The Joyce of Science: New Physics in Finnegans Wake
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The Theory of Relativity in Finnegans Wake  
 

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Spiral Galaxy NCG 6951 in Cepheus

"What subtler timeplace of the weald ..."
Finnegans Wake (80)
[This text is also available in Belorussian translation by Galina Miklosic.]

Joyce and Einstein

James Joyce and Albert Einstein never met. In 1919, when Joyce was living in Zurich, Einstein visited the city for a series of lectures. For a short time the world lines of the two men came close but they never crossed. It is tempting to speculate what such a meeting would entail, for the two men shared much more than an interest in the nature of time. Both received their initial education in a Catholic school system and broke out from under the influence of religion to pursue their goals. Joyce was educated by Jesuits but as a young man he denounced God and chose to serve Art instead. Einstein experienced a similar transformation at the age of twelve: he renounced formalized religion and resolved to unravel the mystery of the universe on his own.

The two men also shared a keen interest in music. Joyce described himself in Finnegans Wake as "quite a musical genius in a small way and the owner of an exceedingly niced ear, with tenorist voice to match" (48.20-21). His tenor, Ellmann says, was "sweet and mellifluous" (150), and several times in his life Joyce considered a singing career. Einstein played music exclusively for relaxation but he studied it for eight years in early youth and became an accomplished violinist. His ideal was Mozart in whose music he heard the same harmony he found in the workings of the universe. Both Joyce and Einstein were expatriates, having been forced by the circumstances of their lives to choose exile as a condition necessary for intellectual freedom. Both achieved remarkable recognition for their revolutionary innovations in their fields and this similarity did not go unnoticed. In the opening of his lecture on Joyce, given in Paris in 1921, Valery Larbaud observed that "literary people were as accustomed to hearing [Joyce's] name as scientific people the names of Freud or Einstein" (Ellmann 522). Despite international recognition, however, both Einstein and Joyce were to end their lives in grief and alienation. While publication of Finnegans Wake, crowning the work of seventeen years, was eclipsed by the outbreak of the Second World War, Joyce also had to cope with the mental breakdown of his daughter Lucia. Einstein was faced with a similar mental breakdown of his younger son Eduard, while he himself in later years became estranged from most theoretical physicists by his refusal to accept the ultimate implications of the quantum theory.

Not only the general direction and circumstances of life but also the time frame of their work joins Joyce and Einstein. Both men came of age at the turn of the century and had the course of their lives determined to a great extent by events which took place within the first few years of the modern age. Upon his graduation in 1902 Joyce left Ireland for France, but he returned to Dublin the following year. In 1904, the year he would return to in Ulysses, Joyce made a final resolution to leave Ireland permanently. His goal, as expounded by Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist, was "to encounter . . . the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race." This he did with such a singleminded determination and accomplishment that recognition and fame came to him after the publication of Ulysses in 1922. As a youth, Einstein had made little progress in the rigidly disciplined German school system, which he found stifling and intimidating. He left Germany for Switzerland and graduated from the Zurich Polytechnic Institute in 1900. In 1905, Einstein received his doctorate and published his revolutionary papers on the special theory of relativity and on the quantum nature of light. These two publications determined the course of his future professional activities which, briefly, consisted in developing relativity to include non-uniform motion and in attempting to unify relativity with quantum mechanics--a task he never realized. Like Joyce, Einstein became a celebrity at the beginning of the second decade. The Nobel Prize was awarded to him in 1922, the same year in which Ulysses was published.

Joyce's Use of Source Material

Joyce, who was living in Paris since 1920, must have been exposed to the publicity surrounding the experimental confirmation of the general theory of relativity in 1919, both through media coverage and through his contacts with the artistic milieu of the French capital. Early twentieth-century Paris was a mecca for artists, philosophers, and restless spirits. Relativity and its implications were an important part of the intellectual atmosphere of the time. The spirit of Einstein's theory was too well suited for the modernistic temper of the Paris avantgarde to go unnoticed. The radical character and abstract nature of the new theory, the sense of crisis accompanying its creation, and the emphasis on the subjective element in the new definition of time led several artists to embrace relativity as a dramatic scientific counterpart to their own artistic and philosophical endeavors.

