|ANDREW E. BAUMANN
"THE RIVER EVER RUNS, AND ANNA CALLS": A JOYCE-DELEUZIAN BILLET DEUX
"If Finnegans Wake can be assumed to represent a dream"--so prompts Margot Norris as she begins her discussion of the Wake as dreamwork.2 I do not quite agree with the wording: there is no need for assumptions and no purpose to representation. The text of the Wake does not represent dreamwork. It functions like dreamwork: which is to say, the reader of the Wake can successfully read the Wake as though (assuming it were possible) they were reading the in-process dreamwork of a sleeper's unconscious--the persona of which is ultimately irrelevant in any sense of the term that exists outside meaning produced by the dream itself. And, in that the Wake can successfully be read as functioning like dreamwork, that apparent limiting of meaning-as-produced-by-the-dream is ultimately understood not as a restriction upon the reader of the Wake, but as the very nature of the activity. That is, the primary issue of reading the Wake is the question: What is it that can be known from reading the Wake? This question is made primary in turn by the nature of Wake, which as dreamwork operates upon this premise: that which is the most important to know is the most assiduously concealed. Norris describes it at one point as such: "While the displacements effected by 'double talk' are generally quite transparent, the need to evade the censor results in even more ingenious displacements in the work."3 Thus is the pleasure of the text of the Wake: the central ideas, the most energy-filled ideas, are the most concealed. The closer the reader gets to the core of text, the more fervently the text operates to confuse, dissuade, and disorient the reader--the more the reader is reading the Wake, the more the Wake becomes unreadable.
Operating out of that understanding (not assumption) of the Wake, when a reader comes to Chapter 2.3, considered by many the most difficult chapter of the text, the first section of which Joyce himself called a "wordspiderweb,"4 the complexity of the text should stand as a great, black 'X' that signals "here is buried some of the Wake's most valuable treasure": buried, but un-retrievable in the manner that it is marked by an 'X' that is most clearly visible when looked at the most indirectly. As well, since the secret hidden in 2.3 is apparently a core secret, the path to it will be appropriately convoluted. And what of the path? Three men telling a tale about three men; or a tale of three men told by threes of men. And three men three times drinking, rising to use the loo and returning to drink some more; or the tale of three men drinking, rising, and returning told three times. And in this web of telling and cycling--wherein no single woof or weave can be given primacy--other ideas from the dreamwork: those oft and openly repeated (if here more secondary), as in the three times visiting Prankquean, Tristan and Iseult, Diarmait and Grainne; as well, others seemingly more prominent here than anywhere else, as in the invasion of Ireland by the Vikings, (though of course as ever present throughout the Wake as any other idea [re Mutt and Jute]); and also, ever and always, the Phoenix Park incident; and arm and arm with that, and as ever and always, sex:
For the joy of the dew on the flower of the fleets on the fields of the foam of the waves of the seas of the wild main from Borneholm has jest come to crown. (331.34-6)
(And in truth nearly any random selection of words in this section would have sufficed.)
Cycling is a revealing word: the Wake is a labyrinth, if a wall-less one. And in the pub of 2.3 the cycles are celtically interwoven. The Vikings charge the shores of Ireland with swords erect, ready to conquer all that lays before them, and then return from the watershed with their flaccid weapons hanging out of an open fly. Returning, they are welcomed to their new home of the land of the Irish, who in turn point to their own communal erect penis, the Phoenix Park monument, before which the Vikings can do nothing but speak--of perversions committed at its base by the Irish themselves. And in the jocularity of their assault upon the Irish sword, they find their own weapons once again charged, and with a "Prosit!" set out to conquer again, inevitably to end up once more at the watercloset engaged in a mostly requisitely flaccid enterprise. Likewise the Irish publican sets out with erect penis to conquer Iseult/Grainne, who takes him wounded into her lap and heals him. He then returns to the pub, only to have his weapon lowered again by the endless ballads of exhibitionism, masturbation and perversion, his penis frail and impotent before the same landmark which once towered over the Vikings, whose continuous erection is continuous reminder of both his own (at times) and his lack thereof (at others). But the obversely ever-flowing Anna is also always supremely understanding, for as with the waters of creation nothing is not known to her; and she yet calls to her fallen publican/conquering warrior to come back to her bed to conquer once again.
