Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 10, 2017

Finnegans Wake, (1939), (2014 Folio Edition) by James Joyce #6 Chapter 5

If you haven’t given up on my adventures with Finnegans Wake, you might remember that last week’s post mentioned that Chapter 5 stars ALP:

the ever-changing Anna Livia Plurabelle,  who – since her husband Earwicker (HCE) is struggling with Original Sin and metamorphoses into Adam, Noah, Lord nelson, mountain or a tree –  is at different times going to show up as Eve, Isis, Iseult, a passing cloud or a flowing stream. 

She may have been mentioned in these manifestations in chapters 1-4, but I confess that up to now I haven’t paid her much attention.  It may be premature to say so, since I have barely begun with this book, but I wonder if someone has done a PhD on the way James Joyce treats women in his fiction?  I mean, Molly, yes, of course, she’s one of the most famous women in literature, but still, most of his women are afterthoughts or sidelines, and they are both temptation and trouble.  Eve is, always is, IMO, a metaphor for ‘blame the woman’.  Anyway, we shall see…

Tindall tells me that this chapter harks back to the incriminating letter in the dump in chapter one, and  the structure is simple:

First an invocation, next a litany of sorts, and then a long lecture or sermon on the text.  A dream-lecture, this analysis, like all the materials of dream, conceals and reveals at once.  (Tindall, A Reader’s Guide to FW, p. 98)

Tindall says that Joyce uses the lecture to mock literary criticism, its disciplines and pretensions so mercilessly it is hard to see how any of us can still pursue them.  (IMO he need not have worried, of all the things we lack in the 21st century, literary criticism isn’t one of them…)

He says there are lots of c18th literary references – not a century in which I’m well read.  (And what I have read, with the exception of Candide, Manon Lescaut and The Vicar of Wakefield)  I haven’t liked much.  The Tale of a Tub, Emile, Fanny Hill?  I’d just as soon not have spent my time on those, and as for Castle Rackrent and The Mysteries of Udolpho, well, let’s just say I’d be surprised if they turn up in FW).

There is a reference to a funeral, the weather and a whole lot of people, but

However important this text, it is trivial, illiterate and repetitious.  However simple it is obscure. Certainly about life, is it art?  If it stands for the Wake, it resembles by simple difficulty perhaps or by difficult simplicity. Anyway, detaining our lecturer, it teases him as the Wake teases us.  (Tindall, p.103)

The letter is signed Toga Girilis and apparently its literary style is modelled on that of Nora Joyce – unimpeded by punctuation or capitals because for Joyce such illiteracy became the heart of literature.  There’s a fifth thunderclap to look out for too, announcing another version which denounces HCE’s indiscretion in no uncertain terms.

downmindlookingated. (Penguin Modern Classics Kindle Edition, p. 113, Loc 2587).

But there are many confusing shifts of identity again… and I doubt I would have known that any of this chapter pertained to ALP if I hadn’t been told.  Joyce actually begins this chapter with two-and-a-half pages of alternative names for ALP’s mamafesta (manifesto, i.e. this letter that damns Earwicker) and I could not see the point of reading these closely.  (Like that interminable list of poets in Bolano’s  The Savage Detectives!)   (BTW the FW audio book skips these pages of alternative names too so I did not feel guilty).

Campbell OTOH recommends the reader to make herself familiar with  Sir Edward Sullivan’s description and analysis of The Book of Kells, and particularly its reproduction of the “Tunc page”.

The Book of Kells, ‘Tunc page’ (Wikipedia Commons)

The Book of Kells, a magnificently illustrated sixth or ninth century Irish Psalter, was buried like our letter, to protect it from the invading Danes, and was dug up again, centuries later, very badly damaged.  The meticulously executed, unbelievable intricacy of the profoundly suggestive ornament of this monk (sic) work so closely resembles in its essential character the workmanship of Finnegans Wake that one is not entirely surprised to find Joyce describing the features of his own masterwork in language originally applied to the very much earlier monument of Celtic art. The Tunc page of the Book of Kells is devoted entirely to the words ‘Tunc crucifixerant XPI cum eo duos latrones (Matt xxvii, 38) i.e. ‘Then there were two thieves crucified with him’.  The Greek XPI (Christos) is an interpolation.  The illumination is an astonishing comment on this text, strangely suggestive of pre-Christian and oriental symbols.  The reader of Finngans Wake will not fail to recognise in this page something like a mute indication that here is a key to the entire puzzle: and he will be the more concerned to search its meaning when he reads Joyce’s boast on p 298 ‘I’ve read your tunc’s dismissage’. (Campbell, p.101)

Alas, I don’t happen to have Sir Edward’s analysis, and what’s more, dear readers, I must confess #EpicFail that my most diligent perusal of Wikipedia’s reproduction of this Tunc page  has not resulted in any recognition of a potential key to the entire puzzle.  (But next time I am in the Trinity College Library I will be sure to ask the guide to flip the pages over for me so that I can have a proper look and will let you know what I find).

