Category Archives: Language

Shem the Penman 1. 2. 3.

Shem the Penman – 3 Interim Works in Image and Writing

                   Ruben Borg. The Measureless Time of Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida. p. 133

Technologies of Forgetting

The project of thinking through the nature of time is also that of handing down the truth of its obscure beginnings: it is the very impossibility of returning to a measureless past – or, in other words, the problem of remembering to forget. But what, according to Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida, is the role of invention in thinking this impossibility? And how does technology fit in?

I have argued that the Wake’s strategies of encryption mark the event of an immemorial past, a past that originates outside history and that remains irreducible to the order of subjective experience. A brief discussion of one image from the book’s concluding chapter will serve, at this late stage, to illustrate the connection between the truth of the past – what we might call its pastness or its unavailability to historical understanding – and the formal structures that characterize the instant of (its) figuration. Here, it will not simply be a matter of disregarding the text’s repetitive mechanism, or of looking beyond its strategy of lexical decomposition and recombination hoping to find, in that beyond, some deeper or more authentic thesis on time as measureless passage. What will hold our interest, rather, is an aspect of the Wake that is already encoded in the mechanism as its constitutive  failure – wasteful and counter-productive – poietic invention finds its place in the circuit of memory and imagination as an originary component (a source of the work) and as a moment of structural breakdown (a limit).

Shem Penman 1

Shem Penman One

The vicociclometer is without question the most recognizable of the Wake‘s machine –  metaphors, and the most obviously pertinent for the purpose of my argument. The Wake provides a relatively uncomplicated analysis of its internal structure – an analysis that has the added advantage of condensing many of the Wakean motifs encountered and commented upon thus far:

Our wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer, a tetradomational gazebrocticon (the ‘Mamma Lujah’ known to every schoolboy scandaller, be he Matty, Marky, Lukey or John-a-Donk), autokinatonetically preprovided with a clappercoupling smeltingworks exprogressive process, (for the farmer, his son and their homely codes, known as eggburst, eggblend, eggburial and hatch-as-hatch can) receives through a portal vein the dialytically separated elements of precedent decomposition for the verypetpurpose of subsequent recombination… (FW614).

Shem Penman 2

The bulk of the description is self-explanatory, as is the general thrust of the passage: if the cyclometer is an instrument that gauges the revolutions of a wheel, the vicociclometer must be a tool by which we count the revolutions of what Vico’s terms ‘an ideal eternal history traversed in time by the history of every nation’ (The New Science p. 349). To count the revolutions of history is to follow its providential course, and thus to keep track of its turns and its repetitions. This, the Wake tells us, is the task of schoolboy – evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who understand history’s millwheeling pattern of an archetypal farmer whose comprehension of history’s ‘exprogressive process’ is more personally invested, certainly more concrete, than that of any scholar. In his dealings with nature, the farmer (also an almighty father in a work – a – day trinity) does more than observe time’s cyclical motion: he lives by a rhythm nature herself established and labours to codify this rhythm for everyone’s domestic consumption. His knowledge is expressly non-academic. Born of a vitality and a productive vigour traditionally associated with rural life, it reflects a concrete, that is to say practical, understanding of agrarian law and a commitment to the civilizing power of an honest day’s work.

Shem Penman 3

[Opposite to both Shem and Shaun this figure contradicts everything we are told (as it were) “of time as unfolding as measureless passage or pure irredeemable waste” (Borg – p.134)]. Shem relates to the impossible presence of any past whatsoever that associatively never was (so irredeemable is this phenomenon) such that presenting works of art or images can only follow as repetitions and foregone conclusions. Time and Repetition, however, are not the domain of the “farmer” or “Father” alone, since the academic is also repeatedly concerned and connected to both his/her studies as repetitive if “micro – repetitive” and “micro – predictable” in their own fashion underwritten by reading/writing and in this case visual creativity or rather learning to make.] 2017 December.

A Further Bibliography

A Further Brief Bibliography 2016. May.

The Space of Literature. Maurice Blanchot. University of Nebraska. 1989.

The Infinite Conversation. Maurice Blanchot. University of Minnesota. 2013.

The Writing of the DisasterMaurice Blanchot. University of Nebraska. 1980.

The Work of Fire. Maurice Blanchot. Stanford University Press. 1981.

Thomas the Obscure. Maurice Blanchot. Station Hill Press. 1988.

The Demand of Writing. Maurice Blanchot. Routledge. 1996.

Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. Gerald Bruns. John Hopkins University 1997.

The Unavowable Community. Maurice Blanchot. Station Hill Press. 1988

Lautrémont and Sade. Maurice Blanchot. Stanford University Press. 2004.

Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Science. Babette Babich. State University of New York Press. 1994.

Joyce’s Nietzschean Ethics. Sam Slote. Palgrave – Macmillan. 2013.

Derrida and Joyce: On Totality and EquivocationAndrew J. Mitchell and Sam Slote.  

Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings. Ed. David Farrell Krell. Routledge. London 1999.

Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry. Martin Heidegger. Humanity Books. 2000.

Heidegger & Derrida. Reflections on Time and Language. Herman Rapaport. University of Nebraska. 1991.

Being in the World.  (A commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time) Herbert Dreyfus. MIT Press. 1991.

Of Derrida, Heidegger and Spirit. Ed. David Wood. Northwestern University Press. 1993

Nietzsche, Heidegger and the Transition to Postmodernity. G.B. Smith University of Chicago Press. 1991.

Difference and Repetition. Gilles Deleuze. Columbia University Press. 1994.

The Logic of Sense. Gilles Deleuze. Continuum. London. 2001.

Deleuze: Proust and Signs. Athlone Press. 2000

To Follow. The Wake of Jacques Derrida. Peggy Kamuf. Edinburgh University Press. 2012.

Joyce’s Web. The Social Unraveling of Modernism. Margot Norris. University of Texas Press. 1992.

Aestheticism & Deconstruction. Pater, Derrida and de Man. Jonathan Loesberg. Princeton University Press. 1950.

Wittgenstein’s Metaphilosophy. Paul Horwich. Clarendon Press. 2012.

Dissemination. Jacques Derrida. University of Chicago Press. 1981.

The Grand Continuum. Reflections on Joyce & Metaphysics. David A. White. University of Pittsburgh Press. 1983.

Joyce’s Messianism. Dante, Negative Existence, and the Messianic Self. Gian Balsamo. University of South Carolina Press. 2004.

Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language. Gerald Bruns. Yale University Press. 2001.

Unoriginal Genius. Poetry by other means in the New Century. Marjorie Perloff. University of Chicago Press. 2010.

On Ceasing to be Human. Gerald Bruns. Stanford University Press. 2011.

Gertrude Stein: Modernism and the Problem of “Genius”. Barbara Will. Edinburgh  University Press. 2000.

Cultural Studies of Modern Germany. History, Representation & Nationhood. Russell A. Berman. University of Wisconsin Press. 1993.

In Quest of the Ordinary – Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism. Stanley Cavell. University of Chicago Press. 1988.

Jacques Derrida. Parages. Stanford University Press. 2011. Ed. John P. Leavey.

Readings. The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector and Tsvetayeva. Héléne Cixous. The University if Minnesota Press. 1991.

A Handbook of Modernism Studies. Ed. Jean-Michel Rabate. Wiley Blackwell. 2013.

Think Pig!.Beckett at the Limit of the Human. Jean-Michel Rabaté. Fordham University Press. New York 2016

The Combinations. Louis Armand. Equus Press. 2016.

The Songs of Maldoror. Le Comte de Lautremont. Solar Nocturnal. 2011.

Germs. Richard Wollheim. Black Swan. 2005.

Time and the Instant. Essays on the Physics and Philosophy of Time. Ed. Robin Durie. Clinamen Press. 2000

The Truth of the Technological World. Friedrich A. Kittler. Stanford University Press. 2013.

Arthur Rimbaud. Complete Works. Perennial Classics. 1976.

The Poetics of Singularity. The Counter-Culturalist Turn in Heidegger, Derrida, Blanchot and the later Gadamer. Timothy Clark. Edinburgh University Press. 2005.

The Orphic Moment – Shaman to Poet-Thinker in Plato, Nietzsche & Mallarmé. Robert McGahey. State University of New York Press. 1994.

Medieval Joyce. Ed. Lucia Boldrini. Rodopi (Amsterdam) New York, NY 2002.

       Historical Modernisms Symposium University of London. Institute of English –                     School of Advanced Study. Senate House  12th and  13th December 2016.

               Paper given on the 13th December.Titled:  Joyce, Duchamp and Warburg

Ian Hays

Unless the visual arts attend to writing and to language – that is literature, philosophy, poetry, they are doomed to be as stagnant and as antiquated as these religions that are scattered over the entirety of the world. We would be committing intellectual suicide were we to refuse to accept the enterprises of all of the Humanities, derived as they all are from language. We will challenge Finnegans Wake in our song of that Apollo and Dionysus.

PowerPoint Accompaniment:  Presentation 2.1


We cannot stand outside of language. Those who will have read and even written on Finnegans Wake know that neither “plain” language nor the more difficult enterprises of linguistics or some new kind of philosophy are likely to enlighten or satisfy their own thoughts as to what they might have actually understood behind Finnegans Wake and beyond their own readings. Finnegans Wake as complexity and as “unreadable” makes ordinary language and most other literature, philosophy and poetry stand out against it and distorts our imagination’s propensities to undo the foibles of any other language that attempts to describe or interrogate it. The Wake and the Glass are experiments in how linguistic and artistic representation can materialize or dematerialize the object world – in the Glass the object world comes to life and assumes a voice of its own through its marginalised texts and notes. It is this deviation from the norms of Modernism bound by the play of complexities of language and image that strike us most – but what is “complexity” then that so affects this troubling play modernism has brought into its writing but the problem of the living of it as such – the questioning of everything that lies behind or inside our languages as such.

