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Hart, Clive / Structure and motif in Finnegans wake

Chapter seven: leitmotiv,   pp. 161-181 PDF (1.3 MB)

Page 161

The practical application of Joyce's theory of correspondences is achieved
by the skilfully varied organisation 
of more than a thousand little leitmotivs.' Neither before 
nor since Finnegans Wake has the literary leitmotiv been used so consistently
or to such brilliant effect. Before Joyce's very characteristic development
of the technique can profitably be discussed, however, I must define just
what leitmotiv is, as I understand the term, and how in general it may contribute
to a work of literature. It is not my purpose to compare the uses to which
Joyce put the leitmotiv with the methods employed by his predecessors, but
some incidental mention of Mann, Proust and others is inevitable in any attempt
to clarify Joyce's procedure. A comparative study of the history of the leitmotiv
in literature would be an extremely valuable contribution to technical criticism,
but the great exponents of the device have been unlucky in this respect.
No extended study of the leitmotiv appears to exist and although there are
a number of excellent special discussions, such as Dr. Peacock's Das Leitmotiv
bei Thomas Mann,2 the greater part of what has been published is scattered
here and there as subsidiary matter in studies of wider scope. The general
chapter on leitmotiv in Oskar Walzel's Das Wortkunstwerk3 is sound and provocative
but too short to come to grips with all that his subjects implies. In view
of the considerable importance of the leitmotiv in the work of at least 
 1 Including literary- and song-motifs; see Atherton, pp. 235 if. and M.
J. C. Hodgart and M. P. Worthington, Song in the Works of James Joyce, New
York, 1959; see also Appendix A. 
2 Sprache and Dichtung, vol. LV, 1934. 
'  Leipzig, 1926, pp. 152—81. 

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