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Waking Europa: Joyce, Ferrero and the Metamorphosis of Irish History


In the "pre-history of Ireland," an early section of Finnegans Wake, Joyce compiles a Hiberno-Punic mythography through which he rewrites the rape of Phoenician Europa as told by Ovid. Joyce believed that the Irish descended from Phoenician merchants, a conviction that predisposed him to the early works of the Italian historian Guglielmo Ferrero. Ferrero's discussion of trading habits and sexual mores of the ancient Mediterranean population provided Joyce with historical insight upon which the author would later elaborate in the reconstruction of a nebulous Irish past. The key to glossing the "annals passage" is Joyce's historic parallel between the Roman colonization of Phoenicia and the English colonization of Ireland. The cultural politics of this poetic history aims at the separation of Ireland from the Anglo-Saxon colonizer and its placement within the context of a future United States of Europe.

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