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The Fourth Gospel in Finnegans Wake: Joyce's Middle Way and "the point of eschatology"

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 49, Number 1, Fall 2011
pp. 109-127 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0123



In this paper, I examine the influence of the Gospel of John on Joyce's aesthetic. My basic claim is that the gospel aided Joyce in charting a middle course between materialism (body without spirit) and spiritualism (spirit without body). After examining the temptations of flying too high (symbolism, mysticism, gnosticism) and flying too low (historicism, realism, materialism), I show how Joyce made use of the Johannine strategies of epiphany and realized eschatology to achieve a synthesis between these extremes. The essay is much indebted to two students of John—Rudolph Bultmann and Franz Mussner—who examined John's peculiar synthesis of fact and allegory. In addition, the scholar Jacques Aubert was indispensable for his analysis of a similar trajectory in Joyce's aesthetic.

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