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

Chapter three: comic seriousness and poetic prose,   pp. 108-163 PDF (3.5 MB)

Page 108

Comic Seriousness and Poetic Prose 
As Shem and Shaun, the dual aspects of man's nature, constantly merge and
"reamalgamerge" into each other; as Isobel, the Alicegirl, sees her image
in her looking glass; so the twin muses of Comedy and Poetry are constantly
fusing in the language of Finnegans Wake. Essentially they are dual characteristics
of Joyce's "Revolution of the Word," which like most revolutionary aspects
of the novel (the antithesis challenging the thesis) is actually a romance
of the word—a synthesis of the comic with the poetic into a single
entity of language. As it is often impossible to separate the meaning from
the language in Finnegans Wake—its form being derived intrinsically
from its content—it is equally impossible to segregate the humorous
from the poetic. In an attempt to analyze the nature of the comedy and the
qualities of the poetry in the Wake, it is important to do so primarily in
terms of reuniting the dissected parts into its original unity—the
synthesis which is the basis of Joyce's harmonic as well as intellectual
balance. Its humor is basically verbal since Joyce's universal dream is poetically
conceived in terms of "echoes" rather than "images"; it is a purblindman's
dream transliterated immediately upon perception into speech patterns capturing
the many-leveled irrelevancies which dance about the central core of significance
in each event. 
 This is not to imply that Finnegans Wake as a comic novel lacks its comedy
of situations, but to impress that even its "slapstick" situations are delivered
in terms of lingual gymnastics, words falling over each other in comic processions.
The strong element of pantomime which, as Atherton indicated,' dominated
much of Joyce's thinking in his conception of the Wake, is equally linguistic.
His Harlequins and Columbines wear their splashed profusion of colors in
a tumble of linguistic patterns of "rudd yellan grue 

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