“We no longer have a sufficiently high estimate of ourselves when we communicate. Our true experiences are not garrulous. They could not communicate themselves if they wanted to: they lack words. We have already grown beyond whatever we have words for. In all talking there lies a grain of contempt. Speech, it seems, was devised only for the average medium, communicable. The speaker has already vulgarized himself by speaking.” (Nietzsche: Twilight of the Idols)

The Joycean “significance of trivial things” (that leads to complexity. The synthesis of height and depth becomes the synthesis of surface.

By way of Introduction

Language creates or destroys the Work of Art just as Language has created the world and its environments. Language is everywhere and always on show but is greatly ignored but especially perhaps where one imagines it should grow best between teacher and student, I mean, for myself in the studios of art and design. My life as an art historian in several English university schools of art and design showed me the total disregard with which Language was treat during teaching by lecturers and students. But then again somewhat later during my time as a lecturer the very vast majority of students who each year enrolled on courses in either painting or sculpture, print or photography had not even heard of Modernism making it impossible to figure-out ways of introduction to it. Where does one start when the only artist they had ever heard of was Picasso? But I am not speaking about students alone who would be flummoxed by the vaster scope of Modernism in light of the literary and the philosophical, of Poetry and of Music, but also tutors of studio practice. The riches that await the reader of diversities in Modernism are simply vast and varied of course: but we have seen the moment of visual art’s Modernist greatness flicker perhaps for its last time in this fairly new century. I begin this paper as you can see with Aby Warburg and his Bilderatlas that also entices me here to add Duchamp’s Boite en Valise! Typical of Warburg’s passion for the marginal, the unexpected and the fragmentary, the Atlas included photos from contemporary illustrated magazines depicting images with links to antique formulae. In a panel devoted, for instance, to the characteristic theme of the striding figure of the classical nymph, Warburg not only attaches an image of Delacroix’s Massacre at Chios, and his Medea but he also includes a contemporary photograph of a female golfer in mid-swing – likewise capturing the flowing and mobile gesture of the accessories in motion.

Christopher Johnson writes: “That Warburg conceived of Mnemosyne topographically, beyond the montage of maps on the preliminary panel of the Atlas, appears to be suggested in the enigmatic phrase, “iconology of the intervals,” which he used in his journal of 1929. This iconology is based not on the meaning of his figures . . . but on the interrelationships between the figures in their complex, autonomous arrangement, which cannot be reduced to discourse.”

Yet I think to the contrary, for Warburg the Mnemosyne hungers for discourses to take place and in making them as different as possible.

The following are some recent thoughts: We haven’t the foggiest clue about how Language is. Living is language. Language and Photography, text and image are means by which scientific objectivity and a mapping of subjectivity in the Humanities – as well as objective forces that have shaped World culture – meet in the term Atlas. The Internet is an Atlas that in our own time relives the past as our present. Unleashed in writing by means of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake of 1939 it is the Atlas that opens humankind by means of its atomic alphabet: HCE, ALP, Issy, Shem and Shaun – or the Doodles or Sigla.

Here Comes Everybody of Finnegans Wake celebrates the spectacle of learning languages and hypnogogia that sleeps in us all at the extremes of thought patterning in our imaginations opened by internal visions of flux. But what are lives today lived inside the Computer and TV screen?

In the heliotropical noughttime following a fade of transformed Tuff and, pending its viseversion, a metenergic reglow of beaming Batt the bairdboard bombardment screen, if tastefully taut guranium satin, tends to teleframe and step up to the charge of the light barricade. Down the photoslope in syncopanc pulses, with the bitts bugtwag their teffs, the missledhropes, glitteraglatteraglutt, borne by their carnier valve. Spraygun rakes and splits them from a double focus . . . and the scanning firespot of the sgunners traverses the rutilanced illustred sunksundered lines. Shlossh! A gaspel truce leaks out over the caeseine coatings. (Finnegans Wake p. 349.06-16).

 But then not everybody finds problems with language; least of all those who teach visual art, it seems, since “Art is a language of its own”, as is “the Language of the Cinema!” and so on: such nonsense can prevail due perhaps to the continued mental climate concerning the autonomy of the work of art as being an “aesthetic question” and somehow ageless – we should rather, in Aby Warburg’s words be: “undemonizing the phobically imprinted inherited mass of impressions” by registering language as first.

Spectator practice is not usually related to the organisation of the material of art works and texts and other planes of creativity, connecting it largely to its role of receptivity. Shifting our focus to an immaterial in-between, the interval, the seemingly marginal or peripheral could of course become the very key constitutional elements for the spectator in the creative act of language and associative thinking. The scene of writing and language is the core of thought in art that Marcel Duchamp wrote of as the aesthetics of waiting, and the lack of reference in Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas is traceable to his adjustments of this visual montage evident in photographs whose voice is at work as a body of language coexistent with Modernism.

Photography, cinematography and movement implied in Joyce’s thick use of montage by attraction in Ulysses and the photograph’s machinic presence in Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and Large Glass, had, decidedly early, cast a different light across the aesthetic of time. If the Glass alone meant extensive reading to complete it and make it part of the accelerating synaesthetic world of art and language, then Ulysses and Finnegans Wake in their growing complexities of temporal machinic perspectives would re-spell alliances between art, science and technology that might redefine the meaning of time as an amplification of a most coy out-of-sight universe behind its otherwise-written portmanteau landscape. The Wakes collideorscape is flight sprung from Nietzsche’s serpent, its multiphasic assemblages anticipating electronica it had already displaced.

Analogously Duchamp’s lazy ironized machinic is covered by ekphrastic writings like those of Arturo Schwartz and Octavio Paz both dealing with Duchamp’s fascination for Neo-Platonic Hermeticism and Renaissance practitioners like Ficino, Pico della Mirandola to Cornelius Agrippa and Giordano Bruno whose explicit persona is active in Warburg and Joyce. Fixed apathy to literary complexity in visual art’s cross-disciplinarity is responsible for its cessation in our age – while Modern art history is dead.

Jacques Derrida, in an interview concerning Joyce’s Ulysses, asked: “Are we not Joyce’s dream, his dream readers? The dream we were talking about concerns what it is in the work which produces its reader, a reader who doesn’t yet exist, whose competence cannot yet be identified, a reader who would be “formed,” “trained,” instructed, constructed, even engendered, let’s say invented by the work”.

At least the same – although a thoroughly intensified manifestation of reading metamorphosis – is evidenced in Finnegan’s Wake – the stake of its readership being one with total ownership of the text by its readers whose creative interpretation is a required art of the book’s raison d’etre.

The work of Duchamp’s motto that “all art is a mirage” even in all its inscribed poetics and scientific materialization and controversial teaching polemic, his analytic/scientific notes to The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, assumes a similar kind of ingredient whereby Duchamp suggests that reading the writings he had made in his Notes to the Large Glass should be done first and that only later should the Glass be looked at as a manifestation of that writing. When Duchamp conceived of the Large Glass as a type of machine and the Notes in The Green Box as its operating manual, titles for its parts became an important ingredient in his project of transforming art from the retinal to the linguistic. The history of Duchamp’s art is a practice in Language – titles both inside and outside the frame of the work but properly located in the space of neither, exemplifies the strange logic of what Derrida describes as parergonality: or the chiasmic figure of the fold. Language creates this “fold” but what we seem to do is to reject such linguistic traces ahead of our attempt to grasp what appears most natural in attending to the image that is in front of us. Viewers pack language away, as it were, it leaves the stage, hence Duchamp, like Joyce, makes present the ghost of language and in rather the way Aby Warburg does in view of his work in the Mnemosyne Atlas.

Ghosted language circles Warburg’s Atlas as does Giordano Bruno, and as Bruno does in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. A mindful layer of untreated language exists between Warburg’s images and us. For Warburg the fascination was based on Bruno’s legacy in mind of his magico-mnemotechnical treatises, such as De umbris idearum (or the Shadows of Ideas). In it the seals Bruno inserted in that text are shaped like natal horoscopes.

A new order of language is here introduced without words: an interiority of art without description or apparent analysis whose status may be likened to that of Joyce’s literary montage inasmuch as invention remains the task of educating linguistic thought and transference – that posits work on the art historical, poetic, and philosophic inside the etymologisms and perversions resisting restraint between metaphor and concept. Indeed cinematic montage has its origins in the novel, where for example, D.W. Griffith and Eisenstein borrowed from Dickens. Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake too are concerned with such “mental time” and “mental realism” in general, and thus Joyce too saw juxtapositions without continuous narration as exacting interior film.

Joyce and Duchamp inherited the Hermetic, Alchemical and Scientific – yet neither may be followed or made a guardian or master so that in this sense they, unlike artists that followed them, created artworks that are essentially forces discharging plateaus of variously elevated discourses.

Their audience needed to become readers of complex surfaces of writing that supported the latest scientific and modernist adventures not only in the fields of their own arts that were becoming in themselves metaphors for a vast movement away from Modernisms of geographical differences. For Duchamp, language in his playful serious search for what he called “prime words” expressed his return to it under the subheading of “Conditions of a Language”: He Writes in a Note:

The search for ‘prime words’ (divisible’ only by themselves and by unity) Take a Larousse Dictionary and copy all the so-called ‘abstract’ words, i.e. those which have no concrete reference. Compose a schematic designating each of these words. (This sign can be composed with the standard stops) These signs must be thought of as the letters of the new alphabet, A grouping of several signs will determine – (Utilize colours – in order to differentiate what would correspond in this literature to the substantive, verb, adverb, declensions, conjugations etc).

