Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake: Unravelling Universals

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OUP Oxford, Aug 30, 2007 - Literary Criticism - 278 pages
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This book is a critical introduction to Finnegans Wake and its genesis. Finn Fordham provides a survey of critical, scholarly, and theoretical approaches to Joyce's iconic masterpiece. He also analyses in detail the compositional development of certain key passages which describe the artist (Shem) and his project; the river-mother (ALP) and her 'first kiss'; the Oedipal shooting of the universal father (HCE) by the priestly son (Shaun); and the bewitching and curious daughter (Issy). His analyses demonstrate 'genetic' ways of reading the text which illustrate its immense range and playfulness and how these qualities were generated in composition. As well as opening up the densely detailed textuality of the Wake in all its multiplicity, Fordham argues for a relation between the way the text was formed and key aspects of its thematic content: an uprising of particularity and detail against universality, absolutes, and generality. He shows that the proliferation of individuated textual details overwhelms any unitary concept to the text. And this reflects an idealized and utopian uprising as it overcomes centralizing singularity: Finnegans do wake up. As part of this argument he proposes a qualified return to a notion of character - qualified in that characters can be understood in part as reflecting the character of compositional techniques: self-criticism and concealment, expansion and growth, flow and reflection, transferral and transformation. The character of the text's composition as a whole can be, paradoxically, summed up in the force of individuated multitudes: in the people, male and female, young and old, combining to overwhelm syntactic uniformity and singular signification. Quotations from the works of James Joyce reproduced with permission of the Estate of James Joyce, Estate of James Joyce. We regret that acknowledgement to the James Joyce Estate for permission to include material by James Joyce was not included in the first printing of this book.

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About the author (2007)

Finn Fordham is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and carried out doctoral work with Professor Steven Connor at the University of London on the influence that Lucia Joyce's breakdown had on the composition of Finnegans Wake. Publication ofhis thesis proved impossible because of difficulty securing permissions. Fordham nonetheless transferred his knowledge and enthusiasm for Joyce's final sprawling comedy to produce several articles. He also writes on 'genetic' criticism and reviews contemporary fiction. He has held British Academyand Leverhulme awards for his research and is currently working on comparing writing processes among Modernist writers.

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