in Finnegans Wake and in Ulysses
Three lists in Finnegans Wake (FW) stand out against the surrounding text like erratic blocks against a postdiluvian landscape. They are collections of single words, captions, short phrases, but not sentences. Their items are separated by commas or semicolons, and a full stop is given only at the end of each list. To stress their strangeness, lists 1 and 2 are printed in italics and are decorated with initial capital letters. Each list contains a variation of one specific theme
* List 1 (071.10-072.16) is a “collision“ (collection) of 111 abusive names given to the dreaming HCE by a drunken man (Shem?) who is demanding from him, the innkeeper, “more wood alcohol“ after having been boozing already in six other Dublin pubs.
* List 2 (104.05 – 107.07) is made up of 132 names by which “her untitled mamafesta“ (meaning here not only ALP’s letter but the entire Work in Progress) “has gone ... at disjointed times“.
* List 3 (210.06 – 212.19) spells out ALP’s gifts “poor souvenir as per recorder“ for her sons and daughters, “a thousand and one of them“.
All three lists appear as random collections without any interior organization. They lack completely the dimension of time and they interrupt the flow of the narrative abruptly.
Why did Joyce, for whom form and content were the same (Beckett 1929), choose at repeated times such a peculiar, primitive form of prose? What did he want to express or illustrate by it? I am not aware of any answer already given to this question and will try my own, appealing to Giambattista Vico, the official patron of FW, who lived at Naples 1668 – 1744.
Vico (1744) is important and still of interest today (Camartin & Elkana 1996) as the discoverer of the mental prehistory of human institutions by means of mythology and etymology. As any reader of FW learns, he divided the evolution of man into three ages: the divine, the heroic, and the human.
* The stupid giants of the divine age resembled wild animals more than human beings, but, endowed with an incredible imagination, they invented all the gods which they feared. So they lived in a theocracy.
* The heroes of the heroic age legitimised their aristocratic government by their divine origin, tracing it to the cohabitation of a god or a goddess with a human being.
* In the human age, the former plebeians have won general freedom. Democracy generates anarchy which is finally overcome by monarchy.
These steps of evolution are repeated in comparable form by all nations of all four continents known to Vico; older and younger nations have the same evolutionary pattern, thus giving history the appearance of a cyclic process.
* Parallel with this evolution of social organization proceeds in Vico’s view the development of speech:
* Divine language: Men of the divine age were mute, expressing their feelings in wordless cries. For communication they used gestures and ceremonies; but they were already able to write with hieroglyphs. Thus for Vico writing precedes speaking.
* Heroic language: Men of the heroic age communicated by using heraldic characters for speech and writing so there are: symbols, names, coats of arms, coins and medals, flags, military commands.
* Human language: Articulate everyday speech is a late acquisition of the human age.
What use did Joyce make of these linguistic theories in creating FW ? Reichert (1989) in his most remarkable essay “Vicos Methode in Hinsicht auf Joyce“ (dedicated to the Frankfurt FW Reading Group) discovered Vico’s gestures and hieroglyph writing of the divine age in FW in the omnipresent initials HCE and ALP and in the so-called sigla (McHugh 1979) as for instance the E in four different positions for HCE or the triangle for ALP.
Perhaps we may add to this claim the occurrence of special numbers, written or hidden in the text, such as the 111 (“Wan Wan Wan”) items in list 1, or the 100 letters of the mute divine thunderwords, or the 1001 letters of all thunderwords together, or the ever repeated enigmatic number 1132.
And the hundreds of rivers flowing through the Anna Livia chapter (I.viii), lending it a watery hue, or the thousands of songs echoing from any page of the book (Hodgart & Worthington 1959), contributing some of their words, their rhythms, but never their own meaning, are they not the most prominent examples of Vico’s mute divine language, transmuted into Joyce’s text?
Reichert (l.c.p.229) describes heroic language in Vico’s words as halfway between divine and human or as a mixture of both; but he gives no example, leaving it to his readers to imagine what a heraldic language looked like, spoken and written an age before the invention of human language with its narrative potential and its logical implications. We would be lost, no doubt, had we not the lists of FW as fitting examples. As far as I can see, they agree with all descriptions given by Vico (l.c. 446, 484, 930 et al.). If this is correct then the lists in FW are an artist’s realization of a philosopher’s vision.
