Chapter Six

Yawn and Dawn:
The Wireless in Joyce's Finnegans Wake

The world, to a large extent, is a vision of our own creation. We inhabit a mixed realm of sensation and interpretation, and the boundary between them is never openly revealed to us. And amid this tenuous situation, our cortex makes up little stories about the world, and softly hums them to us to keep us from getting scared at night.

Leif H. Finkel[1]

I. Introduction

In preparation for writing Finnegans Wake, James Joyce filled a series of notebooks with ideas, charts, lists, and other information which, he felt, were necessary to create such a complex work. Although the notebooks are as difficult to decipher as any section of Finnegans Wake, one particular entry seems relevant to the topic of sound technology. It appears in notebook VI.B.5.29:[2]

Yawn telegraph
Dawn wireless
thought transference[3]

Lumping the telephone and telegraph together emphasizes the cables that transmit sounds (and its attending information) from one place to another. Likewise, the link between wireless and "thought transference" suggests a communication that is, as Marinetti suggests, "without strings," or without a tangible (that is, visual and tactile) link between sender and receiver. As I noted in the previous chapter, this separation of cable and wireless can be connected to a larger narrative tension between the sleeping body of HCE and the dreaming figures that populate Finnegans Wake. The figures of Yawn and Dawn represent several of these narrative dimensions. Not only do the words Yawn and Dawn rhyme with Shaun, but Yawn (as in "yawning") and Dawn (as in morning) also suggest the moments before and after sleep. In other words, Yawn and Dawn can be seen both as representative figures within the text and as metaphorical links between the figures and the dreamer. To this end, Yawn and Dawn both transmit information and act as mechanisms through which the information is transmitted. On the one hand, the references to Yawn are grounded in the narrative context of a particular chapter (III.3); the references to Dawn, by contrast, are not directly associated with any chapter. However, Dawn, the wireless, and thought transference are linked to an underlying theme evident throughout the Wake: the desire to transcend the materials which give the text its shape.

In the beginning of III.3, Yawn is described as "lay[ing] low" (FW 474.1), living on a "mountainy molehill....spancelled down upon a blossomy bed, at one foule strech, amongst the daffydowndilles, the flowers of narcosis fourfettering his footlights" (FW 474.22-475.10). This passage appears to suggest that Yawn is dead, that his body was buried on a burial mound, and that flowers populate his grave. However, several references call this reading into question. For instance, while the reference to "foule strech" suggests "foul stench," it also suggests a large crowd (foule is French for "crowd"). Likewise, just as "narcosis" suggests the narcissus flower, it also suggests Narcissus, a Greek mythological figure who fell in love with his reflection in a pool and was turned into a flower by the gods. In short, Yawn can be read as HCE, a medium through which a crowd of figures speak, and (as the Narcissus reference suggests) the sleeping body of Earwicker, who is attempting to communicate with or simply know his "self." Central to each of these guises is the process of communication: the need to send a message from one place to another. In this case, the link between Yawn and sound technologies suggests a connection between the historians and Yawn: telephone lines from the present to the historical past and the nether world of sleep.

The relationship between Dawn, the wireless, and thought transference is more complex. Unlike Yawn, there is no clearly identifiable Dawn figure in Finnegans Wake. The figure of the dawn, however, is crucial to book IV, the novel's final chapter. This chapter incorporates the sounds, smells, and sights of the early morning into a narrative that details ALP's letter, her final monologue, the awakening of the sleeping body, HCE. The chapter begins with an unusual wake-up call:

Sandhyas! Sandhyas! Sandhyas!
Calling all downs. Calling all downs to dayne. Array! Surrection! Eireweeker to the wohld bludyn world.
(FW 593.2-3)

"Sandhyas" suggests the Latin word, "sanctus" (holy), and is part of a Roman Catholic prayer. Further, although "Sandhyas" suggests the Sanskrit word samdhi, meaning "peace," Joyce apparently thought the word was Sanskrit for "the twilight of dawn," a phrase that resembles Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols and has certain apocalyptic overtones that are particularly suited to this, the final chapter of Finnegans Wake.[4] The phrase, "Calling all downs," suggests both a calling out to Dawn, the figure, and the phrase, "calling all cars," which is often used in movies and radio programs to signal police to a crime scene. In short, this brief passage suggests that the figure of Dawn, although vaguely defined, is connected both to wireless signals and thought transference.

The link between technology and spirituality, however, is complicated by the addition of the words "to dayne. Array! Surrection! Eireweeker to the wohld bludyn world." "To dayne" suggests "today"; as such, the phrase "calling all dawns today" suggests an immediacy and directness commonly associated with alarm clocks. "Array! Surrection!" extends the alarm clock metaphor (that is, the process of "waking up") to include two other references: resurrection and insurrection. Resurrection, or "waking up from the dead," suggests the aforementioned invocation to Dawn. This can be associated not only with the figure of Jesus but with the novel's title, which is taken from a song about Tim Finnegan, a man who dies when he falls from a ladder, only to be reborn when someone spills whiskey on his corpse during his wake. On the other hand, insurrection suggests that the call in question is a call to arms (the word is literally defined as raising arms in battle). Moreover, "Eireweeker" ("Eire" is the Gaelic word for Ireland) and "bludyn" (an anagram for "Dublyn") suggest that the battle takes place in Ireland; as such, the insurrection would most likely refer to a revolutionary call to arms against foreign invaders. In short, although the figure of Dawn appears to be central to this passage, the actions this call inspires include wake-up calls for a new day, a new god, a new life, and a new battle. The relationship between the figure of "Dawn," the wireless, and thought transference seems centered upon how these calls are answered and who or what is at the other end of each line.

The difference between Yawn and Dawn, as I see it, is related to the manner in which the lines between sender and receiver are used within the narrative context of Finnegans Wake. In the case of Yawn and the cable, the line purports to connect the sender to the receiver; it also establishes a line of communication that enables each figure to address the other and to be addressed in turn. Although these lines of communication are never fixed and absolute, the use of the cable, by definition, implies the presence of a sender and a receiver. As I noted in relation to Dracula and Contact, the term "wireless" has been used to refer to actions or statements which purport to transmit and receive messages from gods, alien civilizations, and the world of the dead. It is not a great leap between these proposed transmissions and the world of Finnegans Wake, where the wireless acts as a medium between conscious and unconscious worlds. However, while the wireless is free of the boundaries associated with wires and cables, it cannot offer a one-to-one correlation between sender and receiver. Instead, when the signal is released, it can travel in any direction and can be received by anyone tuned in to the proper frequency.

