Unreal Nature

June 2, 2017

A Machine for Anticipating and Recalling Itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… that mind came to be deposited in the mediated — even the mediatized — form of a work that was separate from, and excessive to, his actual subjectivity.

This is from the chapter on ‘Finnegans Wake‘ in James Joyce (2nd Edition) by Steven Connor (1996, 2012):

Finnegans Wake possesses the capacity to open itself up to its outside, to every accident of reading and hermeneutic slew, while also wishing to be able to take that unaccountability into account. While most literary works come into being in the manner in which they distinguish themselves from the riotous complexity and interrupting ‘noise’ of social life and language, Finnegans Wake makes interruption a central principle. It is important not to underestimate how paradoxical this is.

[line break added] To say that a text is formed on and governed by the principle of interruption is to say that this principle operates continuously and, yes indeed, uninterruptedly through it. What is most remarkable about Finnegans Wake is not that it makes reading impossible, but that it makes impossible reading possible. The book is a willed suspension of the will, a designed disorder, a rational delirium, a knowing unconscious, a governed anarchy.

This leads to an interesting indeterminate relationship between the book and its reader. On the one hand, the Wake outstrips any possibility of being read in the traditional sense of the term, refuses to allow even the illusion of competence; to become a skilled reader of Finnegans Wake is not to be initiated into a secret, but to become an expert in the manner of its mysteriousness.

Finnegans Wake became for Joyce a machine that did his thinking and remembering for him. Not even Joyce was able to coincide with his own mind, since that mind came to be deposited in the mediated — even the mediatized — form of a work that was separate from, and excessive to, his actual subjectivity. The memory required to read Finnegans Wake is a supplemented memory, not just because the demands of the work are so prodigious, but also because the book is, in itself, a mnemic mechanism, a machine for anticipating and recalling itself. ‘Begin to forget it,’ we are counselled in the final chapter of the book. ‘It will remember itself from every sides, with all gestures, in each our word.’

[ … ]

… In a curious way, Finnegans Wake may begin to be naturalized through contemporary developments in information technology, as they habituate us to the idea of a technological sublime, or a soft infinity of links, analogies, and mutations.

… When the provocations of unreadability and immeasurable complexity have become such a matter of routine, might there not be a greater challenge in the idea that Finnegans Wake can offer us a kind of fix upon unencompassability, a means of orientating ourselves to that world of constructed connections and correspondences with which we can never hope to coincide?

My most recent previous post from Connor’s book is here.

-Julie

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