“In greater support of his word”:Monument and Museum Discourse in Finnegans Wake
The ruins of the Forum failed to move Joyce during his stay in Rome in 1906 and 1907. Disappointed by what he saw as their irrelevance to historical understanding and their transformation into spectacle, he wrote his brother Stanislaus, "Rome reminds me of a man who lives by exhibiting to travellers his grandmother's corpse" (LettersII 165). In his 1885 Presidential Address to the Cork Young Ireland Society, William O'Brien used a similar mortuary metaphor to compare the regenerate Irish favorably with the "degenerate" Romans:
The creatures who dwell around the ruins of the Coliseum still call themselves Romans, and masquerade in the grave-clothes of their august ancestors; but nobody expects new Ciceros to arise among the degenerate chatterers of the Corso. . . . The Irish race of to-day, on the contrary, take up their mission just where English aggression cut it short seven centuries ago, and leap to their feet as buoyantly as though the whole hideous tragedy of the intervening ages were but the nightmare of an uneasy sleeper.1
Themselves heirs to an ancient civilization, O'Brien comments, the Irish differ from the Romans in having achieved a "second youth" through a return to the values of the "Golden Age" (10). This rebirth is evident not just in the intense Irish effort to win Home Rule, O'Brien notes, but also in the contrast between the nation's repair of its "ruined shrines" and Rome's neglect of its decaying monuments (10).2 O'Brien's regard for archaeological restoration as evidence of a cultural and political revival typifies Irish patriotic attitudes at a time when the museum's rising cultural consecration made the Dublin Museum of Science and Art a crucial stage on which nationalists sought to represent their vision of a historically continuous Irish nation. The museum's importance for supplying the often lamented lack of Irish historiography while fostering a sense of national heritage and belonging can be witnessed in the repeated calls of nationalists [End Page 77] like Thomas Davis for the preservation of the nation's archaeology and antiquities and the establishment of museums in which to exhibit them.3
What value for the representation of history does the museum assume in Joyce's Finnegans Wake? Critics have tended to confine their studies of the Museyroom to the celebrated passage in I.i (FW 8.09-10.23), which represents the archetypal family drama in military-historical terms.4 I would like to focus more broadly on the Museyroom's identification with the Wellington Monument and the key evidentiary role of both in HCE's self-defense against the Cad in I.ii and the gossipy accounts of the event given in I.iii. A brief survey of the nineteenth-century literature on Ireland's "ruined shrines" reveals a similarity among HCE's repeated appeals to the Monument and Museyroom "[i]n greater support of his word," witnesses' "ventriloquent" testimony concerning the HCE-Cad encounter in Phoenix Park, and Irish nationalist enlistments of archaeology, museums, and monuments in the service of historical and political claims (FW 36.07-08, 56.05-06). The Monument and Museyroom's contested privileging as a bearer of historical meaning—as both a "sign of our ruru redemption" (FW 36.24-25) and proof of HCE's guilt—is rooted, I argue, in the power of archaeological remains and monuments as instruments of Irish nationalism and British imperialism.
O'Brien was able to claim a link between cultural regeneration and the restoration of Ireland's ruined shrines because their capacity to represent the imagined community had been established half a century before, thanks largely to the Ordnance Survey of Ireland (1824-1841). Begun as a map-making and gazetteering project led by a British officer named Thomas Larcom, the Ordnance Survey soon expanded under the care of the Irish archaeologist George Petrie into a comprehensive study of the physical landscape that combined scientific methodology with the listing of original place names and the description of architectural remains. As a result, the entire geography of Ireland was transformed into a vast lieu de mémoire (site of memory), a place pregnant with a past that could be delivered through the careful study of archaeology and toponymy.5 This privileging of the monument as a bearer of historical meaning is exemplified in Davis's 1843 "Historical Monuments of Ireland," one of the many articles on Irish history and literature he wrote for the Nation. Davis asks, "Does not a man, by examining a few castles and arms, know more of the peaceful and warrior life of the dead nobles and gentry of our island than from a library of books?" ("Monuments" 117). One of the first to appreciate the museum's historiographic value, Davis championed the Royal Irish Academy's work in collecting and elucidating the nation's antiquities and called for greater efforts to preserve them. The grounds for his proposal were clear: "The state of civilization," [End Page 78] he claimed, "among our Scotic or Milesian, or Norman, or Danish sires, is better seen from the Museum of the Irish Academy, and from a few raths, keeps, and old coast towns, than from all the prints and historical novels we have" ("Monuments" 118).
Ideologically, under the monument and the place name lay a Gaelic substratum of Irish culture that provided proof of an ancient nation and a great civilization, according to Joep Leerssen (102-03). Thus, around the second quarter of the nineteenth century, Irish public figures began to manipulate archaeology for various political ends. Elizabeth M. Crooke shows how ancient sites and artifacts were employed "to create a sense of the nation being natural and predetermined and also to provide material legitimisation for the myths of the nation."6 The ruins at Newgrange and Tara and relics like the Tara brooch and the Ardagh chalice became tangible evidence of a Golden Age of cultural achievement and ethnic unity, followed by a decadence that resulted from the English invasions, and the possibility of a resurgent Irish present based on a return to the values of the past. In orations, writings, and book illustrations, archaeology and antiquities demonstrated historical claims and validated political ideals. In effect, Crooke argues, "archaeological sites and landscapes became the 'poetic space' of the nation and artifacts the material evidence of a political concept" (32).
