Finnegans Wake: The Agency of the Letter in the Conscious
Pickett, Jonathan Warren
FINNEGANS WAKE: THE AGENCY OF THE LETTER IN THE CONSCIOUS Jonathan Warren Pickett, Ph.D Cornell University 2008 When the most conspicuous and best-recognized architectonic gestures of the text of Finnegans Wake are taken with the history of its composition, they strongly indicate a structural and semantic convergence on the action of a central chapter. The climax of the Wake becomes the writing of what is genetically and narratively its first and most crucial parody of the thunder so prominent in the thought of Giambattista Vico, where the thunder functions as the origin of human history and language in the voice and name of God the Father. Joyce reconstructs this thunder not as voice but as writing, and as the Name not of the Father but of a Mother revealed as an archetype of the alphabetical letter. Per the pun, the thunder-scheme is thus assimilated to the Wake?s well-known trope of writing per se, the letter written by Anna Livia Plurabelle; but Joyce himself casts the switch from Father to Mother in a deliberately psychoanalytic light. After a discussion of the question of centrality in a critical approach, my introduction reviews the ways Joyce's previous fictions anticipate various elements present in the Wake's own center before moving on to a close but provisional reading of that center. Chapter I reviews the notion of centrality in extant studies of the Wake, with particular attention to Clive Hart's useful meditation on the dialogues. Chapter II notes that a system analogous to Hart's governs the disposition of the thunders, and explores their provenance in Vico. III explores Joyce's resolve, apparent from the first, to center his last work on the question of the Name, and traces the consequences through the thunder-scheme and other sustained motifs. IV describes the provisional convergence of these motifs in the Wake's chapter II.3, which stages the murder of the Father and the destruction of his Name, before moving on to the genetic and textual evidence for Joyce's incorporation of the Freudian primal scene into that tableau and its narrative anticipations. V begins the examination of the oedipal themes proleptic in the earlier fictions, including their imbrication with questions of economic and imperial power. VI brings this proleptic movement to a head while examining the powerful change in subject and language-use effected by its apotheosis in Portrait. VII returns to a closer examination of the Wake's central gesture in II.2, and notes the way in which that gesture synthesizes the structural and semantic elements of the text as a whole.
Finnegans Wake; Structure, Psychoanalysis