The desire to communicate without strings-to understand others beyond the trappings of language, customs, and inhibitions-is a central theme throughout Joyce's writings. In Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Joyce uses this theme to demonstrate (among other things) the "paralysis" of his characters and the burden placed upon them by memory, history, time, faith, reason, and desire. Although Joyce employs this theme in his last novel, there is one important difference: there are no characters in the Wake. The movements and actions in this novel occur through figures, which are names, identities, and motifs that change and shift from one sentence to the next. As I will argue, the role of the wireless in Finnegans Wake concerns both the desire for communication between these transitory figures and the desire for these figures to communicate with Earwicker. As with the cable, the use of the wireless in this novel is disrupted by static, interference, and imprecise messages or machinery. Technology alone cannot achieve this transformation between worlds; something else is needed to break away from the materiality of the signal. Like Stoker's depiction of Mina or Marinetti's castigations of women, Finnegans Wake uses technology to mediate the gap between man and Other through the body of a woman, who erases the material markings left over by technology. The woman figure in Joyce's last novel is ALP; the gap that she mediates is between author and reader. The "transference" which occurs in book IV and which is connected to ALP is due not to a rejection of the materiality of writing but rather to the revealing of spirituality itself as a material process, which is based on the same network of codes and symbols that are used in language, speech, and wireless transmissions.

II. Wireless, Language, Transcendence

Harry Levin notes in his 1941 study of Joyce's writings that "the radio lends [Finnegans Wake] a spasmodic continuity, comparable to the influence of the film on Ulysses."[5] Like the radio, Finnegans Wake enables the dreamer to defy the limitations of sleep and communicate "his" desires and fears onto the page. That these sensations result in muddled prose can be read as a direct result of the translation process; that is, the transmission of sensory impulses of the unconscious mind cannot be perfectly replicated in the symbolic structures of conscious language. As Douglas Theall notes, "The action of the Wake dramatizes how electricity, machinery, mechanics, and chemistry perform central functions in everybody's body."[6] The dramatic aspects of electrical and chemical processes of the body can be read as the "dreams" which comprise the story. In these dreams, the very actions of the body are expressed through metaphors and symbols. The symbol of the wireless, then, plays a crucial role connecting Earwicker's body to the narrative space of the novel.

The use of the wireless in Finnegans Wake is most apparent in II.3, the so-called "Norwegian Captain" chapter, whose first few paragraphs can be read as a mechanical and physiological examination of the novel itself. The chapter opens with a Viconian reading of HCE's life, beginning with the moment when the dreamer (in the place of the earliest men) first heard the sound of God's voice and promptly received "the fright of his light in tribalbalbutience [L. tribolo, distress; L. balbutiens, stammering]." This voice compelled him to "hides aback in the doom of the balk of the deaf" (FW 309.2-3), or run into a cave or tomb ("balk of the deaf" suggests Book of the Dead). The other Viconian references here include HCE's marriage to "a lymph" (both nymph and lymph node), and his downfall at the hands of a "pride that bogs the party begs the glory of a wake" (FW 309.6-7). While this is a typical retelling of HCE's origins, John Bishop notes that this sentence "has no subject at all;"[7] consequently, the figure described is not simply HCE but also the absent body of Earwicker. These absences and their wireless implications are magnified in the next sentence, which details a turbulence that "was now or never in Etheria Deserta, as in Grander Suburbia, with Finnfannfawners, ruric or cospolite, for much or moment indispute" (FW 309.10-11).[8] "Etheria Deserta" suggests Edri Deserta, an old term for Howth, the easternmost area of Dublin, and the topographical location of HCE's head in Finnegans Wake;[9] it also suggests "ether," a term defined as both the rarefied air that fills the cosmos and the invisible elements which comprise it, including air and radio waves. The term "air waves" was first used in 1928 to describe the medium of radio signals, which were said to ripple through the air like waves rippling across an ocean. Consequently, it is possible to read "Etheria Deserta" as describing HCE's unconscious head as it sleeps in the "ethereal desert" of both suburban Dublin and the cosmic realm of radio waves. It is in these waves and through these waves that the next paragraph is focused:

Whyfor had they, it is Hiberio-Miletians and Argloe-Noremen, donated him, birth of an otion that was breeder to sweatoslaves, as mysterbolder, forced in their waste, and as for Ibdullin what of Himana, that their tolvtubular high fidelity daildialler, as modern as tomorrow afternoon and in appearance up to the minute, (hearing that anybody in that ruad duchy of Wollingstown schemed to halve the wrong type of date) equipped with supershielded umbrella antennas for distance getting and connected by the magnetic links of a Bellini-Tosti coupling system with a vitaltone speaker, capable of capturing skybuddies, harbour craft emittences, key clickings, vaticum cleaners, due to woman formed mobile or man made static and bawling the whowle hamshack and wobble down in an eliminium sounds pound so as to serve him up a melegoturny marygoraumd, eclectrically filtered for allirish earths and ohmes. This harmonic condenser enginium (the Mole) they caused to be worked from a magazine battery (called the Mimmim Bimbim patent number 1132, Thorpetersen and Synds, Jomsborg, Selverbergen) which was tuned up by twintriodic singulvalvulous pipelines (lackslipping along as if their liffing deepunded on it) with a howdrocephalous enlargement, a gain control of circumcentric megacycles, ranging from the antidulibnium onto the serostaatarean. They finally caused, or most leastways brung it about somehows, (that) the pip of the lin (to) pinnatrate inthro fractured by Piaras UaRhuamhaighaudhlug, tympan founder Eustache Straight, Bauliaughacleeagh) a meatous conch culpable with the concertiums of the Brythyc Symmonds Guild, the Ropemakers Reunion, the Variagated Peddlars Barringoy Bnibrthirhd, the Askold Olegsonder Crowd of the O'Keef-Rosses and Rhosso-Keevers of Zastwoking, the Ligue of Yahooth o.s.v. so as to lall the bygone dozed they arborised around, up his corpular fruend and down his reuctionary buckling, hummer, enville and cstorrap (the man of Iren, thore's Curlymane for you!), lill the lubberendth of his otological life. (FW 309.11-310.21)

