WRITING THE IMPOSSIBLE: JOYCE, REALISM & THE ANTHROPOCENE, by Louis Armand*

*Paper presented at the 2019 North American James Joyce Symposium, “Joyce Without Borders”, 14 June 2019, at the CASUL, Ciudad de Mexico.

ABSTRACT: For the catalogue of the groundbreaking Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition at London’s ICA in 1968, John Cage wrote: “What we need is a computer that isn’t labour-saving but which increases the work for us to do – that puns (this is McLuhan’s idea as well as Joyce’s) revealing bridges (this is Brown’s idea) where we thought there weren’t any – turns us (my idea) not ‘on’ but into artists.” In the period since, the connection between Joyce, McLuhan, Cage & cybernetics has opened a purview onto what Donald Theall in 1995 famously called the “Joyce Era of technology, culture & communication.” At the time, Joyce’s later work heavily inflected postructuralist theories of writing & technicity, from Derrida onwards, productive of a radical “posthumanism” avant la lettre. The question that obtains today is, How do the implications of Joyce’s “revolution of the word” open new possibilities for experiment & resistance in the epoch of the Anthropocene? How does the Wake, as anti-labour-saving, affect more than merely a “critique” of our posthuman condition & define a strategy for writing back against the Anthropocene via an active subversionof the industrial/capitalist sublime? That is to say, via the subversion of those “means of production of reality” vested in logic of a realism defined by the obsolescence of semantic labour: that seamless acquiescence to the fantasy of perpetual cultural consumption without responsibility. If there is an ethical dimension to Joyce’s work it lies not so much in the question of semantic “content,” but in the resistance of medium; of language itself as the substance of the representable. If, in contradiction to the apocalyptic blandishments of neoliberalism, another end of the world is possible, it is firstly a question of articulating it. The supposed “impossibility” of going beyond the permissions of capitalist-realism & its world-totalising schemas, stands in direct relation to the experimental task of writing set down by Joyce.

KEYWORDS: Anthropocene, Cybernetics, Finnegans Wake, Alienation, James Joyce

Continue reading “WRITING THE IMPOSSIBLE: JOYCE, REALISM & THE ANTHROPOCENE, by Louis Armand*”

June/July Essay: James Joyce’s and Iain Sinclair’s Intertextual Ley Lines, by David Vichnar

This essay comes at an appropriate time. Many of you have recently made journeys home after the Jame Joyce Symposium held during the time of Bloomsday. While June 16 is inarguably one of the most important dates in literary history, just 10 days from there is another moment that draws a minor British poet, the contemporary writer Iain Sinclair and Joyce together.

In his essay, David Vichnar analyzes how Iain Sinclair “updates and upgrades” Joyce’s methods of constructing cities in his fiction. More specifically, Vichnar is interested in Joyce’s and Sinclair’s respective psychogeographies, as defined by Guy Debord, and how both authors treat the urban and extra-urban spaces. Vichnar traces the specific settings in Joyce’s works, from Dubliners to Finnegans Wake, and then looks at Joyce’s own comment equating “the heart of Dublin” with the “heart of the world.” This comparison is open to a variety of interpretations, many of which are covered, and Vichnar uses it as a point to open the discussion to other world cities, and a transition point to Sinclair’s own city, London.

Significant throughout Sinclair’s writing is the idea of “ley lines,” originally theorized by Alfred Watkins in 1921. Watkins experienced a kind of epiphany seeing that many ancient features seemed to be placed along straight lines (his initial line viewed across many places with “ley” in their name, hence the term). As Vichnar writes, “Sinclair creates willed ‘ley lines’ across a chosen area, which generate a wealth of occult materials counterpointed with local realist accounts in his texts.” Vichnar traces these “ley lines” as they relate to several of Sinclair’s texts, ultimately coming to Edge of the Orison. 

That aforementioned date, July 20, is the anniversary of the poet John Clare’s walk in  Helpston, Northamptonshire to find his first true love. Sinclair retraces this walk in Edge of the Orison and discovers a great deal about himself, his wife, as well as connections between John Clare and Lucia Joyce, and James Joyce. In the essay, Vichnar analyzes the development of the travelogue into a much deeper look at memory, ancestry, and place, all interwoven with literary connections.

Venture into David Vichnar’s essay  James Joyce’s and Iain Sinclair’s Intertextual Ley Lines and consider your own journey into the writing of Joyce as well as the prominence of place and particular “hearts of the world” in other novels.

April Essay

“Speaking the Unspeakable: Using the Techniques of the Theater to Express Unvoiced Thoughts in Ulysses” by Nicholas Frangipane

In his essay, Frangipane starts with the strange line of “the women’s heads coalesce” (15.4578) from the “Circe” episode as a launch into what constitute apparent stage directions and theatrical notes throughout Ulysses. Appropriately, he works from and coalesces some of the analysis of such critics as Martin Puchner (his discussion of the “antitheatrical”), Dorrit Cohn (narrative strategies), and Derek Attridge (phenomenon of autonomous organs) as a means of looking at how Joyce engages elements of the stage in presenting situations and the mind’s eye perspective of several characters.

Frangipane’s analyses of stage direction, direction/dialogue interplay, and monologues in the “Circe,” “Calypso,” and “Penelope” episodes, respectively, are in-depth and significant. However what furthers the paper and makes it of special consideration for HJS is the integration of images from Ulysses Seen, a serialized digital graphic novel, as well as two film adaptations of Ulysses, the 1967 version directed by Joseph Strick, and Bloom, from 2003 and directed by Sean Walsh. Frangipane navigates the choices one must make with regard to the stage directions Joyce lays out and the depth into which readers are able to inhabit the minds of the characters. While identifying the shortcomings of such adaptations, Frangipane ultimately shows the extent to which Joyce went beyond, integrating elements of the stage to extend the reach of the novel form into the depth of its characters.

Since this year’s Joyce symposium is dedicated to the “art” of James Joyce, it is of great use to consider the function of other arts on Joyce, namely stage as it affected Joyce in writing Ulysses, as well as what filmmakers have done with the great novel. Do enjoy this month’s essay, and have a look both at the films and Ulysses Seen for interesting and relevant adaptations.

“Speaking the Unspeakable: Using the Techniques of the Theater to Express Unvoiced Thoughts in Ulysses” by Nicholas Frangipane

Flashback Friday

A week ago we published Jim Leblanc’s essay on devective and provective readings, a well-researched piece that involved everything from Hollywood actors to Aussie ruggers and Civil War generals. If you have not had a chance to read it, please do so here.

“Finnegans Wake, Provection and the Threshold of Plausibility” by Jim Leblanc

Today we are starting a new feature of the website, a Flashback Friday. Have a look at the following essay by Sam Slote, one originally published in Volume 6, Issue 1 of HJS, from 2005, in which Slote delves into the stylings of the “Eumaeus” episode.

“A Eumaean Return to Style” by Sam Slote

 

The March essay

Finnegans Wake, Provection, and the

Threshold of Plausibility”

By Jim Leblanc

 

This essay looks at the ways readers approach the Wake and the sometimes problematic nature of reading too much into particular references. Leblanc begins by taking a look at Fritz Senn’s discussion of provection, or the tendency to go beyond certain limits with respect analyzing the various “linguistic, stylistic, rhetorical, and even thematic gestures” Joyce uses in his writing. Running counter to, or perhaps alongside, provection is devection, or the tendency to retreat to safer, perhaps more conservative interpretation in reading.

With respect to the two approaches, Leblanc has developed a diagram (embedded early in the paper) which helps to show the realm in which critics find the space to debate, the threshold where plausibility is truly a fair question. While this may all seem a bit straightforward in critical analysis of literature, it becomes a pertinent reminder in light of references in Joyce.

The universe of Joyce, and that of the Wake in particular, is so vast as to become corrupting in terms of how readers approach the texts. Furthermore, the extensive and ongoing genetic criticism repeatedly offers up new considerations and also denunciations of previous points of view with respect to Joyce’s works. So the revisiting of Senn’s writing and the expansion by Leblanc is important and helpful. It becomes fully illuminated in Leblanc’s subsequent tracing of one particular reference from early in the Wake.

The reference comes from Chapter I.8:

“But all that’s left to the last of the Meaghers in the loup of the years prefixed and between is one kneebuckle and two hooks in the front”

Leblanc covers the basic meaning of “Meagher” in the context of the discussion the washerwomen are having about ALP’s children, as well as the play on “meager.” But then he suggests a more provective reading, asking after actual Meaghers.

What follows is an investigation involving a rugby player from Australia, a Hollywood actor, a reverend, and a drunken Civil War general. It is a fascinating trove of information that comes from a dutiful amount of research. Along the way Leblanc provides evidence as to how such individuals could figure in to the presence of “Meaghers” in the Wake. He shows how substantive such a provective reading can be, and ultimately shows that a kind of balance is needed when approaching Joyce’s works, albeit one that clings ever so slightly to the edge.

Please enjoy Jim Leblanc’s essay and feel free to comment below his essay or here at the bottom of this page.

Finnegans Wake, Provection, and the

Threshold of Plausibility”

New Monthly Edition

New Monthly Edition of Hypermedia Joyce.

Featured Essay: 

Bridget O’Rourke and James Shaw’s

The Yoga of Finnegans Wake: Pulling on a Tantric Thread

Introduction:   The editorial board of Hypermedia Joyce Studies in a recent meeting decided that the online platform should be made into something with a bit more life. Given that many literary journals only produce on an annual or quarterly basis (particularly those concerning Joyce), the decision was made to highlight a particular essay each month. This month we are happy to present Bridget O’Rourke and James Shaw’s project that is not simply an in-depth text, but also a multimedia piece, a well-developed video with readings, explanations and even music appropriate to the theme.

