Can the Sepoy Speak? The “Hindoo Seeboy” as Anti-colonial Indic/Irish Insurgent in Finnegans Wake (Bridget O’Rourke & James Shaw)

This hypertext article and accompanying multimedia presentation explores the mashup of Irish and Indian struggles for political independence, spiritual liberation, and psychoanalytic integration in James Joyce’s masterpiece, Finnegans Wake.  This mashup is shown most clearly in the figure of the “hinndoo Shimar Shin”, a sepoy or “seeboy” as Joyce coins it, who takes up arms against British imperialism, first in the museyroom episode, and later, in the shooting of the Russian General episode, as told by BUTT and TAFF.

“Attack of the Mutineers on the Redan Battery at Lucknow, July 30th, 1857,” a steel engraving, c.1860 (Wikimedia Commons)

The term sepoy refers to a soldier from the colonized people serving in the imperialist army–for example, an Indian or Irish soldier serving in the British army.  The word Sepoy comes from Persian and Indic sources and refers originally to cavalrymen. The term came to mean specifically Indian soldiers fighting within and for the British army. Sepoys comprised the vast majority of soldiers in the British army (and the army of the British East India Company as its avatar) in India which was used to secure the British domination of the Indian subcontinent. Sepoys also comprised a significant percentage of the British fighting forces in its many imperialist wars including those against Napoleon and World Wars I and II.

In the museyroom episode, the “hindoo” “seeboy” rebels against British colonial power by throwing a bomb and de-horsing Wellington during the battle of Waterloo.  

This is the seeboy, madrashattaras, upjump and pumpin, cry to the Willingdone: Ap Pukkaru!  Pukka Yurap! (FW 10.15-17)

Later, in the Russian General episode (delivered by BUTT and TAFF), another such figure accomplishes the insurrectionary act of shooting the Russian General, which prepares for the next generation to take his place. 

Buckley and the Russian General (2007) by João Câmara Filho (

These paired acts of insurrection against colonial rule (re)enact the archetypal Oedipal drama: The political drama is merged with the psychoanalytic.  Furthermore, we argue that the sepoy revolt and its counterpart in the BUTT and TAFF episode represent a further development: Political and psychoanalytic revolution are further merged with spiritual liberation.  This is the meaning of Svadesia Salve! (FW 594.4) in the Hindu tradition.  

With BUTT and TAFF combined fully in the aftermath of the shooting of the Russian General, Joyce merges several dynamic psychoanalytical, historical and spiritual complexes–the psychosexual Oedipal Project (Freud), the insurrection of proletarian revolution (Marx), and the Yogic/Tantric path to liberation. However, what we have in the BUTT and TAFF episode is far from a resolution of the contradictions underlying these complexes. The post-Oedipal/colonial/ Tantric self remains profoundly neurotic, oppressed and unenlightened. More work must be done. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth (Samsara, in Yogic terms) continues.  

The title of our inquiry, “Can the sepoy speak?” draws on postcolonial analysis and criticism of Finnegans Wake by Vincent Cheng, Gayatri Spivak, and others.  In her groundbreaking postcolonial essay, Spivak poses the question: “inside and outside the circuit of the epistemic violence of imperialist law and education . . . can the subaltern speak?”  We revise Spivak’s provocative question, asking:  “Can the sepoy speak?”

Farial Ghazoul points out, “Both in English and Italian, the term “subaltern” stands for a military rank that indicates subordination.” Vincent Cheng notes that, in Finnegans Wake, the sepoy is “literally and militaristically a colonial ‘subaltern’” (Cheng, 285).

In Spivak’s formulation, “elaborations of insurgency stand in the place of the ‘utterance.’” 

When we come to the concomitant question of the consciousness of the subaltern, the notion of what the work cannot say becomes important. In the semioses of the social text, elaborations of insurgency stand in the place of ‘the utterance.’ The sender—‘the peasant’—is marked only as a pointer to an irretrievable consciousness. (Spivak, 82).

In Finnegans Wake, the sepoys speak through these “elaborations of insurgency.’ We’ll also show that Kate (or the mistress Kathe) may be seen as a subaltern– she is literally and figuratively a “pointer to an irretrievable consciousness.” 


We, Ourselves!  This is the English translation of the Sanskrit and Gaelic slogans that identified the Irish and Indian independence movements in the late 19th and through the 20th Centuries to the current day.

Joyce uses the phrase on page 594 of the Wake in a section filled with Sanskrit terms:

Vah! Suvarn Sur! Scatter brand to the reneweller of the sky,

thou who agnitest! Dah! Arcthuris comeing! Be! Verb umprin-

cipiant through the trancitive spaces! Kilt by kelt shell kithagain

with kinagain. We elect for thee, Tirtangel. Svadesia salve! (FW 594.1-4)

Svadesia Salve: only we can save ourselves. But this section is also a call to a great new leader, a renascent HCE, to lead the Dubliners on the path to the light, to the Heliotropolis. 