According to McHugh, this passage tells how HCE received "a gift...from his customers of an electrical appliance, whereby a piped message penetrated the chambers of his ears until it reached the labyrinth."[10] The gift of a "high fidelity daildialler " suggests several things: high fidelity recordings,[11] the "Dail," or Dail Eireann,[12] which is the name Sinn Fein attributed to the seat of government after their proclamation of an Irish Free State in 1918, and "dialler," which could be used to either describe someone dialing the telephone or adjusting the knob on a wireless. The device, in short, is at once a body sleeping in space, an ear, a communication device, and a mechanism capable of "dialing" into Ireland's political past. While these readings offer different readings of the device, it is important not to dismiss any one reading in favor of another. As Theall notes, the various "interpretations of this episode" all "interact so as to clarify how 'everybody' (HCE) is a machinic assemblage of machinic assemblage."[13] The ear, in other words, is as much a machine as the radio; likewise, the mechanical actions of a sleeping body are as much a part of the dreaming process as the dreams themselves. To "become-machine," as HCE does in this case, is to reinforce the mechanical structure of human physiology, psychology, technology, history, time, space, and desire.

While there are numerous references to physiology and history, it is the technological references in this passage that highlight the assemblage of forces at work in the construction of the Wake. This assemblage, moreover, is focused less upon identifying a particular device than it is in finding a way to use wireless technology to communicate beyond physical parameters. The "magnetic links of a Bellini-Tosti coupling system," for instance, is a reference to the Bellini-Tosi aerial, a device used in radiotelegraphy for (as Joyce puts it) "distance getting,"[14] and which looks like a "supershielded umbrella antenna." The "coupling system," meanwhile, refers to a connection between two electrical circuits (oscillating systems), that enables audio signals to be transmitted or received by a wireless system. Other technological references include: "twintriodic singulvalvulous pipelines," from which one gets triod valves, used in conjunction with the triod tube to allow electricity to pass through the wireless at a steady rate;[15] "circumcentric megacycles," which suggests radio waves at about 100 megacycles per second (megahertz), or 100mhz; and "ohms and ahems" (a ohm is a unit of electrical resistance). In short, the technical references here are specific and are focused around the ability to receive distant signals and to translate those signals into sound or to translate from sound into electricity.

What is perhaps more interesting, however, is exactly what sorts of signals are being transmitted through this wireless. Early in the passage, the narrator describes the device as being "capable of capturing skybuddies, harbor craft emittences, key clickings, vaticum cleaners." If the device described here is a radio (as most critics contend), then it is a surprisingly curious one with unusually powerful abilities. The word, "skybuddies," for example, suggests both airwaves and radar (radar captures "sky bodies," particularly airplanes). The portmanteau word, "Vaticum," meanwhile, "recalls the fact that vacuum cleaners often interfered with early AM radios."[16] Likewise, "key clickings" suggests the dots and dashes which comprise telegraphic language, while "harbor craft emittences" suggests sonar. As Bishop notes, "All of these distinct instruments [radio, radar, telegraph, and sonar] are sensing devices that have in common the ability to elicit inaudible signs streaming in out of dark ether from invisible sources, and to make them audible and interpretable to human ears."[17] The device, in other words, is analogous to Marinetti's mechanical body in its ability to hear, see, feel, and speak across vast distances.

Of course, hearing a submarine is not the same thing as understanding what a submarine is or what it is capable of doing to an enemy vessel; likewise, receiving radio signals is not the same thing as hearing music or voices. In both cases, what is missing is a translation (or procession) of the signals from one form of information into another, more readily accessible form. The translator in Finnegans Wake, John Bishop notes, is "Earwicker's ears, the only part of him awake at this moment in the night, as they hover statically in the dark and maintain their ever-vigilant 'earwitness' on the world."[18] Not surprisingly, the second half of the passage details the connection between radio technology and human ears. The most obvious description of this human/machine hybrid is the phrase, "harmonic condenser enginium (the Mole)." "Harmonic" is a term used in music theory to describe a note or group of notes which, when played together, create meaningful, or "musical," sounds. Likewise, a "condenser" is a device used in sound production and acoustical theory that captures and magnifies sound so that it can be made more audible for the listener. Together with the "engine" called "the Mole" (an animal whose burrowing movements suggest the earwig described in I.2), the ears in this passage are aptly described as processing devices that both detect patterns in sound waves and project those patterns into the body (burrowing into the brain).

The remaining ear references reinforce and expand this initial metaphor. From the "engine," the sound "pinnitrate[s] into an auricular forfickle" of the figure known as "the Vakingfar sleeper" (HCE, as body, machine, and text), who is described as "a meatous conch culpable of cunducting Naul and Santry and the forty routs of Corthy." Sound, in other words, travels from the pinna and concha in the external ear, through the "pipelines" and "tympanum," past the "hummer, enville and estorrap" (hammer, anvil, and stirrup: the three bones in the middle ear), until it reaches the "lubberendth" (labyrinth) and the "forty routs of Corthy" (forty rods of Corti), where the sound waves are processed into neural energy and transmitted to the "vialtone speaker" in the brain, where they are assigned meaning (that is, where sound "immerges" with "a mirage in a merror"). Although operating at "one watthour" (the amount of energy needed to power a light bulb for an hour), the Vakingfar sleeper is, in fact, a machine made for capturing disparate and distant signals and transforming them into "mirages," a word which suggests either "imaginary sightings of water or an indistinct, vaguely defined scene-a dream vision."[19]

