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Reviews The Grand Continuum: Reflections on Joyce and Metaphysics , by David A. White; xxi & 200 pp. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983, $21.95. David A. White has written an interesting and complex book onJoyce's use of metaphysical concepts and systems in Finnegans Wake and, in relation to it, Joyce's other principal works, which have place, White thinks, in "the grand continuum" ofJoyce's mature fiction. White, who teaches philosophy at DePaul University, explains "grand continuum " as he perceives it: ". . . the grand continuum in my title refers both to Finnegans Wake as an autonomous whole and to all ofJoyce's full-length prose writings. . . . My premise is that the Wake portrays an Olympian vision of language and reality which originated with Portrait and was developed with great power and scope in Ulysses" (p. xviii). White's own book, in fact, is about language and reality. In reading the book, I experienced some difficulty in differentiating between what White thinks about language and reality in general and what he believes Joyce does with the language he uses and the reality he seems to conceive. At some places, they seem to be much the same. At other places, they seem to differ. White wants, he says, "to derive a coherent and comprehensive metaphysics which is peculiarlyJoycean both in texture and structure and which sustains the major prose works despite their stylistic diversity" (p. xviii). I recognize the comprehensiveness of the metaphysics that White ascribes to Joyce, though I have trouble, especially in the early part of White's book, in grasping its coherence. But the fault may be my own. I think White is profoundly right in what he says about the language of the Wake as a system of intellectual awareness: "Anyone who has mastered the language of the Wake lives in high measure of harmony with the cosmos, everywhere at every time all at once" (p. 74). Here we have an indication of why Joyce wrote the book: to bring reality as conceived and perceived into harmony with the human spirit. But White, in his pursuit of the metaphysical meaningfulness of the Wake, seems indifferent to the truth ofthat meaningfulness. "The Wake," he says, "sets 226 Reviews227 its own rules for establishing the metaphysical meaning of what it has borrowed from the history of thought" (p. 12). I do not share his indifference, if indifference it is. Can the student of meaning and truth afford a plurality of realities? Is not ontological bankruptcy sure to ensue when epistemology knows no limits? Of course, the fictive artist may make a fictively valid use of a "wrong" idea. The house of meaning as we know by dwelling in it has room for deceptive vistas and blind corridors. But somebody sometime should have some sense of the uses of truth in the structuring of a work of literary art, or else we look in the direction of believing in no meaning whatever except in verbal structure as structured. In the long run, I think, and probably in the not very long run, the concept of meaning cannot do without the concept of truth. As I read Finnegans Wake, it is so crammed with meaning that it oozes meaning at every pore. It leers meaning, it insinuates meaning, it stumbles and staggers meaning, it plays meaning, it claims meaning, it fumbles meaning, it often blunderingly reaches down into the depths of human meaningfulness, its author knowing that the simple and the true thing is the child of the deeply obscure and the intricately complex. I have no quarrel with people who love the books I love — and a few who don't. Professor White loves the Wake. Whitman CollegeThomas D. Howells Meaning and Myth in the Study of Lives: A Sartrean Perspective, by Stuart L. Charme; vii & 190 pp. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984, $25.00. Stuart Charme links Eliade's notion of myth with Sartre's search for the "fundamental project"— as it is effected in every person's life and as it is revealed in Sartre's autobiography (The Words) and in his biographical studies of Baudelaire, Genet, and Flaubert. In this context, he does not hesitate to call these Sartrean...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 226-227
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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