As may be recalled here, Ulysses also contains a number of lists similar to those discussed already. They belong to episode 12 Cyclops and their positions are listed in table 1.
Cyclops is composed in two different languages, one spoken and one written (Hayman 1974, Kenner 1980). The spoken part is the tale or rather, the interior monologue (Peake 1977) of an unnamed I-narrator. The written part consists of 33 shorter or longer pieces of different styles. They are called “asides“ by Hayman, “interpolations“ by Peake, and “parodies” by Gifford (1988). “Parody“ is a rather general term; where does parody begin in Ulysses and where does it end? An “aside“ is heard by the spectators but not by the actors. This applies to the one and only actor in Cyclops, the I-narrator. But an “aside“ is spoken by another actor who never appears in this episode and is not needed, since, as already remarked, the “asides“ are written and not spoken. And the term “asides“ tends to underrate their relative size, which amounts to 37 per cent, more than one third of the chapter. “Interpolation“ fits exactly: despite the narrow relation of 1 : 2 , it is always the written text interrupting the spoken and never the inverse.
<![if !vml]>The positions of the interpolations are compiled in table 2. As a comparison of both tables shows, the lists are all embedded in interpolations and no list forms an entire interpolation on its own. (Exception: I.3 is a list. It belongs to I.2 which is interrupted by a spoken sentence.)
The spoken text forms a continuum. The I-narrator ignores all interpolations. Indeed, the spoken text could be printed separately without any interpolation, and the uninformed reader would not miss a word. Not so with the written text. The interpolations have no relation to each other. Their context is always the spoken not the written part. They are always answers to a word, a phrase, a situation of the spoken, commenting, correcting, embellishing it, translating the low spoken into elevated written language. A first example may illustrate this:
When the citizen has been introduced to the reader with the words of the I-narrator (12.118 ff) as sitting in his corner at Barney Kiernan’s, alone with his dog Garryowen, “waiting for what the sky would drop in the way of drink“, there follows (I.4) the description of an old Irish hero, sitting on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower, at his feet a savage animal of the canine tribe. The physical appearance of the hero is given in what may be considered as the prototype of a Joycean list, and is therefore reproduced here in full length (L.4): “a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freelyfreckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero“, 16 epitheta ornantia set side by side, not even separated by commas. This list and the next are enclosed in what may be called a catalogue of the features of an Irish hero, his dress and equipment. (A catalogue enumerates its items like a list but in whole sentences of ordinary prose). There we read (12.173) : “From his girdle hung a row of seastones ... and on these were graven ... the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity“, followed by a list (L.5) of 89 heroes and heroines from Cuchulain and Conn of the Hundred Battles up to the Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo and many others. Could there be any more direct allusion to Vico’s heroic language ?
Most lists are to be found in the catalogues, as may be demonstrated:
* The way Joe Hynes and the I-narrator walk together is illustrated by a catalogue (I.2 and I.3) of all the good things that in the golden age of the high kings made the land of holy Michan (Barney Kiernan’s pub lies in the parish of St. Michan) a land of milk and honey. It contains a list of 10 edible fish (L.1), a list of 19 crops “foison of the fields“ (L.2) and a list of different herds of domestic animals and their products, difficult to count (L.3).
* The spoken appeal of John Wyse Nolan to reafforest treeless Ireland (12.125) is answered by the written catalogue of the wedding ceremonies of “the chevalier Jean Wyse de Neaulan, grand high chief ranger of the Irish National Foresters, with Miss Fir Conifer of Pine Valley“ (I.24). It includes a list of 29 ladies with noble names, all taken from trees or other woodland plants, who “graced the ceremony by their presence“ (L.11).
* The catalogue of illustrations on an old Irish facecloth (I.26) presents a list of 35 sightseeing sceneries like the brewery of Messrs Arthur Guinness, Son and Company Limited (L.12).
* The procession sent on the march towards Barney Kiernan’s pub by the pious toast of Martin Cunningham “God bless all here is my prayer“ (12.1673), a catalogue of all Irish clergy (I.29) on the way to bless the pub and all its inmates, gives a list of 81 saints, existing and not yet existing (like SS Anonymous, Eponymous, Pseudonymous, Homonymous, Paronymous, and Synonymous) (L.13) and a second list (L.14) of 37 “blessed symbols of their efficacies“.
