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8.7 Collide or Escape: Unity and Difference

A joyfulness at the demise of the singularity 'Finnegan' and the resultant plurality of identity and culture can also be elicited from the festive multiplicity of the title 'Finnegans Wake'. The appreciation of the title as an imperative strengthens the suggestion that it reflects a call for diversity rather than unification, and a celebratory diversity at that. Moreover, the plethora of textual difference in the Wake is itself a celebration of the fall of the singular deity and his logos. The perception of such a fall and the consequent impotence of the deity is also voiced by the somewhat more sober refrain of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra: 'God is dead'. On the other hand, Wyndham Lewis's attack upon Joyce, which accuses him of favouring time over space, is motivated by an opposite preference for the stability and unity of significance maintained in a perception emphasising space. Fairer to Wyndham Lewis than Lewis was to him,17 however, Joyce's merging of space and time at least maintains Lewis's own understanding of the argument where the union of time and space results in difference and feminine ascendancy:

For, to start with, space-time is no more real, but if anything less real, than Space and Time separately. The wedding of these two abstractions results, we believe (as a triumphant feminism would result not in equality but in feminine ascendancy), in the ascendancy of Time (which also happens to be the feminine principle of this partnership) over Space: and of the two, if we have any preference, it is for Space; for Space keeps still, at least is not (ideally) occupied in incessantly slipping away, melting into the next thing, and repudiating its integrity [...]. And as stability is the manifest goal of all organic life, and the thing from which we all of us have most to gain, we see no use, in the first place, and in the second no theoretical advantage, in this fusion.18

For Joyce, however, time is masculine and embodies the spirit of succession, where as space, the material container of HCE is feminine. Thus Shaun, who frequently echoes Wyndham Lewis's arguments, is depicted as embracing the ideology of HCE espoused by ALP. The Wake's suspended conclusion, with its absence of a living HCE, suggests that Joyce was predisposed toward the ascendancy of the feminine in a union of time with space, as pictured in Book III.4 with the 'annadominant' ALP astride Shem/HCE in sexual union. As 'fundamental' creators, both Shem and Joyce assert their own difference from the 'dominant' patriarchy, and thus Shem's confident assertion to Shaun that the latter is unable to 'beat time' (FW 419.8).

The fear of the repercussions of his own art may have led Joyce to step back from defining what Nietzsche described as humanity's bow, arrow and 'target',19 from anticipating time, and to celebrate instead the difference and peace of feminine ascendancy. The lingering phallus in the kaleidoscope question, the ever-persistent masculine content within the Wake's feminine textuality and the retrospective desire of ALP's final speech, each indicate an awful awareness of the potential that difference may come to an end, that content may again dominate form and the nightmare of history begin once more with all 'contrarieties eliminated, in one stable somebody' (FW 107.29-30).

17 Geoffrey Wagner, Wyndham Lewis: A Portrait of the Artist as the Enemy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957), p. 174.

18 Wyndham Lewis, Time and Western Man (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1928), p. 428.

19 Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche's introduction, p. 14.