The gathering of Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Association on the Hill of Tara in 1843 exemplifies the use of a historic locality as a political symbol. Before a crowd of 500,000 people, O'Connell called on the legendary royal seat of ancient Ireland to bear witness to a glorious past and the possibility of an independent future: "History may be tarnished by exaggeration, but the fact is that we are at Tara of the Kings (cheers). We are on the spot where the monarchs of Ireland were elected and where the chieftains of Ireland bound themselves by the sacred pledge of honour and the tie of religion to stand by their native land against the Dane, or any other stranger (cheers)."7 The implication was clear. The same "pledge of honor" binding the Irish in the past bound the audience in the present to fight against union with the imperial British "stranger." Significantly, it is the audience's feelings and imagination, their "historical recollections" of the site, and not any visible archaeological remains (none were extant), that are called on to testify to Ireland's glorious past, as Crooke notes (37). The same is true of the monster meeting held at the Rath of Mullaghmast later that year:
At Mullaghmast (and I have chosen this for this obvious reason), we are on the precise spot where English treachery—aye, and false Irish treachery, too—consummated a massacre that has never been imitated. . . . I thought this a fit and becoming spot to celebrate, in the open day, [End Page 79] our unanimity [both Protestant and Catholic] in declaring our determination not to be misled by any treachery.8
Mullaghmast was the site of the infamous massacre in 1577 by English troops of some four hundred Irish, led there under the pretense of peaceful negotiations. O'Connell uses the place as an occasion for demanding the correction of historical sins and for setting in motion a repetition of history—but with the difference that, this time around, Irish Catholics and Protestants would unite under the banner of the Repeal Association and their claims would meet with compensation rather than treachery. By appealing to the precedent of betrayal, O'Connell doubles the moral imperative of his cause and focuses the crowd on the debt England owes Ireland.
Tara and Mullaghmast were but two of thirty historical sites where vast crowds assembled to declare their loyalty to O'Connell and the cause of independence. A third site was Newgrange, and the tumulus located there served nationalists as evidence of Ireland's "old nationality" and cultural achievements. In the article published in the Nation in 1844, titled "Irish Antiquities and Irish Savages," Davis alerts the public to plans for a road to run through the "Temple of Grange" and calls for the creation of an Antiquarian Society to preserve the nation's archaeological remains. Speaking of the tumulus, he argues, "It is a thing to be proud of, as a proof of Ireland's antiquity, to be guarded as an illustration of her early creed and arts. It is one of a thousand muniments of our old nationality, which a national government would keep safe" ("Antiquities" 167). Significantly, Davis enlists the improper management of the remains as grounds for establishing a native and independent government. Just as foreign invasions triggered a decline in Ireland's "early creed and arts," so British rule in Ireland, he implies, accelerates the decay of the national heritage.
Artifacts, too, provided ballast for historical and political arguments. The Cross of Cong, a large, twelfth-century processional icon, was cited by O'Brien in an 1893 essay, included in Irish Ideas and titled "The Irish Age of Gold," as proof of a "body corporate worthy of being called an Irish nation" (146). The testimonial power of Ireland's ruins—its shrines, castles, towers, and wells—is expressed in O'Brien's characterization of them as "the most eloquent schoolmasters, the most stupendous memorials of a history and a race that were destined not to die" (4). The "voice of Ireland's past," he claims, continues to speak through these ruins of "memories of wrongs unavenged, and of a strife unfinished, and of a hope which only brightened in suffering, and which no human weapon could subdue" (4). Like his fellow nationalists, O'Brien ascribed to archaeological sites the capacity to link the past with the present and to speak about the continuing presence of the past. As he put it, the nation's ruins [End Page 80] have "survive[d] to tell the tale after ten centuries of unceasing battle for the bare life" (9, my italics).
Just as O'Brien charged archaeology with revealing history, so ancient tumuli are invoked to divulge the past in the Wake. "Tal the tem of the tumulum" (FW 56.34—Jonathan Swift's Tale of the Tub,9 tell, time, tomb, tumulus)—echoing O'Brien's discourse, this appeal is made in I.iii amid the rumors concerning HCE's alleged crime in Phoenix Park. One of the first to tell the story of HCE's encounter with the Cad is the "porty" who, while smoking a pipe and using empty beer bottles for target practice, speaks of "the One," "the Compassionate," and calls up before his audience "the now to ushere mythical habiliments of Our Farfar and Arthor of our doyne" (FW 51.24, 52.12-13, 13, 16-17—Our Father, King Arthur, Arthur Wellesley, author of our days, the Boyne). The porty begins to sketch "the touching seene" of HCE's encounter with the Cad, but it gives way to a digression in which a jaunting-car driver, known as "Jehu," offers his own version of the incident (FW 52.36, 53.08). The gossiping resumes on the part of the "Archicadenus" (arch, Cad, "decanus," Latin, dean [Swift], "cadena," Spanish, chain, us), who asks his audience to
imagine themselves in their bosom's inmost core, as pro tem locums, timesported acorss the yawning (abyss), as once they were seasiders [Scandinavian invaders, like HCE], listening to the cockshyshooter's [the porty's] evensong evocation of the doomed but always ventriloquent Agitator [O'Connell], . . . his [O'Connell's] manslayer's gunwielder protended towards that overgrown leadpencil [a popular name for the Wellington Monument] which was soon, monumentally at least, to rise as Molyvdokondylon [lead pencil] to, to be, to be his mausoleum . . . while olover his exculpatory features.(FW 55.30, 56.02-15)
The Archicadenus's description of the "ventriloquent Agitator" pointing his gun at the "overgrown leadpencil" is clearly another version of the paternal conflict retold throughout the book. Over twenty contradictory accounts of the confrontation between HCE and the Cad are offered in this chapter alone. The multiply framed stories and confusion of storytellers are typical of the instability of discourse and identity throughout the Wake.
