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6.11 The Genetic Source

In Shem's search for origins, the connection between biological materiality and the associated feces motif is stressed in his depiction of the vesica piscis diagram, where for ink he uses the mud that comes from man/mother:

First mull a mugfull of mud, son. [...] Now, sknow royol road to Puddlin, take your mut for a first beginning, big to bog, back to bach. Anny liffle mud which cometh out of Mam will doob, I guess. A.1. Amnium instar. (FW 286.31-287.8)

Just as Euclid pointed out that 'There is no royal road to Geometry',27 Shem suggests to Shaun that there is similarly no easy road in retracing humanity or Dublin to its source. Joyce's consistent representation of the mother in his art, his own mother in May Dedalus and Nora's motherhood in Molly and the more general figure of ALP, is part of his interest in a genetic source of the deity. Stephen, in the Proteus chapter of Ulysses, for instance, notes that 'The cords all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. That is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos. Hello! Kinch here. Put me onto Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one' (U 3.37-40). Stephen's thoughts on biological origins are to some extent mirrored in a passage from the Wake on the origin of Dublin:

And that was how framm Sin fromm Son, acity arose, finfin, funfun, a sitting arrows. Now tell me, tell me, tell me then!

What was it?

A . . . . . . . . . . !

? . . . . . . . . . O! (FW 94.18-22)

ALP appears as both origin and conclusion, and the city HCE builds rises specifically through the medium of an 'O', the vaginal orifice. Yet its omega, the 'O', is also the O sigla of the 12 Doyles or the multiplicity of the mass-man. As the first problem, or the problem of origin, ALP is a central figure in Shem's instruction of Shaun in the Nightlessons chapter; in the construction of the vesica piscis Shem also constructs a new male trinity, a tri-letter and a city, which rather than a shamrock he depicts as the delta of the female pubis, and founds his church upon female sexual reproduction:

Problem ye ferst, construct ann aquilittoral dryankle Probe loom! With his primal handstoe in his sole salivarium. Concoct an equoangular trillitter.1 On the name of the tizzer and off the tongs and off the mythametical tripods. Beatsoon.


1 As Rhombulus and Rhebus went building rhomes one day. (FW 286.19-24, F1)

The mother, for Shem as well as Joyce, is the first point of a problem of origin which must be 'probed'. From the above quotation it is clear that solving the problem may also provide answers concerning the nature of the Christian and/or Joycean trinities, and the birth of the city, for Finnegans Wake consistently reiterates the fact that ALP's basket/womb contains the treasures of history, genetic, lingual and material.

Over time, Issy evolves from the overtly sexual nymph into the ALP mother figure, and then the living relic Kate. As the latter, her offspring in turn consult her for wisdom and knowledge, as Suzette Henke points out:

Once a 'pearl of great price,' ALP has now become an 'oysterface' matron equipped with a peasant mealiebag that evokes resonances of both womb and wordsack - a catch-all, carry-all that protects the word of female gossip and the sacred logos of future incarnations. This embryonic sac(k) recalls the 'virgin womb of the imagination,' essential to the delivery of mail/art/word/life.28

As Kate, however, ALP has already delivered her genetic message; hers is no longer the 'virgin womb' referred to, and in terms of genetic reproduction she is overlooked by the dominant male in preference for her daughter. The intellectual writer Shem instead seeks her out to assimilate what information he can about a 'spiritual father' from the pregnant cultural repository of her mind. Stephen is similarly portrayed as obsessed by his mother, and for the same reason he questions the hallucinogenic apparition of her in Circe concerning 'The word known to all men' (U 15.4192-93), which is identified by Stephen with the echo of Shakespeare's love of his wife in the latter's regard for his grandchild: 'Love, yes. Word known to all men' (U 9.429-30). His mother answers him instead by elucidating love as an emotional hold upon Stephen's conscience to accept the deity: 'Who saved you the night you jumped into the train at Dalkey with Paddy Lee? Who had pity for you when you were sad among the strangers? Prayer is all powerful. [...] Repent, Stephen (U 15.4195-98). The trinity of 'love, grief and agony' here reflects the deity's identity as 'love', as both the narrator of Circe and the Citizen consider:

And this person loves that other person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody. (U 12.1500-01)

What about sanctimonious Cromwell and his ironsides that put the women and children of Drogheda to the sword with the bible text God is love pasted round the mouth of his cannon? The bible! (U 12.1507-09)

The Bible is described as the 'secret of England's greatness' (U 12.1524), and Haines, associated with England and the 'black panther' in Stephen mind, is similarly elevated in Circe to 'reverend' and provided with the additional surname of 'Love': 'The Reverend Mr Hugh C Haines Love M. A.' (U 15.4695). Moreover, in Finnegans Wake HCE is repeatedly associated with Cromwell. In Scylla and Charybdis Stephen's analysis of the spiritual infers that the 'love' of an androgynous god displaced the relationship between male and female and amor matris alike. Contrary to the love of the deity emphasised in the Bible Stephen asks, 'Who is the father of any son that any son should love him or he any son?' (U 9.844-45). Rather than the matriarchal 'love', a concept which has been appropriated by the Church for the deity, Stephen suggests that the masculine deity's true appeal is based upon the succession to power, with its underlying nature the violent masculine competition Bloom claims to be the opposite of the love in Cyclops. The concept of love is accordingly attached throughout Ulysses to the feminine, as Gerty points out regarding romantic love: 'He would not believe in love, a woman's birthright' (U 13.200). Bloom similarly considers love as part of sexual desire relating to the biological separation and reunion of the sexes in a passage which is echoed in the Wake in association with ALP/Kate's womb/tip: 'Tipping her tepping her tapping her topping her. Tup. Pores to dilate dilating. Tup. The joy the feel the warm the. Tup. To pour o'er sluices pouring gushes. Flood, gush, flow, joygush, tupthrob. Now! Language of love' (U 11.706-9). While Bloom is haunted by the song title Love's Old Sweet Song, in Stephen's imagination the refrain 'Love's bitter mystery' from Yeats's poem 'Who goes with Fergus' recurs in association with a different separation, namely his mother's death.

Stephen's perception of death and its relationship with love is transposed into the Wake as Shem's preoccupation with his mother, and Shaun describes Shem as having 'the smell of old woman off him' (FW 423.19-20). While the letter is described as ALP's 'mamafesta', Shem the letter writer is the 'child of Maam, Festy King' (FW 85.22-23) who as a textual thief known as 'Crowbar [...] rubbed some pixes of any luvial peatsmoor o'er his face, plucks and pussas' (FW 86.8-10). The love of the deity that Shem discovers matches that described in Ulysses, and in one title of the 'untitled mamafesta' which identifies HCE as 'Love' is similarly founded upon death, belief and biological reproduction: 'i big U to Beleaves from Love and Mother' (FW 106.25). The love of the father is identified as an appropriation of the amor matris, an appropriation of the feminine, by 'the cunning Italian intellect' (U 9.840) which founded the church. Yet, the knowledge Shem derives of the origin of HCE is turned upon its head, for he undermines the patriarchal system he elucidates, exposing rather than reinforcing the relationship between the cultural and biological reproductions of the patriarchal logos.

27 McHugh, Annotations, p. 287.

28 Henke, James Joyce and the Politics of Desire, p. 181.