However, Campbell provides the opening words of Sullivan’s study and then shows how Joyce parodied it.  Anyone familiar with Ulysses knows how clever Joyce is at doing this sort of thing, but here in FW the texts that he parodies are so much more obscure, it’s rare for me to get the joke.

But I did get this one:

The unmistaken identity of the persons in the Tiberiast duplex came to light in the most devious of ways. The original document was in what is known as Hanno O’Nonhanno’s unbrookable script, that is to say, it showed no signs of punctuation of any sort. Yet on holding the verso against a lit rush this new book of Morses responded most remarkably to the silent query of our world’s oldest light and its recto let out the piquant fact that it was but pierced butnot punctured (in the university sense of the term) by numerous stabs and foliated gashes made by a pronged instrument. These paper wounds, four in type, were gradually and correctly understood to mean stop, please stop, do please stop, and O do please stop respectively, and following up their one true clue, the circumflexuous wall of a singleminded men’s asylum, accentuated by bi tso fb rok engl a ssan dspl itch ina*, – Yard inquiries pointed out → that they ad bîn “provoked” ay Λ fork, of à grave Brofèsor; àth é’s Brèak – fast – table; acùtely profèššionally piquéd, to=introdùce a notion of time [ùpon à plane (?) sù’ ’ fàç’e’] by pùnct! ingh oles (sic) in iSpace?!   (Penguin Modern Classics, Kindle Edition, p. 123-4, Loc 2749-2767).

*bits of broken glass and split china

My Folio edition, as I’ve said before, has illustrations and the picture for this chapter is on their website (it’s the third image).  It shows a hen scratching among ‘a middenhide hoard of abjects’ […] foraging for a record of the past. Because this chapter is about writing,  writing thithaways end to end and turning, turning and end to end hithaways writing and with lines of litters slittering up and louds of latters slettering down, the artist John Vernon Lloyd shows the hen finding the tea-stained letter and a quite everwaylooking stamped addressed envelope’ and there is a writer’s hand with a quill, and letters from the alphabet.   But there are other symbols too that I am starting to recognise: the Wellington monument, Humpty Dumpty’s Wall (with an image of Christ crucified within it, to reinforce the idea of the Fall of Man) and bits and pieces from the museyroom too.  However there are also insects: a fly, a centipede and a beetle – and I have no idea why they are there.

So on to Chapter 6!




  1. Still with you – these posts are making fascinating reading!


  2. Blows my mind every time I read one of these JJ posts!


  3. Can’t believe how dedicated you are! I would have given up long ago.


  4. *chuckle* My guess is that if there are any scholars out there reading these posts they are shaking their heads at my effrontery: not my reading of FW itself but being cheeky enough to blog about it when clearly I have no idea what I am doing with this great work of literature. But I don’t care, I’m having fun, I am writing thithaways myself:)


  5. All credit to you Lisa.


    • *chuckle* Let’s just see if I can last the distance, there are 400-odd pages to go…


      • I was going to say we need a metre to show us how far you’ve progressed, but 400 pages to go, surely that’s well over half way. And, I never understand what scholars are writing about, I think lit.blogs are proof that books can be discussed intelligently in plain English.


        • Nooo, in my Folio edition, there are 493 pages not counting the introductions. So I’m about 20% done.


  6. I would bet on it that Joyce’s attitude to women has indeed been pored over and examined from every possible angle……
    I laughed when I saw your comment above that you dont think you know what you’re doing with this book but you’re having fun nevertheless – reminds me of reading Anthony Burgess’ Earthly Powers. I was constantly in a state of bewilderment about what I was reading yet enjoying it immensely. Not a book in the same league as F. Wake of course but you get the point…..


    • Well, I’m keeping a keen feminist eye on Mr Joyce and am ready to pounce if it’s called for!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’d like to see that battle with Mr Joyce – fountains pens at the ready


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