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‘In the beginning was the pun’. Samuel Beckett, Murphy1 Word and World in the Wake Much critical attention has been given to the Wakean portmanteau word as a structuring principle and a source of the Wake’s proliferative meanings.2 While Ruben Borg argues that the arbitrariness of the portmanteau exceeds that of the pun, I would argue that the particular linguistic instability of the pun – and specifically the word-world pun – in the Wake impels an evolutionary-cybernetic process which in turn reveals the correspondence of textual and material phenomena.3 Louis Gillet recalls Joyce himself characterising the pun as central to the Wake, ‘such a book, all in puns’.4 As we trace appearances of the word-world pun in the text, we find it to be not merely iterative, but variable, exploiting the instability inherent to puns more generally. In these puns the homophonic and orthographical similarities of ‘word’ and ‘world’ also produce metonymic relations between material and linguistic phenomena, revealing the word-world as dynamic process rather than stable essence, a foundational notion of evolutionary and cybernetic theory with far-reaching ethical implications. Ultimately I argue that the Wake’s variable puns suggest a model for an ecological discourse of nation – nation not only in process, but as process – that supplants the fiction of nation as unitary organic whole with the selfadulterating word-world of the Wake. By destabilising the conceptual and linguistic boundaries of the word ‘nation’, the Wake articulates nation as fundamentally heterogeneous and contingent, nation not as romantic metaphor but as transgressive pun. In the Wake’s final pages, ALP appears as tree, but also as river, and it is her accordingly hybrid discourse that actualises the famous recirculation of the text’s Word and World: The Ecology of the Pun in Finnegans Wake ERIN WALSH 70 ‘riverrun’, offering a model for an ecological negotiation of national boundaries. The reader’s return to the beginning of the Wake’s riverrun emerges as a suturing that restores rather than effaces the in medias res of the text’s opening, producing not a totalising self-contained whole, but a readerly bridge that honours the rift. In order to examine the word-world pun in the Wake and its implications for the Wake’s status as an ecological text, I would like to first examine the pun’s more famous debut, as malapropism in Ulysses. In Ulysses, Martha Clifford chastises Bloom-as-Henry Flower: ‘I called you naughty boy because I do not like that other world. Please tell me what is the real meaning of that word?’5 Martha’s error makes the tantalising possible meanings of an already obfuscated allusion (to a word from a letter the reader cannot access) proliferate through substitutions. Later, in ‘Hades’, when Bloom recalls the line from Martha’s letter, the sense of error has disappeared: ‘There is another world after death named hell. I do not like that other world she wrote. No more do I. Plenty to see and hear and feel yet’ (6.1001–3). Both the line and Martha’s intended meaning here appear transformed, the memory of the error effaced as the line appears in the new context of Bloom’s will to live. Joyce’s wordplay here can be seen as a making-ecological of the word-world of the text: Martha’s error, which is also Joyce’s deliberate pun, mixing word and world, makes the conceptual boundaries of the terms permeable, both to each other and to the surrounding textual environment . The context of ‘Hades’ permeates Bloom’s memory of Martha’s error, redefining its significance in terms of Paddy Dignam’s death and Bloom’s memory of his father’s suicide. Shaped by textual process – Bloom’s thoughts, Dignam’s funeral – the meanings of world and word emerge as expansive processes rather than stable essences. That Joyce’s word-world substitution first occurs in a letter may suggest a kind of meta-wordplay, as the orthographical difference between world and word is ‘a letter’, the letter ‘l’.6 Although these letters might be seen to exist in synecdochic relation with the text as a whole, the notions of whole and part that underlie synecdoche become inchoate in the word-world of letters and are replaced by shifting relations of continuity. The letter is a text within a text (a world within worlds and words within words), a text generated by a text (Bloom’s letter) and a text about that...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781782050735
Related ISBN
9781782050728
MARC Record
OCLC
882713144
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-04
Language
English
Open Access
No
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