But the series of speakers extending through time and space and culminating in the "imagin[ation]" of an "evocation" of the "always ventriloquent" O'Connell gesturing toward the Monument/Museyroom also suggests a parody of Irish attempts to speak for or "ventriloquize" the mute sites of prehistory.10 Like the porty, who attempts to recapture the "now to ushere [us here, usher, Uther] mythical" "Arthor of our doyne" by appealing to public monuments local in time and space (in effect, the Wellington Obelisk and the statue near Dublin that Major Doyne erected to the horse he rode [End Page 81] at Waterloo), activists such as O'Connell, Davis, and O'Brien often "held the place for a time" (Roland McHugh's translation of "pro tem locums"11 ) in their efforts to tell the tale of the tomb or tumulus ("Tal the tem of the tumulum"): that is, the nation's history ciphered in the archaeological landscape. They used ancient ruins as stepping-stones across temporal distance in pursuit of historical truth. Through their manipulation of archaeological sites and artifacts, they enabled their audiences to "timesport acorss [time, transport, across, a course] the yawning (abyss)" of history and experience a shared identity with the ancient Irish chieftains and artisans they often invoked in their speeches and writing. Recalling the almost religious character of patriotic reverence for historic localities like Tara and Mullaghmast, O'Connell is portrayed in the same passage as a Muslim fanatic ("Saint Muezzin," "ghazi"—FW 56.08, 11) rallying his fellow believers in defense of "holy places" (FW 56.09). These "faithful toucher[s] of the ground" may be identified with the crowds O'Connell drew to such hallowed sites of Irish history as Tara and Mullaghmast (FW 56.09-10). Such allusions to the political appropriation of archaeology, coupled with O'Connell's characterization as "ventriloquent," together issuing from a succession of mediated stories about HCE's encounter with the Cad, generate an analogy between the rumor-mongers reconstructing a past event in Phoenix Park and those who gave voice, and political thrust, to the silent history embodied in the ruins of the Irish landscape.
The porty's description of the "touching seene" in the park supports this analogy. The scene, we are told, "scenes [seems] like a landescape from Wildu Picturescu or some seem on some dimb Arras, dumb as Mum's mutyness, this mimage of the seventyseventh kusin of kristansen is odable to os across the wineless Ere no œdor nor mere eerie nor liss potent of suggestion than in the tales of the tingmount" (FW 53.01-06). The "seene" parodies Stephen's vision, in chapter 4 of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, of Dublin at the time of the Danish invasions. Besides emphasizing the sensual evocation of the scene ("seene," seen; "odable," audible; "œdor," odor; "eerie," ear-y), the parody significantly substitutes "patient of subjection" with "potent of suggestion." The arras "scene" is indeed highly suggestive and in this respect recalls the journalistic description of the arras parodied in the "Cyclops" episode of Ulysses. This "ancient Irish facecloth" features "scenes . . . showing our ancient duns and raths and cromlechs and grianauns and seats of learning and maledictive stones" (U 12.1438-39, 1447-48, my italics). Following a comparison of the tapestry with an illuminated manuscript is a catalogue of notable (and some not so notable) landscapes and artifacts in Ireland: "Glendalough, the lovely lakes of Killarney, the ruins of Clonmacnois, Cong Abbey . . . the cross at Monasterboice . . . all these [End Page 82] moving scenes are still there for us today rendered more beautiful still by the waters of sorrow which have passed over them and by the rich incrustations of time" (U 12.1451-64, my italics). The movement from tapestry to illuminated manuscript to archaeological landscape implies that the last is as much a product of "artistic fantasy" as the others (U 12.1450). The landscape's characterization as a series of dramatic scenes reinforces its constructed ("rendered," "incrusted") nature. To speak of the landscape, then, is to speak of an image, one made both "beautiful" and possible by centuries ("time") of suffering ("sorrow") at the hands of the English. All these scenes—the ones appearing as the tapestry, manuscript, and landscape in "Cyclops," the "scene" of ancient Dublin in Stephen's vision, itself mediated by a "scene on some vague arras" (P 167), and the "touching seene" sketched by the porty—reveal a romantic inflection typical of the discourse used by Irish public figures to "ventriloquize" the nation's mute remains in their efforts to tell the "tale of the tingmount" (thingmote). The porty's recollection of the Phoenix Park event in terms of scenes thus parodies both the topographic rhetoric of Irish historiography and the manipulation of Irish empathy with the land for political ends.12 Precisely because the past events in Phoenix Park are "dimb" (dim, dumb), the porty is able to speak of and for them in the same way that Irish nationalists gave voice to ancient ruins: like the ventriloquist's dummy, they are "dumb," "Mum," and "muty." The porty's "mimage" (mime, image) of history—or miming of the past through images of historical places—demonstrates the power of the monument and monumentalized spectacle to validate political and historical claims.13