We examined this section in some depth in our previous Hypermedia Joyce Studies article, “The Yoga of Finnegans Wake.”  It reads as if it is straight from the Rg Veda, the most ancient of Hindu, and in fact of all extant Indo-European spiritual, texts.  Joyce has written this closely mimicking the RG Veda. But it can be just as easily read as a call to insurrection against the colonial overlord the Irish and Indians share, the British.

On the preceding page of the Wake, Book IV opens with the Sanskrit word Sandhyas repeated 3 times. This indicates we are in a moment of pause between great Ages (in the Viconian sense) or Yugas (in the Yogic/Vedic sense).

This is a call to the beginning of a new day or dawn, rising like a phoenix from the ashes, an uprising or insurrection (“Array! Surrection!”).  It is a call to revolution and spiritual liberation–an insurrection and a resurrection (with a nod toward the sexual, erection, as well).

We are directed to look to the East (with a reference to HCE), and then:

Sonne feine, somme

feehn avaunt! (593.7-8)

The Irish nationalist slogan Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin amháin may be translated into English as, “Ourselves alone, Onward!”

So, in the opening pages of Book IV we hear the revolutionary Irish call to rise up in insurrection, which leads directly to a section filled with Sanskrit and referencing the Indian nationalist and anti-colonial, anti-British Svadeshi movement. Svadesia Salve is effectively synonymous with Sinn Feine Amhain!

Kate O’Malley has described the extensive historical connections between the Irish and Indian independence movements during the first half of the 20th century.  The Indian-Irish Independence League was founded in 1932 “with a view to work by every possible means to secure the complete independence of India and Ireland, and to achieve the closest solidarity between the Irish and the Indian masses in their common struggle against British imperialism.”

Joyce was surely aware of the movement to unify Sinn Fein with the Svadesi movement, if only because W.B. Yeats’ girlfriend Maud Gonne was a key player in the movement.  

We find a reference to the Indian textile boycott in the museyroom episode of the Wake:

“And the lipoleums is gonn boycottoncrezy onto the one Willingdone.” (9.8-9)

And the call “Ourselves Alone!” of Sinn Fein and Svadesia Salve reappears in the Norwegian Captain episode, along with a reference to the 1932 Bass Ale boycott which was led by Irish republicans, including Maud Gonne:

Our svalves are svalves aroon! We rescue thee, O Baass,

from the damp earth and honour thee. O Connibell, with mouth

burial! So was done, neat and trig. Up draught and whet

them! (FW 311.17-20)

Irish Press, 28 August 1933

The Svadeshi movement was an expression of Indian national opposition to British dominance starting in the middle of the 19th Century. It was especially focused on the boycott of imported British goods, especially clothing (“boycottoncrezy”, boycott cotton, along with a reference to Wellington’s battle of Creci).  The movement was concomitant with militant uprisings at the same time including the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny in which many thousands of British and tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Indians were killed (including sadistic executions of rebels tied to cannons after the suppression, “Canon Futter”, 9.19-20). Known as India’s First War of Independence, it was triggered by perceived religious offenses (including especially outrage over the newly introduced Enfield rifle which required the sepoy to bite off the end to release the powder. It was believed that the grease used in the cartridges contained beef and pork fat, thus offending both the Hindus and Muslims). This uprising was suppressed after two years of fighting but became (and remains) a cherished expression of Indian nationalism. Svadeshi came to represent the broader movement toward Indian independence embraced by Ghandi and other nationalist leaders. 

The Panorama at the Waterloo Battlefield (detail)

We now turn to the museyroom episode, with the “janitrix, the mistress Kathe” as our guide:

For her passkey supply to the janitrix, the mistress Kathe. Tip.        

This the way to the museyroom. Mind your hats goan in! (FW 8.8-9)

The English word janitrix (the feminine form of janitor) originally meant doorkeeper or gatekeeper, from the Latin root iānus, for an “archway, gateway, or covered passage” and for “the god Janus, ruler of gates, doorways, and beginnings in general.” In old liturgical texts translated from Latin, Saint Peter is sometimes referred to as “the Janitor [i.e., gatekeeper] of heaven.”  The reference to Kate as janitrix, then, connotes both the humble and exalted status of the holder of the “passkey” that opens the door to this historical museum focused on the Battle of Waterloo.

The unusual spelling of “the mistress Kathe” suggests the Katha Upanishad, a sacred Hindu text that contains the compelling aphorism Tat Tvam Asi, often translated as “Thou art That.” This appears in the Wake as:

James Joyce’s The Index Manuscript. Finnegans Wake Holograph. Workbook VI.B.46. Arr. and preface by Danis Rose. A Wake Newslitter, Essex, England, 1978.