There are two distinct steps. The first step is copying abstract words from a dictionary, dislodging them from their ordinary locus as linguistic objects readily defined, and then reinscribing these words within the alien territory of the vocabulary of painting to create a new alphabet. The result is the ‘prime word’, which stripped of its function as a means of signification regresses into pure materiality – in English a word like “the” for instance would become a “literary readymade” and a “mathematical sign”. Since they are stripped of their concrete reference, prime words can function only in a purely abstract or technical language in which their meaning is determined by their groupings with other signs and various and illimitable contextual usage. The result will be a sentence or an entire text that may be grammatically correct but nonsense to untrained minds.

Duchamp and Joyce as Moderns are anachronisms of a complex period often gauged by false measures, save for those who have studied each or either of them in depth and the phenomena they anticipated. Analog to the machinic in the Glass Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake charter waters of growing complexity in the development of the world of ancient and modern signs. Samuel Beckett’s essay Dante, Bruno, Vico, Joyce – one of the 12 essays by designated disciples of Joyce for Finnegans Wake exegesis in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress of 1929 might best be paralleled for Duchamp as Leonardo da Vinci, Jean Francois Niceron, Raymond Roussel, Duchamp. Spectators/readers view the remains of Duchamp and Joyce as the work of the impossible past, satirical Dada superseded by Modern technology, a work that is far too serious and far too interlocking in its critique as to the autonomy of painting and sculpture and its veneer of a wordless, virtually speechless common world. Duchamp stands apart and a line has been drawn in the way that the “conceptual art” of past Modernism, much of it initiated by Duchamp’s practice, bears little or no relation to its originator who arose within language largely in relation to the work, among others, of Raymond Roussell but with the experimental target of expanding on Italian Renaissance artistic perspective. A familiar response to Finnegans Wake is that it is a work of comic intent since verbal distortions appear to us as arising from wit even when they issue from the unconscious. Though puns are unlimited in the book it is best gauged by its interconnected multiple levels of reading and its vertical associations permitting readers to newly recreate it by way of industrious reading. Duchamp’s ideas as suggested by his Box in a Suitcase reflect how divergent these had become, reliant as they are on his writings and notes and later the tomes that reflect this complexity in Modernist thought by way of the immense annotations that refer to his distinctive creativity.

Warburg understood the problem of history as a methodological construct lending itself to the Atlas Mnemosyne that makes its survival of archaic practices into the present that breaks with notions of “progress” and even historical “development” as suggested by his concept of Nachleben. Warburg’s theory of culture engages with Nietzsche’s ideas on classical antiquity, its legacy and the meaning of the Dionysus–Apollo duality. Seen as a work of art (since no work of art is entirely autonomous, not absolutely different, not “purely conceptual”) its sense of space by means of accrued assorted pottage of montage inspires us.  The Wake – this ever overlooked machine, describable as the core of the search engine, that engendered the online gallery or as Joyce might have it the “collocation of disparates” or the “coincidences of opposites” exaggerates the already steady inclusion of Bruno the Nolan as discussed by Thornton Wilder, for instance, who traces the play of Bruno’s death burned at the stake in the Wake as Shaun the Post turned to roast meat on a barbeque whose fate, however, is a rebirth like the fire-eating flame of the phoenix. The history of art like our history of time as it happens is not invariable – but where human intellect turns itself into its own object of study probing its limits and those aspects of reality that its discourse can no longer hold together we have in the Atlas a legendary example of cerebral interneting.

Warburg’s professional disinterest in modernism would have received measured approval from Duchamp whose pronouncements on the debilitating effects of ‘retinal’, formalist art had appeared fairly regularly in print from 1915 onwards. Duchamp would, no doubt, have been interested in Warburg’s desire to link recurring classical and mythic themes with their reinterpretation into later artistic periods – a process that he too had been engaged with in, for instance, the antecedents for the alchemical process of ‘stripping of the bride’, the subject of a drawing he made in 1912 leading to the development of the ‘Large Glass’, properly known through its arcane title ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, even’ (1915-1923). (That is from Kieran Lyons)


Perfumes of old Palimpsests & Thinking in Layers: A Response to the Wake

Perfumes of old Palimpsests & Thinking in Layers: A Response to the Wake

“…the notion of a permanent object with well defined properties can no longer be taken as basic in physics … Rather, it is necessary to begin with the event as a basic concept, and later to arrive at the object as a continuing structure of related and ordered events.” David Bohm – rheomode.
“When the physical sound distinguished as such only by pitch and intensity and quality, is formed into a word, it becomes an expression of the finest intellectual and emotional distinctions. What it immediately is, is thrust into the background by what it accomplishes with its mediation, by what it ‘means’”. But has it not always been the business of the poet to retard this process by which language effaces itself, that is, to deflect meaning in order to keep language resonating in the foreground”. Gerald Bruns.
Abstract Artwork

7th Cambridge

Visual Art and the Humanities in general have become impoverished – and yet to its own benefit it has become its own palimpsest many times over. Finnegans Wake has defined some of the prospects or a vista that lie in wait, as it were, in historical traces – of perfumes and scents from hundreds of volumes whose traces can be observed inside it. It is a commonplace in the study of history as such that a synthesis of histories – of cultural histories – are essentially written to contour uncomplicated details of the lived history that created it. This condensation allows an idea to materialise by cutting and flattening-out a period or periods that can be understood as a simple and yet also complex series of handy concepts: for instance, the Middle Ages, Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Modernism, and so forth. Typically Ideas developed from these condensed ‘wholes’ are what become a manageable force that retains something of an original form but that is basically exaggerated as mystified phenomena whose past is always changing to developing minds. Rather than being trivial the language of the Wake is riddled with likenesses to those whirling metaphoric changes of common expressions that inhabit our in-built linguistic exchanges that we use as pure commonplace remarks – perhaps, say, in easy conversation from day to day, and, as Heidegger puts it, “We are never free of moods…. a state-of-mind always has its understanding … understanding always has its mood” (Heidegger. Being and Time. p.128). Change is the primary manner in which moods or the spectrum of moods is revealed to us. What this constant movement signifies is that moods are always already there, operative – in one form or another – in structuring our encounter with the world, yet the silence they betray is largely unavailable to our reflection.

“Silence” pervades unless the mood is sufficiently saturating as a force that opens itself to consciousness like the sounds in our mind – its musicking and its language, imaging and insights into our own Being. To return to the ordinary with a transformed way of seeing and thinking is the play at work in Finnegans Wake since, as Joyce himself puts the case:

It is my idea of the significance of trivial things that I want to give the two or three unfortunate wretches who may eventually read me. (JJ) (Don Gifford, Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (California UP 1982), Introduction, p.3.)

Michael Eldred writes of the “parallel way to language” of music: or “to put language as language into words”. (Michael Eldred. Thinking of Music. p.12). And of course there are multiplicities of perspectives from where to open-out a discourse on the sensations of meaning and physiologically enhanced and perceived vibrations of music and language in the Wake whose force on the intellect is resonance; yet still it is unsatisfyingly differentiated from beginnings to ends. It just does seem palpably closer to sense music as a problem in the Wake if only we can exaggerate the references in the book itself to musical allusion and having rehearsed this reading and ‘hearing’ in its secondary literature. Finnegans Wake explores itself in tandem with its privileged interpreters of a media-driven age such as ours. Being involved in the creation of works of art and literature literally upon the world-wide-web and as-it-happens has its own way of functioning as a technique that can take ‘control’ of any art-scene it has encountered beforehand, and it is this that parallels the creative mal-practice of Joyce’s endless vocabulary. Finnegans Wake is a forerunner or prelude to what can be taken as a kind of fashion whose work is language first as was the case in the work, for example, of the inimitable John Cage, whose writings on music and living generously outstrip his musical compositions as such and as music. The geomorphology of the Wake as music follows from Joyce’s excursions into a play of palimpsestic densities whose sound-world is brimming with the tiniest of effects illustrative in quality as “a new level of Joyce’s tinkering exactitude”. (Finn Fordham. Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake. p.80). The palimpsest is the becoming of Joyce’s development of density and obscurity withholding the text enthral to mental musical experience before it evaporates or sings.

One’s lifework asks to be accrued inside the possibilities of the world-wide -web even as we perhaps become the web’s automata: the www is after all a site that also has its limitations and particularities that frame what it is that we are doing outside and inside it. Various writers have suggested that Joyce inferred the possibility of the Internet in writing the Wake. That it is the book awaiting the arrival of the world-wide-web and even for which it was invented. So few websites on the work of the Wake, however, reveal the powerful potential revelation we might discover from the Wake’s ultra-sensitive transformations of language. Given its linguistic plasticity my own imagery and writing as a practice-in-progress has developed through a 15-year reading of Joyce’s texts, and responses to its secondary literature as a means of providing a kind of answer to the issue of language in the art of our time that actually has never been autonomous but has largely – in the present as well as at the opening out of Modernism – never been free of language’s effects. The visual arts belong to language no less than does literature and poetry to which must be added the work of philosophy because it has as it’s most profound source that art is a play of “deflecting meaning” and keeping sensation indefinitely resonating. At the heart of all of this is indecision that has the means of keeping the work alive in a philosophical understanding of the processes of interpretation that have been critiqued as metaphysics: and to elaborate on this in order to think beyond the philosophical equation of mind and consciousness is to look to consciousness’s own decentering. Sources for this concept can be found in the works, for example, of Nietzsche and Freud but likewise Heidegger in his emphasis on the ideas of “lingering” or “dwelling” that takes time – the rhythms of taking “care” (Sorge) as Dasein being there, and the places of our concerns. The question of how rigorous interpretation can be rests behind the kind of world that we live in today in the ordinary sense of what is generally described as its “speed” and of passing-on “information” (the term “information” itself being open to boundless interpretation). The play of the theoretical – of theory as the work – like translation in the work of translation – are fields of writing in writing that are indeed works of art no less than the most complex aesthetic philosophies for plastic works of art.

