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  • Toward a Female Grammar of Sexuality:The De/Recomposition of "Storiella as She is Syung"

At the juncture of the "mime" and the "lessons," the children's vocal call to their "Mummum" (FW 259.10) fades over into the grammatical muddle opening James Joyce's Finnegans Wake II.2. This metaphorical expression of their topographical wanderings and hesitancies, "UNDE ET UBI." as the didactic right(eous) margin pompously glosses in Latin, finds its translation in the central text at FW 260.08-09: "Whence [. . .] where." In the meantime, the reader is faced with further grammatical confusion, which the sedulous pupil dismisses with a curt "SIC." (260.R2): "Whom will comes over. Who to caps ever." (1. 4). The impersonal verbal form becomes a third-person singular in a central column constantly threatened, dispossessed, and reappropriated by an other, the lesson of the authority waiting to be mastered by the twins and daughter, "three squads of candidates [. . .] awaiting their turn in the marginal panels of Columkiller" (122.24-26). The central text as the repository of the Law mimes its questioning and supposed defeat by the sons, the column killers who will decapitalize and sever it,1 and much of this paper will be concerned [End Page 569] with the thwarted elaboration of a female way out of this battle for sexual/textual paternity that the inaugural lines and their marginal responses spatially dramatize. Below the interplay between main text and marginalia, Issy's florid footnote gives vent to her desire to be seduced by the Patriarch but also bears the germs of a subversive female enunciation to oppose the grammar of the Verb: "quoshe" (260.F1) not only marks her desire for union with the verb (quoth|she → quoshe) but also shows the irruption of a purely female voice of discourse in a new assertive third-person singular form. This yet underlying theme of female grammar and sexuality will be examined in its later outcroppings in the central textbook of II.2, especially in the "Storiella" section (266.20-275.02), and in the light of the reshuffle of the whole chapter and integration of an inline graphic-oriented "Storiella" before male geometry. An "in-side" will occasionally be provided by Joyce's notetaking on grammatical labels and clear-cut categories as it obliquely shows how the tension between form and function in established canons of grammar could be turned into a subversive weapon to destabilize ideological boundaries in a phallic dominant model of language and sexuality.

I. Vocalizing, vOwelization and Female Identity2

One of the functions of the children's vocalic sequence at the end of II.1 is to map out the textual space of a textbook from A to Ω (that is, from "As" in 260.01 to the double o or omega in "too," 308.25) in which female identity but also the Law of the Father will be questioned in literal terms. The aspirate vowels—a propitiatory homage to the divine afflatus of the Lord or "Loud" (end of II.1, passim)—are echoed in 267.18-21, deaspirated and with the significant addition of the two semivowels: "Adamman, Emhe, Issossianusheen and sometypes Yggely ogs Weib. Uwayoei! So mag this sybilette be our shibboleth that we may syllable her well!" The sole comment, coming from Issy, hinges on the difference between the language and law of Adam man, derived from the Word (decapitalized two lines earlier), and Adamán's law providing heavy penalties for killing women, the female substitute Issy implicitly refers to in 267.F5 (appended to "Adamman") in Anglo-Irish tones flouting conventional grammar but sporting the alienating id-entity of a third-person singular in her enunciation ("I thinks"). Issy's wish to make herself vocal is spelt out and denied in the string of "silents selfloud" (l. 17; German Selbstlaut: vowel), the independent woman in her being made silent as the semivowels betray her still semivocal nature. After all, no sign of aspiration is to be found, and she is faced with her split id-entity [End Page 570] (note the P/K split in her broken "pottles and ketts" in F5) as a semiwoman (German Weib is a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-658X
Print ISSN
0026-7724
Pages
pp. 569-586
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-01
Open Access
No
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