Live Finnegans Wake Discussions in Cyberspace:

Report of Activities at the James Joyce Center at DU-MOO

Michael J. Ditmore

Finnegans Wake scholars and readers have long resorted to reading groups which perform readings of passages and pool interpretive insights with others interested in Joyce's work. It has almost become commonplace for Joyce scholars to offer appreciation in their critical work of the group they participate in. But many scholars and readers of Joyce's work are unable to attend live groups because of considerations of distance or time. Now there is a site on the internet that permits live discussion of Joyce's work and which surprisingly reduplicates the atmosphere as well as the mood of the live groups.

The Joyce Center at DU-MOO is a site designed to permit this new form of group reading. It is not an expensive medium as are the new systems of cyberspatial teleconferenceing; most people who have access to the internet can log on to DU-MOO for no cost at all as long as their system allows them to telnet. Visual internet meeting systems are in their expensive infancy, requiring extremely bulky transmissions of data and the most advanced and specialized types of equipment, but you can attend the meetings that take place on a MOO with any PC capable of making its way onto the internet. Even a "primitive" 286 system, with no graphics program allows full participation in the groups that take place at the DU-MOO Joyce Center.

The Joyce Center is available as a meeting site for as many groups as can meet in its three rooms in a 24 hour day. Scholars separated by huge distances can set a meeting time at the Joyce Center and, by logging on at the same time, meet and converse textually. The Center is also available for private conferences, and for conducting public meetings. It includes a public discussion room and a room for small private meetings and seminars; further expansion is contemplated if the need should arise.

The public meetings, recorded line-by-line discussions of successive passages of Finnegans Wake, are probably the most well known and valuable use of the Center. Meeting rooms at the Joyce Center are equipped with virtual tape-recorders that make clean transcripts of these meetings; the transcripts are then edited and sent out to the Finnegans Wake list server, FWAKE-list. Recordings made at the Joyce Center can also be emailed to the addresses of meeting participants, so the center can also be used to conduct private interviews at a distance which can be recorded and preserved in print. These meetings are conducted to approximate the proceedings of live groups. The model I have built upon is that of the Berkeley Wake group which I regularly attend.

The only drawback to the MOO groups is that there is no facility for the oral interpretation of the passages, a happy feature of the Berkeley group. You cannot yet hear the Wake on the MOO; but the particpants in these readings, whether in North Dakota, Sydney Australia, Philadelphia, Berkeley, or Rutgers -- using the facilities available in the form of private libraries and whatever knowledge each brings to the "room" -- is able to communicate the flavor of their individual understandings of Wake passages through the medium of the words transmitted via the MOO.

The result is a lively interchange of ideas, interpretations, disagreements and sudden illuminations characteristic of the best any of the live groups have to offer. The line-by-line readings we perform allow for a detailed discussion of the meanings possible in the Wake's many obscurities, and with the help of each other, and the previous existing texts and readers of Joyce's great novel we have succeeded in shedding light on a large number of the paragraphs we have examined. Transcripts of these meetings are then edited, posted to the FWAKE-list to make them available for further commentary. Eventually these transcripts along with comments added to them on the FWAKE-list will be archived on Rob Callahan's Joyce page on the World Wide Web at


In closing, I would urge more readers to come forward and join the existing groups or form new groups using the facilities at the Joyce Center. Since both of the currently operating public groups are working on a chapter apiece, it would, if fifteen more groups started work, be possible to produce a commentary that covered the entire novel in only two years.

Michael J. Ditmore