9th October

9th October

On Friday 9th October we read just eight lines of the Wake, from 532.06 (‘Amtsadam, sir, to you!’) to 532.13 (‘Monkish tunshep’). As usual, after looking at Joyce’s drafts and proofs of the section, we had a quick-fire whip-round of initial observations about the extract. These included: the richness of possibilities suggested by ‘amtsadam’; HCE’s conspicuous stuttering (‘bubub’); the allusion to the song ‘Here we are again’; the legalistic discourse (‘a camel act’); the presence of St Augustine, and also Augustus (looking back to 532.04, ‘sir ghostus’); the allusions to ancient Irish kings; and possible suggestions of Joyce’s previous works (the tundish of Portrait present in the ‘Monkish tunshep’).

‘Amtsadam, sir, to you’

This opening sentence kept us busy for a while, spotting the suggestions contained within the first word. It features Adam, the primal father, who might also function as a bureaucratic father of sorts (thinking of HCE as a city builder who will go on in this section to boast of and defend the city he’s built). ‘Amt’ is also a German government department.

‘Eternest cittas, heil!’

The political implications of this sentence were clear for us to see: the allusion to Rome as the eternal city an allusion to the rise of Mussolini, while ‘heil’ – to us now – of course looks to Nazism (though we were unsure about how the word might have been used and received pre-Hitler). In the way that HCE is addressing his city audience, this line also reminded us of the moment in ‘Circe’ when Bloom becomes Lord Mayor of Dublin. Reference was made to Jean-Michel Rabaté’s essay which looks at this phrase in depth (‘Eternest cittas, heil’ in Bengal, ed, Joyce and the City).

‘Here we are, again!’

Thinking of the trench song, we listened to this song on YouTube. We thought perhaps this was a political and pacifistic point of Joyce’s on the state of Europe, again soon to commence another world war. There is also a song about suffragettes of this name, and a minstrel show song of the name. Zack Bowen notes that the song ‘Slap! Bang! Here We Are Again Boys!’ also features in Circe, and the song itself was sung by famed music hall performer the Great Vance at Dan Lowrey’s music hall in 1887 (Infinite Variety: Dan Lowrey’s Music Hall, 1879-97, Watters & Murtagh, Dublin 1975, p.91). While identifying the trench song, we were also cautious about this interpretation. In conjunction with the line above, we noted Joyce’s resigned tone, and the sense that Europe seems once again to be disintegrating.

‘camel act’

After commenting that Joyce enjoyed reading the trials in newspapers, we identified that the Buffalo notebooks specifically contain a reference to the court trials as published in the edition of the Connaught Tribune from 18th March 1924, from which this line is partly derived. More historically, we thought about the Treason Act of Edward III (the kingly reference also suggested by ‘thord’), which is one of England’s oldest statues (‘long out of print’), and yet has been significantly changed since its initial inception. From this starting point, we identified a complex set of Anglo-Irish relations. Here HCE appears to be defending himself using a set of laws that are pre-English (‘I am bubub brought up’).

‘Camel act’ also continues to suggest circus elements (see previous seminar post from 26th June for more), with ‘camel act’ as the specific term for a group of camels parading around in a circle (we also noted how important the idea of Viconian circularity in this section is, either literally as in the circus performance or historically). Camels have humps, while HCE is a hunchback.

‘Shitric Shilkanbeard’

This line led us to a general discussion about the presence of English and Irish monarchs in the passage. While Edward III is present in the treason act, we thought ‘Owllaugh MacAuscullpth’ was a reference to Mac Lochlainn, High King of Ireland until 1166. HCE’s general position in this section appears to be ‘I am descended from kings, so how can I be accused’ – this would appear to be a boast, and a look through the syntax helped us work this out more clearly. We identified four clauses (‘Amtsadam…’; ‘I am known as …’; ‘I think how…’; and that my game….’). This helped us to identify the significance of ‘but’ (532.11) which contradicts the first clause (‘I am brought up under Shitric Shilkanbeard’). It could instead be an ‘and’.

Sigtrygg Silkbeard was a Hiberno-Norse King of Ireland who made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1028 after his abdication. We noted the opposition between references to Rome (his pilgrimage, ‘eternest cittas’, ‘massimust’) and HCE’s Protestantism.

‘I am known throughout the world where my good Allenglisches Anglelachsen is spoken by Sall and Will from Augustanus to Ergastulus’

Though we couldn’t identify who Sall is, beyond a generic name for a girl, we thought Will was perhaps Will Shakespeare, while Augustanus Ergastulus also suggests A.E. We identified several possibilities in Allenglisches Anglelachsen: ‘all English’ appears to be undermined by the suggestion of the German ‘lachen’ (to laugh) while ‘lachsen’ is German for salmon, which of course appear all over the Wake. In short, we decided that these implosions suggest Joyce’s strategy of undermining national identity through language, with claims in the text being made that the language can’t support. To this end, we also wondered about the possibility of a sort of ‘stage English(man)’ being performed here, a sort of Colonel Blimp.

We originally identified ‘Allen’ as an English name, relating to Sir Joshua Allen, who became Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1673, or perhaps Colonel John Allen, who served under William III and became a MP in the Irish Parliament in 1692 (the latter was a great landowner, which adds more to the theme of land ownership and property that we identified in the previous seminar). However we later recognised that ‘Allen’ is more of a Dutch name, looking back to ‘Amtsadam’ and also adding to the number of circles we identified earlier (many of the canals in Amsterdam are shaped as semicircles).

‘Farnum’s rath or Condra’s ridge or the meadows of Dalkin or Monkish tunshep’

Continuing from the previous observation about the deliberate confusion the English language, we noticed that Joyce dropped the English ‘ham’ from Rathfarnham here, but does include ‘tun’ for township. We noted that Drumcondra is known for its rebel heritage (the rebels of the 1798 rebellion passed through) with the many beacons on the bridge nodded to here by Condra’s ‘[b]ridge’. We discussed the geographical locations, noting that four of these are south of the river (a world that Joyce was less inclined to), and that North (Drumcondra), South (Rathfarnham), East (Monkstown) and West (Clondalkin) are all represented. In choosing four locations south of the river, we wondered if Joyce was hinting at some larger ideas about how to organise townships, relating to the establishment of Protestantism in certain areas (these south Dublin suburbs generally being the locale of Anglo-Irish protestants).

We will meet again on 16th October.


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