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”

February essay

Bridget O’Rourke and Jim Shaw–

“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 Jim 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 Jim Shaw’s video and then delve into their well-researched and fascinating text!

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



Next month’s issue:

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