Language is the most primitive phenomenon in our lives. The Wake calls on Earth Letters from a “pit” – a “tip” to announce its concerns – and language is the source of all that belongs to WorldMan. Inside language as a type of philosophical reasoning for Being and being the Wake reveals as mangled art’s unreasoned voice the strong sense that language is the most universal phenomenon of all. No form of explanation will cope with its dimensions. Language is chaos but Interior Monologue and stream of consciousness – the smoky candlelight of subjective experience – allows imagination access to anarchies of cross-tonged debate and dialogue or dialogism that is the space of, for one, Mikhail Bakhtin. Joyce and Duchamp had sought to develop an ever finer-grained representation of the form and flow of mental activities as they unfold in time, and, in a strong sense, their writings transform our cognitive abilities to think along the lines of philological enquiry. It was Joyce’s plan to create humanity through the Wake as constantly reenacting the basic patterns of behaviour that apply to all men and women in all ages.

Pater, Blanchot, Cemeteries

Given The Illuminating Gas The Waterfall

Maurice Blanchot: The Writing of the Disaster

Joyce&Duchamp Detail -1

New Paris

First New Paris

Walter Pater. Deconstruction. The Artwork as Supplement to Language

If there is to be a strong art in the future then it would have to be a literary and an intellectually creative activity built as a powerful extension to “ordinary” perception. The world becomes, in this sense, an aesthetic phenomenon in perception and the apparition of time itself – an indivisible machination. Such would be the split in a more refined thinking between the concept of the Readymade and the Large Glass for instance: between channels that mix quandaries happening to the particular and the general. Such became the history of ideas we recognize in Duchamp whose valueless items were beyond value and posited as such. Duchampiana are always Double-sided as indeed are the figures that appear and disappear in Finnegans Wake. One understands this creative phenomenon when one also understands what Duchamp calls the “infrathin” experience, and when one lends oneself to it in daily life during what Joyce calls the “epiphanic moment”. The “snapshot effect” mentioned in Duchamp’s notes applies to the verification of a world that is seen at least twice: once as a state in empirical fact and once as an internally arranged consciousness such that the more informed this internal consciousness has become the further the state of consciousness dwells on the world of its own making: the play of Pataphysics though apropos requires the sense of the everyday here that hitherto has probably eluded many writings otherwise applying to the works of those who have employed the Jarryesque idea of reference.


Those artists whose lives are defined to a large extent by the history of ideas and its metamorphosis – that is to say the reconception of adaptations through the force of the history of ideas (a set of new phases within the history of such ideas) find themselves at the vanguard font of Language yet from which there is no escape; hence the desire to blast apart the foibles of ordinary language in order to make oneself free and ultimately stronger. A place apart from what Joyce calls “the rabble” instantaneously provides an effective cave from which Nietzsche’s Zarathustra may walk his vast Cities; such are some of the inviting pleasures that art would bring to that reader.

Sensation embodied in thought and the pace at which our lives are filled by aesthetic impressions establishes further desired frictions in new experiences of refined perceptions: what Walter Pater calls “pulsations”: a “quickened sense of life”, which is to say, a centrality of aesthetic apprehension of works of art but, just as intriguingly, though differently, the flux of daily life. The case becomes impossible if it is laid out this way. Yet drawn as we are to the play of the commonplace rather than the work of art, as it were, still it was initially art that taught us how to see and how to look at what is out there and what might be inside ourselves. From works of art we gather a plenitude of perception leading us on between the opening of fact and fiction: the firmly asserted empirical vision of the external world – but where in empiricism can we find a division between outer and inner? Walter Pater’s solipsism attempts to cover the field of aesthetic being in his attempts to sustain the visual arts inside such a conundrum. Of course such a seeming impasse is a mere illusion since we are here writing about Art and it is clear that most of us have no interest whatsoever in such a working of metaphysical thinking. Taking instruction of a kind from Derrida, the work of art is a supplement to the text it may have engendered or from which it snatches its focusing beam of light – even its optical guide. The work of art is always caught in Language hence the play of what Pater managed to create at bottom as a foundation in a single word: “Sensation”. All of Pater’s writing conglomerates around this word and in quite difficult ways and modes and thus it is easy to perceive his words hovering over a chasm like a string ladder that sways between two vast and dark canyons: an unthinkable fall into Language initially and hanging on to the work of art whose light is made a little less shadowy by the force of strong writing. Art is supplementary to knowledge even in this scenario of Pater’s thought and his grounding of art in “culture”, since how, we need to ask, does “culture” exist at all if not by means of Language. Language teaches from bottom to top and the play of the referent belongs to the history and theory of art as a point of return for metaphysical practices that have brought about the work in the first instance, and returns to the artwork as a series of documents and discussions and of historical practices whose pertinence we accommodate.

Importantly even Pater did not bring himself to this “going under” of the phenomenon of the work of art as a written/spoken manifestation of human skill and endeavour, but rather clutched instead at different foundational aspects of art’s potential for sensation that art enacts for its own sake. But Pater’s view on aesthetic perception and reflexiveness is not an abstraction on a definition of beauty, but rather pursues formulae that most adequately re-create the reflexiveness of perception in previous sensations, and that reveal intellect as a scene of reflexive activity on the re-perception of itself.

Sadly this condition has often been described by the famous saying: ‘art for art’s sake’ that wholly fails to describe anything at all. Pater’s discussion of aesthetic perception in the Conclusion of his work The Renaissance reveals perhaps more than elsewhere in his written studies his grasp on aesthetic perception as an epistemological purpose for the capturing of sensation within a form that allows one to sense the activity itself. From here one sees the consistent flow of internal seduction demonstrated by deconstruction’s force in engaging both with literature and philosophy as self-founding, not as a ‘method’ but rather as a theoretical practice that questions their value.

Cemeteries and Margins

Turning to the six latest Photoshop works on this page – call it a lineage to the James Joyce Conferences I attended from 2004 through 2010 – show 12 photographs each with texts. The photographs are details from cemeteries taken at each of these particular conference settings, or rather, more often, margins of the surrounding areas outside of each of their cemeteries or in between specific burial plots. This overt reference is of course an allusion to Joyce’s HCE and ∴ in Finnegans Wake’s terms multichoral multimimetica signals of simultaneous times falling in the text, but as a simple reminder, and not a program. The transhistorical code of life and death fills the Wake in general with expansive moods like Walter Pater’s “aesthetic hero”, and we do well to remember that Pater was one of the first to apply psychology to art interpretation: not least that Pater’s and Joyce’s ‘vision’ is the fictional embodiment of the life of heightened awareness and visionary experience.

These works in progress of cemetery “situations” called for an interruption by the machinery of Photoshop as a way of continuing the repercussions of what photography has been and what it has done to original works of art. A moment of opening out the question of what and how the work of art means in our own time can either become a subtle continuation of a thoughtful life or perhaps the droll incertitude of the void called up by traditional fashion. It’s as though the case of fashion is its own Alpha and Omega in syncopation with its ever-increasing technological resources. Fashion or fashionaping (FW.505.8) is another term for delusion and human waste that in the case of the West actually demands to be addressed by closer writing on the power of the humanities to create far richer horizons within human understanding. But the humanities are dwindling in universities all over the world bringing about the general catastrophe of which Maurice Blanchot writes in The Writing of the Disaster:

The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact. It does not touch anyone in particular; “I” am not threatened by it, but spared, left aside. It is in this way that I am threatened; it is in this way that the disaster threatens in me that which is exterior to me – an other than I who passively become other. There is no reaching the disaster. Out of reach is he whom it threatens, whether from afar or close up, it is impossible to say: the infiniteness of the threat has in some way broken the limit. We are on the edge of disaster without being able to situate it in the future – that which is yet to come – if the disaster were not that which does not come, that which has put a stop to every arrival. To think the disaster (if this is possible, and it is not possible inasmuch as we suspect that the disaster is thought) is to have no longer any future in which to think it. The disaster is separate; that which is most separate.

The “disaster” for Blanchot is “imminence” that rather spells out for me the metaphor of the cemetery and its places of mood around which Pater, for one, has written in Plato and Platonism. “Tis the dead things that are after all the most entirely at rest”, and consistently associates immobility with death. In his Conclusion to The Renaissance it is the rigidity of death that urges us to a mobile receptivity. “Failure is to form habits; for habit is relative to a stereotyped world”. These cemetery-works attempt a poetic of Image/Language to debate something of the spell of HCE’s disappearance.


Second New Dublin




Third New Prague



Fourth New Buffalo


Fifth New Budapest

Fifth New Budapest




Sixth New Austin

Here Comes Everybody on Trial

On Art & Language

HCE can be thought as a mental machine whose genesis is: “in the hundred of manhood or proclaim him offsprout of vikings…”(FW.p.30 8-9). As transformation from Joyce and Duchamp naturally occurs as the processing of the “everyday” and further impossibilities under our eye the work becomes even more taxing – the doors to the Wake and Glass are of course still ajar.

Detail Transposed



Shem 7.1 In Progress

1st Detail Shem 7. 1 copy


1st HCE 11

HCE 11

On Art & Language

 Finnegans Wake is a dense textured pattern of multi-referential words whose aim is to produce an unsystematic and loose corollary of allusions for the world of the mind. Here form is style, and the manner of the creative act is felt by the reader to be self-active and proactive – it is as though the natural spaces that occur between the text’s glyphs and the play of the grasping mind create elasticated threads of allusion whose characteristics are indeterminate as a consequence of this play where strands of mental exercise leap across ages and spaces of barely verifiable phenomena. This much we can easily observe without much fear of any argument as the world entire is given an imaginative shape inside the play of textual autonomy and hints, that in the word “tip”, for example, aids us in elevating the abbreviating lettering machine and its pattern throughout.

