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Adams, M. (2018). The Beauty of Finnegans Wake. Remembering and Re-Imagining: A Return to the Father. Brit. J. Psychother., 34(3):467-483.

(2018). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 34(3):467-483

Literary Practice

The Beauty of Finnegans Wake. Remembering and Re-Imagining: A Return to the Father

Mary Adams

The author considers James Joyce's immersion in Finnegans Wake as his way of controlling his imagination and holding together emotionally. A sensitive, bright and impressionable child, he had much to contend with, including being a ‘replacement child’, born into his parents’ grief at losing other children. This can create lasting guilt and confusion in the surviving child: do they have the right to an existence of their own. Or should they, like Joyce, go into exile? The author describes the fears that plagued Joyce and how a proleptic imagination, and his phenomenal memory, gave him a sense of control. Placing Finnegans Wake in a timeless dream world gave Joyce space, but within a carefully boundaried structure. Joyce's love affair with language has him playfully crafting his own elaborate Book of Kells, in which punning and parody distract from the grief which underlies the work. At the centre is a Dublin family in a story which loosely parallels Sophocles’ Oedipus, playing out the internal world of the ‘replacement child’ who fears he was responsible for the siblings’ deaths. The beauty of Finnegans Wake is the extraordinary way that Joyce stays afloat, producing a unique masterpiece of levity and poetry.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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