Although the exact parameters of this "dream vision" are still a mystery for critics and casual readers alike, one of the most striking aspects of this vision is connected to the colonial, political, and racial issues evident throughout this, the "Norwegian Captain" chapter. "Vakingfar," for example, bears a strong resemblance to "Viking" and can be linked to the Norse domination of Ireland. References to "Hiberio-Miletians" and "Argloe-Noreman" further suggest various invaders or conquerors of Ireland, including the Scandinavians and English.[20] The many Swedish and Norwegian names found in this passage ("Thorpetersen," "Jomsborg," "Selverbergen," Vakingfar sleeper," "Askold Olegonder") also highlight HCE's own Scandinavian origins, signifying him as the colonizer among the colonized.[21] The political and colonial references here are not, however, limited to Ireland. The reference to "birth of an otion that was breeder to sweatoslaves," alludes to the ocean, an ear, an oracle (the Greek word ôt i o n means both little ear and oracle), and D.W. Griffith's film, Birth of a Nation, which is famous for its racial stereotyping of African Americans and its idealization of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization who sought to purge the American south of its former slaves and return the nation to a state of racial purity. The mention of Griffith's film both hints at the technological focus of this chapter and (like the references to Irish colonization) highlights the important role machines play in the shaping of public discourse. By machines, I mean not only instruments like movie projectors and radios, but also institutions like the Hollywood film industry, the United States military, and the Vatican (referenced earlier in "vaticum cleaners"). The latter institutions control and determine how radios and movies will be used and what they will be allowed to say. In a place like Ireland in the early twentieth century, the language and identity of those under colonial rule is largely determined by the external forces that regulate newspapers, oversee police departments, pay taxes, and otherwise determine the conditions under which individuals are allowed to live and work.

Margot Norris notes that "Joyce uses texts as a mise en scène of ideological formation, as a stage on which we can watch discourse executing ideological projects of which it is unaware."[22] The project in both this passage and (to a degree) in the chapter as a whole is the fusion of technology and human physiology. What the narrative structure seems "unaware" of is the recurrent political and ideological implications of this merging of machine and body. Because II.3 (like the "Cyclops" chapter in Ulysses) is set in the public space of a pub, and because the primary narrative strains concern a Norwegian captain, a Russian general, and a Protestant innkeeper of Scandinavian origins, the themes of politics, history, war, and religion are of central importance. The significance of the opening passage is that it links war, history, politics, and so on with the technological force of wireless communication. This is evident shortly after the initial description of the device, as the Tailor (Kersse) and the Captain (Pukkelsen) have temporarily reconciled their differences and have joined the twelve observers in the pub for a drinking session. At this time, a voice on the radio announces, "Rowdiose wodhalooing," or Radio Waterloo (FW, 324.18). The broadcast relays local news, including a "Welter foccussed" (weather forecast), gossip about "the allexpected depression over Schiumdinebbia, a bygger muster of veirying precipitation" and "Giant crash in Aden" (FW 24-36). Although the radio is generally considered a public medium, which broadcasts general information for audiences to absorb, what makes this particular broadcast interesting is that it seems directed at (or about) one person. The first announcement, for example, is referred to as "one lessonless missage," or a personal message for HCE, whose initials are spelled out in the words "Hoved...Clontarf...Ellers" (FW 324.20-21). The news about the "depression" also seems to conflate both HCE's "giant" status ("Hoved" is Norwegian for "head") and his status as a mechanism receiving and processing wireless signals, due to the fact that the "Rowdiose wodhalooing" signal seems to emanate from a position within HCE's body. The broadcast's focus upon HCE, then, links the wireless metaphor with the Adam and Eve motif, which is centered both upon the desire to discover the knowledge of good and evil and the desire to become like god by uncovering the truth behind HCE's crime and the purpose of his punishment.

This fusion of body and machine, or HCE and radio, spreads throughout the chapter, and is particularly striking during the "How Buckley Shot the Russian General" (FW338.03-355.07) passage. This section is structured as a dialogue between Butt and Taff, two recurring comic figures who represent lower class and racialized stereotypes of Irish or African Americans during the early decades of the twentieth century. The section is presented in dialogue form and resembles both the "Circe" episode of Ulysses and the general format of radio drama in this period. Through the course of the dialogue, the figures detail the story of an Irish soldier who hesitates to shoot a Russian general while he is defecating; however, "when the general prepared to finish the operation with a piece of grassy turf, Buckley lost all respect for him and fired."[23] The dialogue is continually disrupted by breaks that detail horse races, melodramas, religious broadcasts, and so on. These breaks act both as commercial breaks and interruptions from the gallery of listeners (the pub patrons). In each case, the break is centered on a particular technology. At one point, the device is a radio, where it details a horse race; at another it is television set, showing what appears to be Taff's trial; and at yet another point, it is a device created for "the abnihilisation of the etym" (FW 353.23-24). This last passage occurs at the end of the Buckley and the Russian General story, when Buckley shoots the general. As the word "etym" suggests, however, the gunshot more closely resembles an atomic bomb. "Etym," however, can also be read as "etymon," the root of "etymology," which is the study of the history of language. The word "abnihilisation," meanwhile, means annihilation, "nihilism," or the absence of meaning, and the Latin word ab nihil ("from nothing"). Together, these references link the destruction of matter with the absence of or destruction of meaning and language. The link between matter and meaning, or body and symbol, again suggests the wireless body described in the beginning of the chapter. The remainder of this passage reinforces this link:

[The abnihilisation of the etym by the grisning of the grosning of the grinder of the grunder of the first lord of Hurtreford expolodotonates through Parsuralia with an ivanmorinthorrorumble fragoromboassity amidwhiches general uttermosts confussion are perceivable moletons skaping with mulicules while coventry plumpkins fairlygosmotherthemselves in the Landaunelegants of Pinkadindy. Similar scenatas are projectilised from Hullulullu, Bawlawayo, empyreal Raum and morden Atems. They were precisely the twelves of clocks, noon minutes, none seconds. At someseat of Oldanelang's Konguerrig, by dawnybreak in Aira.] (FW 353-22-32)

As the passage notes, the "etym" is split as the "first lord of Hurtreford expolodotonates" or explodes through "Parsuralia," which is either part of Australia, Persse O'Reilly, space, or Lucan's Pharsalia. The "general uttermosts confussion" which this causes suggests the destruction of Hiroshima (ten years early)[24] and the start of the nuclear age; moreover, the effect of this "confussion" is also described as "perceeivable moletons skaping with mulicules," which Rose and O'Hanlon translate as "one can perceive molecules scraping against molecules."[25] The word "moletons," however, suggests the Russian molat, or hammer, and relates back to the "hummer" bone in the inner ear, while "moletons" also includes "mole" and relates back to "harmonic condenser enginuim (the Mole)." This passage, then, describes HCE as the wireless engine, sending and receiving signals. The references to "confussion," "perceeivable," and "mulicules" also suggest aspects of both atomic energy (fusion and molecules) and human psychology (confusion and perception). As Theall notes, references to the mole in Finnegans Wake are largely connected to both machines and the Wake itself, "since Joyce described the composition-the telling of the tale-of the Wake as burrowing and tunneling,"[26] therefore reproducing the actions both of moles and machines. The acts of digging and tunneling are directed toward creating a new hole; the actions of the figures throughout the novel parallel this mole-like activity. The drive to uncover hidden truths is a recurrent motif and is connected to the four historian figures, who are most evident in book III.3, where they use the magic of technology to talk to Yawn and uncover the secrets of the universe.