Among it all a cycle: conquerors conquered by the land, the shore, the river that they invaded, yet made potent once again by the very waters that conquered them. But, that cycle is not the whole of the meaning produced by the text. There are yet the complexities. The three drinkers drink three times; or the time of their drinking is told three times. The three persons telling the story is and is not the three in the story being told; and is and is not the trio of HCE and his sons. The story itself is and is not the story of HCE. Etc., etc. If that one, repeated, cyclical idea was sufficient as an interpretation of the section, then there would be no need for the fervour or intricacy of dreamwork duplication. Only the text of the Wake functions like dreamwork in the process of dreaming: it does not function as a dream as manifested in the conscious after waking. And if function is forgotten, then a great mis-step is made in the labyrinth: the central method of meaning production is also and tandemly forgotten: "the path of discovery is the secret itself." The solution to the labyrinth is not what lies in the centre for no centre can ever be reached, no matter how long you may spiral inward. The solution of the labyrinth is the labyrinth; or, more exactly, the solution lies in the knowing of the being of the labyrinth. Each of the stories and episodes of the Wake (in such that the distinguishing function of the word each operates within the Wake) is a different narrative, a different world. ALP is Anna; ALP is the River Liffey. Each narrative, as a narrative distinct from any other--which is also to say each narrative read in a referential manner -, functions within a distinct cognitive framework, each incompossible with the other.5
Yet, obviously, it is a single work and not a collection, a wordspiderweb and not a series of vignettes. The bits and pieces do operate in and as a whole. But how? ALP (and I use the tri-gram here as label for yet another ideational field who is and is neither Anna nor the Liffey) is also fluidity, motion, creativity; it is the feminine counterpart to HCE, which is reference, stability, hermeneutics. They are Dionysus and Apollo, anima and animus, the alchemical King and Queen, Sulphur and Salt. And the Wake as labyrinth is also a retort in which the nominations of HCE are dissolved and recombined in the primal waters of ALP. But remember: this is not a representation of dreamwork, but a text that functions in the manner of dreamwork. And recognize that while in the dreamwork ALP is (among infinite other things) Anna, and the flowing waters of the river Liffey; it is also dreamwork, the very processes of the unconscious wherein all notions of referent and stability are broken down. So when you read through the Wake, remember that while the worlds of the Wake are the many worlds of the incarnations of HCE as animus, the singular body of the text is the flowing waters of Anna. And it is not for nothing that this extended section, wherein the dreamwork is most in operation, is replete (to me far beyond the already stiff averages of the Wake) with sex and sexuality. Likewise, it is not for nothing that a section, replete with sexuality, is centred upon persons and things nautical, including the basic events of invasion by sea, and the rising and falling of swords and penises brought about by liquid (crossed, imbibed, or pissed). Yet, while invasions are being re-enacted on the hour down in the pub, Anna still calls to her publican to come upstairs and back to bed: this to point out the relationship between the two ideas: the incarnations of the idea of invasion in the Wake is subordinated, instigated, subdued and controlled by the idea of sex.
The Wake functions as dreamwork, and in such the incompossible worlds of HCE are brought into a flowing matrix in the retort of ALP. But the Wake is also a book. And for the dreamwork of the Wake to work the ideational processes of the reader must also function as dreamwork, or the Wake becomes nothing more than another critical exercise in forcing a heavily post-structural text into yet another structural truss: when the reader opens the book, the worlds of the Wake are already dissolved in the retort; but because of the nature of the printed word, because language is, after all, an act of finite dimensions and identifiable components, the enterprise can thus be made (and has, and will, as continuing structuralist criticism proves) to first distinguish and then recreate those worlds, to read the Wake both through those recreated worlds and as a intellectual game whose winning is that end. Through this, a distinction is observed between two types of readers (of all and whatever texts): persons, who can only perceive, comprehend, operate within, a single world; and individuals, who apperceive and operate within a matrix of an endless and simultaneous number of incompossible worlds.6 So as the reader as individual examines the wordspiderweb of 2.3, they read worlds in solution. Undeniably, however, throughout that solution one world/idea seems pre-eminent: that of sex and desire. Is that the idea that lies at the centre of the labyrinth? the core complex of energies which 2.3 is trying to conceal? Again I return: the Wake is not representation, but a text that functions in the manner of dreamwork; the solution of the labyrinth is also the labyrinth. So the answer to the Wake, the secret that is being diligently concealed in 2.3, is not solely sex and desire, but also the manner by which the idea of sex and desire is presented to and apperceived by the reader. Earwicker's desire for Anna is Tristan's desire for Iseult. Earwicker's penetration of Anna is the Viking invasion of Ireland. And as Earwicker's flaccid departure from his bed is also the humiliation of Phoenix Park, so also is the monument of the Park Anna calling him back upstairs. Those are all obvious worlds of the Wake. Yet the nature of dreamwork, of the individual as reader, refuses limitation. Anna is ALP is the flowing Liffey is the dreamwork. If the first riddle of the universe is "when is a man not a man?" (170.5), and the answer to everything lies between Anna's thighs ("thirtyseven alsos round the answer to everything," [255.34, in a section with parallels to 2.3]), then the answer to the labyrinth of the first riddle of the universe also lies between Anna's thighs. If the solution to the labyrinth is also the being of the labyrinth, the solution to the Wake is also the Wake--but not simply the Wake, the being of the Wake. And as Earwicker fills his hand with Anna's vulva, so does the reader fill their hands with the Wake, and read with fingers wet from the endlessly running waters of the Liffey--and as with the ever moving waters of creation, nothing is not known to her.
