“None of your cumpohlstery English here”: Nightlessons, 270.29-271.29

“None of your cumpohlstery English here”: Nightlessons, 270.29-271.29

Meeting: 8 December 2013

Guest W

After Issy kicks up her skirt for the viewing pleasure (and algebraic assistance) of her brothers, the nightlessons moves into a discussion of history; the discussion is focused, as the right margin indicates at 270.29, on “Concomitance of courage, counsel and constancy. Ordination of Omen, onus, and obit. Distribution of danger, duty and destiny. Polar principles.”  The margin indicates that history has a series of structural components, one of the most recognizable of which is represented in the challenge made to “Sire Jeallyous Seizer” by “the tryonforit of Oxtheivious, Lapidous, and Malthouse Anthemy” (271.3-6). The conflict between an older, male authority figure who is challenged by two and/or three younger usurpers is a building block which repeats both through FW itself and in the Wake’s depiction of historical events: the museyroom and the story of Wellingdone, HCE and his two/three sons, and “Gough” (God) who was challenged by the “glider that gladdened the girl” and her partner, Adam (271.26, 29).

In addition to invoking historical events (including the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden), the section also comments on the idea of writing/authorship/construction/conception, ideas that may help us unpack the following lines: “You may fail to see the lie of that layout, Suetonia, but the reflections that recur to me are that so long as beauty life is body love and so bright as Mutua of your mirror holds her candle to your caudle, lone lefthand likeless, sombring Autum of your Spring reck you not one spirit of anyseed whether trigemelimen cuddle his coddle or nope. She’ll confess it by her figure and she’ll deny it to your face.” Here the reflection is depicted as a kind of representation which has an inheren

t element of falseness (i.e. the “lefthand” and the right are mirror images, but one is sinister—or even sin-sister, we might say). Therefore, what is said (or reflected) is confessed and denied by the same means: the reflection both is and is not that which it reflects. The image of a woman confessing by her figure (as figure/face or physical body in general) recalls other women who have done so: the prank queen, Mary, etc. We can also read “figure” as figurative language, language that conceals meaning or truth so that the speaker has the option to say “that’s not what I meant”—to confess and deny simultaneously. Figurative language becomes fig(urative) leaves as the section transitions from an historical account to a prelapsarian account of the same historical building block in which an authority figure is challenged by two to three younger figures. The rhythm of “This is the House that Jack Built” underscores the lines “This is the glider that gladdened the girl that list to the wind that lifted the leaves that folded the fruit that hung on the tree that grew in the garden that Gough gave” further indicating that there is a structural element to the challenge presented by younger figures who have the power to deceive (and be deceived) by fig(urative) leaves (271.25-29).

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Boys Fight, Girls Unite

Meeting: 27 October 2013

Section: 267.12-269.2

Guest writer: Shawn Ballard

Picking up from the last section’s “pretty Proserpronette whose slit satchel spilleth peas” (267.10-11), this section continues to explore the position of the female (Issy here specifically) in relation to the male (twins Shem and Shaun).

We open with a “Belisha beacon” (267.12), a traffic crossing light, beckoning and leading us, waving us on “to yonder” (267.14). This guiding light is figured as female, the “Usherette” (267.12), who transforms from a traffic light to an array of heavenly bodies including the rainbow (267.13-16), then later into Venus (267.22), Virgo (23), Nova (23), and Nereids or Eridanus (24). The left margin also mentions Ursa Major and suggests maritime navigation by the stars.

The Nereids/Eridanus reference complicates the positioning of the rainbow-colored Usherette among the stars. Because Nereids are also water nymphs or mermaids, and further because Eridanus is the river constellation and another name for the River Po, the Issy figure is simultaneously in the sky (where rainbows and little clouds usually live) and aligned with her mother as a river and part of the water cycle.


Beyond spatial positioning, Issy is also figured as integral to the structure and creation of language itself. She is “where flash becomes word and silents selfloud” (267.16-17), as well as “this sybilette…our shibboleth that we may syllable her well” (267.20-21). Selbstlaut (Wake-ified as “selfloud”) is German for vowel, letters sometimes occluded (as in Hebrew) yet necessary for syllables and words. Issy, like ALP, takes on the character of the void, “O”, but remains the source of language/children.


Where Issy favors language & reproduction, Shem and Shaun are all about maths & fighting: “Soon jemmijohns will cudgel about some a rhythmatick or other over Browne and Nolan’s divisional tables whereas she…will sit and knit” (268.7-13). The divide between the children’s studies in Nightlessons reflects their roles as part of the family unit. The twins are shown in opposition throughout the Wake and more immediately in this section as elms vs. stoniness (tree/stone, 267.26-27) and andt vs. grossopper (ant/grasshopper, 268.11-12).

