Thursday, November 24, 2011

PROBE: Vivisective

In the penultimate section of the penultimate book of Finnegans Wake, Joyce's dreaming hero, imagining himself to be a figure called Yawn, is submitted to an interrogation involving a variety of modes of hermeneutics-historical understanding, psychoanalytic interpretation, modem spiritual self-reflection-before emerging as the awakened "democratic" man announced by radio broadcast at the beginning of the Fourth Book, which opens with the revolutionary outcry:

Sandhyas! Sandhyas! Sandhyas!
Calling all downs. Calling all downs to dayne. Array!
surrection! Eireweeker to the wohld bludy world. 0 rally,
0 rally, 0 rally! Phlenxty, 0 rally! (FW: 593.01).

Here communication technology operating in the interest of a revolution oriented towards participatory democracy is related to the liberation of Ireland from England. In the process Joyce examines the images of domination and control with which he was obsessed at the beginning of his writing career: church, state, family. In a brief article it is not possible to explore such questions as: Joyce's satire of Freud and Jung (paralleling that of Deleuze or Artaud) in the figure of Alice, who is "jung and easily freudened," to use a familiar example; nor of the nationalist entrepreneur Napoleon; nor, the cynical manipulations of the Church throughout the history of Europe; nor the "papa" figure behind the "Gestapose" (FW 332.07),to mention only a few.

Two key theoretic conceptions developed by Joyce in his youth are central to understanding these issues: his concept of epiphany (a term often echoed by John O'Neill in his writings on social theory) and his concept of vivisection by which poetry produces a dynamic imaginary reproduction of the everyday world. It does so by playing with the signs by which the world communicates with itself. Most poetic works, in one of their aspects, present sociology in action through such a vivisective process :

-The modem spirit is vivisective. Vivisection itself is the most modern process one can conceive. The ancient spirit accepted phenomena with a bad grace .... The modem method examines its territory by the light of day .... All modern political and religious criticism dispenses with presumptive States, [and] presumptive Redeemers and Churches. It examines the entire community in action and reconstructs the spectacle of redemption. If you were an aesthetic philosopher you would take note of all my vagaries because here you have the spectacle of the aesthetic instinct in action (Joyce, 1955: 186).
This vivisective concept implies that the poet-artist explores communicative activity, for the community in action manifests itself in communicating. The Epiphany, a moment of intense clarity, renders forth the specific nature of a material, verbal, or imaginary artefact, whether it is an object, an event or a turn of phrase.


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