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Benstock, Bernard / Joyce-again's wake : an analysis of Finnegans wake

Chapter four: The humphriad of that fall and rise,   pp. 164-215 PDF (378.2 KB)

Page 164

The Humphriad of that Fall and Rise 
As a "novel" dealing with a vast cross section of the contemporary world,
Finnegans Wake corresponds in various particulars with the many epics of
other cultures and eras, and there are suggestions in the Wake that Joyce
meant for a definite affinity between his work and the classical epics to
be noted—with Paradise Lost primarily, and to a lesser extent with
the Divina Commedia, the two Homeric works, the Aeneid, the Chanson de Roland,
and Beowubf. Employing the familiar conventions prevalent in most instances
in these epics, he often found that they naturally fitted with convenience
into the framework of his Wake, and as often that they could be used in mock
form to differentiate between the heroic material of classical epics and
the nonhenoic aspects of contemporary society. The familiar method of alternating
and combining parallels and parodies, which had already reached a dazzling
peak in Ulysses, is further exploited here, and a glance at the outline for
a prose comic epic envisioned by Henry Fielding in his Joseph Andrews Preface
over two hundred years ago, almost at the genesis of the English novel, indicates
that such an ideal was probably close to Joyce's interests during the construction
of Finnegans Wake. 
 The vast comic elements and the poetic prose language (both expanded and
augmented since Ulysses) suggest the plausibility of an investigation of
the use of epic conventions, of Joyce's acknowledgments to other epics and
their creators, and of his attempts to telescope the history of mankind into
a single multifaceted project through a contemporary perspective. Even if
Joyce had not consciously sought to create a work that would generally be
termed an epic, he must have been aware that the history of the form has
witnessed the creation of both "authentic" (unconscious) and "literary" (conscious)
efforts—the Iliad, Odyssey, and anonymous 

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