Tuesday, May 17, 2011

M-[a e i o u]-M: The Meanings of M(space)M

Don Theall and Marshall McLuhan at UoT
One of his prime and complex means of creating networks of interlinkage within the text (i.e., transversality or intratextuality) is to play on minimal differences within simple syllables by their transformation and/or insertion into a variety of words along with their potential for creating assonance and consonance. The items of minimal difference involved frequently relate to prime clusters of inter-related meanings. Text analysis software with wild card capability, the use of Boolean operators and other such search devices is of considerable value both in ferreting out these groups and in revealing many of the polysemic aspects of their interconnection. To explore memory, mimesis and related concepts take as an example the following chain entered into a search engine of a text analysis and concordancing tool: m preceded by the regular expression "any" (i.e., a single period followed by a wildcard [an asterisk]) then [brackets enclosing aeiou], i.e., indicating any vowel occupying the position between the two ms the second m being followed by the repetition of the opening sequence, a combination which asks for all words that contain any three letter syllable such as:

m - [aeiou] – m

Applied to the text of the Wake this is very productive in generating a multitude of examples illustrative of Joycean excesses of meaning for it selects all the monosyllabic and morphological chains involving mam-mem-mim-mom-mum (interestingly the first two members of which, if the second m is dropped, become ma and me). When the text is searched for occurrences, Joyce's insistence on the relation of the mother to such concepts as mimesis, mimicry, mime, memory, moment, silence (being mum) is established and the chain expands through multimimetica (multimedia) to semiotics (the meaning of meaning) and mathematics: "lead us seek, lote us see, light us find, let us missnot Maidadate, Mimosa Multimimetica, the maymeaminning of maimoomeining!" (Joyce 1999: 267.2-3) to "the deprofundity of multimathematical immaterialities" (394.31-2). From the multiple plays on the basic chain of vowel changes, here the reader is led into relating the mimesis and memory to Ogden and Richards, The Meaning of Meaning and Ogden's interest in mathematical (Liebnizian) theories of meaning. The strategy being pursued here rises out of Joyce's encyclopaedic design coupled with his practico-theoretic interest in inter-relating such basic textual concepts as imitation, dramatic presentation, memory, meaning and mathematical order. This is similar to that which characterizes hypermedia links and their rhizomic like organization.
These Joycean links, which pre-date digital culture, are aural-mnemonic; the m-vowel-m sets serving as the anchors for the internal (intratextual) links, as illustrated in how the "maymeaminning of maimoomeining" cited above evokes The Meaning of Meaning because these anchors are supplemented by the visual and auditory structure of words or phrases in the text including puns on the German word for "opinion" and the Irish for "stuttering" to provide the external (interdiscursive) links. But this interweaving goes further, anticipatorily mimicking some of the more complex aspects of hypertext by inter-relating the maternal, the imitative, the semiotic, the mnemonic and the mathematical (and/or logical) ordering. This is what creates a reciprocity between the Joycean text and the computer programs, which complement (partly, but not solely, by speed) the cerebral processing of the reader reading with eye and ear – the hypertextual path supplementing the path guided by human memory. Theall, Donald F. “Joyce's Practice of Intertextuality: The Anticipation of Hypermedia and Its Implications for Textual Analysis of Finnegans Wake”


Elvish said...

8th century Irish cultural anticipation of the Joycean anticipation online here:


Elvish said...

An example. The 8th c. Irish grammarians developed the Joycean operations. They had 5 categories of the "selected language": 1) The Language of the Irish 2) Commentaries of the Poets 3) Parted Language 4) Obscure Language of the Poets 5) Unaccented Language. In explaining the 5 categories, they showed how language morphed when the five "filters" were applied in any given situation of "language". For example, in explaining "Parted Language", a simple demonstration of what happens when the consonants R and S (alphabetic sequence) get "parted" from each other through entering environment of language, and then through entering process of "interpretation". The interpretation is not only "abstract", but also is seen to bear relationship to the "natural" environment and "natural" meaning:

(3) 7 berla etarsgarta (Parted Language,)
Ocus berla n-edarsgarta eter na fedaibh aireghdaibh
.i. berla tresa fuill deliugud na fid n-aire[gh]da isin aenfhocul triana n-inde taithmeach
[(3) And Language parted among the principal vowels, that is, language through which there is distinction of the principal vowels in the individual word through analysing their meaning,]

ut est, amal rogabh ut est, [for example]

ros .i. roi oiss ros, [that is, roi oiss, plain of deer,]

quando (.i. intan) as roiss caelli quando [(when) it is rois caelli, copses of wood,]

7 rass and rass, duck meat, [?praslacha?]

iar lind intan as ros usce [along a pool when it is ross of water, duck weed,]

.i. rofhos mad for marbusce rofhos, [great rest, if it be on stagnant water,]

no roidh ass mad for sruth or roidh ass … [out of it if it be on a stream,]

7 ro as intan as ros lin and ro ás
[[increase, growth] when it is ros lin, flax seed,]

.i. ar a luas 7 are a thigi asas. [1316-23] [i.e. on account of the swiftness and density wherewith it grows.]