Thursday, 3 November 2011

030.01 to 033.13

Greetings again! We've valiantly charged through Chapter 1 (including some very perplexing moments toward the end) and yesterday met to discuss this beginning of Chapter 2. As always, simply some brief comments and thoughts from me. And yes, please comment, it'd be great to get some further dialogue happening.

Re-reading this section again, it appears as if the links to Beowulf that we briefly touched on are more relevant than I first thought. So, aside from the first word of the chapter, 'Now', which operates similarly to the first word of Beowulf ('So') in immediately dropping you into the middle of the narrative (in media res?), two other themes seem to fit in. Firstly, the desire to name HCE. You'll remember that Beowulf is absolutely concerned with making his name and fulfilling the familial honour that was so important at that time. I guess when we consider HCEs naming, there is the obvious sense of dishonour which colours the name—at the same time, however, I get the sense that HCEs flippancy (cf. 'honest blunt Haromphreyld' (031.8-9) is supposed to be a joyous rebellion—the Irish 'up yours' to the idea both of a British ruler, but also of the associated suggestion of the destruction of independence.
Secondly, the historical references to Vikings and to the Low Countries as a whole resonates with the world of Beowulf.

031.11-28 Obviously I can't quote this entire sentence, but I thought this was a really important indication of the strangeness of Joyce's narratological approach here. This sentence has (on my count) around 25 clauses in it. And despite the proliferation of commas throughout, there is still a real sense of ambiguity as to the exact meaning of the sentence, especially when you consider that the first clause: 'Our sailor king' appears only to be taken up again on line 24, with 'remarked dilsydulsily'. So aside from the inventiveness that Joyce showcases in the language used, there is a further sense of difficulty created with the amount of detail one must retain just in reading a sentence.  From what I understand this is not a fleeting issue either; we're in for page long questions with one word answers when we get to the 'Night Letters'.

031.35-36: 'Are those their fata which we read in sibylline between the fas and its nefas?' This is an intriguing sentence. I'm assuming we're referring here to HCE still, although there could be some biblical/Egyptian Book of the Dead references as well. 'Fata' is the Latin fate, while '(ne)fas' are right and wrong or possible and impossible. My interest stems primarily from Joyce's inclusion of 'sibylline', which immediately raises in my mind an allusion to Coleridge's 1817 book of verse Sibylline Leaves. This also resonates then with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and the debates that have carried on over what the leaves stand for in the title. I guess what I'm trying to get to is that 'sibylline' implies the leaves of the book, which suggests that this sentence is far more indicative of the purposes of FW than we may first consider.

032.31,32: 'homedromed and enliventh' 'millentury': I'm most interested by the first quotation, which sounds suspiciously (and is glossed by McHugh as) 111. This is important because we've already stumbled across the significance of 1132, and the millentury (1100) previously. In English cricket, 111 is considered an unlucky score for a batsman, and is known as the 'Nelson', reputedly because Lord Nelson had one arm, one leg and one eye. Spectators watching a game where the batsman makes it to 111 are encouraged to stand upon one leg until the batsmen has moved on from that score. If you think I'm making it up, have a look at the Wikipedia link.

033.02 'veritable Napolean the Nth': a great name, and one that is absolutely appropriate for the man otherwise known as 'Here Comes Everybody' (032.18-19). A subtle reference to infinity by Joyce here, the number line being constituted by the equation n+1. Even HCE can't escape from the inevitability of Vico's ricorso.

As I said above, please comment on my ramblings and let me know where I've gone wrong! We're reading 033.14 to 036.34 meeting at 1 pm on the 16th of November. See you there. JG


  1. Hiya, I have been watching this blog while I was studying an Irish Lit course lasst year. While we didn't read the Wake we did read some of Joyce's other works. I have been getting ready to conquer the Wake myself and have found this blog useful. Shame it has gone dormant.

    1. Hi tangergreen, we're dormant no longer! Now the university is alive again we're kicking on. Where were you studying Irish lit? If you're in Sydney you're very welcome to come along.