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9.10 Sexual Repression

Earlier in this study the concern was raised that the female in Finnegans Wake was inexorably trapped in its cycles of the reproduction of the masculine logos. This is the case so long as the perception of the cycle of return eclipses the comprehenesion of the potential for overthrowing such a cycle through feminine difference. In Finnegans Wake, the 'fullvixen freakings' of feminine freedom, both sexual and creative, can only occur in the absence of Shaun/HCE's implementation of a unifying ideology. Joyce's perception that the objectification of women is critical to subordinating the individual (both male and female) to the value systems of patriarchy was well ahead of its time. The control of sexuality is a powerful tool in ensuring social cohesion and obedience to religious, political and consumerist principles. The concession of sexuality based upon social approval, where sexual attraction and marriage are founded upon overtly asexual values such as class, status, wealth or power, promotes a conformism to social values by both women and men. Accordingly, Shem is denied access to sexuality in the Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies as a result of his incorrect answers to the question in the 'Colours' game. Until his own avant-garde values are subsumed by the logos he must escape abroad. The Wake counters sexual repression with difference, which in its diffusion of values associated with HCE counters Shaun/HCE's rise as the 'dominant'. Despite ALP's desire for HCE, a corresponding desire amongst his descendants for the return of HCE is not made explicit, and this critical absence may well underpin his overt silence and the continuation of her freedom.

In Finnegans Wake, the dichotomy between the reproduction of the singularity and the production of difference is described by the stone and tree motifs respectively. Foucault, pursuing aims different from those of the Wake, notes in his History of Sexuality a similar duality between a 'deployment of alliance' on the one hand, a power matrix described as 'a system of marriage, of fixation and development of kinship ties, of transmission of names' with 'mechanisms of constraint that ensured its existence', and on the other the 'deployment of sexuality' which

has its reason for being, not in reproducing itself, but in proliferating, innovating, annexing, creating, and penetrating bodies in an increasingly detailed way, and in controlling populations in an increasingly comprehensive way.25

Despite a historical freeing of sexuality from repression, to the extent that Foucault can imagine the deployment of sexuality one day replacing the deployment of alliance completely, such sexuality is nonetheless 'tied to recent devices of power'. This latter expression of power Foucault argues has its nascence in the catholic pastoral and confession,26 and which ironically is displacing traditional Christian sexual mores. Foucault points out that the transformation of sexual desire into discourse was part of an overall Western emphasis upon life management:

It was life more than the law that became the issue of political struggles, even if the latter were formulated through affirmations concerning rights. The 'right' to life, to one's body, to health, to happiness, to the satisfaction of needs, and beyond all the oppressions or 'alienations', the 'right' to rediscover what one is and what one can be [...]. Sex was a means of access both to the life of the body and the life of the species.27

The all-pervasiveness of sexuality and its centrality to the myth of HCE in Finnegans Wake suggests that Joyce forms part of this historical urge toward biological and cultural freedom. Yet Joyce seeks to free sexuality not only from the patriarchal, tribal precepts institutionalised by religious decree, but also from its close relationship with the discourse of authority and the value systems associated with new forms of power (as in his depiction of Shaun's hegemony over Issy and the flower girls). The duality between sexuality and textuality explored in the Wake, particularly in relation to religious texts, reveals an understanding that the transferal of desire into discourse is in many respects an ancient phenomenon sourced in a lack of sexual freedom (thus Shem's sublimated incorporation of the sexual act into his textual creativity). Moreover, Finnegans Wake is itself a discourse which encapsulates the sexual act within text. Such sexual and textual representations, whether as the picture or letter, describe a struggle against the sexual dictates of particular historical structures of masculine dominance, but in the 'deployment of sexuality' establish new power structures which fit into the overall cycle of Wakean history.

25 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume 1, An Introduction, trans. by Robert Hurley (first published as La Volonté Savoir, 1976; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), pp. 106-07.

26 Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume 1, pp. 18-21, 35, 60-01.

27 Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume 1, pp. 145-46.