Joyce ties Tat Tvam Asi to another Hindu aphorism, Atman is Brahman (“atman as evars,” FW 596.24), which indicates that the underlying nature of the self is one with the underlying nature of the universe. They are one and the same, and “thou art that.” Joyce directly quotes these aphorisms in Book IV.  

The Katha Upanishad is also the first place in Hindu literature where the word Yoga is used specifically to refer to this meditational discipline leading to awareness or enlightenment, moksha, or freedom, liberation.

Kate is also noted as having another key, this time to freedom, liberation or moksha, as Joyce refers to the 4 essential aims of life in Yogic/Hindu thought and practice:

And so it all ended. Artha kama dharma moksa. Ask Kavya for       

the kay. (93.22-23)

These are the four essential goals of life: success, pleasure, path, and liberation and they are presented by Joyce in Sanskrit without alteration or syncretization.

So, the mistress Kate (here Kavya) supplies the key to the museyroom, to the essential knowledge of the Katha Upanishad, and to the essential aims of life in Hinduism. Kavya is Sanskrit for an epic poem and refers typically to the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana (which Joyce closely quotes in Book IV) and the Mahabarata, of which the well-known Bhagavad-Gita (“Bhagafat gaiters”, 35.10) is a part.

Here we see that the mistress Kathe may be seen as a sender (in Spivak’s terms) “marked . . . as a pointer to an irretrievable consciousness.” She’s always pointing the way with the demonstrative pronoun this. Her catchphrase: “this is.”  She often interjects with “Tip,” another word for point. Kate introduces the museyroom episode and Russian General episodes, and she is also associated with the Biddie Doran figure, the hen who scratches out the letter from the midden heap, indicating it with her scratches and peck points. In a sense, it is Kate who introduces us to the letter, and thus to the Book of Kells, the Katha Upanishad and other essential Hindu texts, as well as the Wake itself. 

Kate guides us through the museyroom detailing images and storylines from the Battle of Waterloo (and, arguably, all battles of history, a great many of which, especially those involving Wellington and/or Napoleon, are mentioned). We encounter the Duke of Wellington on his “big wide harse”, Napoleon with his “triplewon hat,” the Prooshious/Prussians and we have:

This is the three
lipoleum boyne grouching down in the living detch. (8.21-22)

Three young cadets from the living ditches or bogs of Ireland, and elsewhere, that is, three sepoys. Three soldiers in the British army hailing from colonized nations, Ireland in particular.

And, of course, the jinnies

jinnies is a cooin her hand and the jinnies is
a ravin her hair and the Willingdone git the band up.            (8.33-34)

The jinnies seem to egg on the sepoys while giving Wellington an erection (git the band up!)

(That the museyroom scene is also an iteration of the incident in the park is also quite apparent here.)

As the battle scene is described we come to a confrontation between the sepoys and Wellington on his big white horse:

Stonewall Willingdone           
is an old maxy montrumeny. Lipoleums is nice hung bushel-
lors. This is hiena hinnessy laughing alout at the Willing-
done. This is lipsyg dooley krieging the funk from the hinnessy.
This is the hinndoo Shimar Shin between the dooley boy and the
hinnessy. (10.2-7)

The three nicely hung sepoys are hinnesy, dooley, and the hindoo Shimar Shin. The “hindoo” being a mashup of hinnesy and dooley (note that this spelling of Hindoo was not uncommon in Joyce’s day, so this is not necessarily a neologism). That is to say, the two Irish (or possibly Irish-American) sepoys combine with and into the third to a merged anti-colonial/anti-Wellington figure. Here they are confronting, laughing at and generally insulting Wellington.

In his “A First Draft Version of Finnegans Wake,” David Hayman reproduces Joyce’s sketch in pencil of the battlefield of Waterloo and depicts the three soldiers, one with the Shem sigla, one with the Shaun sigla, and the one between a combination of the two. Yet Joyce shows the three sigla for Shem, Shaun, and Shem/Shaun, the three sepoys/cadets, upside down and flipped below the regular sigla. Between the two sets of sigla runs a squiggly line with the ALP sigla at each end. ALP appears to be depicted as a “river” (or, perhaps, a channel of urine, recalling the park incident and other stories such as the Prankquean) running through the battlefield into which or reflected into which are the regular sigla of the sepoys. Others have interpreted this ALP line differently, including that it represents the “Delian alps” (8.28), but, in any case, the line clearly represents the ALP influence on developments here and elsewhere in the Wake.