Just as public figures drafted historical memories attached to archaeology and artifacts in defense of their political ideals, so HCE points to the Wellington Monument to substantiate his claim of innocence before the Cad in Phoenix Park. He performs this gesture in two of the fuller accounts of the event offered by witnesses in I.iii (including that of the Archicadenus quoted above), as well as in the first version presented in I.ii. In this earlier passage, we are told that
[i]n greater support of his word . . . the flaxen Gygas . . . pointed at an angle of thirty-two degrees towards his duc de Fer's overgrown milestone as fellow to his gage and after a rendypresent pause averred with solemn emotion's fire: Shsh shake, co-comeraid! Me only, them five ones, he is equal combat. I have won straight. Hence my nonation wide hotel and creamery establishments which for the honours of our mewmew mutual daughters, credit me, I am woowoo willing to take my stand, sir, upon the monument, that sign of our ruru redemption, . . . and to make my hoath to my sinnfinners, even if I get life for it, upon the Open Bible and before the Great Taskmaster's (I lift my hat!) and in the presence of the Deity Itself andwell of Bishop and Mrs Michan of High [End Page 83] Church of England . . . that there is not one tittle of truth, allow me to tell you, in that purest of fibfib fabrications.(FW 36.07-34)
How does the Wellington Monument provide "greater support" for HCE's "word," serve as "fellow to his gage" (pledge, token), and function as a sign of "our" "redemption"? Completed in 1861, the obelisk was raised in Phoenix Park to commemorate the victories of the great British general Arthur Wellesley, the "Iron Duke" of Wellington. Four bronze plaques cast from cannons captured at Waterloo ring the base of the obelisk, three of them offering pictorial representations of "Civil and Religious Liberty," "Waterloo," and the "Indian Wars." The fourth bears an inscription reading "Asia and Europe, saved by thee, proclaim/Invincible in war thy deathless name,/Now round thy brow the civic oak we twine/That every earthly glory may be thine." The monument operates as a symbol, and index, of redemption in the sense of deliverance from an enemy, whether Napoleon or rebellious colonial subjects in India. But the object of that redemption is the British empire, since the Dublin monument also stands for the domination of an Ireland still resentful of and actively opposed to its union with England, enacted nineteen years before the monument's erection. Thus only from an imperial standpoint can the obelisk "stand" for HCE and provide legitimization for his claims: "Me only, them five ones, he is equal combat. I have won straight." Recalling the Museyroom exhibit on the confrontation between Wellington and the three colonial subjects, the "dooley," the "hinnessy," and the "hinndoo Shimar Shin," and their allies, the two "jinnies" (FW 10.05, 06, 04, 05, 07, 06, 8.31), HCE's claims, in this context, are equally those of empire. The context is reinforced by the invocation of the "Open Bible," the "Great Taskmaster's," the "Bishop," "Mrs Michan" (St. Michan's Church, Dublin, or the Church of Ireland, according to McHugh—36), the "Deity Itself," and the "High Church of England," all of them signifiers, like the Wellington Monument, of British authority. HCE's attempt to transform the monument with its limited, imperial symbolism into an emblem of universal redemption accords with the monument's graven, totalizing claims ("Asia and Europe, saved by thee") and his own pressing exculpatory needs. The materiality of the obelisk further complements HCE's aim by rendering present ("rendypresent") or making manifest his innocence to the Cad, who has merely asked him for the time.
In a similar version of events offered by the jehu in I.iii (FW 53.07-55.02), HCE calls the "univalse to witness" that his "guesthouse and cowhaendel credits will immediately stand ohoh open as straight as that neighbouring monument's fabrication before the hygienic gllll . . . lobe before the Great Schoolmaster's" (FW 54.23-24, 27-55.01). While declaring his oath, HCE lifts his signature hat (as he did in I.ii) and [End Page 84] gestures with it in the direction of the Wellington Monument. Again he appeals to the monument's "universal" symbolism, its capacity to memorialize his virtue, or "witness" to his innocence, before a global audience, even before God. But however "straight" the obelisk may be, HCE's business practices, such as his "hotel and creamery establishments" (FW 36.22, my italics) are surely crooked (McHugh notes that "Kuhhandel," in German, means shady business—54), and his assertion of virtue is as "fabricat[ed]" as the monument's imperial claims.