There is no evidence that Joyce systematically read on the subject of the new physics, but neither did he do so with many other ideas which found their way into Finnegans Wake. Joyce's method consisted in selecting sources which had a direct bearing on his work and disregarding whatever did not suit his purpose. He was not interested in assimilating ideas in their entirety but rather in determining which of the ideas could be useful to him. His use of the writings of Giambattista Vico serves as a good example of Joyce's way with sources. Vico's cyclical view of history furnished one of the important structural devices for organizing Finnegans Wake. Joyce provided his patroness Harriet Weaver with a clue to that source, but he also cautioned skepticism: "I would not pay overmuch attention to these theories, beyond using them for what they are worth, but they have gradually forced themselves on me through the circumstances of my life" (Letters I 241). The same applies to his use of Huckelberry Finn in Finnegans Wake. Joyce had never read Twain's book himself. Instead, he commissioned a young relative to read Huckelberry Finn, write the plot summary, and return the book with relevant passages marked in different colors on the margin, so that he could "try to use whatever bears upon" Finnegans Wake (Letters III 401). Given this strategy, it is difficult to determine how much in-depth knowledge or understanding of Einstein's theory Joyce really had. The question, however, is not crucial because Joyce's use of relativity in Finnegans Wake involves mostly the basic concepts rather than intricate details of the theory. It is important to point out, however, that these basic concepts did suit his purpose better than the details because they confirmed, reinforced, and refined other motifs already present in the structure of the book.

Joyce's method of composition was accretive. He constantly added on to Finnegans Wake, but the additions rarely involved new ideas. Rather they were meant to enrich the texture of the book by providing new points of view, or commenting on the text, or even contradicting it to bring out its meaning. Such, for the most part, is the way the relativity theory occurs in Finnegans Wake: Joyce apparently was not concerned with the development and meaning of the theory itself but rather with incorporating into his work those elements which he found useful because they reinforced his own ideas and themes.

Relativity and Joyce's Vision of the Word

The publication of the relativity theory was bound to have at least a general impact on Joyce for the theory was characterized by a number of features which duplicated or resembled the elements of his own vision of the world. To begin with, the creation of a new definition of time and space and of the resulting new cosmogony was in itself a powerful act of imagination that Joyce could not help but admire. Joyce found the lack of imagination to be a deficiency in science. Asked whether he really believed in Vico's Scienza Nuova, he replied: "I don't believe in any science, but my imagination grows when I read Vico as it doesn't when I read Freud or Jung" (Ellmann 693). Perhaps Joyce could not have appreciated the beauty of Einstein's creation in the way contemporary scientists did, but he must have admired the creative power of Einstein's mind. The relativity theory was partly the result of Einstein's thought experiments (Gedankenexperimente). These were mental exercises in which the physicist imagined a situation that was impossible to arrange in practice, though believable in theory (such as, for example, an elevator moving close to the speed of light). The physicist then tried to speculate on the possible outcome of experiments conducted by an imaginary scientist in those conditions. In some of his thought experiments Einstein was not afraid to postulate conditions which contradicted everyday experience and common sense, such as when he assumed that the velocity of light, unlike any other form of motion, is not subject to classical transformation laws and always remains constant. Beside a new thought approach, Einstein also had to develop an entirely new vocabulary to communicate his mathematical findings. This aspect of relativity paralleled Joyce's own situation: he, too, had to invent a new language to write Finnegans Wake.