O’Rourke and Shaw start with the recitation of Sandhyas! Sandhyas! Sandhyas! (593.1)” at the opening of book 4 of the Wake and delve into the direct and oblique meanings of Joyce’s use, and apparent use, of Sanskrit, Tantric and Hindu references throughout. The authors utilize especially the texts with which Joyce acquainted himself with Eastern thought, namely those from  Heinrich Zimmer and  H.P [Madame] Blavatsky. 

Many references tie directly to various gods and teachings in Hindu/Vedic mythology, and O’Rourke and Shaw not only explicate the mentions of such figures as Shiva, Shakti and Lakshmi as they relate to the teachings of the Hindu self and certain Buddhist tenets, but also how they overlap with other faith figures, such as St. Kevin. One particularly interesting element is Joyce’s use of “tat tvam asi, something which provides, along with several other phrases, an uncanny overlap between Freud, Kant and characteristics of Vedic mythology.

As much as they focus on the language, O’Rourke and Shaw’s investigation provides another interpretation of the numerology and movements in the Wake, particularly as the cycles and return correlate to the Four Yugas, or the great ages of Hindu/Vedic mythology. Through this discussion of the cycles comes a look at the Tantric elements, which then lead further into the central element of the title of the piece, yoga, and the chakras. Towards the end O’Rourke and Shaw actually return to the early parts of the Wake to show how Joyce calls to Hindu tradition early on, and makes yet another kind of return in the final section of the Wake. 

Please take in Bridget O’Rourke and James Shaw’s video and then delve into their well-researched and fascinating text!

“The Yoga of Finnegans Wake: Pulling on a Tantric Thread

Landmark publication

On January 25, 1934, Ulysses was first published in the Anglophone world. After the acquittal in United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, Random House in New York was able to run the first authorized version of the great novel. This edition has a particularly stunning dust jacket with the author placed in a red box bound by the final letters E and S. On the back, an interesting list of other titles Random House had recently published, including The Brothers Karamazov, The Rockwell Kent Moby Dick, and The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, shows perhaps that Random House did not know what might become of Joyce’s great novel. Rightfully it went the way of the former on the list.

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New issue coming…

To say that James Joyce would be fascinated by the age of the internet and social media is an incredible understatement. But what would he make of the entire industry of it all, the publishing and promoting and liking and smiley-facing? Would a modern day Bloom have any cause to leave his abode? Would he and Molly be YouTube wonders? Well, such a conversation could go a number of ways…

Little has happened with this blog for quite some time, in part due to a fall off in the editor’s (my) free time. However, a new issue of Hypermedia Joyce Studies is coming out at the end of January! Entries cover everything from rugby to yoga and Iain Sinclair. Indeed, all connect to Joyce in varying levels of interesting and well-researched detail. Wondering what to look forward to in 2018? How about some new Joyce scholarship to read, promote, like and/or smiley face?!

Beware the Rhoda Dundrums…

Semesters are coming to a close and Bloomsday is just a couple of weeks away. While many are perhaps looking forward to the summer, there are those of us “looking backwards to unearly summers.” Regardless of your position, do consider still submitting to the next issue of HJS. Submissions still welcome for the next ten days…Send to whenaboutz@gmail.com

“As modern as tomorrow afternoon”– Call for Essays 2017

In the mid-nineties, when Hypermedia Joyce Studies was established, whenever one wished to get online, this involved  switching on the computer well in advance, making sure the speakers were off and then clicking on the AOL icon. One could then go and have a snack, do some laundry, wash the dishes, plant a new flower bed and then…well, we all remember those days.

Joyce predicted those days in the Wake, and several of the descriptions of technologies encapsulate the very experience of waiting for a dial-up internet connection. The most prominent comes in II.3, where Joyce promotes the “tolvtubular high fidelity daildialler” which is “as modern as tomorrow afternoon and in appearance up to the minute” (1975, 309). He mentions “key clickings,” “skybuddies” and a sense of mobility, all of which give a sense of our present reality looking at screens and connecting to one another well detached from even where we are. In many ways our present reality has come to be governed not just by the internet, but subsequently by the question of “whenabouts are we in the name of space?” (1975, 558).

For this year’s issue of HJS, the call goes out for papers that look at two things in particular, communication and contemporary forward-thinking. If Joyce presaged the kind of mobile internet universe that we live in today, how does he do “communication” and how does it connect to the means today? This should be open enough to consider not only narration, reader-response (physically, perhaps, and mentally) and technologies, but also the simple question of what we communicate to Joyce’s writing today.

The second part is a purposefully awkward phrase. Joyce’s “daildialler” is simultaneously just a day ahead and every bit as much a manifestation of everything before, “up to the minute.” The question here centers on the extent to which Joyce and his writing are seen in the writing of the last cca twenty years and how much those authors also look ever a bit forward as much as they hearken to the past.

In the first issue of HJS, the call for papers asked that they be delivered either via e-mail or by a posted 3.5” diskette. This time around, although the questions are as they are, e-mail (whenaboutz@gmail.com) is much preferred to tweets, instant messages or Youtube videos. Though if you are so inclined…

Please send submissions no later than the first week of June.