In the Archicadenus's account of the incident quoted above, HCE appears in the guise of O'Connell aiming a gun at the Wellington Monument. On the one hand, O'Connell's "exculpatory features" suggest that his gesture forms an appeal to the monument as evidence against the charge of killing John D'Esterre (as in reality he did). His appeal thus resonates with the rhetorical strategies he employed at such historically significant sites as Tara and Mullaghmast, which similarly embodied the past. The ultimate proof for O'Connell's claim to innocence, the monument functions as the terminal "speaker" in the procession of "ventriloquent" witnesses who resume each other's testimony to no avail.14
On the other hand, O'Connell's menacing gesture toward the monument recalls the "hindoo" Shimar Shin's explosive campaign against the mounted figure of Willingdone (FW 10.10-23), whose white horse Copenhagen ("Cokenhape"—FW 8.17) brings to mind equestrian statues symbolizing imperial, Protestant, English rule. As Adaline Glasheen notes (citing Sir John Thomas Gilbert's History of the City of Dublin15 ), the statue of King William III on College Green shared a fate similar to that of Willingdone's equestrian figure at the end of the Museyroom exhibit:
In Dublin (before the Free State) the Ulstermen's brazen calf was a lead equestrian statue of King Billy on College Green which, on Williamite holy days, was painted white (a white horse in a fanlight is still a sign of Protestant sympathies) and decorated with orange lilies . . . and green and white ribbons "symbolically placed beneath its uplifted foot." Catholics retorted by vandalizing the statue, tarring, etc., and in 1836 succeeded in blowing the figure of the king off the horse.16
In his analysis of the colonial subtext of the Museyroom passage in I.i, Vincent Cheng argues that "the 'hinndoo' sepoy blowing up Willingdone's big white horse is but another version of Irish Catholic Hennesseys and Dooleys tarring, defacing, and then (1836) blowing up King Billy's white horse on Dublin's College Green" (287). But violence was not the only response by Irish patriots to imperial statues. Recognizing their ideological potential, nationalists raised their [End Page 85] own monuments to commemorate fallen heroes and quicken national consciousness. The importance of public monuments in nineteenth-century Ireland is reflected in the Archicadenus's comment that the "overgrown leadpencil . . . was soon, monumentally at least, to rise as Molyvdokondylon to, to be, to be his [HCE/O'Connell's] mausoleum." Frustrated in his attempts to repeal the Act of Union (figuratively, to fell the "overgrown leadpencil"), O'Connell died in Genoa in 1847, a "doomed" man on his way to seek spiritual solace in Rome. Yet with his fall, there arose the 160-foot-tall O'Connell Round Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery, beneath which his remains were laid (see the cover image). Modeled on the ecclesiastical architecture most symbolic of nationalist Ireland, the monument was intended by its planners to represent the nation's continuity with the Early Christian Period, regarded as a Golden Age of cultural achievement prior to the arrival of the English, according to Crooke (87-90). The monument's relationship in this passage to that emblem of empire, the Wellington Obelisk, in addition to typifying the Vichian symmetries in the Wake, thus evokes the kind of political contestation in which such monuments were enrolled in nineteenth-century Ireland.
The case of the Ennis Monument to O'Connell further illustrates the ideological value of memorial structures. A nationalist desire to counter the imperial symbolism of the Wellington Obelisk (205 feet) and the Nelson Pillar (136 feet) motivated the 1862 erection of this monument in the county of Clare. When funds for the projected sixty-seven-foot column surmounted by a nine-foot statue proved insufficient, a committee of dedicated Claremen issued an appeal for funds in which, after citing the Greek custom of raising monuments to fallen heroes to serve as examples to future generations, they declaimed: "But why allude to distant lands or to Grecian story, whilst here in our green isle yon towering columns that o'erlook our capital, raised to the victors of Trafalgar and Waterloo by the friends of British rule, proclaim our fallen state and teach us how to honor the mighty dead."17 By linking visible testaments of British imperial victories with Irish colonial defeats, the passage supports the Wake's suggestion that Wellington's "overgrown leadpencil" implies O'Connell's "mausoleum" and, in effect, his failure to achieve the repeal of the Union. The appeal also makes clear the Claremen's discovery that public monuments could serve as a powerful stage on which to continue O'Connell's struggle against British oppression. The Reverend John Canon O'Hanlon observes that the Ennis Monument would neither simply "record that mighty event" (xii) in 1828 when O'Connell gained Emancipation for Ireland nor inspire in future generations the leader's patriotism and virtues. More broadly, by fulfilling "the first duty of a nation," "to honor the memory of its great men," O'Hanlon notes, the monument would resurrect Ireland's "fallen state" in the [End Page 86] same way that, for O'Brien, archaeological restoration fostered the nation's political and cultural revival (xii).
Public monuments in nineteenth-century Ireland possessed, then, an ideological value for nationalists comparable to that of archaeology and artifacts. Like Tara and Mullaghmast, the O'Connell monuments in Ennis and Glasnevin Cemetery became sites of pilgrimage that stood for the nation, both in its political ideal of independence and in the continuous historical nature that nourished this ideal. Yet the symbolic efficacy of monuments was rivaled by the contingency of their meanings. The Wellington Monument, for example, represented deliverance for the imperialists and bondage for the nationalists. Indeed, in the case of archaeology, the gap between the material signs and their fading historical referents made possible the discursive appropriation of ancient monuments by public figures like Davis and O'Brien. As the ruins at Tara and Mullaghmast deteriorated over time and their relationship to the past weakened, the semiotic nature of these archaeological signs shifted from the indexical to the symbolic, from the existential to the conventional, with the result that they lent themselves more easily to political manipulation.
This context of embattled meaning enables us to understand why, for HCE's fellow citizens in I.iii, the Wellington Monument fails to "support" "his word." Although the rumors they spread about him do not "warrant our certitude," "[n]evertheless," we are told, "Madam's Toshowus [to show us, Tussaud] waxes largely more lifeliked . . . and our notional gullery [national gallery] is now completely complacent, an exegious monument, aerily perennious" (FW 57.17, 19-22). Just as Irish monuments and museums lent themselves to varying political aims and claims, so the "Willingdone" wax museum ("Madam's Toshowus waxes") and the Wellington Monument—while cited by HCE in defense of his innocence—have apparently been drafted by the public into service against him. As evidence, the wax museum and monument refute his claim that he has "won straight" in his struggle with the "hinndoo" Shimar Shin; as memorials, they represent his tyranny in the same way that the King Billy statue symbolized oppression for Catholic Ireland. The point is not that the Monument/Museyroom substantiates a particular interpretation of the "unfacts" (FW 57.16), nor that it is used to hoist HCE upon his own petard, but that it is accorded throughout the text the status of historical witness, called upon equally by HCE in his stuttering self-defense before the Cad and by his peers in their witch-hunt against him. The testimonial power of the Monument/Museyroom, however disputed, is deeply rooted in Irish nationalist discourse and British imperial symbolism. The Monument/Museyroom, like ancient Irish ruins, derives its evidentiary value from its supposed embodiment of history and its capacity to stir up collective memories of the past. The persuasiveness [End Page 87] of its historical tale (concerning HCE, Ireland, or the world), like that told by Madame Tussaud's wax figures, stems additionally from the "lifelike," iconic representations it "show[s] us."
