“Calling all downs. Calling all downs to dayne. Array!” (FW IV.1.1).
Feeling a little down in these Corona days? It’s time for lots of fun at Finnegans Wake! Even by James Joyce’s standards his final work Finnegans Wake (1939) is uniquely challenging, as it is written in an entirely original portmanteau language. The Joycean “portmanteau” is a word containing other words, usually lots of them, and often in more than one language. They are generated by an entity called H.C.E., who is sometimes known as “Here Comes Everybody,” in a riverine babble or Babel of voices. Consequently, the best way to read Finnegans Wake is not alone but in a group setting, with a chorus of voices talking back to those speaking to us. It’s a book about a party, an Irish wake, and we need to form a party to celebrate it. This kind of “class” can only work as a seminar, so attendance is set to be limited to a small group.
We’ll read the book at our own speed as we combine simply reading for comprehension with access to historical, biographical, and critical sources, as well as the powerful tools of the Web to help us “a long the riverrun” past Shem’s inkbottle house to Mr. Porter’s pub. Our aim will be to expand the experience of the Wake into a sort of online séance together. To get us through “the sward incoronate, the few fly the farbetween!” (FW II.1.250.35)
You’ll need internet access, a functioning webcam with a microphone, the Zoom app, preferably a copy of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake to make your own notes in, and a sense of humor. In fact, as we’ll only cover at most a few pages per session, printouts of Wake pages, possibly enlarged for easier annotation, will suffice.