Unlike the warring boys, Issy knits, a skill passed along generational and gendered lines– “all is her inbourne. Intend. From gramma’s grammar she has it” (268.16-17). Grandma’s grammar of femaleness instructs Issy how to deal with men: “Take the dative with his oblative for, even if obsolete, it is always of interest, so spake gramma on the impetus of her imperative, only mind your genderous towards his reflexives” (268.22-25). Taking his “oblative” may make Issy his “analectual pygmyhop,” a “washable lovable flotable doll” (268.28-29, footnote 7), yet this is justified by the right margin as “THE INFLUENCE OF COLLECTIVE TRADITION UPON THE INDIVIDUAL.”

More advice from grandma: “There is comfortism in the knowledge that often hate on first hearing comes of love by second sight” (268.29-269.2)

Special thanks to Diana for suggesting the title of this post.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hybrid Space & HCE

Meeting: 6 October 2013

Section: 262.3-263

Guest Writer: Shawn Ballard

As we get further into the unusual structure of Nightlessons, we’re starting to pick up on possible themes of hybridity and an interplay between order and chaos, particularly in the contrast between the left and right marginalia, but also in the main text.

For example, on p. 262, we have the first note in the left margin, “Swing the banjo, bantams, bounce-the-baller’s blown to fook,” a playful, singsong-sounding comment in line with the opening call and response (262.3-10) and HCE as “pubblicam” (262.29). This playful note opposes the right margin’s more opaque observation, “GNOSIS OF PRECREATE DETERMINATION. AGNOSIS OF POSTCREATE DETERMINISM,” which suggests that prior knowledge of order gives way to an inability to understand resultant chaos.

Mind blown to fook?

On p. 263, multiple iterations of HCE (who is himself usually aligned with the land/landscape/geography) evoke hybrid spaces, especially contested or colonized spaces. HCE appears as “Hispano-Cathayan-Euxine,” “Castillian-Emeratic-Hebridian,” and “Espanol-Cymric-Helleniky” (263.13-15), all suggesting hybridity or territory that cannot be clearly defined as belonging to a single geopolitical category. Additional markers of spatial fluidity appear through the rest of the section—from the left margin’s “no home” to the “inkbottle authority, solarsystemised seriol-cosmically, in a more and more almightily expanding universe under one, there is rhyme-less reason to believe, original sun” (263.24-27). The latter quotation containing references to the British empire from the special ink used for imperial documents to the idea that the sun never set on the empire.

At the end of the page, though, the playful left margin reminds us this is all “Hearasay in paradox lust.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Martinez on Nightlessons, Part 1

A page from one of Joyce's Finnegans Wake notebooks

A page from one of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake notebooks

Guest Writer: Michelle Martinez

Meeting: 28 September 2013

Section: 260.1-262.2

With the beginning of a new year, we’ve turned our attention to Book II.2, which poses interesting issues, including the reading of the marginalia (and whether or not printed marginalia qualify as such) and footnotes. The children continue to move into (or out of) focus in this section, as the marginalia are arsecribed[1] to Shem and Shaun, and the footnotes to Issy. In part, marginalia attempt to comprehend HCE’s indiscretions: “with his broad and hair face, to Ireland a disgrace” (260.4) and “Swiney Tod, ye Daimon Barbar” (261.13) from the left margin are more critical than p. 260’s first foot note, “If old Herod with the Cornwell’s eczema was to go for me like he does Snuffler whatever about his blue canaries I’d do nine months for his beaver beard.” The right margin (Shaun?) attempts to provide commentary on the main text by giving, but its own (false?) authority bungles these messages: “UNDE ET UBI” translates as whence (from where) and where, and “IMAGINABLE ITINERARY THROUGH THE PARTICULAR UNIVERSAL” (260.8) and “CONSTITUTION OF THE CONSTITUANABLE AS CONSTITUTIONAL”  (261.23) are similarly convoluted,  though not meaningless.

HCE is referred to as being both still and deep, while also chaotic and multiple: there is “Length Without Breath of him” and he is “tumulous under his chthonic exterior but plain Mr Tumulty in mufti-life” the result of which is that he is “more mob than man” (261.13, 18-9, 21-2). This multiplicity is extended to language: the second footnote of  261 “groupname for grapejuice” indicates both a private and a public language. Multiplicity and change are also referenced in the “horrorscup” which shows HCE to be “mehrkurios than saltz of sulphur,” evoking both astronomy and alchemy (261.25).