The first half of III.3 is set up as a prolonged dialogue between Yawn (who, as I mentioned before, is a Shaun-figure who has assumed the role of his father, HCE)[27] and the four historians. The many questions asked by the four, who are collectively referred to as Mamalujo,[28] center around the mystery of HCE's origins and the truth behind the reports and gossip that recur throughout the novel. Because Mamalujo note that Yawn "may be an earthpresence" (FW 499.28), who is inhabiting a "fuselage of dump and committal of noisance" (FW 479.19-20), there is reason to believe that he is either dead, living underground, or living in the ethers that hover above the earth. For this reason, this dialogue requires the historians to communicate with someone whom they can neither see nor hear without the aid of a telephone or wireless. Although Joyce links "Yawn" to the telephone and telegraph in his notebook, there is nevertheless a hint of "thought transference" at work in this communication process. A person-to-person line purports to connect Mamalujo and Yawn; however, since Yawn is supposed to be dead, the telephone line needs to be supplemented with a supernatural form of technology. In short, the passage aspires towards a wireless form of communication that can transcend the limitations of space and time.

This link is evident early in the chapter, when one of the historians announces, "Now I, the lord of Tuttu, am placing that initial T square of burial jade upright to your temple a moment" (FW 486.14-16). Although bracketed in Biblical and Celtic references, the "T square" seems to function like (and even resemble) an antenna. The fact that it is positioned on Yawn's forehead suggests that, although the historians are physically near Yawn's body, they are communicating with something which defies or exceeds their own physical parameters. When they ask him, "Do you see anything, templar?" Yawn replies: "I see a black frinch pliestrycook...who is carrying on his brainpan...a cathedral of lovejelly for his...Tiens, how he is like somebodies!" (FW 486.17-19). The reference to "somebodies" suggests both the "skybuddies" reference from II.3 and the "one stable somebody" (FW 107.31), the dreaming Earwicker, who exists outside the text. That the "pliestrycook" (pastry cook) is "like somebodies" can be read as a reference to one of HCE's occupation (he is both cook and pub owner), and HCE's link to the dreaming body. That Yawn himself makes this statement suggests that he is neither HCE nor Earwicker but another "earwitness" to the events the historians are attempting to understand. That Yawn is using the historian's antenna to receive an image of "somebodies" suggests that he is accessing this information through a wireless-that is, he is not physically located near HCE. Yawn, in other words, is a medium between the historians and HCE, explaining to them what he sees and projecting those images in words to the recorders of the story. In response to Yawn, one of the historians adds: "Pious, a pious person. What sound of tistress isoles my ear?" (FW 486.20-21). The reference to "pious" is a pun that suggests both the regality of the "pliestrycook," who chooses to wear a "cathedral of lovejelly"[29] on his "brainpan" (skull), and the cook's occupation (he is a "pie person"). However, the fact that the historian asks about the "sound of tistress isoles" (a combination of Tristram and Isolde, wireless, and distress signals) is not only a clear indication that this passage is transmitted through a wireless but also a clear premonition of the communication breakdown which soon results.

The breakdown begins when Yawn is pronounced dead by both the 29 leap-year girls and Mamalujo (FW 499.04-12).[30] Immediately thereafter, Yawn arises and repeats the climax to the song, "Finnegan's Wake": "your saouls to the dhaoul, do ye. Finnk. Fime. Fudd?" (FW 499.17-18).[31] After a few retorts from the historians, who refuse to accept his resurrection, the lines connecting the parties begin to decay. "Was that a groan or did I hear the Dingle bagpipes Wasting war and? Watch!" comments one of the historians. In response, Yawn cries, "Tris tris a ni ma mea! Prisoner of Love! Bleating Hart! Lowlaid Herd! Aubain Hand! Wonted Foot! Usque! Usque! Usque! Lignum in..." (FW 499.30-32). The Latin phrase is a play on Matthew 26:38: "my soul is sad even unto death."[32] "Tris" also suggests the story of Tristian and Isolde, which was referenced earlier in the chapter and which concerns the themes of death, love, loss, and sadness. These themes recur throughout this passage, and reinforce the relationship between technology and metaphysics.

Although Finnegans Wake is replete with moments of confusion and discontinuity for the reader, this particular passage is unique because even the figures themselves are confused by the events transpiring. One of the historians, for example, notes: "Rawth of Gar and Donnerbruck Fire? Is the strays world moving mound or what static babel is this, tell us?" (FW 499.33-4). Is the world turning upside down? What is going on, the historian appears to ask, while the historian's reference to "static babel" suggests both radio interference and a disruption of communication (as in the Biblical story of Babel). For his part, Yawn's reply sheds even more confusion on the situation: "Whoishe whoishe whoishe whoishe linking in? Whoishe whoishe whoishe?" (FW 499.35-36). "Whoishe" suggests both the words "who is he?" and an onomatopoetic word for radio static (woosh); together, the speaker appears to be reestablishing a previous connection (though without much success). The line between Yawn and Mamalujo, however, is not entirely erased; rather, it becomes crossed with several other transmissions. There is an account of either soldiers or children preparing for a war ("We'll gore them and gash them and gun them and gloat on them" [500.07-08]). Likewise, numerous accounts of love affairs, religious cries, and screams of terror all conflate into one another: "Aure! Cloudy father! Unsure! Nongood!" (500.19). Finally, there are declarations of love ("Me! I'm true. True! Isolde. Pipette. My precious!" [500.25]), which appear to blur the romance of Tristran and Isolde with that of Swift and Vanessa. These crossed wires are all significant because they reveal the apparatus of the wireless as the medium of communication. Earlier, when Mamalujo set an antenna on Yawn's forehead, the technological references were combined with numerous religious overtones, thereby suggesting that the act of communication was itself a product of metaphysical or spiritual incantation. In this instance, there is only noise: or, more specifically, "Zinzin," which is a word repeated numerous occasions (FW 500.05, 09, 20, 26), and which is defined in one of two ways: either, as McHugh notes, a "French onomatopoetic term evoking noise," or the word "sin."[33] In either case, the effect is similar to that of the "punk" reference in the previous chapter: namely, a term that disrupts (like static) the configuration of sense and reinforces the materiality of the communication.

