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  • A Fadograph of Whome:Topographies of Mourning in Finnegans Wake

If only it were possible to conceive of a work from outside the self, a work that would allow us to escape from the limited perspective of an individual I, not merely in order to inhabit other I similar to ours but to grant speech to that which has no words . . .

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the New Millennium

Mourning Topographies

Contemporary theories of the subject (and in some cases, of the subject's aftermath) seem to have found in narratives and metaphors of mourning something of an ideal home ground. Often taking their cue from Freud's classic essay, "Mourning and Melancholia," these theories have typically concerned themselves with the boundaries of the ego, with the processes of identification that constitute the ego's economy, and with the strategies of inclusion and exclusion that safeguard the Subject's interiority from its outside. More or less implicitly, the work of mourning is believed to bind together, under the aegis of psychoanalytic discourse, problems of autobiography (such as the constitution and undoing of a viable self-identity in writing), motifs of forgetting and self-doubling, and metaphors of cannibalism.1 In the course of an extended discussion of the fantasy of incorporation and of the specific intrapsychic occurrences that distinguish this fantasy from the process of introjection, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok single out two interrelated procedures that, they explain, "constitute the magic [End Page 87] of incorporation: demetaphorization (taking literally what is meant figuratively) and objectivation (pretending that the suffering is not an injury to the subject but instead a loss sustained by the love object)."2 Supporting this diagnosis is an assumed analogy between the work of mourning and the mechanics of writing, an analogy based on the observation that so called "healthy mourning" and so called "ordinary language use" both depend on the recognition of the designated object's essential finitude, that is to say, on the acceptance of the possibility of the object's absence.3 Abraham and Torok further explain that, as against the gradual and possibly long-drawn libidinal re-investments which this recognition entails, "the magical 'cure' by incorporation exempts the subject from the painful process of reorganization. When, in the form of imaginary or real nourishment, we ingest the love-object we miss, this means that we refuse to mourn and that we shun the consequences of mourning even though our psyche is fully bereaved. Incorporation is the refusal to acknowledge the full import of the loss, a loss that, if recognized as such, would effectively transform us."4

Taking up the implications of this issue for a rethinking of the modifications of subjectivity in writing, Jacques Derrida comments on Abraham and Torok's notion of the crypt as that which "[n]ot having been taken back inside the self, digested, assimilated as in all 'normal' mourning . . . remains like a living dead abscessed in a specific spot in the ego. . . . In the work of mourning, the dead other (it may be an [End Page 88] object, an animal, or some other living thing) is taken into me. I kill it and remember it. But since it is an Erinnerung, [Derrida refers to Hegel's concept of an idealising memorization - RB] I interiorise it totally and it is no longer there."5 As this meta-narrative imposes its terms of reference onto the contemporary literary conceptions and theoretical discussions of mourning and its symptoms —as the underlying connections which it promotes become increasingly intuitive even outside the sphere of psychoanalytic reflection —we may start to suspect that an "eating subjectivity" has already replaced the "seeing consciousness" so dear to phenomenologists.

Against the backdrop of this briefly sketched history, Joyce's reader will recognize a familiar set of motifs surfacing to greater or lesser prominence throughout the novelist's work6 and coming to view most strikingly in the mourning scenes of Finnegans Wake.7

By examining Joyce's imaginative reworking of these motifs in the context of the verbal and metaphorical associations with which the literature of mourning resounds, this paper will try to account for a geographical problematic that concerns the...


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