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The Books at the Wake

A Study of Literary Allusions in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake

by James S. Atherton

Publication Year: 2009

In Finnegans Wake, Joyce uses world lit­erature as one of the most important and frequent of his sources. Setting out to ex­plore these literary allusions, Atherton sheds a great deal of light upon other as­pects of Joyce’s work.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 5-6


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pp. 7

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pp. 9

My thanks are first due to my friend since schooldays, the late Arnold Davenport, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Liverpool University, without whose encouragement this book would never have been started, and under whose guidance much of it was written as a dissertation...

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pp. 11-24

Perhaps-this must be the first word on such a subject-a final literary evaluation of Finnegans Wake will never be made, for any such evaluation must follow and be based upon a complete understanding of the book. No such understanding has yet been reached and none seems to be in sight in spite of the increasing flow...

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pp. 25-55

The books which Joyce used when he was writing Finnegans Wake can be divided roughly into two classes according to the way in which he used them. The larger class would consist of books from which Joyce took a few words, perhaps only a single word, perhaps a phrase, or perhaps-from some books-as much as a page...


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CHAPTER I. The Manuscripts

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pp. 59-71

One of the unique features of Finnegans Wake is its awareness of itself as a 'work in progress'. It comments upon itself as it goes along and always expects its readers to share its self-awareness. 'Quis est qui non novit quinnigan?' (496.36) it inquires; and one meaning of this seems to be 'Who doesn't know Finnegan?' It claims that it is being written by its readers; 'His producers are they...

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CHAPTER 2. Some typical books

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pp. 72-88

'Such an amount of reading seems to be necessary before my oId flying machine grumbles Up into the air',1 wrote Joyce. I have already quoted this once but repeat it here because it shows Joyce's own awareness of one of the salient oddities of his talent. More than any other writer I know of he needed a basis of some other writer's...

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CHAPTER 3. The Irish writers

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pp. 89-113

Irishmen have produced works of literature in three main languages. Irish writing in Latin is discussed later, in the chapter on 'The Fathers'; there remain Irish writing in Gaelic and English. It seems unlikely that Joyce ever had much knowledge of Gaelic, and it is fairly certain that the references to Gaelic books and the Gaelic language in...

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CHAPTER 4. Swift, a paradigm of a God

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pp. 114-123

'The influence of Swift on Joyce,' wrote L.A.G. Strong, 'goes beyond likeness and coincidence. It is assimilated into the fabric of the mind. The little language of the Journal to Stella contributed to the vocabulary of Finnegans Wake, but the allusions to Swift's life are deeply woven into the book's texture.'1 Edmund Wilson...

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CHAPTER 5. Carroll, the unforeseen precursor

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pp. 123-135

In the Preface to Sylvie and Bruno Lewis Carroll remarks that 'Perhaps the hardest thing in all literature... is to write anything original.'l But Carroll was so determined to be original that he spent twenty years making sure that the book which he intended to be his masterpiece was unlike anything else ever written. James Joyce worked...

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CHAPTER 6. The Fathers

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pp. 137-148

Neither in the various lives of Joyce which have appeared nor in his published letters is there any indication that Joyce ever read the works of the Fathers of the Church. 'It seems,' writes Patricia Hutchins, 'that Joyce did not know a great deal of Latin, and less Greek.'1 On the other hand, both Ulysses and A Portrait of the...

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CHAPTER 7. 'The world's a stage'

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pp. 149-165

One of Joyce's favourite images for the world, or the Wake, is as a stage-although the famous quotation is never made. Perhaps it was too obvious for Joyce. He once describes the cast of the Wake as 'the whole stock company of the house' (510.17), and this fits in perfectly with his theories for a stock company was a...


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CHAPTER 8. The Old Testament

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pp. 169-180

I have already suggested that the basic axiom underlying Finnegans Wake is that the artist is the God of his creation.1 Joyce seems to have gone a step further than that and considered that the work on which he was engaged was itself a new sacred book. 'I go', he wrote in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 'to forge in the smithy of my soul...

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CHAPTER 9. The New Testament

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pp. 181-183

Quotations from the New Testament seem to be more numerous than those from any other source, even the Book of Genesis. But they seem to be inserted mainly for decoration, or perhaps simply for the sake of quoting from the Gospels. There are many mutations, like the one that has been described from...

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CHAPTER 10. The Liturgy

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pp. 184-190

By Liturgy here is meant the Christian Liturgy which in the Wake is represented almost entirely by the Mass and other Roman Catholic services and prayers. Joyce's 'working library' contained -rather oddly-a copy of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in a French translation,1 as well as a copy of the English version but there...

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CHAPTER 11. The Book of the Dead

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pp. 191-200

Frank Budgen was the first to point out that Joyce had made use of The Book of the Dead. This was in an article entitled 'Joyce's Chapters of Going Forth By Day''1 a title which quotes the 'common name for the Book of the Dead in the Theban period...coming forth from the day.'2 He wrote that, 'Many philosophies flit...

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CHAPTER 12. The Koran

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pp. 201-217

Joyce had, as I shall show, studied the Koran in some detail and was probably talking about himself when he made his Shaun say of his Shem: 'I have his quoram of images all on my retinue, Mohomadhawn Mike' (443. I). On one level of meaning this can be taken as saying that Joyce, who is jokingly calling himself a Mohammedan...

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CHAPTER I3. The Eddas

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pp. 218-223

Frank Budgen was the first to write about Joyce's use of the Eddas in an article called 'James Joyce's Work in Progress and Old Norse Poetry' which appeared first in transition and afterwards in An Exagmination. Joyce must have thought well of this essay for he told Miss Weaver that he hoped to have it translated and published in a...

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CHAPTER 14. Other Sacred Books

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pp. 224-229

I shall not attempt to discuss all the sacred books that Joyce used. To do so would require a knowledge of Eastern languages which I do not possess. Joyce did not have it either but, as I have already pointed out, he used all kinds of people to supply him with words in the languages he wanted to use. Sometimes he seems to have used books...



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pp. 233-290


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pp. 291-293


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pp. 294-296


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pp. 297-308

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386406
E-ISBN-10: 0809386402
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329335
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329336

Page Count: 306
Publication Year: 2009