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James Joyce's Techno-Poetics

James Joyce's Techno-Poetics

DONALD F. THEALL
Copyright Date: 1997
https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442676374
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442676374
  • Book Info
    James Joyce's Techno-Poetics
    Book Description:

    Theall explores the role of science, mathematics, and technology in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. He argues that Joyce's paramodern poetic practice has important implications for a wide variety of subsequent cultural and theoretical movements.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7637-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations and Reference Style
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-2)

    In the spring of 1928 when the Swiss art historian Carola Giedion-Welcker first visited James Joyce at his flat in Paris, their conversation included a highly suggestive interchange about technology. She reports that Joyce asked, ‘Tell me what sort of an idea do you think the word “automobile” would have aroused in the middle ages,’ and without waiting for a reply, he continued, ‘Certainly only that of a divine being, a self mover, thus a god.’ Much later (1949) Giedion-Welcker discovered the reference in Joyce’s notes toExileswhere he wrote that Richard was an ‘auto-mystic’ and Robert was an...

  6. 1 James Joyce and the ʻModernʼ: Machines, Media, and the Mimetic
    (pp. 3-15)

    Weimar Germany and surrealist France spanned the period during which James Joyce finished writingUlyssesand began writingFinnegans Wake. The main motifs of the movements that characterized this era – expressionism, Dadaism, surrealism, constructivism, cubism — fascinated Joyce. His roots, which are in the main line of Continental modernism, developed from this base a distinctive radical modernism that has connections with the modernism of both thesymbolistesand the European avant-garde, as well as with semiotics and French post-structuralism. This situation generates that peculiar paradox which permits historians and theorists to speak about postmodernism as existing ‘in modernity’s wake’¹—...

  7. 2 Art as Vivisection: The Encyclopaedic Mechanics of Menippean Satire
    (pp. 16-29)

    A commitment to an avant-garde, radical modernism did not preclude Joyce from a historical understanding of the importance of the machinic and of the ways in which it had impacted upon art and poetry. Joyce’s complex treatment of laughter and the comic in his final two works rises out of a knowledge of poetry as sociopolitical critique at various historic moments: on the one hand, moments that produced anti-clerical satire on the hegemony of church and state and the monopolies of knowledge and dissemination which supported them; on the other, moments that produced resurgence of and transformations of a generic...

  8. 3 Electro-Mechanization, Communication, and the Poet as Engineer
    (pp. 30-49)

    Books and telecommunication gadgets, the organs imposed on bodies or the geography imposed on spaces, or meanings imposed across pluralities of signs and gestures are all part of the world ofUlysses, just as they are the very stuff Joyce’s dream in theWakeis made of. The body or the body of a book (text) is a surface, a topography, across which a multitude of probabilities play by which that body is inscribed as an assemblage, an abstract machine, just as Molly asmoly, the saving mana of Hermes, the god of communication, reassembles and reproduces the action of...

  9. 4 Singing the Electro-Mechano-Chemical Body
    (pp. 50-61)

    Joyce’s interest in the technical surface and the machinic provides him with a natural route to wit, humour, and the comic since encounters between the machine-like and organic life frequently dramatize discontinuities in the flow of life. In theWakethe stuttering of HCE, who sees himself in the dream as a series of machines, breaks up the life flow of ALP, as the stone causes the flow of a river to change course. Joyce’s ‘comeday’ of letters,Finnegans Wake, plays over the surfaces of everyday life, just as Bloom’s peregrinations through the city of Dublin do inUlysses. The...

  10. 5 Books, Machines, and Processes of Production and Consumption
    (pp. 62-72)

    As an early twentieth-century poet, Joyce embraces popular culture, communicating machines, machinery, and all signs of the times in his books. But the engineering of the communicating machines occupies a role of particular relevance, for they are of three kinds: traditional sign systems (hieroglyphs, alphabets, icons, drawings); technologically mediated modes of reproduction (books, telephones, film, televisions); and crafted modes of popular expression dependent either on the traditional or the technologically mediated (riddles, comics). All these communicating machines work on the same principles, and they all function within a universe in which communication occurs within an integrated semiotic system involving gestures,...

  11. 6 The Machinic Maze of Mimesis: The Labyrinthine Dance of Mind and Machine
    (pp. 73-86)

    Exploring in this and the next chapter the relation of Joyce’s work to global technoculture reveals the important interplay between memory, metamorphosis, mimesis, the mechanics of meaning, and their relation to alterity (‘otherness’) within all aspects of Joyce’s work. In a commodified world of things, the metamorphosis of any particular thing can only be achieved by transforming its utilitarian use value into gestural and semiotic values that operate at cross purposes to the utilitarian. Stereotyping, cataloguing, mechanical repetition, verbal play, and the entire arsenal of mimicry and mimesis contribute to this verbal assemblage, which is an imaginary prototype of the...

