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An Obsession with Plenitude: The Aesthetics of Hoarding in Finnegans Wake

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 2, Winter 2009
pp. 285-304 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0139



Reading recent psychological discourse on compulsive hoarding in relation to Shem the Penman’s dangerously cluttered inkbottle house, this essay reopens critical questions about Joyce’s stylistic engagement with waste, excess, and obsessive cataloguing. Hoarders and readers of Finnegans Wake are alike prone to anxieties concerning the potential value of items. Whether encountering a piece of trash or a seemingly valueless portmanteau word, both the hoarder and the Joycean create cognitively rich associative networks for accumulated material or linguistic objects. The hermeneutics of such a practice calls for a reconsideration of Joyce’s later aesthetics and a productive critique of the literary genre of Wake criticism.

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