This strikes us as “a pointer to an irretrievable consciousness”. There is something about this “river”, this feminine energy, that transforms the sepoys. Consider that in the Oedipus Complex, which we will discuss further on, it is the desire for the love of the mother that drives the entire project. This repressed desire or wish cannot be made to go away, but it can be transformed; into neurosis or sublimation with all the complex manifestations that may entail.

Wellington is said to pick up the sepoys’ threefoiled hat from the bluddle filth and use it to wipe the ass of his horse Copenhagen. He posts half of the hat on the tail of his horse.

That was
the last joke of Willingdone.  (FW 10.11-12)

Here too, the threefoiled hat is a single figure comprised of all three colonial constituents (a “trinity”, and also a shamrock).

This makes the hindoo “rangymad for a bombshoob”. (10.9)

According to McHugh and Glasheen, this is a reference to a great cricketer of Joyce’s time, K.S Rangitsinjhi, an Indian national playing “Britain’s game” at the highest level. The same figure is also found in the Wake as Jam Sahib; again a “sepoy”, but in the national game instead of the army.

The scene culminates as follows:

This is the same white
harse of the Willingdone, Culpenhelp, waggling his tailoscrupp
with the half of a hat of lipoleums to insoult on the hinndoo see-
boy. Hney, hney, hney! (Bullsrag! Foul!) This is the seeboy,
madrashattaras, upjump and pumpim, cry to the Willingdone:
Ap Pukkaru! Pukka Yurap! This is the Willingdone, bornstable
ghentleman, tinders his maxbotch to the cursigan Shimar Shin.
Basucker youstead! This is the dooforhim seeboy blow the whole
of the half of the hat of lipoleums off of the top of the tail on the
back of his big wide harse. Tip (Bullseye! Game!) How Copen-
hagen ended. This way the museyroom. Mind your boots goan
out. (10.12-23)

Vincent Cheng has made great work of this section of the Wake and of Joyce’s use of the image of the horse throughout the Wake. The museyroom episode is filled with references to Wellington’s battles and to his grand stature upon his big wide harse. Both Wellington and his horse, and, indeed, all these imperial men on their horses (and with their big white arses) are found in monuments all over the world, including in the colonies conquered by these great white men on their great white horses.

In this story two military cadets or sepoys combine into a third composite figure who strikes the insurrectionary blow. The historical Duke of Wellington himself was dismissed by Napoleon as a “Sepoy,” which he was: According to Cheng, Wellington was “born in Dublin and raised Irish, [he] was himself one of the dark horses that, in this ambivalent discourse of colonial desire, trains to become a white horse in a whitehorse world, as does a Hindu sepoy or a Rajput cricketer” (Cheng 286).  Thus, Joyce places the “hinndoo” at the center and margins of the space where colonial and anti-colonial discourses meet, grapple, annihilate each other and recombine across contested borders and cultures, north and south, east and west.

Wellington here is the quintessential imperialist general and overlord, needing, but profoundly dismissive of, the many sepoys in his army hailing from the living ditches of the colonies. He has insulted the sepoys by using their hat to wipe his horse’s ass and then furthered the insult by posting half that hat on its tail. This hat is a symbol of Ireland–that is, the trefoil or Irish shamrock, and also refers to the Catholic religion -the Trinity.

Wellington and his battles are referenced from the beginning of the Wake, He was the lead general in the Penisular War (penisolate war) asserting English control over the Iberian Peninsula. He was a general in the British forces in the Mahratta War (“madrashattaras” in the quote above, along with the reference to the city of Madras, now Chennai, where Wellington was at times based) in which the British successfully established control (through the British East India Company) of large parts of the Indian subcontinent. At the Battle of Waterloo a great many of the British army soldiers were Irish (one estimate has it as 30%.) 

Wellington’s presence in Dublin is established in the monument to him in, of course, Phoenix Park. In Joyce, Race and Empire, Vincent Cheng argues that in the museyroom episode and elsewhere Joyce clearly ties Wellington to “King Billy”, King William III of Orange, the conqueror of Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne (which is conflated in the Wake with the Battle of Waterloo). Thus, while the sepoys are a combined figure of colonial resistance, the authoritarian figures of Wellington and King William III are also a combined imperialist figure. The oppression and resistance to that oppression in Ireland and India are merged.

Wellington yells back along the lines of “go fuck yourself!” (Baasucker youstead). At which point the hindoo throws his bomb knocking the hat, horse and Wellington to the ground.

