaning' in Greek, in Studies in Joyce (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1983), p. 14. However, the Langenscheidt Shorter Greek/English Dictionary renders 'etymos' as 'real, true, actual'.

3 'The Terror and the Pity of Love: ALP's Soliloquy', James Joyce Quarterly, 29 (1991), 145-71 (pp. 161-64).

4 See Robert Spoo's account of the 12th International James Joyce Symposium in 1990, in his prefatory remarks to the James Joyce Quarterly, 28 (1990).