On 27th November, we read from 532.23 (‘as it should prove most anniece’) to 532.30 (‘wifukie’)
This troubled us for a while. Though we eventually decided upon a few possible interpretations as it suggests both ‘unease’ and ‘un-nice’. The suggestion of displacement (niece not daughter) alongside familial impropriety also continues the narrative pattern we’ve identified for this speech of language betraying HCE’s guilt despite his apparent attempts at a veneer of respectability. Later, Joyce’s use of ‘nieceless’ perhaps stands as a Freudian slip, and simultaneously as an alibi which does not work.
Joyce’s notebook for this section (V1.B.29) shows ‘baahaa’ as a note taken from Charles Wright Ferguson’s The Confusion of Tongues: a review of modernisms, which reports on a variety of religious interests and sects in America at the turn of the century: this word also, then, anticipates the number of allusions to religion, especially Islam, on page 533. Originally ‘bad’ in the drafts, the word was expanded to ‘bahad’, also recalling ‘paha’, the Finnish for ‘bad’. We noted HCE’s invocation of religion in a bid for respectability, but his religious affiliation can be, like Bloom’s, murky at times.
Babbyl reminded us of Balbus, who appears in Portrait (Stephen observes the graffiti on the wall, ‘Balbus was building a wall’) as well as Babel, the Gardens of Babylon (see previous post), and Bab el Ma’la, the gate of the upper quarter of Mecca (continuing the Islamic references in the piece). Babyl Market was also a market for the name of the daughter of Danish slave owners and African women, continuing the Danish presence in the piece. We also thought of a possible allusion to WT Stead’s ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’, as research for which Stead grabbed a young girl prostitute by the arm and took her home, to demonstrate how easy it was to do such a thing. He was subsequently arrested.
As usual we spent some time here thinking about what HCE is actually trying to say. This passage struck us as an amusing and unwittingly ironic attempt on HCE’s part to portray himself as a pimp, nonetheless proud of his upright moral values.
’I should her have awristed under my duskguise of whippers’
After initially glossing ‘whippers’ as whiskers (=moustache) we thought perhaps whippers suggested a parliamentary whip or hunting whippets; if the former, then this suggests another attempt at genteelness. This reminded us of Wyndham Lewis’ 1927 observation in Time and Western Man that Joyce is obsessed with respectability (‘Joyce is steeped in the sadness and the shabbiness of the pathetic gentility of the upper shopkeeping class, slumbering at the bottom of a neglected province; never far, in its snobbishly circumscribed despair, from the pawn-shop and the ‘pub’.’) Respectability was also a topic of interest for Rowntree during his poverty research, we remembered, a text that appears throughout the Wake (see Atherton).
HCE’s claim that he ‘should her have awristed’ struck us: why this construction? Despite the claim to authority, that he would have had this done for him in disguise marks an agency at one remove. Who would do the arresting? This seems an odd claim to make, especially as HCE is actually in the dock on trial at this moment.
‘through toombs and deempeys’
That Joyce was thinking of the New York City prison ‘Tombs’ when writing this is confirmed by a note in his notebook (VI.B.24.206l), though the spelling of ‘deempeys’ was harder to discern a reason for. Spoken aloud it sounds like DMP (Dublin Metropolitan Police). The theme of judiciary continues in Lagman (see Fweet) and in ‘ting’, a parliament in various Scandinavian languages.
We also identified a possible allusion to necrophilia in these lines, present also in the song after which the work is named.
‘was she but tinkling of such a tink’
Continuing the Islamic references in the piece, we recalled that according to extreme Sharia law, women can be punished for having thoughts of adultery. While ‘tink’ has legislative meaning (see above) we also recorded the obvious allusion to Joyce’s Camber Music and Joyce’s/HCE’s attraction to women urinating, specifically the sound of this.
The meaning of the sentence also changes with the addition of this final clause, leading us to gloss this sentence as ‘I should have had her arrested if she was thinking such a thing’. At this point, we also looked at a draft of this section, which originally read ‘I should have had her awristed was she tinkling such a tink’.
Having looked at the additions, we stopped here to consider the process of reading the Wake. While there appears to be lots of rational coherence in the early drafts, it is also true that Joyce always knew he would come back to the drafts and rework (expand) them: this makes it more than possible that a subsequent, added line will not entirely cohere with the initial line meaning.
This lead us to thoughts of how Joyce wanted to be read and what his ideal reader, if such a thing exists, might look like (and here Umberto Eco’s Ideal Reader was mentioned). Considering the type of reader who gives up on the Wake and sees something ‘unreachable’ in it, we thought about how this idea of unreachability works on a narrative level, and how quickly this can be modified into a reading that recognises the ‘transcendent’ in Joyce. Yet, as ‘Ithaca’ shows, the apparently unreachable can be reached through a dialectic process of analyzing and then defamiliarising the reachable.
Recalling our conversation in an earlier seminar we also thought about a Dantean model of reading the Wake, and the possibility that Joyce is modernizing, or secualirizing, a Dantean model of reading.
‘as a mere matter of ficfect’
Like ‘as a matter of fict’ earlier in the passage (FW 532.14) we noted the irony of the etymology of fact, related to ‘fashion’ (‘to make’), which is to say that all facts are made, and this is evident in their very ‘matter’-ness. We also noted ‘confect’ and perhaps ‘fecund’ in the final word too.
‘I tell of myself how I popo possess the ripest littlums wifukie’
This sounded Whitmanesque to us (Buck Mulligan quotes him in ‘Telemachus’), while ‘popo’ again emphasis HCE’s stutter and consequent lack of control over language. We noted HCE’s attempt to characterise his wife as a child as a strategy by which he can deny the need to show any interest in an actual young girl. His wife is also characterized as a horse (‘handicapped’, ‘consolation prize’) and we noted that to be handicapped (with large breasts) is the opposite of what HCE tells us in the first part of the sentence.
We will meet again on December 11th to read from ‘around the globelettes’ (532.30).