Thus, a profoundly phallo-centric symbol of imperialism is de-horsed by the hindoo sepoy from the living ditches all in a story told by the Irish janitrix Kate. The sepoys and Kate both seem to represent the subaltern. Kate, a janitrix, has taken us through the Wellington Museum and spoken not with the voice of “authority” (of a docent, let alone, say, a Director). Her voice and perspective have pretty much nothing in common with the colonizer’s voice and perspective of Wellington on the Battle of Waterloo and British rule (a battle in which far from being de-horsed, Wellington was the victor). The sepoys have cursed the imperialist in a mashup of destroyed English and Hindustani, the language of colonial nonsense, and thrown a bomb at him! (see Bhabha) And Joyce has thrown a bomb into the English language. Mind your boots goan out, indeed!

The identity formation of the hindoo seeboy/sepoy merges East and West, and North and South.  Merged in opposition to the authoritarian colonial ruler and archetypal authority figure. But these identity formations in the Wake are never simple, just as they are not simple in “real life”. As noted earlier, Wellington himself was a sepoy. 

A statement attributed to the Duke of Wellington (probably falsely, but nonetheless true of him) in response to being asked if he was Irish, replied: “If a gentleman happens to be born in a stable, it does not follow that he should be called a horse.” Joyce seems to have been well aware of this, referring to Willingdone as a “bornstable ghentleman”. Cheng follows Bhaba in identifying the “Mimicry” of the oppressed, colonized, people pretending to be “of” the colonizer. And this is all well and good for the colonizer as long as the oppressed do not go “too far”, do not get out of their “station”. 

Wellington was the consummate mimicker, more British than the British. But the oppressed themselves often participate in their own oppression, as sepoys, gendarmes, corrupt politicians and all the like. The Wake (and Ulysses and other of Joyce’s work) is full of such people. Joyce’s honesty about this was perhaps part of the distance between him and the Irish national movement. And as we know in the Wake, personalities, generations, genders tend to become unstable, slipping into and out of each other. When Shem and Shaun characters merge they tend to start looking and acting like HCE. Looked at closely HCE sometimes resembles Shem, more often perhaps, Shaun. As Cheng summarizes it, “The Museyroom thus becomes a collective case study of colonial politics and the dynamics of power.”

These dynamics of power are also expressed, or are an expression of, the psychoanalytical, and particularly the Oedipus Complex. This Complex runs through the Wake, the sons rising up to topple and replace the father, or father-figure, as here in the Waterloo /museyroom episode and in the next episode we will review, that of Buckley shooting the Russian General in Book II.


Once again Kate enacts a transitional role, moving from the Norwegian Captain episode and into the Butt and Taff broadcast, through which we are told the story of the shooting of the Russian General. Kate brings the message to tavernkeeper Earwicker that his wife summons him upstairs. Kate’s is the lone female voice amid the cacophony of male voices in the tavern. And the way she is introduced ties the upcoming BUTT and TAFF episode to the museyroom episode:

The aged crafty nummifeed confusionary overinsured ever-
lapsing accentuated katekattershin clopped, clopped, clopped,
darsey dobrey, back and along the danzing corridor, as she was
going to pimpim him, way boy wally, not without her comple-
ment of cavarnan men, between the two deathdealing allied
divisions and the lines of readypresent fire of the corkedagains up-
stored, taken in giving the saloot, band your hands going in, bind
your heads coming out
, and remoltked to herselp in her serf’s
alown, a weerpovy willowy dreevy drawly and the patter of so
familiars, farabroads and behomeans, as she shure sknows, boof
for a booby, boo: new uses in their mewseyfume. The jammesons
is a cook in his hair. And the juinnesses is a rapin his hind. And
the Bullingdong caught the wind up. Dip. (FW 333.6-18)

Here Bullingdone “caught the wind up” echoes Willingdone “git the band up” and there are other echoes of the “mewseyfume:” “band your hands going in” and “bind your heads coming out.” “Tip” becomes “Dip”. The battle scene (Crimean War) to be described/enacted by BUTT and TAFF is something of a palimpsest with the Battle of Waterloo (on which the word “Crimealino” appears). And we will see that the “spectrally” combined figure reappears in the form of the Irish sepoy Buckley shooting the Russian General. Kate is said to “remoltked to herselp in her serf’s alown”, a direct pointing to Kate’s own version of Sinn Fein/Svadesia Salse/We Ourselves, a phrase laden with suggestions of the position of the subaltern. And note that Kate is shown carefully navigating her way through the lines of male customers described as if soldiers in battle, with the “narration” sounding just like Kate’s tour of the museyroom:

——And this is defender of defeater of defaulter of deformer
of the funst man in Danelagh, willingtoned in with this glance
dowon his browen and that born appalled noodlum the panellite
pair’s cummal delimitator, odding: Oliver White, he’s as tiff as
she’s tight. And thisens his speak quite hoarse. Dip. (334.12-16)

And then the tavern patrons call for Buckley, the man who shot the Russian General (for BUTT/TAFF):

We want Bud. We want Bud Budderly. We want Bud Budderly

boddily. There he is in his Borrisalooner. The man shunned 

the rucks on Gereland. The man thut won the bettlle of the

bawll. Order, order, order, order! And tough. We call on Tan-

cred Artaxerxes Flavin to compeer with Barnabas Ulick Dunne. (337.32-36)

We’ve heard it sinse sung thousandtimes. 

How Burghley shuck the rackushant Germanon. For Ehren, boys, gobrawl!

A public plouse. Citizen soldiers. (338.1-4)
Enter the Citizen Soldiers, BUTT and TAFF.

While the underlying theme of the Russian General story may be Oedipal and nationalist (among other things), the story itself involves a retelling of an old Irish story (one told to Joyce by his father) about an Irish soldier in the British army (a sepoy) who gets an opportunity to shoot the opposing general but hesitates, first because he is enamoured of the general’s distinctive appearance, and then because the general has dropped his pants to defecate and the Irish sepoy can’t bear to shoot him in such a vulnerable position (obviously similar to the Phoenix Park incident). When the general picks up some turf to wipe his ass, the sepoy takes offense (associating the turf with his Irish homeland) and shoots the Russian General.

As with the museyroom episode, there is a nationalist passion aroused by the insult involving the HCE figure and ass-wiping. And note that the theme of defecation, anal fixation, is a prominent element of Freudian theory. Even the name BUTT contains this element.

The insurrectionary nationalist aspect of the story is addressed right from the beginning with the call for the telling of the story:

How Burghley shuck the rackushant
Germanon. For Ehren, boys, gobrawl! (338.2-3)

Erin go Braugh (an English bastardization of the Irish for “Ireland Forever!”).

BUTT and TAFF appear to be two characters on a live radio or (in another of Joyce’s prescient sequences) television program playing in HCE/Porter’s tavern tied closely to the Mutt and Jute episode and roughly based on the Mutt and Jeff cartoon series (television existing only in experimental form at the time, Joyce refers to it as “teilweisioned” (see Peter Chrisp’s blog, From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay). They banter about, and are interrupted by bracketed interludes, as they approach the retelling of the story of the shooting of the Russian General. As they do so the identity-formations get blurry. BUTT seems to become the sepoy Buckley who shoots the general and TAFF perhaps another sepoy. But even this is uncertain as the two appear to become merged on the television screen, the spectrally combined figure appearing to become a vision of HCE/Russian General, the father-figure, and only after this merger does BUTT, as Buckley, carry out the shooting. 

In the heliotropical noughttime following a fade of trans-
formed Tuff and, pending its viseversion, a metenergic reglow
of beaming Batt, the bairdboard bombardment screen, if taste-
fully taut guranium satin, tends to teleframe and step up to
the charge of a light barricade Down the photoslope in syncopanc
pulses, with the bitts bugtwug their teffs, the missledhropes,
glitteraglatteraglutt, borne by their carnier walve. Spraygun
rakes and splits them from a double focus: grenadite, damny-
mite, alextronite, nichilite: and the scanning firespot of the
sgunners traverses the rutilanced illustred sunksundered lines.
Shlossh! A gaspel truce leaks out over the caeseine coatings.
Amid a fluorescence of spectracular mephiticism there caoculates
through the inconoscope stealdily a still, the figure of a fellow-
chap in the wohly ghast, Popey O’Donoshough, the jesuneral
of the russuates. (349.6-20)

The BUTT and TAFF episode has been much discussed as an expression of the Freudian and Jungian Oedipus Complex. We will not go over that ground here except in summary. It hardly needs stating that the theme of the sons replacing the father is essential in the Wake. Freud introduced the Oedipal Complex in his Interpretation of Dreams (referenced early in the BUTT and TAFF episode: “And may he be too an intrepida-tion of our dreams” (338.29-30). The concept draws, of course, on the Greek myth about a man, confused in his identity, who kills his father and marries his mother.

Reduced to its simplest expression, the Oedipus Complex revolves around the child’s love or desire for the mother and his view that the father is a rival for the mother’s attention and affection. It comes about with the child’s awareness of being separate from the mother, of being a separate individual. The awareness of this separation produces anxiety. Dealing with this anxiety produces and influences the nature of the development of the personality, the ego, super-ego and various psychoanalytic adaptations, including neurosis.