[1] “In all its glorious, tumescent extra syllables” anon. reading group member.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Re-Post! Michelle Martinez on ALPs Letter

Meetings: Feb. 19 & 12, 2013

Sections: 622.31-624.36

After ALP’s letter (an exegesis of HCE, ending on 619.16), we continue to follow ALP’s perspective. She continues her interactions with HCE, at 623.4 suggesting “We might call on the Old Lord, what do you say?” This may be said to herself, since the old lord is also described as “a proper old promenentory” (indicating Howth), or this may be a suggestion that she and HCE call upon the King of England (since 623.36 references a “traumscrapt from Maston, Boss,” thus invoking the Boston Tea Party and the New England Colonies’ dismissal of King George).  Whoever this monarch/patriarch is, his kingliness is indicated by

–        “His is the house of laws” (623.11)

–        “He might knight you an Amrmor elsor daub you the first cheap mageyerstrape” (623.15-6)

–        “Hoteform, chain and epolettes, botherbumbose. And I’ll be your aural eyeness” (623.17-8)

  • Aural eyeness referencing Shaun and Shem.

–        The reference to Grace O’Malley: “my graciast kertessy” (623. 11)

The letter itself is a difficult text: “Every letter is a hard but yours sure is the hardest crux ever. Hack an axe, hook an oxe, hath an an, het hith ences”(623.33-4). Yet the letter (or the production thereof) has a (desirable?) payoff: “But once done, dealt and delivered, tattat, you’re on the map” (623.35). The letter is placed in a bottle, corked, and carried by sea to land (624.1-3). This letter (or another text) is buried, suggesting the that a corrupt corpus must be buried (and also suggesting tying the idea of burying to the idea of resurrection).

Building and unbuilding come into focus:

–        “Unbuild and be buildin our bankaloan cottage there and we’ll cohabit respectable” (624.7-8).

–        The Tower of Babel as a prelapsarian moment/monument is referenced at 624.9.

–        Ibsen’s The Master Builder (Bygmester Solness) at 624.11.

Building and unbuilding are closely tied to the similar acts of weaving and unweaving, with building/unbuilding being the actions of men/husbands and weaving/unweaving being the actions of women/wives. This seems especially relevant given ALP’s soliloquy’s proximity to Molly’s in Ulysses.

Sensory tropes in this section indicate how the senses extend to boundaries of the physical body (as well as reference Shem, Shaun, and Issy):

–        ALP describes her perfume at 624.25, with the interjection “Sm!” (for smell, instead of her more common “Lst!” or “Lsp!” for listen). She indicates that her smell allows her to be in “everwince nasturtls. Even in Houlth’s nose” (624.26). Scent allows women (and men) to penetrate others, is strongly linked to memory, and also seems to be tied to a sense of place.

–        Listening and speaking recall the impregnation of Mary (through the ear).

–        Derrida’s The Ear of the Other.

And more!

–        “The only man was ever known could eat the crushts of lobsters” (624.36).

  • Lobsters are of the water, can go to land, but must return to water.
  • Any relation to the “nasturtl”?

–        ALP makes her home (“hoom” loom?) at the “marge” (marsh, margin) (624.15).

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Re-Post! Heather McLeer on ALP’s Soliloquy

ALP’s Soliloquy, Part II

Meeting date: February 5th, 2013

Section covered: 620.15-623.02

ALP’s monologue continues with a recollection of the birth of Issy: “And blowing off to me, hugly Judsys, what wouldn’t give to have a girl. And lo, out of a sky! The way I too.” (620.26-28) Issy, in her association with clouds and rain, remains a presence in this section of the monologue, as ALP urges HCE to join her on a “joornee saintomichael” (621.02) into the misty rain of the “softest morning that ever I can ever remember me” (621.08-09). The invitation gives way to nonverbal sounds, highlighting the internal monologue occurring here in contrast to the written communication of the letter that immediately precedes ALP’s soliloquy.

The nonverbal communication that appears in this section of the monologue highlights a shift from the language of flowers – one we might associate with Molly Bloom and her own soliloquy at the end of Ulysses – to ALP’s “languo of flows” (621.22).

Additional themes:

–Language of flowers: In the 19th century, decorative books of flower language were popular. Also referenced in multilayered fashion in Ulysses – Molly Bloom, Henry Flower, Bloom’s recognition of the language of flowers in “Lotus Eaters”

–Sexual infantilization of HCE: Beginning on 621.24, ALP appears to examine HCE’s penis, remarking that the “falskin” is “smoos as an infams” (621.25-26). However, she prefers to picture what once was: “Or see only a youth in his florizel, a boy in innocence, peeling a twig, a child beside a weenywhite steed” (621.29-31). ALP’s treatment of HCE here seems to alternate between the maternal and predatory.

–HCE and ALP recast as Punch and Judy (see 620.23-26)

–Tim Finnegan and The Master Builder recur: “And people thinks you missed the scaffold. Of fell design” (621.28-29). Whether the scaffold is associated with building or hanging here is unclear.

Additional texts referenced: The House by the Churchyard (Sheridan Le Fanu); Tibetan Book of the Dead (important to Yeats); A Winter’s Tale

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lost Posts!

Somehow, it seems that some blog posts from last year’s meetings have gone missing. I’ll be reposting them this afternoon–Sorry in advance if your post was one of the lost ones!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized