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9.7 Joyce and the Archetypal Family

The principle of Freud's family romance, and the impact upon the subject of the family triangle later developed by Lacan and Kristeva, is a recurrent theme, albeit differentiated, in Joyce's fiction. As Suzette Henke points out: 'Joyce taps what Kristeva delineates as the "pre-thetic" semiotic chora of "articulations heterogeneous to signification and to the sign"'.21 In the Wake the principal cultural structures of society are also shown to be sourced in the sexual relations of an archetypal or original family. Joyce's perception of the importance of the family biological unit to understanding both creativity and society is also elaborated upon in Ulysses. Just as Stephen in Scylla and Charybdis holds that Socrates learns dialectic from his wife, and 'from his mother how to bring thoughts into the world' (U 9.235-36), Shakespeare's sexual union with Ann Hathaway underpins his theory of both artistic and material creation as being a form of escape. In Circe, the theory of creation as escape is elaborated into what will become the Wakean myth of creation, where the trinity of the Christian religion is sourced in the sexual reproduction of a son. In Joyce's works, the biological functions of the family both precede and facilitate the development of the 'symbolic', on a mythic/cultural level. The constraints associated with the development of the subject in the original family romance, and the resulting negation and renewal of the symbolic in art are transformed into the social institutions which underpin culture, the symbolic from which Stephen seeks both to escape and renew. The family romance forms the basis of both religious dogma and the power base of the state, and in turn impacts upon the formation of the new subject. Central to the Wakean myth of masculine creativity is the infantile drama of bodily excreta which, as the original biological act of creativity, is re-enacted on the widest social and mythical stage. Pre-sexual fecal and urinary creativity, and by implication correlated parental response, are elevated to the primary sinful act of creation. Such acts are the outcome of desire, and the resultant punishment and stigmatisation are the psychic foundations of both biological and artistic creativity in Finnegans Wake.

21 Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, p. 36, cited in Suzette A. Henke, James Joyce and the Politics of Desire (New York and London: Routledge, 1990), p. 207.