Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Its Bloomsday but...

So it is Bloomsday again and I'm sure the usual suspects are gathering in Davy Byrnes to partake of a Gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a wee drop of best Burgandy.

On this day every year I prefer to ponder Finnegan's Wake - not because of its literary value particularly - but because it pushes some of my nerd buttons. If you have been reading the KLISS series of posts those buttons will be known to you.

Take a look at this page for example.
  • It is the first page of Finnegan's Wake. Notice the lowercase "r" it starts with. That is because the sentence actually starts at the very end of the book here. The entire novel is a loop.
  • The book contains a huge number of references to other books and other context which must be understood in order to fully understand the book (thank goodness for literary scholars who dig it all out so that lay readers don't have to). In literary analysis - just as in legal analysis - the content itself is often not king. The context is king. Without the context, the meaning might not be there. In primary law, it rarely is. Primary law tells you what the law says but caselaw tells you what it means.
  • Like all self-respecting books on "everything", it includes references to itself.
  • It is brimful of references to time, time experiments and even quantum mechanical noodlings on the lack of a bottom to atomic decomposition
  • Note the line numbers down the side. These were not in Joyce's books but scholars add them in order to be able to do fine-grained citation and synoptic analysis. I worry a lot about line/page numbers:-)


Neil said...

I trust you are not saying Finnegan's Wake would be better read in XML format. Although hrefs would be nice.

walter said...

OK. Now I'm going to have to go read Finnegan's Wake.