  12. 7 Mimicry, Memory, Mummery, and the Multiplying of Media
    (pp. 87-102)

    In theWake’s dream world of complex mimicry, the word is enmeshed in the process by which everybody becomes another body, so that HCE as Yawn is told, ‘In the becoming was the weared’ (487.20-1; word + wear + weird + [root]),¹ for the process of mimicry is both the ‘wearing’ of a new identity and the accompanying sense of weirdness. For example, the ‘Voice of jokeup,’ playing with words and letters, can transform Saint Patrick into ‘Mr Trickpat’ and can create ambiguities necessitating palindromic queries such as ‘Are you imitation Roma now or Amor now’ (487.22-3). Here the mimetic...

  13. 8 Secularizing the Sacred: The Art of Profane Illumination
    (pp. 103-116)

    Joyce’s title,Finnegans Wake, indicates that he is probing the secularization of the sacred in a rationalized techno-cultural world. This is why he uses an Irish wake, a specific folk mortuary custom involving comedy, intoxication, and transgression, as a major component of the title of his book. The word ‘wake’ has other senses relevant to Joyce; for instance, the mechanically produced ‘wake’ of a ship, plough, or another vehicle; the process of awakening as a looking forward or arising from sleep; or a revolution (i.e., uprising). But its primary relevance derives from the fact that the familiar bar-room song, ‘Finnegan’s...

  14. 9 Assembling and Tailoring a Modern Hermetic Techno-Cultural Allegory
    (pp. 117-129)

    Walter Benjamin’s analysis of the GermanTrauerspielmanifests the relevance of allegory to European modernism. While Joyce’s project differs from Benjamin’s, Benjamin’s analysis of allegory provides some important motifs and linkages in exploring Joyce’s allegorical technique in treating the multiplicity of interlaced tales in theWakeand his strategies for adapting the allegorized Homer to a contemporaryUlysses. Benjamin draws attention to the affinity of allegory, with its disjunctive, atomizing principle,¹ for the fragment and the rune (176). He stresses that allegory is a distinct form of expression (162), an alternative to speech and writing – almost an alternative language...

  15. 10 The Rhythmatick of Our Eternal Geomater
    (pp. 130-141)

    Henri Poincaré’s comment about the evolution of our concept of numbers eerily echoes the movement ofFinnegans Wakewhen he observes that ‘though the source be obscure, still the stream flows on.’ His fellow intuitionist, the hyperconservative Leopold Kronecker, playfully speculated on the source when he declared that ‘God created the integers, the rest is the work of man.’ In so declaring, Kronecker was articulating his rejection of the entire project of exploring infinity launched by Georg Cantor that had become a major cause of the state of crisis which pervaded mathematics in the latter days of the nineteenth and...

  16. 11 The New Techno-Culture of Space-Time
    (pp. 142-153)

    Sigfried Giedion’s discussions of space-time and mechanization provide an insight into the importance at the turn of the century of the new sense of space and time resulting from the impact of the new theories in contemporary mathematics, physics, and philosophy – ‘The Culture of Time and Space,’ as Stephen Kern has called it.¹ Giedion explains that concurrent with mathematician Herman Minkowski’s 1908 paper, which declared, ‘Henceforth space alone or time alone is doomed to fade to a mere shadow; only a kind of union of both will preserve their existence,’ artists and writers of Apollinaire’s generation became concerned with...

  17. 12 Cultural Production and the Dynamic Mechanics of Quanta and the Chaosmos
    (pp. 154-168)

    Producers are consumers because the prime manifestation of self-consciousness is communicability, intersubjective interaction. This can only be conceived through the molding of a multiple series of styles that take advantage of the fact that language and communication are always ‘ambiviolent,’ governed by an uncertainty principle and consequently operating much as subatomic physical phenomena do, one moment seeming to be a flow, the next a series of paniculate entities. Joyce underlines this by consciously identifying his work with quantum theory. Elsewhere in Joyce’s satiric attack on his prime critic, he has Wyndham Lewis as Professor Jones (1.6) mockingly charge that the...

  18. 13 The Relativities of Light, Colour, and Sensory Perception
    (pp. 169-183)

    Physics, mathematics, mechanics, and optics are important in two crucial and adjacent passages in the fourth and final book of theWake, which takes place at dawn. These key passages immediately precede the two concluding segments of book IV: (1) the final and only full version of Anna Livia’s letter, several partial versions of which have already appeared; and (2) her final dramatic soliloquy – just as inUlysses, where science, technology, and the mechanical movement of the catechetical style of ‘Ithaca’ immediately precede Molly’s final soliloquy. In both works a fusion of science, technology, and mythopoeia, which is present...

  19. 14 Conclusion
    (pp. 184-196)

    As the twentieth century moves towards its conclusion and the beginning of the third millennium, Joyce’s pre-millennial vision of the emergence of a unique culture, a cyberculture, becomes clearer. In much the same way that W.B. Yeats’s ‘The Second Coming’ introduced pre-millennial motifs into mainline modernist poetry, and the speculation of science fiction writers and film-makers introduced them into the broader everyday culture, Joyce extrapolated from the changing sociocultural environment surrounding the cultural producer to anticipate entirely new, all-encompassing modes of cultural production, which, utilizing new technologies of production, reproduction, and distribution, would complement and supplement the traditional arts, and...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 197-226)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-238)
  22. Index
    (pp. 239-246)