Toward the end of this section, however, "Zinzin" becomes "Zin" (FW 500.29, 31), and the lines become less fragmented, more directed toward the theme of love, particularly the love of mother and son: "O! Mother of my tears! Believe for me! Fold thy son!" (FW 500.33). Interestingly, it is this reference, not the other references to Wagner, Parnell, war, and so on, which enables Mamalujo to finally reestablish contact: "Now we're getting it. Tune in and pick up the forain counties! Hello!" (FW 500.35-6). The Oedipal desire at work in the mother-son relationship seems particularly intriguing, and if Mamalujo are, in fact, seeking to find a source behind the rumors and myths that have shaped the text. It is significant to note that that it is an oedipal reference that enables this "missing link" to be reconnected. However, the uncovering goes no further than this reference, for as soon as the historians reestablish contact, "Zinzin" again sets in; the historians call out "Hello!" but get no response. They attempt to ask a question, but all they can ask is "What is the ti...?" before

SILENCE. (501.06)

As obscure as Finnegans Wake can be, this single word is remarkably clear. It is set off in the middle of the page (just as I have done); it appears discernible (that is, it "makes sense"). It is a recurring motif (FW 14.06, 334.31), which (at least in earlier incarnations) separated generations (HCE/ALP from Shem/Shaun/Issy) or genders (Kate from the men in the pub). However, there is something about this word in this context that makes this one of the most obscure moments in Joyce's novel. Although this passage fixes Oedipal desires as a possible source for HCE's sin, it does so through silence, which is not only the elimination of noise (getting rid of the "Zinzins"), but the erasure of the communication line connecting Yawn from the historians. Certainly, the Oedipal desires picked up before the line was cut reveal a particular "taboo" desire that (according to Freud) is forcefully blocked from conscious thought by the super ego. That Oedipal desire is revealed here, and that Mamalujo recognize this as significant ("Now we're gettin it") suggests that this desire is too revealed, and that further disclosure could destroy the subject. Hence, "SILENCE."

This argument, however, does not take into account the question that is cut off by the silence: namely, "What is the ti...?" The castrated word could be "tit," "tip," or "tap," each of which recurs through the text and are generally figured as sounds coming from the exterior of HCE's dreaming body.[34] However, if the word were "time," the historian's question would relate specifically to the very foundational purpose of their "call," which is to learn the "truth" about the crime in the park. The crime, which is first described in I.2, is instigated when HCE asks the Cad for the time. In that case, the Cad mistakes HCE's seemingly innocuous question for either an insult or a homosexual proposition. In this case, because of the "SILENCE" interruption, "what is the time?" is never fully asked, and the truth, which its answer might or might not reveal, is never fully disclosed. In short, what seems to be elided or unspoken here is the central point upon which much of the book is founded. However, what is actually being elided is the very absence at the center of this text.

In Jennifer Bloomer's analysis of Giambattisa Piranesi's La Pianata di Ampio Magnifico Collegio, she notes that the Italian architect's design is not so much a structured, rigidly demarcated edifice, but rather a series of fragmented "V" shapes which resemble one another but do not construct a unity of their own. At the center-the place which should support and maintain the rest of the building-there is only a void. "This center," she notes, "is unspeakable and unapproachable because it a vessel of-what else?-excrement, a violation of the ideal. In persistent avoidance...of shit, shit becomes the focus, the center."[35] As Bloomer notes in her book, the structure of Joyce's narratives continually corresponds to Piranesi's designs. The structure of this passage, in particular, appears wide open. In two brief pages, most of the major motifs of the novel-war, love, desire, fear, apprehension, and death-float in and out of view. There is even an Oedipal fear at the center of these intersecting lines, a yearning for a "mommy" that is crucial to Joyce's earlier works, and which relates to Freud's dream theory (from which, as I have noted, Joyce garnered many of his structural and thematic ideas). There is even a moment when the singular desire to understand what really happened to HCE emerges. After "SILENCE," however, all of these images, desires, and so on are displaced, consumed, negated. Instead of enabling a particular line of discourse to reign above all others, "SILENCE" posits an empty vessel at the heart of the text, an absence in spirit, psyche, and material substance. The center of the book is revealed here as a collection of signals transmitted from the dreaming body to the same dreaming body.

Immediately after the pause, there are numerous references to the back stage of a theater company: "Act drop. Stand by! Blinders! Curtain up. Juice, please! Foots!" (FW 501.07). Allusions to the lighting, the stage cues, the curtain, and the process of putting on a play highlight the artifice of the scene, rather than the illusion of reality which the audience watches from their seats. Exposing the materiality of the stage, here, reinforces the exposure of the wireless's imprecise connection. The process of communication is further exposed when the interview between Mamalujo and Yawn resumes:

--Hello! Are you Cigar shank and Wheat?
--I gotye. Gobble Ann's Carrot Cans.
--Parfey. Now, after that justajiff siesta, just permit me a moment. Challenger's Deep is childsplay to this but, by our soundings in the swich channels, land is due. A truce to demobbed swarwords. Clear the line, priority call! Sybil! Better that or this? Sybil Head this end! Better that way? Follow the baby spot. Yes. Very good now. We are again in magnetic field. (FW 501.08-17).