The "complacen[ce]" with which HCE's peers greet the Monument/Museyroom's "lifeliked" quality recalls O'Brien's blithe view of Ireland's restored shrines as a sign of the nation's cultural and political revival. Such a valorization of the capacity of a monument or museum to represent history and ensure its continuity with the present typifies the kind of Irish nationalist appeal to the past that Joyce, in a lecture he gave in April 1907, just one month after returning to Trieste from Rome, argued was invalid. "Ancient Ireland is dead. . . . and on its gravestone has been placed the seal," Joyce declared to his audience, echoing the mortuary metaphor he applied to the Forum in the letter quoted at the start of this essay (CW 173). The Monument/Museyroom threatens to collapse into the same "corpse"-like condition, identified as it is with a "[t]ip," or rubbish heap, as well as O'Connell's Glasnevin tomb (FW 8.08). In fact, a parallel can be drawn between the Roman who "lives by exhibiting to travelers his grandmother's corpse" and Kate the Museyroom tour guide. Yet Joyce's declaration to his Triestine audience amounts less to a denial of the past's insistence in the nation's present than to an impatience with the obsession with the past typical of the late-nineteenth-century Irish literary and cultural Revivalists. Thus, while the Museyroom may amount to a "mewseyruin," as Joyce called it in his first draft of the Wake,18 it also helps to fertilize the Vichian renewal of history by preserving the debris of the past.19 A powerful instrument of the past's survival in the present, it too survives, through its transformation from elevated structure to midden heap and back again. This participation in the regenerative process—distinct from monuments' and museums' usefulness in romantic attempts to locate Irish identity in the past and provide a glorious antecedent for repetition in the future—bears analogy with the work of memory in the continuous renegotiation of the present's relationship to the past. As such, the recycling in and of the Monument/Museyroom, together with its testimonial value to both HCE and his peers, demonstrates its crucial role in the dialectic between remembering and forgetting that unfolds throughout the Wake.20
A positive understanding of the Monument/Museyroom's memorial function in Joyce's novel is thus possible. At the same time, the memory-work performed by the Monument/Museyroom has its limitations: its capacity to objectify history is disputed; the history it supposedly objectifies is under contention; and this contention engulfs the site in violence and ends in HCE's conviction. These limitations are surpassed, as it were, by ALP's Letter, that "first babe of reconcilement" that eventually vindicates her husband (FW 80.17), [End Page 88] for the authority to represent history is ultimately conceded to the Letter rather than to the Monument/Museyroom. The Letter, and not its vertical counterpart, emerges in the Wake as the true "sign of our ruru redemption" and the chief bearer of historical meaning, however unstable. This priority of the textual over the monumental is reinforced in the ironic description quoted above of the Monument/Museyroom as an "exegious monument, aerily perennious" (a phrase from Horace's Odes III.30.1, according to McHugh—57: "Exegi monumentum aere perennius"—"My work is done, the memorial more enduring than brass"). In The Great Code, Northrop Frye observes that "the supremacy of the verbal over the monumental has something about it of the supremacy of life over death."21 The contrast between the Letter's fragile survival and redemptive force and the monument's physical destruction and eroding authority demonstrates this supremacy while, as Michael North says in a very different context, "stand[ing] Horace's boast on its head, suggesting that the text might serve the monument as a model of immortality."22 By implying a parallel between the privileging of the Monument/Museyroom as a bearer of historical truth and the tradition of a monument's capacity to emblematize immortality, Joyce indicates the naiveté of modern faith in the power of monuments and museums to demonstrate and commemorate historical truth.23
John Pedro Schwartz is Assistant Professor of English at the American University of Beirut. He received his Ph.D. in English in 2006 from the University of Texas at Austin where he specialized in modern British and American literature, museum studies, composition studies, and twentieth-century Latin American literature. His dissertation examines museum discourse within modernism and modernity. A co-authored article, “Writing in the Wild: A Paradigm for Mobile Composition,” will appear in Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Composition Teachers and Scholars (forthcoming in 2007).
1. William O’Brien, Irish Ideas (London: Longmans, Green, 1893), pp. 9-10. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text.
2. Whereas in Ulysses Stephen struggles to escape from the nightmare of history, in O’Brien’s blithe assessment, Ireland has already awoken from it. Joyce parodies the image of the Irish race “buoyantly” “leap[ing] to their feet” in the scene in the Wake where the deceased Finnegan revives at the taste of whiskey (FW 24.14-16).
3. See, for example, Thomas Davis, “Historical Monuments of Ireland,” “Irish Antiquities and Irish Savages,” and “Old Ireland,” Essays of Thomas Davis, ed. D. J. O’Donoghue (New York: Lemma Publishers, 1974), pp. 116-18, 167-72, 197-201. Further references to “Historical Monuments of Ireland” and “Irish Antiquities and Irish Savages” will be cited parenthetically in the text as “Monuments” and “Antiquities.”
4. See Vincent Cheng, “The General and the Sepoy,” Joyce, Race, and Empire (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 278-88. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text.
5. See Joep Leerssen, Remembrance and Imagination: Patterns in the Historical and Literary Representation of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1997), pp. 102-03. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text.
