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”