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  • St. Martin and HCE in Joyce’s ‘‘Loonacied . . . Madwake"
  • Margaret McBride (bio)

Buried within the many layerings of Finnegans Wake is a distinct ‘‘insanity’’ motif. It ranges over writers who were institutionalized, such as Mary Lamb (FW 223.1) and Torquato Tasso (FW 339.29). It encompasses overlapping anagrams for madman hidden inside one of the ‘‘thunderwords’’ (‘‘. . . mdamandam . . .’’ [FW 414.19]), as well as insinuations of both ‘‘Schizophrenesis’’ (FW 123.18, Joyce’s emphasis) and dementia praecox (‘‘fundementially’’ [FW 610.10, emphasis added], ‘‘precoxious’’ [FW 52.14], ‘‘poohoor pricoxity’’ [FW 224.36]). In Joyce’s lifetime, these two conditions were compared to ‘‘waking dreams.’’ Issy especially seems surrounded by such imagery. She sleeps under a ‘‘crazyquilt’’ (FW 556.16) on an ‘‘april cot’’ (FW 556.14). The bedding possesses overtones not merely of ‘‘crazy,’’ but apricot, a cognate of the Latin praecox. When ‘‘Iscappellas’’ (FW 527.1) goes ‘‘in the dreemplace’’ (FW 527.6, emphasis added), the site contains ree, Scottish for ‘‘crazy."1 Her ‘‘draym’’ (FW 527.6), moreover, alludes to Mary Lamb (‘‘lamb . . . draym’’ [FW 527.5–6, emphasis added]). Such rhythms can cause one to wonder at times: Is the reader dealing with a dream about madness—or with a ‘‘madman’’ who is dreaming? Perhaps more to the point, is there any way to tell the difference?

The question takes a particularly intriguing turn because of the textual presence of Martin of Tours, himself a famous dreamer. According to legend, the night after dividing his cape in two and sharing it with a beggar, the young soldier, while asleep, saw Christ wearing the torn garment. Interestingly, in the Wake, the saint repeatedly interfaces with Issy, or ‘‘Izod’’ (FW 203.9), via the syllables chapel. They are inseparable from her characterization as a result of the countless echoes of the toponym Chapelizod, which connotes ‘‘the Chapel of Izod.’’ Martin’s fragmented [End Page 98] cappa gave rise to cappella (‘‘Iscappellas’’ [FW 527.1]), or ‘‘little cloak,’’ which was put under the care of cappellani or ‘‘chaplains.’’ The structure where they protected the relic became known as a ‘‘chapel’’ (OED). The key substantive graphically permeates the tale in every HCE and ALP inscription: These six initials, when combined and rearranged, create the word chapel. But chapel can be traced ultimately to the Latin caput. Thus, within the Wake the geographical term Chapelizod also may denote ‘‘the head of Issy."

If this is the case, the HCE/ALP configurations hint at a head in considerable disarray. Indeed HCE and ALP may serve as important emblems of madness. Such a dynamic surfaces, for instance, when looney, short for lunatic, infiltrates Pliny (‘‘Plooney’’ [FW 615.2]) just after a disintegrating chapel is sketched: ‘‘dialytically separated elements of precedent decomposition for the verypetpurpose of subsequent recombination . . . heroticisms, catastrophes and eccentricities . . . by the ancient legacy of the past, type by tope, letter from litter’’ (FW 614.33–615.1). The constant elicitings of insanity merit further scrutiny for they underline how complex, and atypical, Joyce’s rendering of the oneiric is. Indeed, when Issy, Martin, and Chapelizod meet in ‘‘Night Lessons,’’ madness often dominates the dream.

As one ponders the story’s deliberate tension between the two states, the bizarre linguistic patterns informing the Wake need to be considered. They often resemble, not the writing one finds in dream journals, but instead the intricate verbiage that marks schizophrenic ‘‘word salad."2 However, in exploring how Joyce’s opus often edges into the realm of the psychotic, I am definitely not suggesting that Joyce was schizophrenic or that his final work is the product of a genuinely ‘‘crazed’’ mind. Rather, the Wake employs the convention of an ‘‘implied narrator’’ or ‘‘putative author,’’ much as Sterne does in Tristram Shandy. Scholars do not confuse Sterne with the character he creates, a character who is supposedly in the process of trying to compose, somewhat chaotically, the work the reader is reading. Nor do they assume that Shakespeare had to experience bouts of insanity before penning the rantings of King Lear. Joyce, of course, blurs the line between art and biography with a realistic figure like Stephen Dedalus, who calls...


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pp. 98-127
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