6.9 The Writer's Feminine Language
Discussing the Wake's sin of unity, namely both sexual and Irish political union, Kathryn Conrad and Darryl Wadsworth note that 'By embracing this construction of the sin, the Irish define themselves as unable to break out of the cycle of violence and unleash themselves from colonial rule'. With reference to sexual unity, they further suggest that Joyce perceived an assimilation of gender identity, as a 'hope for an end to the cycle of violence, oppression, and repression in Ireland'.19 This position is reasonable in their emphasis upon the non-demonisation of the feminine. The converse of Bloom/Stephen/Shem's femininity, however, such as the transformation of Bella into Bello in Ulysses, does not offer a solution to violence. The exaggerated masculine behaviour of Bello, evoked quintessentially by the forceful entry of his fist 'elbowdeep in Bloom's vulva' (U 15.3089), indicates that simple gender identity cross-over simply reverses the sex without diminishing the problem. Moreover, the inversion of stereotypical gender roles in the Bloom-Bello scene, while critically exposing traditional male and female role playing, nonetheless points the celibate/impotent Bloom toward a more masculine 'eggs for breakfast' role at home. Nor does a merging of sexual roles necessarily reverse violent tendencies, for as Conrad and Wadsworth themselves note, the traditional females of the Wake do participate in the male confrontation for sexual dominance by overtly encouraging the combatants.20 The sin of unity, even sexual unity, is depicted with a degree of scepticism, where difference is instead opposed to the social inclination toward unity. While sexual union and the instances of male homosexual rape in Finnegans Wake are associated with a temporary peace, it is in general as a consummation to the outcome of violent male competition: 'The war is o'er. Wimwim wimwim!' (FW 101.7-8). (This point is discussed further below, *.) In Ulysses, masculine androgyny, in its unifying omission of the feminine, is similarly portrayed as dysfunctional, and either as the outcome of death (for instance, the deity), a detestation or fear of women (Shakespeare), a sexual inertia stemming from psychic problems with an implied impotence (Bloom) or an inability to form (or an exclusion from) satisfactory sexual relationships (Stephen). The peacefulness of androgyny is the peace of the literary text.
In general the critical partnership of male and female in sexual reproduction is not reciprocated in the creation of the literary letter. The 'all in all in all of us' (U 9.1049-50) androgyny of the deified original creator is apparent in Shem's combination of masculine content with the feminine language of difference. Shem's androgyny of creativity, however, serves to exclude the female from artistic creativity in the Wake. On the other hand it is the feminine side of Shem, with its textual desire, which precludes him in the competition of genetic reproduction. Accordingly, Shem 'that fenemine Parish Poser' (FW 93.14) is explicitly excluded from sexual union with the 28 Flora girls: 'all the twofromthirty advocatesses within echo, pulling up their briefs at the krigkry: Shun the Punman!' (FW 93.11-13). Consistent with his androgyny, Shem manufactures ink in Book I.7 from his own feces and urine, substances which are consistently used as gender-related motifs of creativity. Combining imitations of his father's feces and his mother's urine, he writes over his own skin in a ritual of letter-writing, displacing the female body as 'allaphbed', suggesting that along with Shaun and Issy he too is a manifestation of the letter, albeit non-biological. In contrast to the reproductive strategies of the original HCE, Shem does not use Issy/ALP as the biological page for his creation, but from an 'all in all' onanistic creativity, he instead uses 'every square inch of the only foolscap available, his own body' (FW 185.35-36). This is an artistic replication of ex nihilo fecal creation by the Wakean deity, which itself transposes the Judeo-Christian creation myth. The process of manufacturing ink from his own urine and feces in a symbolic ritual intoned in Latin on one hand emulates the religious substitutions of the Christian Churches, and on the other mimics the original sin of sexual reproduction through the combination of its most significant creative motifs. With his pungent ink, Shem creates a powerful intellectual artifact, the 'continuous present tense integument slowly unfolded all marryvoising moodmoulded cyclewheeling history' (FW 186.1-2) of the Wake itself. Yet, as he points out, it is itself 'life unlivable' (FW 186.3). The sin of sexual reproduction 'beats' time in Finnegans Wake in the sense of marking time, because such creativity via, and inclusive of, ALP produces new life and thus biological time; it is ALP's maternal letter, her 'mamafesta' as opposed to 'manifesto', that can generate time and resurrect an HCE deity - if only he will rise. Conversely, Shem as an artist, like Stephen's description of the deity, is 'a wife unto himself' (U 9.1052) and at the conclusion of the letter he writes in the Nightlessons chapter, his signature or 'Blott' (FW 302.10) is an ejaculation resulting from masturbation:
watch him, having caught at the bifurking calamum in his bolsillos, the onelike underworp he had ever funnet without difficultads, the aboleshqvick, signing away in happinext complete. (FW 302.15-19)
The ascendant Shem as the HCE of Book III.4 produces a 'litteringture' rather than 'a litter', and the opposite of a patriarchal family head such as the biblical Abraham he carries his 'kidlings' under his apron: 'Is rich Mr Pornter, a squire, not always in his such strong health? [...] One would say him to hold whole a litteringture of kidlings under his aproham' (FW 570.15-19). He is thus a participant in the triumph of life, but a discerning participant who declines to engage in the use of violence or sexual reproduction. Yet the concept of time central to the taunts of the Gracehoper relies upon biological change. Shem/HCE raises false hopes amongst the Four Historian narrators for the possibility for genetic change and a consequential change in the frozen picture of the hunting scene of Book I.2. As Shem/HCE makes love, the narrator describes him as a penis with both sons Shaun and Shem present as testes, and moreover assures the reader that he will 'come':
A progress shall be made in walk, ney? I trow it well, and uge by uge. He shall come, sidesmen accostant, by aryan jubilarian and on brigadier-general Nolan or and buccaneer-admiral Browne, with — who can doubt it? — his golden beagles and his white elkox terriers for a hunting on our littlego illcome faxes. In blue and buff of Beaufort the hunt shall make. [...] Quick time! Beware of waiting! (FW 567.20-29)
The failure of Shem/HCE to 'wet the tea', however, means that his genetic development remains frozen after all, and the fox hunters of the picture remain still.
19 Kathryn Conrad and Darryl Wadsworth, 'Joyce and the Irish Body Politic: Sexuality and Colonization in Finnegans Wake', James Joyce Quarterly, 31 (1994), 301-13 (p. 310-12).
20 Conrad and Wadsworth, 'Joyce and the Irish Body Politic', p. 310.
21 Latin, calamus: reed, cane, pen; Spanish, bolsillo: pocket; Dutch, onderwerp: subject, in Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1991), p. 302.