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The existence of characters in Joyce’s dream world of Finnegans Wake rarely proves their singular presence in the text. As readers we are led to incorporate different characters into our interpretation of any one character; the temporal and historical circularity of the Wake is then personified in a whirlpool of characterization. Comprising both the motion and consistency of this whirlpool, Anna Livia is most certainly the nexus of activity for the otherwise sleepy Earwicker narrative. Yet, recognizing the textual motion of both the character and concept of ALP, (or even simply the potential for signifying motion within the text) as the imperative force of the Wake destabilizes the relationship between reader and text and redefines the way we generate meaning, the way we read, analyze and write. The experience of such recognition can often be uncomfortable; Joyce’s evocation of textual nonlinearity within the Wake is intensely present for the reader in a way that it is not in many other twentieth-century novels, especially in its embodiment of both the political history of Ireland and the aesthetics of that history. In the discussion that follows, I will suggest that the discomfort of reading the Wake is a generative process that typifies not only the function of writing and why we continue to write about books like Finnegans Wake, but also the interminable continuation of the discursive archive, which manifests in the Wake as both a reproductive, memorializing motion and an impotent, often destructive representation of memory. I employ the concept of archive in this reading to signify not only the literal collection of information in the Wake, but, more importantly, the powerful aesthetic experience that the consumption of that information may engender. As Carolyn Steedman articulates, this experience is at once historical, linguistic, and political: “In a proper and expanded definition of ‘archive’ this system of recording (listing in particular), storage and retrieval, is an aspect of the history of written language, and the politics of that history.” Joyce’s text, particularly in the Anna Livia chapter, embodies simultaneity both in its story, riddled with the dreaming language of portmanteau, and in its engagement with the very system that lends order to all forms of storytelling, historical, political, or otherwise: the archive.

Original Citation

Scheible, E. (2014). “Call Her Calamity Electrifies Man”: ALP and the Movement of Archive in Finnegan’s Wake. Hypermedia Joyce Studies. 13(1).