6. Elizabeth M. Crooke, Politics, Archaeology and the Creation of a National Museum in Ireland: An Expression of National Life (Dublin: Irish Academic [End Page 89] Press, 2000), p. 32. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text.
7. Daniel O’Connell, cited in the Nation (19 August 1843), 706, and quoted in Crooke (p. 35).
8. O’Connell, “Ireland Worth Dying For,” World’s Best Orations, ed. David J. Brewer (Chicago: F. P. Kaiser, 1923), pp. 239-40.
9. Jonathan Swift, A Tale of the Tub: Written for the Universal Improvement of Mankind. To Which Is Added, an Account of a Battle Between the Ancient and Modern Books in St. James’s Library (London: Thomas Tegg, 1811).
10. Pace O’Brien, the mute sites of prehistory do not speak on their own. Hence, we see the irony of this line concerning the Mamafesta from I.v: “Here let a few artifacts fend in their own favour” (FW 110.01).
11. Roland McHugh, Annotations to “Finnegans Wake” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1991), p. 56. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text.
12. The parodic passage in Ulysses immediately follows Bloom’s famous definition of a nation as “the same people living in the same place” (U 12.1222-23). “Place” here becomes less a monolithic, undifferentiated geographical zone than a group of locales and landscape features—Glendalough, Killarney, Clonmacnois, duns, raths, cromlechs—invested with pathos over time, represented as scenes in art and constructed through discourse into the “place” of the nation. Joyce’s repeated emphasis on “scenes” in both the Wake and Ulysses amid discussions of history and the nation underscores the importance of the spectacle in the discursive construction of Ireland in terms of its archaeological landscape.
13. The transformation of Rome into spectacle by means of mechanical reproduction contributed to Joyce’s early impression of the lifelessness of material remains and their irrelevance to the present. He wrote his brother toward the beginning of his stay in Rome in 1906, “The neighbourhood of the Colisseum [sic] is like an old cemetery with broken columns of temples and slabs. You know the Colisseum from pictures” (LettersII 145-46). In addition to repeating the mortuary metaphor, the letter quoted at the start of this essay echoes Joyce’s disappointment over the mediation of history through spectacle: “Yesterday I went to see the Forum. I sat down on a stone bench overlooking the ruins. It was hot and sunny. Carriages full of tourists, postcard sellers, medal sellers, photograph sellers. I was so moved that I almost fell asleep and had to rise brusquely” (LettersII 165). That Kate the tour guide sells “war souvenir postcards” in the Wake implicates the Museyroom in the same kind of deadening, mediated relationship to the past that Joyce attributed to Rome’s archaeological “open-air” museum (FW 27.32). A similar kind of transformation into spectacle is evident, we have seen, in the reproduction of archaeological imagery in nineteenth-century Irish book illustrations.
14. HCE’s repeated gestures toward the monument must also be understood in relation to Giambattista Vico’s theory of a mute language expressed in hieroglyphic characters corresponding to the first, religious stage of history—see The New Science of Giambattista Vico, ed. Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1984), ¶ 431, ¶ 929, ¶ 933. In this context, the monument functions as a physical object naturally linked by its phallic shape to the idea of authority (and thus of blamelessness) that the stuttering (because guilty) HCE wishes to convey by means of gesture. The Vichian notion that the obelisk signifies theocratic rule clearly parallels [End Page 90] the modern assumption that archaeological remains embody history.
15. Sir John Thomas Gilbert, A History of the City of Dublin (Dublin: J. McGlashan, 1854-1859), 3:40-56.
16. Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of “Finnegans Wake” (Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1977), p. 309.
17. Reverend John Canon O’Hanlon, Report of the O’Connell Monument Committee (Dublin: J. Duffy, 1888), p. xi. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text.
18. See David Hayman, ed., A First-Draft Version of “Finnegans Wake” (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1963), p. 52.
19. The Museyroom’s role in paving the way for a ricorso in the Wake is demonstrated by the motif’s recurrence between scenes of burial and recovery. The initial Museyroom passage (FW 8.09–10.23), for example, follows the wake/burial scene involving HCE and his wife “Anny Ruiny” (FW 6.13–8.08) and precedes the appearance of the “gnarlybird” (an avatar of ALP—FW 10.34) on the battlefield (for the dump is also the site of the Battle of the Boyne/Waterloo/Clontarf), collecting into her “nabsack” “all spoiled goods” (FW 11.19, 18-19), including the Letter that will exonerate HCE of his crimes and thus ensure a “truce for happinest childher everwere” (FW 11.15-16, my italics). Similarly, the burial scene at FW 76.10–79.27, in which HCE/Finn is laid to rest in a “watery grave,” segues into a “nekropolitan” passage (for the dump/battlefield is also a graveyard) that conflates the concealment of the Letter with the hiding of manuscripts from the Vikings (FW 78.19, 80.01). This crucial safekeeping of the peace-bringing Letter is credited to Kate, who, true to her office of museum-keeper, “pulls a lane picture for us, in a dreariodreama setting, glowing and very vidual, of old dumplan as she nosed it” (FW 79.27-29). To preserve fragments of the past is precisely one of the museum’s functions, so it is no coincidence that Kate’s safeguarding of the Letter and recovery of the Lane picture appear in a chapter (I.iv) modeled on the recourse of human institutions that nations experience in their retraversal of the three stages of Vichian history. Further evidence of the Museyroom’s role in the Vichian renewal of history appears in the portrayal—recalling the “Oxen of the Sun” episode in Ulysses—of the Museyroom as the womb-setting for ontogeny’s recapitulation of phylogeny. “Tip” is repeated nine times in the “Willingdone Museyroom” episode (FW 8.11, 15, 16, 21, 36, 9.30, 10.07, 11, 21), suggesting the months of gestation. Yet the episode opens with the advice “[m]ind your hats goan in!” and closes with “[m]ind your boots goan out” (FW 8.09, 10.22-23). The infant’s reversal upon delivery (“boots,” or feet, first) can be explained by “recourse” to Vico’s theory of historical ricorso. The development of the individual organism recapitulates the recursive evolution of nations through the religious, heroic, and human stages of history. William York Tyndall, in A Reader’s Guide to “Finnegans Wake” (Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1996), p. 36. identifies the gestation metaphor but fails to note the feet-first reversal of the infant and its Vichian parallel.