"Cigar shank and Wheat" and "Gobble Ann's Carrot Cans" are rough equivalents to two French telephone numbers: "Segur cinquante huit" and "Gobelins quarante quinze." While the phrase, "Clear the line, priority call!" suggests the telephone, the reference to "Challenger's Deep [deepest part of the Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean] is childsplay to this" suggests that the distance between the historians and Yawn is greater than the distance between Sybil Head in co. Kerry and the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean. The exact location of Yawn or of the historians remains vague; however, the statement, "We are again in magnetic field," suggests the "Etheria Deserta" or etherized plane of wireless communication mentioned in III.2. However, in this particular case, the wireless signal is grounded in a telephone cable, with telephone numbers that mark clearly identifiable addresses for both parties. Interestingly enough, however, despite a more stable connection, the historians do not ask the question that was cut off by "SILENCE." Instead, they ask of "a particular lukesummer night, following a crying fair day." They return, in other words, to a prelapsarian moment in order to hear again the story of the fall and its aftermath. Despite the better equipment, the story must return to its beginning, for to continue to the end means a potential destruction of the "priority call."

IV. Dawn

In Marinetti's manifestoes, he argues that technology will one day allow men to replace women with machines. The key, as he sees it, is to redefine creation outside the womb and in the hands of male engineers and mechanics, who would then build better children with the aid of steel and gasoline. The irony of Marinetti's proposition is that, to describe his mechanical universe, he uses the metaphor of womb, breast, birth canal, and motherhood to describe manufactured creations. Although Joyce's Finnegans Wake is far removed from Marinetti's Futurist world, the desire to fuse technology and the human body is nevertheless a central motif. Joyce's approach to technology is a skeptical one: while he recognizes machines like the telegraph, telephone, and wireless as significant developments in communication, he recognizes the dangers of a culture dominated by machines. These dangers are evident in the ways that instruments like the telegraph and telephone continually break down, in the ways that his characters (Bloom, Stephen) and figures (HCE, Shem, Shaun) continually misunderstand one another or refuse to communicate altogether. To Joyce, the telephone is a machine that expands a human being's ability to not understand what others are saying.

While the majority of the technological references in III.2 and III.3 concern figures who are defined as predominantly male, there are also numerous occasions that link women with technology. However, the most acutely technological references involving women do not involve machines like the telephone or telegraph; rather, they involve letters, voices, and refuse. Issy's footnote in the schoolbook chapter (FW 279 F1), for example, counters the mathematical and scientific studies of her brothers by positioning their writing and studying against her own body. As she notes, "If it's me chews to swallow all you saidn't you can eat my words for it as sure as there's a key in my kiss." Roughly translated, this passage suggests that, if she listened to every word they [the brothers] did not say, then they could eat her words as sure as there is a "key" in her kiss. The contrast between the kiss that is most certainly in her mouth and the inability of the brothers to communicate focuses attention upon Issy's role in the world of math, communication, and understanding: namely, she is the object under scrutiny. This is literally the case later in the chapter, when the brothers examine the geometric figure which comprises two equilateral triangles with the connecting points Aa , Ll , and Pp (or ALP). Shem explains to Shaun the various dimensions and explanations of the figure, until Shaun can "see figuratleavely the whome of your eternal geomater" (FW 296.31-297.01). The word "whome" is, of course, both whom and home; however, it is also womb, meaning that the figure itself can represent their mother's genitalia-or, as Shem notes, "the living spit of dead waters" (FW 29719-20). In the middle of this revelation, her brother instructs Issy to "proach near mear for at is dark. Lob. And light your mech. Jeldy! And this is what you'll say" (FW 297.14-16), which is glossed in the footnotes: "Ugol egal ogle. Mi vidim Mi" (FW 297 F2). The latter Latin phrase can be translated, "Angle, equal, oggle. We see me." In short, in the focus of her brother's mathematical studies, Issy is instructed to recognize and identify with both the mother and the mother's place as the centerpiece of the brother's studies. Issy and ALP-as well as all other female figures in the Wake-exist through the dissecting eyes of the men who surround them, study them, worship them, and order them.

Despite this Marinetti-like designation of women as objects of scientific study rather than students of technology and science, Joyce's women are neither silent nor submissive. Although men dominate the references to technology, women in Finnegans Wake redefine the idea of technology and its relationship to bodies. This is most evident in book IV, the final chapter of the novel, where the technology under examination is writing itself: more specifically, the letter that ALP writes to defend her husband, HCE. In this letter, ALP responds to the slander and rumors spread about her family by castigating those who defamed him; however, she does not absolve him of fault, nor does she offer any sense as to the nature of the alleged crimes. She concludes by noting: "Hence we've lived in two worlds. He is another he what stays under the himp of holth. The herewaker of our hamefame is his real namesame who will get himself up and erect, confident and heroic when but, young as of old, for my daily comfreshenall, a wee one woos" (FW 619.11-15). Although offering no new evidence, this passage does situate HCE within a sleeping world, suggesting his imminent "wake." The "two worlds" reference suggests both the separate worlds of men and women and the worlds of unconsciousness and consciousness. The fact that HCE "stays under the himp of holth" suggests that, if communication has broken down over the course of the novel, it is because HCE is unwilling to leave his sleeping state for fear that he would not be understood by men or women in the conscious world. In other words, he is afraid of what would happen when he wakes up. In this passage, ALP is capable of seeing the "two worlds" and recognizing a psychological basis behind his need to remain enclosed in his cocoon.

The ability of female figures to cross barriers that male figures can only explore and dissect recurs throughout the letter; it is also evident in ALP's final monologue, which details the journey ALP's river incarnation takes as it merges with the ocean. Early on, as she describes the composition of the letter, she notes: "Sometime then, somewhere there, I wrote me hopes and buried the page when I heard Thy voice, ruddery dunner, so loud that none but, and left it to lie till a kissmiss coming. So content me now. Lss" (FW 624.03-06). What is most striking about this passage is the connection between the composition of the letter and "Thy voice," or HCE's voice, which is so loud that "none but" (none could avoid it). The link between voice and writing, as I mention in chapter one, resonates with the desire to prove authenticity. Unlike the male figures, who struggle with radio signals and telephone wires to form clear and direct communication channels, ALP's ability to hear HCE's voice loudly and clearly again posits ALP as bereft of the limitations imposed upon male figures. At the same time, this passage appears to allude to Jane Austen, who wrote late at night for fear that others would discover her talent. That ALP left her letter "to lie till a kissmiss coming" when she hard the "ruddery dunner" of HCE's voice suggests the manner in which women's creative and emotional power is stifled by men who are incapable of understanding women or communicating with them.