Another feature of the relativity theory that Joyce must have found pleasing was its stress on subjectivity and the peculiar role of the observer. In classical physics, as in traditional fiction, reality was characterized by its own independent existence. The world of objects and events, and their description in fiction, were said to exist regardless of whether they were experienced or perceived or the books were read. The new theory, on the other hand, postulated that the observer plays a more active role than that of a registering instrument because he can influence the outcome of a measurement by his behavior. This new role of the observer parallels the role of Finnegans Wake reader, for in Joyce's book the "meaning" does not rest solely in the printed word as it does in traditional fiction; it also has to be generated by the act of reading, thus letting the reader participate more actively in shaping a fictional reality.

Another useful parallel between Einstein's understanding of time and the fiction of Joyce is found in the relativistic concept of temporal dilatation. Prior to Einstein's theory, the absolute time of classical physics, with its even and steady flow, was the only form of temporality admitted by science. Newtonian time, measured in fixed units, formed the basis of the scientific description of reality. It also corresponded to the concept of time in practical affairs of everyday life. Society is organized around the face of a clock and the pages of a calendar, and without a conventional system of time it could not possibly function as it does. In contrast to Newtonian time, however, individual human experience of the temporal passage does not involve measurable quantities and standard units. It is always a unique experience in which the sense of duration is dependent on the circumstances surrounding the subject and on the state of the subject's mind. This aspect of time was considered irrelevant in classical physics, and it had also been neglected in much of traditional fiction. The writer made no attempt to recreate the personal sense of time flow of his character. Instead, he treated the temporal passage as a mere framework to organize the events of his fictional reality, much as the classical physicist viewed time and space as "an absolute framework within which the material events of the world ran their course in their imperturbable order" (Bronowski, Ascent 249). Einstein's assertion that physical time can dilate legitimized the attempts of many modern writers who tried to render the act of human temporal experience by presenting it through the prism of the character's mind rather than by employing the spatial view of traditional novel. Joyce was a part of that new "time school," which also included such distinguished and diverse authors as Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf.

The relativity theory also encouraged a new treatment of time in fiction by removing the boundary between the past and the future. The classical concept of time was that of linear progression. According to Newtonian physics, any event which had already taken place was a part of the past and had no bearing on other events. Such a linear progression, however, is not compatible with the actual nature of human temporal experience. The mind never perceives reality as restricted to "the present;" on the contrary, the past events and experiences (as well as imaginary projections into the future) intermingle with the present to form a complex response in which the past, the present and the future merge. Einstein's theory claimed that such also is the nature of physical time. Events do not form a linear progression axis. Instead, like the different constituents of human temporal perception, they coexist as parts of the timespace continuum.

The "time school" novelists attempted to recreate that complexity of time consciousness by means of the stream-of-consciousness technique. Its essence was the assumption that the significance of man's existence can be found in the mental processes rather than in the external world. Consequently, the writer's goal was to represent the endless flow of consciousness rather than describe the objective reality. Joyce had extensively employed the stream of consciousness technique in Ulysses. By skillfully entering the minds of his characters he managed to render their mental processes with such verisimilitude that many readers have commented on the novel seeming at times more real than reality. Although the action of Ulysses describes the course of a single day, the coexistence of the consciousness of the characters' past, present and projected future enables the reader to understand fully the characters in the context of the formative events of their lives. As Molly Bloom lies in bed, her past, present and future ceaselessly flow together. She recalls and relives past events, but she also hears "Georges church bells" and plans to check her husband's fidelity the next morning. Her thoughts form a continuum in which there are no temporal divisions: it is an eternal present where differentiated time zones do not exist.

This vision of time as eternal present is further reinforced in Ulysses by the parallels between the novel and the Odyssey. Joyce not only borrowed the title from Homer, and organized the novel according to the structure of the Odyssey, but he also included in his text innumerable parallels and correspondences between his Dubliners and Homer's characters. This strategy again stressed the idea of oneness of all ages which lay at the core of Joyce's vision of time.