Others have investigated Joyce’s use of Freud in the Wake. We will not go over that ground here but note as one important example Daniel Ferrer’s piece “The Freudful Couchmare of ^d: Joyce’s Notes on Freud and the Composition of Chapter XVI of Finnegans Wake” (JJQ Vol 22, No. 4, Summer, 1985). Ferrer demonstrates that Joyce took and used extensive notes from Freud’s case studies to develop the Shaun-D chapter. Danis Rose (The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, The Lilliput Press, 88) aptly summarizes this material saying “Quite patently, Freud’s accounts of these cases gave Joyce many of his ideas for III.4, which opens with a child’s nightmare about his father and centres on an act of copulation. In III.4, moreover, the highlighted coitus is ultimately viewed as a heavenly or cosmic event. This is also derived from Freud, ‘These dreams represented the coitus scene as an event taking place between heavenly bodies’”.

This raises a fundamental question hinted at in the discussion of the museyroom episode: What did the seeboys (and the Jinnies) see? In the Park Incident it seems the girls (the Jinnies, or ALP in her youthful expression) are seen urinating. It seems that the cadets/sepoys see HCE defecating and quite possibly see his penis (possibly erect from peering at the girls). There are suggestions that more than that occurred, of course. There are hints of incestuous sex and homosexual sex. These scenarios are reiterated in the Waterloo episode, Butt and Taff, and, frankly, throughout the book. The scene seen is the primal scene of the parents copulating and of the father’s erect penis. This is at the heart of the Freudian Oedipus Complex and at the heart of episodes under consideration here. In Book III chapter 4 the children see the parents copulating and their father’s erection. And note that while there may be disagreement over exactly which children saw exactly what, as Freud points out in Civilization and Its Discontents (P 95): “Whether one has killed one’s father or has abstained from doing so is not really the decisive thing. One is bound to feel guilty in either case, for the sense of guilt is an expression of the conflict due to ambivalence of the external struggle between Eros and the instinct of destruction or death.”). We may not, in fact, see our parents copulating or our father’s erection, but we will feel the guilt anyway.

As Margot Norris pointed out in The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake:

The primal sin, in both the Edenic and Oedipus myths, is the sin of usurping the prerogative of the father, be it acquisition of his knowledge, or appropriation of his throne and wife. The guilt engendered by the primal sin is of this order: the child watching the copulation of his parents learns the secret of procreation, a knowledge that will eventually enable him to replace the father as creator. This is the central teaching of the “Night Lesson” in the Wake (II.2). (p. 46)

Penetrators are permitted into the museomound free. (FW 8.5)

Once this Oedipal project is complete (the shooting of the father figure) BUTT and TAFF are formally merged into a single character, fully formed sexually and genitally.

BUTT tells us:

Seval shimars pleasant
time payings. (338.16-17)

Recall that in the museyroom the hindoo is named Shimar Shin (a version of a name common for sepoy soldiers in India, Shimar Singh, or lion of battle). So, there are Indian sepoys present, perhaps BUTT and TAFF themselves, or perhaps the third sepoy from the merger of the two? There are a number of suggestions of Indic influence here including the “relevution of the karmalife order” “Yogacoga” (341.8), “Govenor Jaggarnath punjab whud was thud?”(343.14) and, especially,  “Churopodvas” (343.34, from Sanskrit meaning something like: a cut-off foot, which is followed by a reference to Butt’s “fifth foot” suggesting that as he looks upon the Russian General, BUTT may be getting an erection, and perhaps also fearing castration, the cut-off foot).BUTT refers to himself as a cadet (sepoy) in Wellington’s army, (tying himself to both the museyroom episode and the Phoenix Park incident) and reaches the denouement: BUTT tells us “We insurrectioned and” “I shuttm”.

BUTT and TAFF now become formally combined into a single character (not unlike the hindoo in the museyroom episode). And with this Joyce merges several dynamic psychoanalytic, historical and spiritual complexes–the psychosexual Oedipal Project (Freud), the insurrection of proletarian revolution (Marx), and the Yogic/Tantric path to liberation. 

desprot slave wager and foeman feodal un-

sheckled, now one and the same person, their fight upheld to right

for a wee while being baffled and tottered, umbraged by the shadow

Old Erssia’s magisquammythical mulattomilitiaman (354.7-10) 

Out of completion of the Oedipal Project, the combined BUTT and TAFF appear without links to mother or father, politically unshackled (though penniless…), complete in their psychoanalytic separation or autonomy:

without falter or mormor or blathrehoot of sophsterliness,
pugnate thc pledge of fiannaship, dook to dook, with a commonturn
oudchd of fest man and best man …(354.18-20)

Svadesia Salve, Sinn Fein, We Ourselves! The oppressor has been overthrown, de-horsed, shot. The Oedipal father has been killed and the sons have come into their own full genital sexual power. We even get a little nod to the Comintern (Communist International). Now this may all be rather ambivalent, temporary and actually uncertain (note that the slave wager is “desprot”, both desperate and, at least potentially, despot). But, for now, it is done.