Joyce’s choices of placing further and further thoughts and concerns into each word creating enormous complexity for others to reassemble as they will, assays the contemporary world of language readers everywhere:

Far more people read Joyce than are aware of it. Such was the impact of his literary revolution that few later novelists of importance in any of the world’s languages have escaped its aftershock, even when they attempt to avoid Joycean paradigms and procedures. We are indirectly reading Joyce, therefore, in many of our engagements with the past half-century’s serious fiction – and the same is true of some not-so-serious fiction, too. Even those who read very few novels encounter the effects of Joyce’s revolution every week, if not every day, in television and video, film, popular music, and advertising, all of which are marked as modern genres by the use of Joycean techniques of parody and pastiche, self-referentiality, fragmentation of word and image, open-ended narrative, and multiple point of view. And the unprecedented explicitness with which Joyce introduced the trivial details of ordinary life into the realm of art opened up a rich new territory for writers, painters, and filmmakers, while at the same time it revealed the fruitful contradictions at the heart of the realist enterprise itself. (1)

 A new visual art must be able to write about itself in our current time and space endlessly modifiable by the World Wide Web as an exhibiting site. Where else can image and text provide enlightened work within language from literature, art criticism, philosophy and poetics worldwide, and at greater speed, better than here? Our future, however, demands far greater understanding of what language is at its point of arrival to which we owe our existence, not merely the medium through which we travel every day everywhere blind and deaf to its application, and for every circumstance and desire, but from our amazement, astonishment, of language as entity.

Finnegans Wake actually provides us all with perspectives that awaken us to the differences that operate within ordinary language-use – casting itself against our so-called ‘ordinary everyday language’ that it parodies. How multifaceted language became and endlessly, seamlessly becomes in its ever-changing forms might be likened to the DNA/RNA template whose ‘instructions’ have coordinated and codify evolution. Language is the secret every human knows, it accounts for the world entire in the form of this open secret. Certainly Joyce wrote his book in part in order to put himself above ordinary languages – attempting to gain perspectival access to invisible chasms and secluded fragments of human historical detritus opened up by the variegated lights and limitless minds of his reader’s mental dictionaries. Jacques Derrida thought Joyce’s Wake displayed a vision or view of life as being infinitely more complex than trailblazing technologies and computerization, its self-styled text dominating the ruse of scientific exploration from a viewpoint close to Nietzsche’s thought on the inadequacies of science from the perspective of humanism and art. We are tasked with striving to comprehend a world of human experience by the resources of human minds – and technologies, however seemingly complex to us at present, are merely a tiny portion of that mind, however beneficial the results of technologies may prove to be or claim to become.

The commonplace or everyday is out of reach of the arts and writing: few texts on this suffice to show this more exactly than Blanchot’s Everyday Speech (2). The problem of denoting the everyday is just in this denoting. The arts find themselves at the extreme of non-everyday concerns even when they appeal to the ordinary and commonplace, drawing attention to the “subject”. The everyday is simply not a subject but rather background noise – the extra that has not been denoted and has not been noticed. The relationship between a complex book of the “everyday” like Ulysses and that of its readers who are the everyday is justifiably complex. Granted, the readymades of Duchamp showed an interest in selecting fairly ordinary day-to-day objects and furnishing them with the privileged title of works of art through display within a particular Western world culture: but the readymades, rather than being objects and items of the everyday, were selected for their amorphousness against other objects or tendencies particularly evident in the art of that time. They were not clichéd or commonplace as many commentators might have us think. Beyond this idea is the encounter with the “real” that for Duchamp at that space in time had become a rendezvous with the item in question that caught him partially unawares when daily seeking “a work that was not a work of art” but that would in time become one. An artistic hypothesis of this sophistication brings with it the full confidence of art history and theory that if continually debased during contemporary disinterest in the arts of the mind and its poetic will of course retreat beyond our horizons without our ever having known it. Something of vast intellectual prowess, the art of the mind, and the work of the imagination, appear already to be dead. Is it illiteracy in our generation that has condoned this condition? Or what do we mean by illiteracy? Illiteracy develops through the lack of reading beyond the school and the university, perhaps? Reading considered an obstacle that can’t be met on the plain of poetry and the philosophy of art.

Illiteracy has never been a problem for societies, however, and this appears natural until we think the significant possibilities of “culture” and “value” – terms that perhaps in our own epoch have become redundant. Duchamp’s point that after his own demise: “…art will go underground” is striking if only to underline the fact that intellectual study through art has indeed become, at the very least, invisible –

Most people of course have no interest in the commonplace or everyday and tend instead rather to emphasize its opposite that is the unusual, the different, the engaging.

 If a diagram were made of consensual lives that played by its rules the pattern would be very interesting when measured against that of a person who was interested in the everyday because they are interested in art and ideas. But such a diagram would firstly need to be created starkly from the beginning to expose the differences clearly and in order to say something useful and unmistakeable from the outset.

(1) The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce. Derek Attridge (Ed.)1990.

 (2) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. University of Minnesota Press. 2013.



1st HCE 12

HCE 12



Are we seeking a place where new language-artistic activities can begin? The work involves, however loosely, approximations to various versions of the metamorphosis and the phenomenology of language absented from predication and the fungible. When we find ourselves unable to “put into words” a certain feeling we have or have had to someone else – a certain unusual idea or image in our “mind’s eye” – it seems to us that any attempt to fulfill that sense using “normal” words would so far miss the target that it might be the best option to say nothing. Or to perhaps say to the other person something as close to what was felt and imagined as possible with the adage “this is what I thought and had in mind but saying it as I would wish is useless”, that they will not be able to envisage the sensation – the picture. Here the vast spaces of metamorphosis as activity and illusion through thought and language may become clear to us:

“Heidegger says that the task of language is to make manifest the world, that is, the human world of time and history, the world of constructions and projections onto the future, the world of struggle and destiny, of Bildung and work. Language is not a system for describing a world already there; rather, it is only in language that the world comes to be as something describable or inhabitable, that is, as a world around us and for us. Language gives us the horizon against which we appear for the first time as beings-in-the-world”. (1)

Wittgenstein writes: “Suppose someone said: every familiar word, in a book for example, actually carried an atmosphere with it in our minds, a ‘corona’ of lightly indicated uses. – Just as if each figure in a painting were surrounded by delicate shadowy drawings of scenes, as it were in another dimension, and in them we saw the figures in different contexts – Only let us take this assumption seriously! – Then we see that it is not adequate to explain intention. For if it is like this, if the possible uses of words do float before us in half-shades as we say or hear them – this simply goes for us. But we communicate with other people without knowing if they have this experience too. (2)

Different planes of thinking language and thus the world appear to us in statements such as these – they offer tasks for thought in writing thereby providing us with tests inside which we can practice our thought. Rather like practicing a musical piece from a score – various nuances of reading and playing appear, and each slightly different, one from the other. Tests like these expose the reader to written interstices of changing imagination where, like poetry, our thoughts slide amongst shifting discriminations of an unusual, or at least untypical, nature. I might want to say that doors of sense open and close in the Wittgenstein proposition as they do not in the Heidegger (and after all the “Heidegger says…” is an outline, a précis by another author); yet both snippets indicate a sensation of the existential. The word ‘atmosphere’ in Wittgenstein’s proposition is a term for ‘an indescribable character’ and a character such as this arrives by means of learning, education (Bildung), and use – (“the meaning of a word is its use in the language” (PI. 43) the complexities of which, in terms of our deeper inquest on our ways of conversing, thinking and writing, are vast. Our difficulty of matching experience with the play of language arrives as the modification of previous thought alternating dynamically, uncertainly, and in states of fluctuation, where indecision exercises our mobility as to analyses of works of art, works of poetry. Gerald Bruns situates Mallarmé as the poet of incertitude and silence against the language of Dionysus:

So whereas Mallarmé thinks of poetry as the elimination of things, Heidegger thinks of it as the event of disclosure in which things enter into the openness of being; hence the temptation to situate Heidegger and Mallarmé along a plane between two evidently different poetic theories. In the one (call it Orphic), the poet calls the world into being; in the other (hermetic), the poet produces the pure work of language from which every trace of the world (including the poet as a subject who objectifies or gives voice to the world) has disappeared. Taken together the Orphic and the hermetic appear to define the topology of poetry. They are not alternative genres or traditions but limits. (3)

A notion like autonomy in Modernism – that the work of art is understood in the language to be emancipated from the world surrounding it, with all the implications applying to this concept – might largely be understood as a paradox. Clearly such an involution as a key concern in Modernism has overt justifications residing inside of the “limits” Bruns suggests above. Learning and inventing around a particular word-use, as in Heidegger’s concept of Being, “Dasein”, we are situated by acquisition and innovation but also a testing to which its unusual reference is drawn and how it is to be thought within the contexts of his thought on Being, and what this special sense of Being might implement in our thought. We feel we need to discover what his special uses of the term “Being” and “Being in the World” communicate. This learning is very difficult because the stress on “Dasein” presents an unusual way of thinking the world with its emphasis on “my” world as opposed to a world of the “they” or “them”. In a Mallarméan sense it is “they” who are addressed as a means of autonomy, and more so in his later poems as opposed to the “my”, because the poet has freed his words, opening his poem into itself. Autonomy is conflated with heteronomy, an alteration of the self, the self as what is other than the self, “oneself as other”, a self-constituted other. A non-presence, such as that which cannot be voiced, is the speculative space of Dasein when a mind seeks what Heidegger explains is “that entity which in its Being has this very Being as an issue”, the distinguishing of everyday consciousness from that special introversion seeking its vocabulary to express its sense. Phenomenal objects – irrational or antirational – are grasping, choosing and gaining access to details of the most obscure concept of all: “Being”. The concept of Being is undefinable. But “the undefinability of Being does not dispense with the question of its meaning but compels that question”. (4) Is the undefinable the most ingenious and proper subject of visual and literary art? And if it is then we have already been on our way.