20. My assessment of the Monument/Museyroom’s memorial function benefits from Nicholas Andrew Miller’s distinction, in Modernism, Ireland and the Erotics of Memory (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), p. 8, between memory, defined as “a process of continuous renegotiation of selfhood in relation to the past,” and history, which lays claim to “a comprehensive and final knowledge of the past or its preservation.” The problem with monuments, [End Page 91] he argues, is that while in practice they can be a space for the ongoing activity of memory-work, as sites for the reading of history they risk posing an “objectified version of history for which the physicality of the memorial itself stands” (p. 24). Miller notes that the result is often a “distancing [of] present rememberers from the past in which such objects accrue their historical meaning” (p. 25). I agree that, by engraving the past in stone, memorial sites threaten to “en-grave” it, rendering viewers passive before the “historical Real,” in Miller’s words (especially museums that rely on an aesthetics of “you are there” illusion) and thus burying opportunities for the continuation of memory-work in the present (pp. 24, 25). HCE and his fellow citizens, I argue, appeal to the Monument/Museyroom’s historiographic certainty precisely in order to “lay to rest” further inquiry into Phoenix Park history. Yet the multiple appeals and conflicting claims by various parties demonstrate how the Monument/Museyroom, far from interring the past and extinguishing memory, kindles both in the same way that Irish memorial sites in the nineteenth century provoked continuing, and competing, interpretations of the past. My discussion of the Monument/Museyroom’s mortuary associations touches on a second paradox identified by Miller at the heart of memorial sites; if, by recovering the past, monuments and museums “re-cover” it, then by impeding memory’s engagement with history, they reconfirm it as a recurrent nightmare (p. 26). Viewed in this light, the “hinndoo” Shimar Shin’s demolition of the Monument/Museyroom in an attempt to bury the imperial past only ensures the structure’s phoenix-like restoration in the future. Another book of Joyce criticism that bears on the subject is Thomas C. Hofheinz, Joyce and the Invention of Irish History (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), chapter 3 (pp. 69-105), which analyzes the Wake in the context of Irish topological history.
21. Northrop Frye, The Great Code (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982), p. 200.
22. Michael North, The Final Sculpture: Public Monuments and Modern Poets (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985), p. 28. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text.
23. Joyce’s challenge to these assumptions is important not just for its relevance to the Wake’s themata relating to history, memory, nationalism, and imperialism but also because the Monument/Museyroom’s necropolitan overtones, vexed historiographic and memorial status, and implication in nationalist and imperialist ideologies align Joyce with a tradition of anti-museum critique that runs from Quatremère de Quincy, the eighteenth-century French cultural eminence who first lamented the museum’s divorce of art from life, through Friedrich Nietzsche and Paul Valéry, the first and second avant-gardes, Theodor W. Adorno, and poststructuralist critics like Eugenio Donato and Douglas Crimp. In 1909, just three years after Joyce likened Roman ruins to a corpse, F. T. Marinetti called for the destruction of Italy’s museums on the grounds that “those cemeteries of wasted effort” buried the creative possibilities of the present under the sepulchral monuments of the past and were thus antithetical to the principles of modernity. The similarity of metaphors is hardly a coincidence. Joyce’s irritation at romantic nostalgia for an authentic past, his satire in the Wake of the notion that monuments and museum objectify that past, and Marinetti’s radical dismissal of the museum’s social, political, cultural, and historical relevance are symptomatic [End Page 92] of the reservations with which many modernist writers and artists faced the museum’s rising power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a space of cultural consecration, an instrument of identity formation, and a site for the reading of history. See Daniel J. Sherman, “Quatremère/Benjamin/Marx: Art Museums, Aura, and Commodity Fetishism,” Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles, ed. Sherman and Irit Rogoff (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1994), pp. 123-43; Friedrich Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, trans. Adrian Collins (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Publishers, 1957); Paul Valéry, “The Problem of Museums,” The Collected Works of Paul Valéry, ed. Jackson Mathews (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1956-1975), 12:202-10; Theodor W. Adorno, “Valéry Proust Museum,” Prisms, trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981), pp. 175-85; Eugenio Donato, “The Museum’s Furnace: Notes towards a Contextual Reading of Bouvard and Pécuchet,” Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism, ed. J. V. Harari (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press 1979), pp. 213-38; Douglas Crimp, On the Museum’s Ruins (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995); and Marinetti: Selected Writings, ed. R. W. Flint (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971), p. 43. For a brief discussion of the tradition of anti-museum critique, see Andrea Witcomb, Re-Imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (New York: Routledge Publishers, 2003), pp. 8-12. [End Page 93]