"Finnegans Wake is the greatest guidebook to media study ever fashioned by man."
- Marshall McLuhan, Newsweek Magazine, p.56, February 28, 1966
Each thunderclap is a resonating logos that represents a transformation of human
culture. McLuhan presents the thunders as encoding Joyce's study of ten major
communications revolutions, ranging from neolithic technologies such as speech
and fire, through cities, the railroad, and print, to radio, movies, and television.
Seen in this fashion, Finnegans Wake is both an encyclopedia of the effects of
technology in reshaping human culture and society, and a complete training
course for detecting the changes in sensibility occasioned by new media.
FW003 (thunder): bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarr hounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk FW023 (thunder): Perkodhuskurunbarggruauyagokgorlayorgromgremmitghundhurthrumathunar adidillifaititillibumullunukkunun FW044 (clap): klikkaklakkaklaskaklopatzklatschabattacreppycrottygraddaghsemmihsamm ihnouithappluddyappladdypkonpkot FW090 (whore): Bladyughfoulmoecklenburgwhurawhorascortastrumpapornanennykocksa pastippatappatupperstrippuckputtanach FW113: Thingcrooklyexineverypasturesixdixlikencehimaroundhersthemaggerby kinkinkankanwithdownmindlookingated FW257 (shut the door): Lukkedoerendunandurraskewdylooshoofermoyportertooryzooysphalnabort ansporthaokansakroidverjkapakkapuk FW314: Bothallchoractorschumminaroundgansumuminarumdrumstrumtruminahumpta dumpwaultopoofoolooderamaunsturnup FW332: Pappappapparrassannuaragheallachnatullaghmonganmacmacmacwhack falltherdebblenonthedubblandaddydoodled FW414 (cough): husstenhasstencaffincoffintussemtossemdamandamnacosaghcusaghhobix hatouxpeswchbechoscashlcarcarcaract FW424 (Norse gods): Ullhodturdenweirmudgaardgringnirurdrmolnirfenrirlukkilokkibaugi mandodrrerinsurtkrinmgernrackinarockarThe tenth and last has 101 letters, making 1001 letters in all.
Joyce's Wake is claimed to be a gigantic cryptogram which reveals a cyclic pattern for the whole history of man through its Ten Thunders. Each "thunder" below is a 100-character portmanteau of other words to create a statement he likens to an effect that each technology has on the society into which it is introduced. In order to glean the most understanding out of each, the reader must break the portmanteau into separate words (and many of these are themselves portmanteaus of words taken from multiple languages other than English) and speak them aloud for the spoken effect of each word. There is much dispute over what each portmanteau truly denotes.
McLuhan claims that the ten thunders in Wake represent different stages in the history of man:
- Thunder 1: Paleolithic to Neolithic. Speech. Split of East/West. From herding to harnessing animals.
- Thunder 2: Clothing as weaponry. Enclosure of private parts. First social aggression.
- Thunder 3: Specialism. Centralism via wheel, transport, cities: civil life.
- Thunder 4: Markets and truck gardens. Patterns of nature submitted to greed and power.
- Thunder 5: Printing. Distortion and translation of human patterns and postures and pastors.
- Thunder 6: Industrial Revolution. Extreme development of print process and individualism.
- Thunder 7: Tribal man again. All choractors end up separate, private man. Return of choric.
- Thunder 8: Movies. Pop art, pop Kulch via tribal radio. Wedding of sight and sound.
- Thunder 9: Car and Plane. Both centralizing and decentralizing at once create cities in crisis. Speed and death.
- Thunder 10: Television. Back to tribal involvement in tribal mood-mud. The last thunder is a turbulent, muddy wake, and murk of non-visual, tactile man.