8.3 Part Two of the Kaleidoscope Question - the Letter
[...] could such a none, whiles even led comesilencers to comeliewithhers and till intempestuous Nox should catch the gallicry and spot lucan's dawn, byhold at ones what is main and why tis twain, how one once meet melts in tother wants poignings, the sap rising, the foles falling, the nimb now nihilant round the girlyhead so becoming, the wrestless in the womb, all the rivals to allsea, shakeagain, O disaster! shakealose, Ah how starring! but Heng's got a bit of Horsa's nose and Jeff's got the signs of Ham round his mouth and the beau that spun beautiful pales as it palls, what roserude and oragious grows gelb and greem, blue out the ind of it! Violet's dyed! then what would that fargazer seem to seemself to seem seeming of, dimm it all?
Answer: A collideorscape! (FW 143.15-28)
This half of the kaleidoscope question is closely aligned with the letter described as document number two, where literary and biological creativity are the processes by which culture perpetuates itself. Accordingly, in the description of sexual union and subsequent conception, both the Egyptian Ibis-headed god of writing Thoth, and the Gaelic term for pudendum, toth are present, mirroring the biblical duality between 'word' and 'flesh'. HCE's dissolution in 'tother' requires a 'penning' and a sexual/violent 'stabbing': 'how one once meet melts in tother wants poignings' (FW 143.18-19).4 The fall of Nuvoletta as a cloud, the leaves falling from the tree and the reproduction of rivals, all signal the onset of the flood of humanity, and such a flood, where identities are stirred together, is followed by a rainbow. The rainbow provides an echo of the textual 'flores of speech' (FW 143.4) referred to at the outset of the kaleidoscope question. As 'flores of speech' the female of the Wake is equated with language, the medium by which culture reproduces itself.
Colin MacCabe identifies the rebellious textuality of the Wake as the female struggle against phallocentric male discourse, although he qualifies his perception with the need to account for the male pen. Accordingly, MacCabe suggests that the language of Finnegans Wake may be bisexual,5 and Sheldon Brivic concurs: 'Ultimately, Joyce believes that the naked truth literature reveals to us is that everyone is innately bisexual'.6 Certainly, Shem speaks with his mother's voice, as when he 'lifts the lifewand and the dumb speak' (FW 195.5), thereby freeing the female voice curtailed following the Prankquean's encounter with Jarl van Hoother. She regains her voice in the 'annadominant' act of sexual union in Book III.4, when 'life wends and the dombs spake!' (FW 595.1-2). As sexual/textual container, however, her voice is informed by the 'tomb', and at the potential conclusion to the age of humanity Book IV she contemplates relinquishing her voice of difference once more to be 'dumb', to be eclipsed once more by the masculine logos of a new age of gods: 'I sink I'd die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup' (FW 628.10-11). In an earlier age the younger ALP/Issy reacts similarly to the dominant HCE: 'She thought she's sankh neathe the ground with nymphant shame when he gave her the tigris eye!' (FW 202.32-34). HCE's power for domination is quite clear, and the desire for HCE, whether as man or deity, appears to be ALP's Achilles' heel. ALP's speechlessness mirrors the ambiguous and wordless image of the picture: 'It scenes like a landescape from Wildu Picturescu or some seem on some dimb Arras, dumb as Mum's mutyness' (FW 53.1-3). Like the picture, her textuality is variously interpreted as the viewer/reader adduces the masculine significance from her feminine form. In contrast with the form/content relationship of some mainstream texts, where textuality is crafted to be almost invisible in the focus upon content, the Wake's explicit emphasis upon female textuality, as frustrating and pleasurable as it can at times be, balances what is 'twain' against what is 'main'. What is explicit in the language of the Wake is the diminished potence of an omniscient HCE which allows freeplay in the signifier. Rather than bisexual, Joyce's language is heterosexual, consisting of a blend of female form and its differences with the uncertain singularity of its masculine logos. Moreover, as both participation and non-participation, a union of signified with an equal emphasis upon signifier, reading the language of the Wake duplicates the original sin of heterosexual reproduction. While reading involves a union of signified and signifier, or male and female in the Wakean context, Shem's writing, and indeed all creativity other than biological, is portrayed as onanistic rather than bisexual (see also, *, *, *).
As the container of HCE's logos, textual form parallels the rainbow girls' facility for his genetic reproduction. Given that the signifier is in general portrayed as female, the Wake's signified reciprocally can be perceived as the masculine 'incertitude' (U 9.842) which in Ulysses Stephen ascribes to the 'apostolic succession' (U 9.838) of fatherhood and mystery of the church (see also below, *). The masculine struggle for power engendered by HCE's interaction with his family is similarly sourced in the twin aspects of the letter, the 'word' and 'flesh' of the reproduction of the logos. Moreover, both reader and writer exercise power over the feminine text. The reader, indicated in the kaleidoscope question as the interpreting 'fargazer' is masculine, as is the writer Shem in the Wake. Accordingly the male perspective which Shem depicts with 'Anny liffle mud' (FW 287.7), and which the female colours of the rainbow biologically portray, is ultimately 'the curse of his persistence the course of his tory' (FW 143.11-12).
That HCE resides within the rainbow motif, particularly in its biological connotations, is prefigured in a number of instances in the Wake. One of the games Shem refuses to participate in is described as: 'There is Oneyone's House in Dreamcolohour' (FW 176.9-10). Similarly, HCE always wears seven garments, and sometimes these are rainbow coloured (see also above, *).7 Moreover, within the description of the feminine rainbow in the kaleidoscope question lingers the erection, ejaculation and wilting of HCE's phallus and attendant staining of a flower girl: 'what roserude and oragious grows gelb and greem, blue out the ind of it! Violet's dyed!' (FW 143.24-26). Shown alongside this overtly sexual image of the rainbow in a blur paralleling the smudge of HCE's archaeological remnants is the stirring of the genetic melting pot of humanity: 'Heng's got a bit of Horsa's nose and Jeff's got the signs of Ham round his mouth' (FW 143.22-24). This blurring of identities is paralleled by the extended significance of the Wake's signifiers, and accordingly in the time-scheme of Book I.1 Shem's 'o peace a farce' is described as 'Blotty words for Dublin' (FW 14.14-15).
4 Poignard, from Latin, pungere: prick, stab.
5 The Revolution of the Word (London: MacMillan, 1979), p. 150.
6 Joyce between Freud and Jung (Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1980), p. 211.
7 See FW 23.1-2; FW 277.1; FW 339.27-29; FW 590.8-9: Glasheen, Third Census, p. 259.