PHOENIX EX MACHINA: JOYCE'S SOLICITATION OF HYPERTEXT
by Louis Armand
But I, entelechy, form of forms, am I by memory because under ever changing forms. [U 189: 39-40]
Anticipating the increased significance of hypertext in Joycean scholarship, Jacques Derrida, in his essay on Finnegans Wake, invokes the term "joyceware," suggesting that we might approach Joyce's writing as "a hypermnesiac machine," "capable of integrating all the variables, all the quantitative and qualitative factors," "because you can say nothing that is not programmed on this 1000th generation computer -- Ulysses or Finnegans Wake" ('Two Words for Joyce' 147-148).
Yet the question remains of what takes place between Joyce's text and Derrida's invocation, and again between "Ulysses or Finnegans Wake" and the metaphor of a "1000th generation computer". The question, in other words, of what it is that solicits programming -- and what it is which thus comprehends ahead of time the "nothing" which still allows itself to be said, to be repeated, to be chanced upon as the possibility of a communication, a kind of telepathy which is also a warning or a prohibition: "you can say nothing that is not programmed on this 1000th generation computer".
It is partly from a desire to address this question -- the question of the (non-)place of solicitation in Joyce's text -- that this "assemblage" titled "Phoenix ex Machina" proceeds. Partly also from a desire to set this question itself to work within a grouping of fragments from other, "philosophical" texts, and to draw from this process something like a framework around which it would be possible to articulate a Joycean hypertextual apparatus.
Such a framework, however, will no longer obey certain classical laws of physics. What orientates it, and leads it on continually into impossible terrains, is perhaps best described in terms of current Chaos theories as a "virtual" -- which is "defined" "by the infinite speed with which every form taking shape ... vanishes" (Deleuze and Gautari, What is Philosophy 118). Like the symbol of the Phoenix in Joyce's Protean text, Finnegans Wake, the frame and all of its co-ordinates are constantly in a state of flux. It is for this reason that anything that could be called a frame is already -- as Derrida has pointed out -- at work as that which is framed and that which makes framing possible. For this reason also we begin with the phenomenon, haunted by the recurrent symbol of the Phoenix, of what we will call "the hypertextual transverse".