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Hart, Clive / Structure and motif in Finnegans wake

Chapter eight: two major motifs,   pp. 182-208 PDF (1.8 MB)

Page 183

 Two Major Mot~ft 183 
of very long motifs which, by virtue of their unusual proportions might readily
be picked out even on a casual reading—if anyone ever reads Finnegans
Wake casually. The misquotation from Quinet is in some ways the most remarkable
of these long motifs. 
 Stuart Gilbert quite correctly defined the technique of Finnegans Wake as
' pointilliste throughout'.' The development of a style which involved the
manipulation of ever smaller and more autonomous units eventually led Joyce
to the point where, as I have suggested above, he could insert short, detached
phrases in any one of a number of places in the text. Yet in spite of the
unusually fragmentary nature ofJoyce's own mature literary methods, he seems
never to have abandoned his youthful admiration for ' supple periodic prose'
in the work of other writers. Even as late as 1935 he stuck to his unpopular
assertion that Newman was the greatest of English prose-stylists.2 This love
of simplicity in others may well have been a psychological reaction against
the complexity of his own writing very similar to that which induced him
momentarily to lower his defences and publish Pomes Penyeach.3 In a somewhat
lyrical mood he incorporated the Quinet sentence into the text of Finnegans
Wake in the original French (281.04). While this is the only quotation of
any length to be included in the book, it is interesting to note thatJoyce
has misquoted no less than six times, almost certainly due to faulty memory4:
' Aujourd'hui, comme aux jours de Pline et de Columelle, la jacinthe se plait
dans les Gaules, la pervenche en Illyrie, la marguerite sur les ruines de
Numance; et pendant qu'autour d'elles les villes ont change de maItres et
de nom, que plusieurs sont rentrees dans le néant, que les civilisations
se sont choquees et brisées, leurs paisibles generations ont traverse
les ages et se 
1 S. Gilbert, James Joyce's Ulysses, London, 1952, p. 96. 
2 Letters, p. 366. 
'  Cf. also the quotation from Nino Frank, above, p. 29. 
 ~ See the plate between pp. 128 and 129 in Mrs. Maria Jolas' A James Joyce
Yearbook, Paris, 1949, which reproduces an even more corrupted version in
Joyce's hand; this shows clear signs of having been written out from memory.

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