The contents of our interior states extend through fibers and fluctuate within them, but such vibrations (traces) are non-cognitive, but never occur without cognitive knowing – we expose experience to what it cannot locate or grasp. The same, as Maurice Blanchot contends, occurs in the play of speech:

What is present in this presence of speech, as soon as it affirms itself, is precisely what never lets itself be seen or attained: something is there that is beyond reach (of the one who says it as much as the one who hears it). It is between us, it holds itself between, and conversation is approach on the basis of this between-two: an irreducible distance that must be preserved if one wishes to maintain a relation with the unknown that is speech’s unique gift”. (5)

Differance is likewise non-cognitive, and never occurs without cognitive knowledge – the realm of presence. What Blanchot describes as being the “beyond” of speech transports our thought to a potential phenomenology of inner sensation irreducibly posited by Mallarmé’s Crisis:

To what good the marvel of transposing a fact of nature into its vibratory near-disappearance, in accordance with the play of the word, if it is not in order that the pure notion may emanate from it, without being hampered by a close or concrete recall. (6)

Here is at least one ornamentation of Duchamp’s text on “the sum total of the Bride’s splendid vibrations” in his long automobile orientated note on her “cinematic blossoming” from the Green Box on wireless telegraphy; sparks and oscillations become central to his entire practice on the Glass. The “poet” “artist” says the absolutely other that can never be reduced to the same but takes place in the whole – it is essentially non dialectical – as though it were a matter of allowing the moment to be expelled as music, or the evanescence of speech in plural conversation becoming noticeable.

On Blanchot’s Infinite Conversation Bruns writes:

One thinks of the echo, but Blanchot would have us imagine an echo that is internal to the speech that you and I exchange: not something ringing in our ears after the fact of our speaking but an event occurring while we speak: an event that forms the entre-temps of the conversation itself. And, what is more, not an echo that either of us produces, but rather one that is interminable, incessant. As if there were between us a speech that neither of us could interdict. (7)

Few of us would fail to appreciate Blanchot’s report on this “meanwhile”. We seek to prolong in the rare that which is, at moments, unbearably faint and fleeting, synonymous with the entre-temps of mental life, whose grief and laughter are left in their wake, vivifying for us that like language time goes on without pause. Our memory-circuits provide “knowledge” of our experiences contextually in the sense that the relations of an object in any system of objects or meanings are always changing (differing) and hence meaning (i.e., identity) is continually postponed or deferred – the realm of Derrida’s différance becomes a metaphor for metaphor where identity is what it is not, and is not what it is. Blanchot’s words are followers of metamorphosis provided by sharply defined edges that curl in the sense that Deleuze’s folds assume the flows of the Baroque. Bruns’ writings on Blanchot and Heidegger invoke the temporality of time as the entre-temps beating its wings between both their nets. Writing may allow our insurmountable words to render thoughts and expose them in the way we might wish, as opposed to speech. However, I am not about to embark upon arguments and discussion on either phonocentrism or logocentrism: clearly Finnegans Wake has lifted its readers beyond this particular orbit. Either way, something more than empathy is required in order to liberate a complex, involved and mercurial idea – Bildung – an unfolding of our bias toward education initially with art and language at the creative helm.

What the everyday use of language overlooks to make use of the idea, literature and art remain fascinated by, the absence that makes it possible. Literary language, therefore, is a double negation, both of the thing and the idea. It is in this space that literature becomes possible where words take on a strange and mysterious reality of their own, and also where meaning and reference remain allusive and ambiguous. As a matter of our everydayness fictions and facts invariably blur in the lives of our feelings. Our awareness of particularly rapid sensations of the existentially present are broadly frozen by an absence of mutually understood terms – an art of appreciation of such sensations has not been created, and thus the work of literature and poetics strike us as all the more immaterial – less than the taste of Proust’s ‘madeleine’ – “in the form of a past that was never present”. (8) When we attempt to discuss poetry, then, and the facticity of Finnegans Wake in its violent metamorphoses, from a theoretical point of view Mallarmé’s ghost climbs on board. Portmanteau words dissolve any possibility of clarification in the Wake where no foundation exists, just as none exist in the creation of poetry nor the inexplicable sensations whose sheerness denies linguistic grip, as Blanchot puts the case: “[…] the poem stands unjustified; even realized, it remains impossible”. (9) “How to clarify this impossibility?” Gerald Bruns asks – and I cannot put it better:

Possibly by recurring to the idea that the experience of language in Blanchot’s thinking is a limit-experience – not an experience of integral rationality (such as logic, linguistics, and philosophy of language try to describe) but of désoeuvrement. For example, a recurring theme in Blanchot’s writing is the anxiety or fear (or perhaps only a momentary thoughtfulness, or maybe an odd pleasure or dependency) aroused by words which, being neither nouns nor verbs – that is, not names of any sort – ordinarily draw no one’s attention […] in a space set apart or neutralized by writing – words like “except”, “then”, “here”, “so far”, “really”, “soon”, “at one time”, “perhaps”, are opaque little pieces of disturbance, inquietude, or madness“.

In a fragment of a récit that occurs in Le pas au-delà, a narrative voice almost detaches the word “almost” from the rest of language: “almost” detaches, but not entirely, since similar words trail in its wake, as if draining from the whole – certain “ways of speaking, maybe, barely, momentarily, unless, and many others, signs without signification” – words that are not quite words: neutral words, neither/nor or in-between words. “Almost” at all events belongs to the entre-temps, the time of no longer and not yet that parallels or traverses the space of too much and not quite, the space of quotation marks and parentheses, a reserved space or space reserve, where everything seems “completely immobile as in a place where nothing happens [un place où rien ne ce passé)”. This is literary space, the space of writing, or the space in which la folie d’écrire occurs. (10)

Such a transcendence of the dialectic enters the space of the neuter – the space outside language, and this space exists in writing, or literature. The democracy of literature and poetry arrives in the act of revealing what has been uncreated – of “désoeuvrement”, “un-working”, or “de-creation”, and in Duchamp’s terms – “idleness” – hence his creation of the unreal by what is real in presenting his readymades – particular, unobtrusive, and inert items, deliberating a universal poetry that is reflected in everything – a debate that opens and closes a particular branch of phenomenological enquiry around which the business of the presence of absence features not only in the world of the everyday, but also in the activities of mimesis or, for us, the exercise of painting and photography in artistic representation. Alterity and paradox in the framing of a simple question produces energy in a moment of suspension and potentiality before an answer is provided which, if not answered, remains incomplete in its void that permits us not to have it yet – “almost”, “….”. The paradox of Duchamp’s art becomes a river of correspondences in its foundationless questioning as a demand for something else that has failed to provoke a serious response – save in writing. Timidity suggests itself as something wherein negativity exerts its strength through this new 4th dimension of man out of time in his time.

Researching this field we find in common the regard Blanchot shows for pause and separation, discontinuity and interruption, fragmentation and rupture – désoeuvrement in an activity of disappearing from all discursive sense. It is concerned with being in another place than the “ordinary” or the laudable; rather it prefers speaking the unknowable. The space of this thought and writing is the real, and more so since the ‘unrepresentable’ is an image – perhaps of ‘thought’ as such without content. Blanchot replaces man by language, hence his trial in The Writing of the Disaster obliquely to conquer his inability to say one thing through the hard-won ability to say another thing that neighbors on it. “The tears are also the child’s. —Tears of a whole life, of all lives, the absolute dissolution which, be it joy or sorrow, the face in its invisibility childish, lifts up, in order to shine in this dissolution and keep shining all the way to emotion that gives no sign at all. —Immediately banally interpreted”. —

Banality makes no mistake; it is consolation’s commentary whereby solitude is shut out, refused all shelter. — Let me continue to emphasize the banality; the circumstances are of this world – the tree, the wall, the winter garden, the play space and with it, lassitude; then time is introduced, and its discourse: the recountable is either without any episode of note, or else purely episodic. Indeed, the sky, in the cosmic dimensions it takes on as soon as it is named—the stars, the universe—brings only the clarity of parsimonious daylight, even if this were to be construed as the “fiat lux.”—It is a distantness that is not distant—Nevertheless the same sky . . .—Exactly, it has to be the same. —Nothing has changed. —Except the overwhelming overturning of nothing. —Which breaks, by the smashing of a pane (behind which one rests assured of perfect, of protected, visibility), the finite-infinite space of the cosmos—ordinary order—the better to substitute the knowing vertigo of the deserted outside. Blackness and void, responding to the suddenness of the opening and giving themselves unalloyed, announce the revelation of the outside by absence, loss and the lack of any beyond. (11)

The text is beyond the rule of identity, neutral, an opponent to Dasein.

We fail to see this image of our thought if the course of it returns to, say, philosophy’s answers as opposed to unanswerable questions posed by the likes of poetry, prose, and the double-fiction of literature – the scandal of unfettered and unfixed, unsettled universal chatter, rumor and gossip that allows us to unconceal the empty grey suburban street in our imagination:

Literature is not a simple deception – it is the dangerous ability to go toward what exists, by the infinite multiplicity of the imaginary. The difference between the real and the unreal, the inestimable privilege of the real is that there is less reality in reality, being only unreality negated, distanced by the energetic labor of negation and the negation that labor also is. (12)

Language bites back at us, caught as we are inside its inventiveness and its visualizations of our thought. Blanchot places reality on the hither side of the beyond, whose worth is only made visible by faint praise.

