Yet on holding the verso against a lit rush this new book of Morses responded most remarkably to the silent query of the world's oldest light and its recto let out the piquant fact that it was pierced butnot punctured (in the university sense of the term) by numerous stabs and foliated gashes made by a pronged instrument. (123.34-124.03)
First meeting of the term: Tuesday, January 17, 12:30-2:30 in GL 146.
February 29, 2016
Further sailing down the river (200.21202.12). We failed to remark how apposite it was to be reading Finnegans Wake on a leap year day.
I promised to check out the provenance of the slang that McHugh recognizes in “boxed bishop’s infallible slipper” (201.33). Partridge’s invaluable Dictionary of Historical Slang includes quite a range of expressions about bishops, including this one:
bishop, flog the. (Of men) masturbate: low: late C.1920. Also bash the bishop (esp. Army). Ex resemblance of the glans penis to a mitre, or, more probably, to a chess bishop.
So we still don’t know what McHugh’s authority for “boxing” is.
February 8, 2016
For the past three weeks we’ve been headed upstream through I.8, the riparian chapter known as “Anna Livia Plurabelle” (196.01199.27).
Casey did some hunting for a “wiesel rat” (197.04) and came up with the following possibilities:
“das Wiesel” is indeed a “weasel” in English; however, “ein wiese Rat” would be “a wise council” or, in certain contexts, something akin to “sage advice” and “der Weisel” is an archaic way to say “Queen” (esp. when referring to the Queen Bee, for example), so it could also loosely translate to “Queen’s Council,” which might relate in some way to the aforementioned “famous eld duke alien” a line earlier in the Wake?
We were a bit startled by McHugh’s annotation to the line “As El Negro winced when he wonced in La Plate” (198.1314): “as the nigger said when he looked in the glass.” Mysteriously, McHugh doesn’t indicate that this is some sort of proverbial phrase (and googling the phrase finds only McHugh). This gloss emphasizes a racism that may not be Joyce’s, or even what Joyce is primarily representing. I’ll repeat here my suggestion that this is an allusion to Oscar Wilde, who wrote in his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray:
The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.
In The Tempest, Caliban is called “this thing of darkness” by Prospero: hence “El Negro” (the dark one). If “La Plate” can be read as La Plata, the Argentine city, “El Negro” may be a kind of gaucho or cowboy sobriquet, and we see a gunslinger startled by his own reflection (with a Clint Eastwood “wince”). Mirrors abound in the Wake.
And Cornel, now returned to Jamaica, waves back at us: “Please send my regards to everyone in the group from last semester.”
November 9, 2015
After finishing off question 9 (“A collideorscape!”), we started in on the length tenth question (143.29144.35), in which we saw a lot of flirting and complaining, sweets and frillies. A very modest note on “her mug of October” (144.32): this might be an allusion to the song “Brown October Ale” from the comic opera Robin Hood, by Harry B. Smith (libretto) and Reginald DeKoven (music), first staged in 1890. The chorus goes like this:
So laugh, lads, and quaff lads,
’Twill make you stout and hale
Through all my days I’ll sing the praise
Of brown October ale.
November 2, 2015
Continuing with the quiz of I.6, we tackled questions 5, 6, 7, and 8, and read aloud but did not finish discussing question 9. Afterward I remained bothered by “plenxty” (143.05): that is, I couldn’t see what “plenty” is being combined with. To be “planked,” in Irish slang, is to be put in a coffin and buried. My better guess is the Anglo-Irish word planxty, which the OED defines as “a lively tune in triplets for harp, fiddle, etc., slower than a jig; a dance to this.”
When we looked at the phrase “whatinthe nameofsen lukeareyou” (142.06), we wondered just what St. Luke was the patron saint of, and the answer is doctors and artists (he was himself a painter). So perhaps the “shite” that is being rubbed here is a kind of painting (however incomprehensible it may be to the speaker of this passage).
October 26, 2015
We have launched into the “nightly quisquiquock” (126.06) that is I.6. We read of the summoning of the contestant (or is he a defendant?) and then skipped lightly over the very long first question of the quiz, and its answer (126.10139.14), only to dig into questions 2, 3, and 4 (139.15141.07). The only (very incidental) note that I have time to add this week is that the “thoroughgoing trotty” (141.01) is part of a theme of HCE as a fish, in this case a trout. The image of his swimming up the river (Liffey, his beloved Livia) to spawn is repeatedly glimpsed in the Wake, and that “Sainted Salmon” (141.03) is likewise a nod to what is called in Irish bradán feasa, the Salmon of Knowledge, which may be found in both Irish and Welsh myths.
October 19, 2015
Today we took a whirlwind tour of the Willingdone Museyroom (8.0910.24, though our discussion only reached as far as 10.07).
I mentioned a nursery rhyme in connection with “davy” (8.23) and “Toffeethief” (10.01), but no one seemed to know it, so I’ll share a sample of it here:
Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house and stole a leg of beef;
I went to Taffy’s house and Taffy was in bed;
So I picked up the Gerry pot and hit him on the head.
Besides the jolly Welshbashing, this little ditty plays into the themes of betrayal and battle heard in this section of the Wake.
In future log entries, notes from group members are welcome: just email me within a day or two of a meeting of the group with whatever further goodies you manage to track down (including any necessary sources and citations), and I’ll incorporate them here, with (of course) full credit duly given.