But if this essay moves too fast, the paradox is missed. If you consider the publican as a person, as a communal being that is like and functionally equivalent to other persons, Anna's vulva is but one element of a single world, as is the Wake. And wandering the labyrinth of that world is like reading the Wake one word (or phrase, or morpheme) at a time, each for its own function as defined within that single world. Consequently, the many parts of Anna's body become categorisable and manifestly identifiable. Here's the full passage referred to previously (quickly, you have here Shaun [who is also HCE as animus] showing Shem [who is also HCE as anima] Issy [who is also ALP in relation to those two elements of HCE]):
For the producer (Mr. John Baptister Vickar) caused a deep abuliousness to descend upon the Father of Truants and, at a side issue, pluterpromptly brought on the scene the cutletsized consort, foundling filly of fortyshilling fostertailor and shipman's shopahoyden, weighing ten pebble ten, scaling five footsy five and spanning thirtyseven inchettes round the good companions, twentynine ditties round the wishful waistress, thirtyseven alsos round the answer to everything, twentythree of the same round each of the quis separabits, fourteen round the beginning of happiness and nicely nine round her shoed for slender. (255.27-36)
In the singular world of a person, Anna's vulva--and the Wake itself--is not only categorisable and categorized, but is divorced from Anna's own being, which also becomes but one element of that singular world. Likewise would Anna--as a person reading the Wake word by word--quantify by whatever functional system and to whatever necessary accuracy the rise and fall of the penis she has called to her bed. But the Wake is not so: though the publican's staff may rise and fall, the Liffey runs endlessly, and Anna is always upstairs, calling, ready to revive once again her fallen warrior. For to the publican as individual, Anna's vulva is the River Liffey is the answer to everything is the Wake itself is the primal waters that, existing to the limits of time and space, encompass all that can be known. A person reads each word (phrase/morpheme) unto itself, defining the words past and yet to come from that present word, passing through the labyrinth knowing only that which can immediately be seen. An individual, however, knows that the solution to the labyrinth is the being of the labyrinth, and reads not a past and future extending from a singular word, but each word as the centre of the field of words past and yet to come: paradoxically, the meaning production of the word upon which the individual's eyes are focused is the most absent of all the words of the matrix of worlds of the text. To an individual the text operates and must be read from a "god's-eye view"--a god that sees every moment of time in an instant; a god that recognizes that the labyrinth turns not only inward but outward. The answer to the first question of the universe is Anna's vulva, which is the world-dissolving dreamwork, which is the Wake itself, which is the Wake I hold in my hand, which is the vulva of the woman who lies open before me. To myself as a person, as a communal human among other humans, the hardness in the clitoris under my finger is defined as an element within a single world that also includes the element of the hardness of my penis; but in that those elements of hardness are both elements within one world, both are categorically divorced from the elements of each of our bodies and beings. Yet, as an individual, though the hardness of the clitoris (and penis) as apperceived by Anna belongs to a world imcompossible to that of the hardness of the penis (and clitoris) as apperceived by myself; those two worlds are yet brought together, two as one, within the uterine heat of the retort of the wall-less labyrinth of your being; and while the questions of truth vs. falsity, of veracity vs. illusion, and of truth vs. absurdity7 has no bearing on this engagement, it all, nonetheless and very much does make sense.
© Andrew Baumann, 2005
|volume 5, issue 2, 2004-5|