To speak the unknown, to receive it through speech while leaving it unknown, is precisely not to take hold of it, not to comprehend it; it is rather to refuse to identify it even by sight, that “objective” hold that seizes, albeit at a distance. To live with the unknown before one (which also means: to live before the unknown, and before oneself as unknown) is to enter into the responsibility of a speech that speaks without exercising any form of power; even the power that accrues to us when we look, since, in looking, we keep whatever and whomever stands before us within our horizon and within our circle of sight — thus within the dimension of the visible-invisible. (13)

Reconfiguration of what has been in the language, in the text, occurs as a “possible” relationship to infrathin thought associations developed by this “unknown” – any cohesive thought developed away from this “unknown” bears no resemblance to it – no semblance of meaning or suggestion. The mood or “atmosphere” or aura does not belong to an objective reality but rather to our unmediated involuntary reflex at a vision, a song, or musical interlude – that stroll along a dilapidated closed down-pier at the seaside.

Mary Jacobus marks her reflections on this experiential phenomenon by way of the philosopher and art historian Richard Wollheim:

In Germs, a posthumous memoir of his suburban childhood, the philosopher and aesthetician Richard Wollheim describes his deep-seated dread, on emerging from rainy-day afternoon trips to the cinema, of the sight of the sun on a wet road—”where the first rays of pale sunlight hit it, so that, looking out, I could see the tarred surface glint and sparkle in the late, departing glory of the evening”. “A natural cause of joy to many,” he recalls, “this sight stirred in [him] the deepest, darkest melancholy.” As one can tell from even this brief excerpt, the young Wollheim is a budding aesthete—a Wordsworthian Proust, fostered alike by beauty, boredom, and suburban fear. His confessional memoir sometimes refers to discussions with his psychoanalyst, Dr. S. As the psychopathology of everyday life goes, British suburbia has a lot to answer for. But it has also produced its own distinct aesthetic, as we know from the poetry of Wollheim’s near contemporaries, John Betjeman and Philip Larkin. (14)

Probably our empathy with Wollheim’s mental spur will not surprise us – as unusual as it is to see such stimulation made reference to at all. For us the correspondence may be immediate although perhaps not reaching into those depths of “the darkest melancholy” – an extra-temporal event that instead rather sharpens our sensory acuteness to a striking susceptibility – always strange to us because of its mysterious source: a body becoming a consciousness open to this profound experience without subject or target. From the perspective of “aspect seeing” (as Wollheim himself might well have approved) such an experience is simultaneously subliminal and also supraliminal – involuntary and responsive/attentive – perhaps a movement rather than a “bodily sensation” after all. We learn to avoid speaking our sensations as very young children, certainly such sensations as these that occur to us often and, taken as “juvenile”, unable to experience reserve or discretion (our floundering with non-signifying elements of language that create the “portmanteau” word from inner sensation) are easily dismissed.

Such sensations are not the same as synaesthesia: synaesthetes experience a blending of their senses that produces unusual effects from one sense to another sense. But a taste, for example, that triggers our thought toward something else as in metaphor, and perhaps our invention of a new word for this taste that aligns immediately with it, brings a condition to us that is in excess of the poetic and at the edge of musical sagacity (but without music itself) that develops as a feeling in our mind and body and colours our experience. Our feelings in such instances arrive as from an infinitely unbridgeable, distant place, and what we sense remains discrete, it fosters a particular intensive sense. We live inner-sensations such as these rather like a quiet note that has been struck, a colour that turns our sensations and thought toward something unusual, strangely other, a sensational experience that may live with us forever. Such sensations as these bypass imagination like a muted delicate fragrance or perfume that in the language of sensory engineering may be brought to the surface as fragmented thought as we slip into the phenomenological, conversational, and technological world of writing that reveals its stubborn dense opacity, yet, importantly, still leaving us feeling bemused by such an ineffable constituent of mind. We cannot indicate such features of our experience whose existence is incommunicable. It is inappropriate to use the term ‘qualia’ for such feelings (experiences that have ineffably that which applies to, say, ‘colour descriptions’). We emphasize instead the sense of our experiencing ourselves locating an almost clandestine consciousness concerning cognitive curiosities appearing from another sphere – a limit-experience, an immanence silently appearing in our mind and located in our body. Such is at least the semblance of these mental effects and it lies outside of our control, disinterested, undefined, metaphorical, represented inadequately by clichéd verbal conventions – but imbued with intimation.

Each of us has vastly different and specific experiences in such different ineffable mental contexts that it is as though we would each need to build our own particular and representative vocabularies to grasp them. By our ‘mental context’ I mean our anamnesis, our alacrity, our self-images, and all the other multivalent phenomena that form the background for any particular experience. A discernment of such ‘mental vapors’ as these is essentially different from imaginary experiences – it is instead closer to Proust’s ‘petite madeleine…’ as much as to anything else:

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? (15)

However, we are not discussing this effect exactly, nor am I writing about dejà-vu, both of which are the result of ‘involuntary memory’, yet this is as near to the sensation that Wollheim expressed as makes no difference.

Proust’s taste of his ‘madeleine’ has no support for its spell but actually it accesses a proper memory as a site of location when the narrator was a child: “That taste was the taste of the little piece of madeleine… my Aunt Léonie would give me after dipping it in her infusion of tea or lime-blossom”. As a repeated “Sunday morning…” ritual there is a cause for a memory, involuntary as it may be. Wollheim’s is a sensation, however, without any relation whatsoever – it is not a memory – but an effect that arrives wholly whose location is mysterious. Where Wollheim is his own strange effect Proust’s ‘epiphany’ operates from a different altitude – and where the memory effect is perhaps more mundane it is more reducible in effect than “the glint and sparkle” that would stir Wollheim. We all have such experiences or something close to it, the point being however, that such complex intellectual characteristics are consistently ignored by us – becoming foreign for us once we begin to think them in the light of our consciousness. Proust in search of his “lost time” thus exclaims:

I put down my cup and examine my own mind. It is for it to discover the truth. But how? What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not so far exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day. (16)

Far from what might look briefly a conspicuous gesture toward Freud’s psychoanalytic (Proust and he were contemporaries although neither read each other) our interest is captured by the poetic of resistance to the banal through the very means in the banal that actually creates such epiphanies. Proust is caught between ‘recherché’ and the gift to ‘create’ – a pause that accompanies the question of the ‘epiphany’ as memory and thus memory as active creativity and essentially change, while the image is submerged.

Because metaphor and memory are synonymous phenomena like dreams, metaphor is the ultimate creative force in the language of our life – image resides in the margins of our metaphors as displacement taking the part of what is imaged by language as impossible because it is always in change. When we are face-to-face with language as extraordinary and even when transparent we are revealed as complex beings, infinitely more so because of our tekhnè in simultaneously sharing our ‘now’ reality with papery fiction made of words and without further consequences as such for what our sense of ‘reality’ and ‘fiction’ are – we move from one to the other, all of the time, without difficulty, and essentially, often, without knowing. Such is the ‘mind’ onto which Proust releases his thought on uncertainty; the quotidian opens the faculty of innovative thought as literary memory in its ecstatic transformation reflected upon thematically as experience. The image is the physical effect of its always originary words rather than how we usually think of it as overt stimulation toward habituated thought. And thus, following Blanchot the metaphor for our ‘mental vapors’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’ – even the transmutation of life into fiction – is a continuous unfolding operation/separation – that continuing challenge to ideas and the extreme complication of aesthetic consciousness unfolding as the power of fragmentation that elicits the fictional as the only possible realistic ordering of reality in time-space – including the idea of death as ‘meta-phenomenological’ and a resignation of all presence. This takes its place, as Blanchot suggests, from the ambiguity of language and a world. The transformation of a mood into instant subjective aesthetic experience witnessing, as it were, the creation of an ultra-sensitive consciousness no longer caught in the constraint of a referent, but eliciting an indeterminate generation of sensation, is not only the specific function of the poetic use of language. This novelty of aesthetic sensation is partly its ephemerality discovered in the ‘everyday’ of consciousness and its habitual orientation.

The aesthete emphasizes the mood of lived experience – the fleeting inner sensation that thought, a taste, a sound, an aroma of the outer world more generally may occasion. The ‘everyday’ is constantly transformed in this atmosphere in which ineffable feelings are given to effloresce. Genuine, unified thought on ineffable matters in our own day appear only when the aesthete actively struggles to overcome the powerful resistance of this rapid life even as it is contained within communal common forms of ‘art’. It is as though the art of our todayseveryday’ has lost its colour, is grey, drained of its own accord – being unable to find resistance, crucially, to inquiry by interrogative language, discussion, analysis, and deep thought. Granted, writing itself misleads if it posits itself merely as dominant form inside a subjective content in what is inherently a deep human complexity of fragmentation in the ‘everyday’ – and as Blanchot cuttingly suggests:

The everyday is platitude (what lags and falls behind, the residual life with which we fill our trash cans and cemeteries: scraps and refuse); but this banality is also what is most important if it brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived – at the moment when, lived, it escapes every speculative formulation, perhaps all coherence and all regularity. We can evoke here the poetry of Chekhov or even Kafka, and affirm the depth of the superficial, the tragedy of nullity. The two sides always meet: the everyday with its tedious, painful, and sordid side (the amorphous, the stagnant); and the inexhaustible, irrecusable, constantly unfinished everyday that always escapes forms or structures (particularly those of political society: bureaucracy, the wheels of government, parties). And that there may be a certain relation of identity between these two opposites is shown by the slight displacement of emphasis that permits passage from one to the other; as when the spontaneous, the informal – that which escapes form – becomes the amorphous and when, perhaps, the stagnant merges with the current life, which is also the very movement of society. (17)

Stubborn gratuitous depths of human molestation appear in Kafka’s work on invisible bureaucracies slicing blindly at banality, while Joyce’s rêvers ‘everyday’ in Finnegans Wake are fitted here, for me, as lyric epiphanies.

