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Writing The Fortunate Fall: “O felix culpa!” in Finnegans Wake
Abstract

Abstract:

The idea of a felix culpa or “fortunate fall” is found throughout Finnegans Wake. More than just a phrase from the Catholic Mass or even a representation of the fall of humanity itself, the motif of the felix culpa also marks the influence of John Milton’s Paradise Lost upon the Wake and points to the murders of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke in Phoenix Park, as well as to the exposure of Richard Pigott as a forger. Beyond these resonances, however, this essay argues that the full importance of the felix culpa for Joyce is only encountered when the fall is understood as a fall into text (becoming a word of the flesh), that the fortuity of the fall is found in the act of writing itself, and that “felix culpa” marks the inter-penetration of divine and human creation in writing.