What we have in the BUTT and TAFF episode is far from a resolution of the contradictions underlying these complexes. The post-Oedipal/colonial/ Tantric self remains profoundly neurotic, oppressed and unenlightened. More work must be done. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth (Samsara, in Yogic terms) continues.

There is also a layer of potential spiritual liberation in this merged state. We speculate that BUTT and TAFF may be taken as bottom and top:

But. Top. (370.16) 

While we cannot yet demonstrate this “genetically”, we believe BUTT and TAFF can be taken as the muladhara (bottom) and Sahasrara (top) chakras in Yoga. In the Night Lessons episode (involving Dolph and Kev in another brother opposition) Joyce directly references the Yogic Chakras and ties them to the Irish national struggle and to another combination of two “soldiers” into one.

In this image from page 303 of the Wake we have the well-known Yogic Chakras listed in the left-hand margin while the text discusses the conflict and merger of Daniel O’Connor and the socialist revolutionary James Connelley with or into Parnell.

The Yogic Chakras are centers through which the serpentine kundalini force (Shakti) rises, unspiralling from the base just below the genitals, through the genitals up into the heart center and beyond, culminating at the crown of the head in the thousand petaled lotus at which Shiva and Shakti are joined (the Satya Loka). This is moksha, liberation. 

The merger of BUTT and TAFF, as the muladhara  (sacral) and saharara (fontanella) in Yogic thinking represents the state of enlightenment.

And notice how the “narrative” elements of the text here match that of the museyroom and Russian General episodes. There is Kate’s “Tip!” and her characteristic “this is the…” -directions we interpret as those of the subaltern.

There is also contained here still another “merger” of two into one, this time political, “sepoys”, “brave Danny boy” (Daniel O’Connell) and “the Connolly” (the Irish socialist James Connolly) and between them “parparaparnelligoes” (Parnell himself). 

This is a telling and complex “merging” which Spurgeon Thompson illuminates:

In his 1910 text Labour in Irish History, James Connolly shatters conventional glorifications of O’Connell in a brilliant sustained critique he entitles “A Chapter of Horrors: Daniel O’Connell and the Working Class.” He mops the floor with O’Connell—or wipes his hearth (see Spurgeon Thompson).

Or, in keeping with the museyroom and Russian General episodes, we might infer, “wipes his ass,” with Danny boy.

Connolly, of course, was a leader of the Easter uprising (executed by the British for his efforts). O’Connell, a revered Irish leader from the early 19th Century, was exposed in Connolly’s piece as having been a member of the militia among whose tasks was the exposure of Irish rebels to the authorities. Connolly alleges O’Connell was rewarded for these efforts, including with a blunderbuss mounted on the mantel of his ancestral home that had been taken from the home of rebels O’Connell had reported to the authorities.

In a brilliant bit of forensic research detailed in the essay, Thompson proves this to be true. As he sums up:

It is behind this historiography lesson in Finnegans Wake, as a story like this would not have escaped Joyce’s attention in the pages of Labour in Irish History, a book Joyce’s friend Francis Sheehy-Skeffington advocated on behalf of and worked hard to see into print. Placing Connolly’s account of national hero O’Connell conducting an arms raid against rebels next to the line “This is cool Connolly wiping his hearth with brave Danny” allows us to re-read it as a mediated negotiation of Connolly’s method of subaltern historiography (Spurgeon Thompson, p. 27).

We have one “sepoy” (Daniel O’Connell) exposed by the revolutionary Connolly, and between them we have Parnell, who was indeed a political leader who attempted to bridge the gap between the parliamentary approach (O’Connell) and the revolutionary approach (Connolly). 

Parnell, of course, is often seen in the Wake as an HCE type figure. As in the other episodes we are considering, when the Shem and Shaun figures tend to merge, they tend to look like HCE.

All of this political sepoy “merging” business takes place in the regular text (following closely as it does with the structure of both the museyroom and Russian General episodes), while in the left-hand margin we have an exploration of the Yogic Chakras, or energy centers, the “merging” of which, top and bottom represents spiritual liberation.

Joyce sums it all up with, “Upanishadem!” Up and at em boys, and “Top…Eregobragh.” (FW 303.13).

Joyce merges the political/insurrectionary with the spiritual quest for freedom/Moksha! And all this layered with the psychoanalytical Oedipus project culminating in full psycho-sexual adulthood/independence. Freedom, independence, liberation, politically, psychoanalytically and spiritually.

Of course, as is so often the case, in the Wake and in life, political independence may just result in another form of repressive political structure. Adult psycho-sexual independence may result in neurosis and sin, and spiritual freedom may not hold.  As Joyce puts it in Book IV “Novenas over”- Nirvana (the Buddhist framing of liberation or Moksha) is over.  We return then to the beginning again in the continuous flow of Samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s