Michael Begnall, Dreamscheme: Narrative and Voice in Finnegans Wake (Syracuse UP 1988), 127pp.

Quotes Frank Budgen: ‘It is often said of Joyce that he was greatly influence by psychoanalysis in the composition of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake […]nothing could be farther from the truth. The Joycean method of composition and the passively automatic method are two [2] opposite and opposed principles […]Joyce was always impatient or contemptuously silent when it was talked about as both an all-sufficient Weltanschauung and a source of law for artistic production “Why all this fuss about the mystery of the unconscious?” he said to me one evening at the Pfauen Restaurant. “What about the mystery of the conscious? do they know about that?” One might say that both as a man and an artist Joyuce was exceedingly conscious. Great artificers have to be.’ (Further Recollections [1955], p.8; Begnal, pp.2-3.)

‘Whether there is a single dreamer in Finnegans Wake, and I am fairly convinced that there is not, it is clear that there is an abundance of voices to be heard in this Wakean night. There cadences and thematic concerns will sooner or later give them away, if the reader looks closely enough […] in their staccoato question-and-answer sessons, they almost tell us more than we want to know. And they are not so difficult to discover behind their narrational masks, since they always make their appearances in virtually the same combinations - brother warring against brothter when Shen and Shaun are on stage, and the suitor looking for a wife when the turns come for Anna Livia and Humphrey Chimden Earwicker. Unfailingly, when Issy comes forward at all, she will adopt the role of the supporting actress. [xv] The method in Finnegans Wake is not random, and by concentrating closely upon the structure and the languate of the novel the reader can follow the signposts which lead to Joyce’s grand design. Joyce never promised that this would be easy, but the insights, the laughter, and the rewards will more than justify the midnight oil.’ [xvi]

‘The novel is not a detective story, but the reader must steer a reasonable course between immediate detail and archtypal inclusiveness.’ [5]

‘In Finnegans Wake, perhaps the most experimental fiction ever attempted, Joyce takes great pains to undercut the formal expectations of plot and to demonstrate that narrative must be adapted to the mental processes it attempts to represent.’ [15]

‘[The] refusal or inability to concentrate for long upon a dificulty which the narrative itself has proposed is endemic to the convoluted process of Wake telling.’ [25]

‘Whereas a conventional novelist might be most concerned with the result of the plot, Joyce concentrates upon the potentiality of plot and characterisation as they unfold on many levels at once. The events or the narrative levels of Finnegans Wake are not connected causally, but they are controlled novelistically. They are not psychoanalytical free associations, but instead they are distorted mirrors of each other.’ [49]

‘In Finnegans Wake, there are two kinds of narrative voice: one which speaks to us, and one which speaks to and of itself. The first is the most easily apprehendible, for it speaks to us directly of the the pages of the novel, like Sterne’s Tristram [Shandy], calling for patience, urging that wee do not throw down the book, and offering what it deems to be helpful hints. […]The second [e.g., ‘mammoth sentence of III.4] has […] no identifying marks of its own, but it draws its characteristics from whatever surrounds it.’ [76]

‘Rather than unfolding in a logical progression of narrative, the text is basically composed of individual segments, each self-contained as to voice or voices. The voice shifts or changes according to the context, and, once a reader has ascertained the number of speaking parts, he or she can adjust to the at first seemingly chaotic nature of a tale whose point of view switches incessantly. Basically, we are in the hands of the children here, a tribe of polyglot manipulators who seem to enjoy very much what they do, who seem to enjoy the freedom which the Wake has given thm. In their strivings with and against each other, they provide an alternative to the idea that the meek shall inherit the earth. We must keep an eye and an ear upon these mischievious miscreants, hoping along with Anna Livia that all will come clear in the end.’ [p.87]

Bibl. incls. Richard Ellmann, The Consciousness of James Joyce (London: Faber & Faber), 150pp.

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