This writer’s judgment about Joyce and Vico – sounds like a fun hobby (if this accurate)
reading, in the afternoon, the most unusual book of the twentieth century while, in the morning, writing about the most unusual book of the eighteenth century.
What better way to study the ancient quarrel of philosophy and poetry than through what is known as the most difficult novel of recent time’s use of a thinker? Maybe these two non-plants can show us how to be less plant-like ourselves?
Let’s look at the surface first
The title, Finnegans Wake, is doubled by omitting the possessive apostrophe. By making it plural Joyce makes it everybody’s wake, the wake of all Finnegans.
The title invites us to imagine ourselves with our eyes closed in a casket. That or to behold someone dead in a casket. When one attends a wake one does tend to reflect on death more than usual, sometimes to the point that one might as well be the one dead in the casket, yeah?
The thought of death makes us reflect on life, specifically our life.
There’s a difference between saying “You’re going to die someday” and depicting someone’s death (or supposed death) in a story. The story form makes it more like an actual wake in a way. This is why for instance I believe Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich might give us a better understanding of being-toward-death than anything Heidegger ever wrote. It’s not so abstract when you’re at a real wake, that’s probably even “better” than that novella. A soul is gone. Your soul will be gone.
No one these days believes in “burning in hell”. Sometimes a thought of death that makes them reflect on their life gives them the feeling that they are burning in hell though. “A life of falsity, deception, and vice, bloodmoney, and cowardice, failing my friends and my family, and society altogether.” Some people have that kind of thought and it does feel like hell. It isn’t easy to get past the self-deception that prevents them from having that thought. Death helps with that. What, you weren’t expecting today to imagine yourself with your eyes closed in a casket?
It IS an interesting unintended wordplay
‘‘Wake’’ is to be awake, alive, but is also the wake for the dead. The wake is the path left from movement, especially by a ship; it is also what is left over in its path—the flotsam and jetsam from the voyage
Thinking of Vico’s cyclical history, is Joyce trying to suggest that humanity is in a casket? That it’s part of the “dead cycle” at the end of “living cycles”?
You ever relate to this?
This is such a sick form of humor, I apologize. There IS something serious about it. Moral judgment. Many seem to be buffered against hell. They can never do wrong. Until moments when they realize.
This is related to sublimity, which almost always bounces off the fortress of the ego. You didn’t spend your life as a fraud. It was always virtue for you, all the way through. So this is a divine paradox that judgment is perceived as “evil”. What questions one’s goodness is itself something that isn’t good. I’m sure if you were at a wake right now you wouldn’t be reflecting on your life at all.
Whoops, did I lead you into attending a digital wake? Probably not, the ego is a fine-tuned machine.
I think it’s a matter of methods for expressing what concepts really mean. Photography has its way, poetry its way, philosophy, etc.
You’re in a coffin
People are lining up to look at you
Civilization is in a coffin
They prefer a closed-casket for that wake
Are you sure you want to see? The body wasn’t found immediately
Look at you, so desensitized the concrete thought of death never crosses your mind