Students of English will have known the curious caesura originals to the work of the epiphany in Proust, perhaps fewer will be aware of the work and thought of Wollheim. Further works present epiphany-like moments such as Doctor Zhivago, Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törless and La Nausée and the more specific Joycean epiphany is to be found in Stephen Hero, Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses. But the sources of fictive identity unrevealed by overt revelation as Joyce’s family of ‘man’, is sought as a way of crystalling ‘everyman’ as ‘everyday’ through the textual trope, literally, of the ‘letter’ itself. A reader will discern these letters as tricks to have their own epiphanies in Here Comes Everybody in Finnegans Wake. An epiphany in Joyce may be an event that arouses no special impression when it occurs, but produces a sudden sensation of new awareness when it is recalled at some future time; thus reminding us of Proust and his À la recherché du temps perdu, often called ‘retrospective epiphanies’. These secular epiphanies reflect aspects of Joyce’s life at the time when they first were written (1898-1904) during ‘formative’ periods in his life. They are also ‘snapshots’ recording specific minute fragments of ordinary life and presented originally without commentary; appearing first in suburban Dublin as trivialities, and as an inadvertent revelation in Stephen Hero:

A young lady was standing on the steps of one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis. A young gentleman was leaning on the rusty railings of the area. Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely.

The Young Lady – (drawling discreetly) … 0, yes… I ……. at the …cha…pel… The Young Gentleman – (inaudibly) … I … (again inaudibly) … I The Young Lady – (softly) .0… but you’re … ve….ry… wick…ed… (18)

The text is elusive and we creatively surmise what is ‘revealed’ to Joyce.

Introspective sensitivity opens up our spontaneous embodiment of the life of sensations as we attend to and think the art of Joyce’s epiphanies. His ‘mechanism of aesthetic apprehension’, the object and observer, coincide to produce a pellucid reality, here and there dictating at certain special moments, epiphanic release as attempts to give shape to the shapeless and substance to the insubstantial. The noted scholarly entries of epiphany in Ulysses are observed through the musician’s intellect that extend from the work of Walter Pater’s The Renaissance and as Alan Perlis has suggested Marius the Epicurean (19). Joyce’s life of sensation and his musicality of mind required a firm footing for his impressions of transubstantiation since these epiphanies are often the conjoining of opposites, the spiritual shadow to the heightened levels of Joyce’s visionary experiences in bodily form in Ulysses and the mundane which, in its final form, presents a charged, striking example of the world at large as the vast epiphany of humankind in Finnegans Wake. As Shiv K. Kumar has noted:

[…] the present moment in Ulysses has the same fluid tendency of continuously fading into the past and future in complete defiance of any arbitrary divisions of time. The minds of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus remain in a perpetual flux and cannot be said to coincide with any particular, mathematical instant. (20)

The secular epiphany signals a traversal of the finite by the infinite, of the particular by the universal, the mundane by the mystical, and of time by infinity. As Walter Pater himself suggests:

To such a tremulous wisp constantly reforming itself on the stream, to a single sharp impression, with a sense in it, a relic more or less fleeting of such moments gone by, what is real in our life fines itself down. It is with this movement, with the passage and dissolution of impressions, images, sensations, that analysis leaves off – that continual vanishing away, that strange perpetual weaving and unweaving of ourselves. (21)

What, then, are these lyric epiphanies? Not exalted mysticism, to be sure. Lucia Boldrini names Finnegans Wake “a gigantic epiphany of language” (22) discussing Joyce’s ‘epiphanies’ as the work of distilling vulgar matter into illustre: luminous, radiant, and splendid claritas. Is it not the ‘irreducible difference’ of the word “body” (each body is unique) as Barthes thinks it, that can truly only lead us to micro-level activities and personal micro-nuances of the ‘text’ unable to find expression in the outer world of facts? Joyce’s words of lustre amass potentiality, virtuality that wishes to converse immediately with the functioning of the mind. Page 53.1 of the Wake, for instance, refers its reader to the image appearing within the mind as Federico Sabatini explains it: “It scenes like a landescape from Wildu Picturescu or some seem on some dimb Arras, dumb as Mum’s mutyness, this mimage of the seventyseventh kusin of…” (FW. p.53.1)

Here, the author underlines the escapist character of his scene-making process by evoking a landscape which escapes from mere representation and from mimesis. And mimesis, in its Joycean version, contains the word image itself, which is to be referred to a mind’s image, original and unique, rather than to a mere representation/imitation of a pre-existing one. (23)

According to Barthes, ‘text’ is an ancient world, which involves the concept of ‘spinning and weaving’: it is the word from which the new reader derives the word for ‘manufactured cloth or textiles’. The phenomenon of spinning and weaving in the text is made from ‘quotations, references, echoes’, which is potentially infinite, making it impossible to arrive at the sources and origins of text but rather give direction with the already written and already said: ‘the quotations a text is made of are anonymous, irrecoverable, and yet already read: they are quotations without quotations marks’ (24).

This brief background illustrates the progressive awareness that takes Joyce to the creation of the notion of the ‘immarginable’ (FW 4.19) in the very first book of Finnegans Wake. This infinitely readable concept vibrantly illustrates the langscape that the author has now managed to re-create. The ‘immarginable langscape’ refers to a space of language where space and placelessness are finally subsumed into language itself, which is then able to enact and recreate a constantly renewed and renewable space. Most significantly, this happens both with the author’s act of recreation and with the readers themselves, who recreate a multiple hypertrophic dimension in their minds through the sensory data which language evokes. Joyce’s interest in dealing with the conscious and unconscious is submerged on the homonymic influence that recurs continuously in the Wake. This dissolute language may also reflect a sympathetic interest in Vico’s argument that all history is reflected in the development of language – though we should also add that language itself is likewise the creator of history: it is not as though language as such is ever a mere medium. Finnegans Wake is also a place where any sensation of personal expression is diluted to virtually nothing. HCE is a place of self-mourning – an absurd logic – that registers a model of self-identification founded on an irreducible otherness-to-self, namely, on the memory, always already, of a traumatic event that has occurred beyond the possibilities of subjective experience. Such a memory haunts. And its haunting bespeaks a history in which the present carries with it all of the un-translatability of the immemorial past. In creating visual/written work in response to Joyce’s discourse through the varied moments of the figure of HCE plays on the role of paronomasia, of course, that has now become a method of thinking through looking again and almost testifying to the void at the origin of thought as a force for imagery itself, and thus of unpacking the concept of memory as a necessary incompleteness itself.


(1) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p.11

(2) Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosophical Investigation. Blackwell. p. 181

(3) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p.11.

(4) Martin Heidegger. Basic Writings. Being and Time. Routledge.1994.

(5) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. The University of Minnesota Press. 1993. p. 212.

In the relation of the self (the same) to the Other, the Other is distant, he is the stranger; but if I reverse this relation, the Other relates to me as if I were the Other and this causes me to take leave of my identity. Pressing until he crushes me, he withdraws me, by the pressure of the very near, from the privilege of the first person. When thus I am wrested from myself, there remains a passivity bereft of self (sheer alterity, the other without unity). There remains the unsubjected, or the patient. (The Writing of the Disaster. p.18)

(6) Stephan Mallarmé. The Crisis of Verse. See:;query=literary%20criticism

(7) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p. 141.

(8) Gilles Deleuze. Difference and Repetition. ‪Columbia University Press, 1994

(9) Maurice Blanchot. The Work of Fire. John Hopkins University Press. p.105.

(10) Gerald Bruns. Maurice Blanchot. The Refusal of Philosophy. John Hopkins University 1997. p.154.

(11) Maurice Blanchot. The Writing of the Disaster. Translated by Ann Smock. University of Nebraska Press. 1995. p.115

(12) Maurice Blanchot. The Book to Come. Stanford University Press. 2003. p.95.

(13) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. The University of Minnesota Press. 1993. p. 302.

(14) Mary Jacobus. Cambridge University. Romantic Phsyche and Psychoanalysis. The Ordinary Sky: Wordsworth, Blanchot, and the Writing of the Disaster

(15) Marcel Proust. In Search of Lost Time. Chatto and Windus, New York: The Modern Library, 1992. Based on the French “La Pléiade” edition (1987–89).

(16) Marcel Proust. In Search of Lost Time.

(17) Maurice Blanchot. The Infinite Conversation. Theory and History of Literature. Volume 82. University of Minnesota Press. 1993.

(18) James Joyce. Stephen Hero. p.211. New Directions Publishing Corporation. (Mar 1969)

(19) Alan D. Perlis. Beyond Epiphany: Pater’s Aesthetic Hero in the Works of Joyce. University of Alabama. JJQ. Vol. 17, No 3. Spring, 1980. p.272

(20) Ibid.

(21) Ibid. The standard edition of Pater’s work is the New Library Edition of the Works of Walter Pater. (London: Longman’s. 1977). The Renaissance. I. p.157.

(22) Lucia Boldrini. Joyce, Dante and the Poetics of Literary Relations. Cambridge University Press. 2001. (p.122).

(23) Federico Sabatini. “Im-marginable Langscape”. Re-creation and de-creation in Joyce and Beckett. The AnaChronisT 13 (2007–2008)

(24) Roland Barthes. The Rustle of Language. The University of California Press of Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1989. p.60.