The only part of Finnegans Wake that most people read is a single sentence that both ends and begins the novel, thereby enabling the story to continually circulate, just as the Liffey river (which ALP embodies) circulates from Dublin to the sea to the clouds and back again. That the final book of Finnegans Wake would resolve anything is difficult to support. However, it is important to recognize how Joyce's positioning of a female figure (albeit one who is at once a hen, a river, an ocean, a horse, and the Virgin Mary) aligns with modern culture's positioning of women as mediums through which mankind is able to thrive in an increasingly technological world. As I noted in relation to Dracula, the act of writing in the age of high technology is quite different from writing in earlier periods, for machines like the phonograph and telegraph reveal writing for what it is: no longer an interior manifestation of one's soul, but a physiological process. This is a point which Finnegans Wake exemplifies through its linking of biological and psychological markers, which identify the sleeping body of Earwicker with the processing equipment used by machines to send and receive information. While HCE, the brothers, and the other male figures in the novel are identified with technologies, it is the female figures ALP, Issy, and Kate who recognize technology for what it is: an extension of human frailty. ALP's desire to hide her writing from HCE reinforces the gap separating women from the tools of a male-dominated and mechanically mediated society. In book IV, ALP's "gift" to HCE is to bringing him back to "dawn." She accomplishes this both by reconciling his sins with her words and dying in the book's final lines, just as her identity is reduced to a trace of water in a vast ocean. Although the book ends where it began-with "away a lone a last a loved a long the" merging with the book's first line, "riverrun, past Eve's and Adam's" (FW 628.15-16, 1.01)-the narrative still kills ALP. Although this final sacrifice may define the last chapter of Finnegans Wake as a tragedy and place ALP in a position of prominence in the mythos of Joyce's novel,[36] the death of women at the hands of machines is nevertheless a familiar consequence in literature and in life during the twentieth century.


1 Leif H. Finkel, "The Construction of Perception," in Zone 6: Incorporations, ed. Jonathan Crary and Sanford Kwinter (New York: Zone, 1992), 404.[back]

2 Most of these notebooks are now archived in Buffalo, New York. For information on the Buffalo Notebooks, see Peter Spielberg, James Joyce's Manuscripts and Letters at the University of Buffalo: A Catalogue (Buffalo: U. of Buffalo, 1962), 95-145.[back]

3 Quoted in McHugh, Sigla of FW, 19.[back]

4 McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, 593. The suitability of the apocalyptic overtones in "twilight of dawn" result from the fact that, in Vico's historical matrix, the fourth era is the ricurso era, in which the third age of humanity and democracy is destroyed and civilization returns to the first age of gods and heroes. As such, the phrase "twilight of dawn" suggests the beginning of a final battle or the dawn of the final days of civilization.[back]

5 Harry Levin, James Joyce: A Critical Introduction (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1941), 176.[back]

6 Theall, James Joyce's Techno-Poetics, 59.[back]

7 Bishop, 274.[back]

8 Significantly, there is no subject in this sentence.[back]

9 See Bishop, 34-35.[back]

10 McHugh, Sigla, 77.[back]

11 According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., the term "high fidelity" was first used in 1934 to describe the highest levels of sound recordings. The term "hi-fi" was not used until 1950.[back]

12 See T.W. Moody & F.X. Martin, eds, The Course of Irish History (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1984), 310-11.[back]

13 Theall, James Joyce's Techno-Politics, 78. Theall, here, is borrowing from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's notion of "assemblage," described most carefully in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota, 1987).[back]

14 According to Servile Software's Probert Encyclopedia, the Bellini-Tosi aerial "is an arrangement of two large fixed-frame aerials mounted at right angles to each other and used in conjunction with a radiogoniometer in radio direction finding." Probert Encyclopedia, [], accessed July 14, 1997.[back]

15 The words "pipelines" and "singular" both suggest a constant but steady stream of electricity.[back]

16 Theall, 77. He adds that, "Joyce then associates this interference with the propaganda of the Vatican radio service, reinforcing the comic satire of vacuum cleaner with a blasphemous pun on the eucharist (L., viaticum)."[back]

17 Bishop, 276.[back]

18 Ibid., 276-77.[back]

19 Theall, James Joyce's Techno-Politics, 79.[back]

20 According to McHugh, the "Miletians," from Spain (Hibernia) were the "last mythical colonisers of Ireland."[back]

21 HCE is also figured as Protestant on several occasions, further alienating him in a predominantly Catholic Ireland.[back]

22 Norris, Joyce's Web, 21.[back]

23 Ellmann, 398.[back]

24 Joyce wrote II.3 in 1935; it was one of the last sections of the book to be completed.[back]

25 Rose and O'Hanlon, 186.[back]

26 Theall, James Joyce's Techno-Politics, 53.[back]

27 Yawn is not always Shaun or HCE, however, for the chapter also contains speeches or monologues from nearly every other major figure in Joyce's text.[back]

28 Mamalujo is short for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: the four authors of the New Testament gospels.[back]

29 The reference to "a cathedral of lovejelly" is interesting. The word "cathedral" has two important definitions: first, it is an elaborate house of worship; a second, slang definition of "cathedral" is high hat, which is itself slang for arrogance or cultured superiority. That this institution of reverence and snobbishness would be made of "lovejelly" (which suggests both jelly pastries and the fluids secreted during sexual excitement) reinforces the allusion to HCE, the baker, and HCE/Finnegan, the unknowable deity.[back]

30 28 of the 29 leap year girls are generally figured as classmates of the daughter-figure, Issy (she being number 29).[back]

31 The play on the "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum" reference from "Jack and the Beanstalk" is also important in this passage, since not only is Yawn a giant, not only does this giant die from falling (as does HCE), but this giant also "smells the blood of an Englishman," thereby playing on the Irish-English colonial themes that recur throughout FW.[back]

32 The phrase is a play on the Latin Vulgate, which reads: "tristis est anima mea usque ad mortem."[back]

33 McHugh, Annotations to "Finnegans Wake," 500.[back]

34 The word "tip," in particular, is often figured as the sound of a tree knocking against a window pane.[back]

35 Bloomer, 100-01.[back]

36 ALP's monologue, combined with the washerwoman chapter (I.8) are by far the most popular sections of Finnegans Wake.[back]

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