* The catalogue of all the ceremonies prepared for a royal farewell for Bloom at his departure from Ireland (I.31) shows a list of summits of 16 mountains (L.15) where bonfires were lit in his honour.
Lists in interpolations other than catalogues are:
* In the execution scene (I.13) the well-known list of 18 foreign delegates and their titles (originating from a bawdy student’s joke), a list (L.7) of 11 weapons like canonballs etc. used by them for the discussion of a historical question; and a list (L.8) of their “roars of acclamation“ for the world renowned headsman Rumbold in 10 different languages.
* An assembly for the revival of old Irish sports (I.16) is accompanied by a list (L.9) of 24 clergymen with full titles. Why these are named and of the numerous laity only two, awaits an explanation.
* A list (L.10) of the ad hoc invented 12 Irish tribes sending one delegate each to a court according to Brehon law (I.21).
* A list of the 19 titles (L.16) of H.R.H. rear admiral, the right honourable sir Hercules Hannibal Habeas Corpus Anderson, charged with the general supervision of all work of salvage after the disastrous earthquake caused by a falling body (I.32).
Here the following thesis may be proposed: All interpolations are Joycean illustrations of the heroic language postulated by Vico, and their common characteristic is their lack of the dimension of time. For the catalogues (I.2,3,4,24,26,29,31) this is quite clear. They set their items, objects, persons, ideas, side by side in space and not one after the other in time with any possible causal connection.
Other interpolations are in a similar way independent of the factor of time. The validity of a legal agreement (I.1) or the verdict of a trial (I.21) is, in its own limits, independent of time. Timeless like dreams are suggestion, hypnosis, hallucination like the spiritual séance in which the dead Paddy Dignam is interviewed (I.8) or Bloom’s ascension in a chariot of fire (I.33). Independent of time is the correctness of the minutes of the Proceedings of the House of Parliament (I.17) or of an assembly for the revival of Irish sports (I.18). Independent of time is the scientific truth of the report on a medical phenomenon, the erection of a hanged man (I.12) or a natural catastrophe, the earthquake (I.32). And enjoyable nonsense like the nursery talk of I.16 or the Gaelic poem of a dog (I.14) or the jingle “who loves whom?“ (I.27) are also timeless. A creed (I.25) is eternal truth for its adherents. Also, many short interpolations are just heraldic ornament, announcing the arrival of newcomers or change of scene (I.5,6,7,9,10,11,15,20,22,23,30).
For three interpolations it is not so easy to claim timelessness:
* The Keogh-Bennett boxing-match (I.19) is a logical sequence for the boxing expert in terms of attack and defense; but for the average non-boxing reader of Ulysses, it is just the heraldic tableau vivant of two Iliadic heroes, fighting in single combat vicariously for their mutually hostile nations.
* The anecdote in medieval costume of the arrival of three mounted travellers at a rustic hostelry (I.28), (called forth by the arrival of Martin Cunningham with two companions at Barney Kiernan’s in a castle car, 12.1588) describes a tiny point without any dimension on the time scale: The reluctant host’s change of mind when he learns that his new guests are messengers of the King.
* And last but not least there is the famous execution scene (I.13). What could be more dramatic, moving with inexorable velocity toward an end in time than the tragedy of a hero-martyr, giving his life for the liberation of his country? But do we actually see it? Not at all. What we see are half a million spectators, we see the actors assembled on the stage, we get some stage directions for their roles, but we do not see the play. Or expressed metaphorically: We see the placing of the chessmen on the chess-board, but we do not see the game.
To summarise: In Cyclops, the 9th book of the Odyssey, Homer describes the collision of two Viconian ages: The heroic age (Odysseus and his companions) with the divine age (Polyphemus and his “lawless“ neighbour giants). Joyce presents in Cyclops, the 12th episode of Ulysses, the collision of two Viconian languages: Human language (spoken) with heroic language (written). This simple scheme is complicated however, by the claim of the Citizen, the king of all bar-flies, to be the legitimate representative of a glorified Irish past, and by the reluctance of Bloom, the most human of all those present in Barney Kiernan’s pub, to play the heroic role to which he is condemned by his author.
Beckett, S., “Dante. Bruno. Vico. Joyce”,
in S. Beckett et al. (eds.), Our Exagmination Round His
Factification For Incamination of Work
Shakespeare and Company, Paris, 1929, 3 – 22