Technology changes the way we live and perceive the world around us. It has also affected the way we read inasmuch as today we have e-book readers, software for connecting directly references in the text directly to their end source and what not, but could we claim that it has some substantial impact on our way of understanding a work of art? I believed not until I was dissuaded. One particular field of Joycean studies has devoted itself to tracing all the references to different sources, all with the help of his notebooks, which were found in Paris. As it turns out, Joyce was a meticulous observer who kept track of all court reports, read different newspapers, books on banking, etc., and noted everything down in his notebooks. Whatever of that material had ended up in his works had been crossed out. That is exactly where Joyce’s notebooks passed the baton to technology.That is exactly the place from which technology takes the baton over. It is the job of scholars to feed this information into the system, so that it can be located in the text. These scholars have done a meticulous job. Many puzzling usages of language, interesting collocations and phrases entered Joyce’s works without any or with a slight change. This work truly speaks volumes about what Joyce had in mind when he introduced these passages (or at least we have one more clue). If we are to read the text this way, it turns out that the whole of Finnegans Wake could be seen as a court ruling!
Trieste, Day Four
And just when we thought that we could not get more exhilarated than that, in came Prof. Catherine O’Callaghan who opened a whole new world of possible interpretations. Namely, she included the idea of Brocken Spectre in Finnegans Wake, which left us speechless. When atop a hill, sometimes it happens that people can see a huge shadow cast before them, surrounded by a rainbow halo. Some stipulate this is the reason why saints are depicted with a halo. Is it just Croon Cruach, the pre-Christian solar deity, Saint Patrick, God, or is it just the shadow of our elongated possibilities? Maybe that is our own self, if we have in mind Plato’s cave - that shadow is the only reality we have, until we free ourselves? By including that shadow, Joyce completely changes the point of view of the reader – everything is distorted, vanishing into thin air.
From those heights we just paced up into the night of wine and song. I cannot but wonder what Joyce would have made of our singing, but I know that for us it was great fun. The voices rose in different languages, telling the story of love, longing, loss and possible homecoming as an overarching idea which keeps us safe on the ground. Otherwise, we might try to reach for that shadow which is in front of us and either end up in an abyss of pain or fly straight into the sky, where we presumably belong. Be that as it may, Joyce’s voice seems to keep on finding its way back into this reality through the books which do not stop posing questions. That kind of immortality is what every writer strives for.
I bet that Joyce’s Brocken Spectre nodded back at him when he started writing his books.