The Temporal Continuity

Temporality is further explored in Finnegans Wake, although the exploration takes a different form. Joyce's last book does not attempt to re-create everyday reality of in the way Ulysses does. Instead, Joyce creates a reality of his own. His new reality is completely freed from the rational logic which dominates our waking state. Instead it resembles the logic of the dreaming mind, or the working of consciousness, where images are subject to constant movement and transformation. In place of realistic characters, in Finnegans Wake Joyce creates types: "Mister Typus, Mistress Tope and all the little typtopies" (20.12-13). These five principal types of characters are Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, his wife Anna Livia Plurabelle and their children: Shem, Shaun and Issy. In the book they undergo constant transformations, each metamorphosing into dozens of other personages, fictional or historical, with which they share similarities (or contrasts--for Joyce also believed in the unity of opposites). Thus the characters interact with one another not only spatially, as when HCE calls his chlidren home, but also temporally, when HCE, a Dublin publican, is transformed into Adam, Napoleon, Finn MacCool or Tim Finnegan, thereby proving that Joyce indeed wrote his book "with the help of the simulchronic flush in his pann" (182.11-12). This spatiotemporal interaction in Finnegans Wake not only conveys the idea of time without boundaries between the past, present and future, but it also expresses the relativistic fusion of time and space into a timespace continuum.

The temporality of the book's structure is further reinforced with verbal and grammatical motifs: "Then's now with now's then in tense continuant" (598.28-29). This "tense continuant" is further suggested by such verbal constructions as "at this auctual futule preteriting unstant" (143.07-08), or "there is a future in every past that is present" (496.35-36), or again in "Between me rassociations in the postleadeny past and mi disconnections with aplompervious futules" (348.05-06). The same effect is achieved by grammatical transformations, for usually "a time has a tense" (599.14). Joyce builds complex predicates without much regard for the rules of grammatical tense, as in "will had been having" (143.12), "can could" (141.32), or "willbe isnor was" (236.28). His purpose is always to join a specific instance with every other instance, regardless of their temporal coordinates. Thus we learn, for example, about a "child . . . [that] wouldbewas kidnapped at an age of recent probably, possibly remoter" (595.34-36), for in Finnegans Wake , as in the relativistic time concept, "there's a split in the infinitive from to have to have been to will be" (271.21-22).

Newton and the Fall of Classical Physics

Joyce also explores in Finnegans Wake several new aspects of temporality relevant to the publication of Einstein's theory. Newtonian physics for two centuries had been considered the bedrock of Western science. The fall of classical physics and the emergence of relativity in itself illustrated one of Joyce's main themes in the Wake : that of the fall and resurrection, or the constant renewal of the world. This fall of Newtonian physics is associated in Finnegans Wake with the fall of the apple, both the fall of fruit as a symbol of nature's cycle of renewal, and the fall of the apple which effected Newton's insight into the similarity between earthly and heavenly bodies when, as he relates, he suddenly saw a likeness between the falling apple and the movement of the moon. Through the apple image, the modern fall of classical physics is linked in Finnegans Wake with the biblical fall and sometimes the two motifs are interrelated: Thus, for example, we hear: "For then it was the age . . . of a pomme full grave and a fammy of levity" (20.28-30), followed by "newt" (21.02), a typical Joycean clue. The apple in question is, of course, the forbidden fruit, with its grave consequences, and the woman of levity is Eve, but the applefall (any fall) is also the result of gravity, whose description brought Newton fame and made him an eponymous figure.

In another reference to Newton, HCE is described as one who "thought he weighed a new ton when there felled his first lapapple" (126.16-17), or had a sudden insight into the nature of gravity while looking at the falling fruit, and that preceded by "albert [Einstein?]" (126.15). A little later the same motif reappears: "Let's hear what science has to say, pundit-the-next-best-king. Splanck! -Upfellbowm" (505.27-29), preceded by "stein" (505.21). "Splanck!" is the sound of the falling fruit, as well as the physicist Max Planck, the father of the quantum theory; "Upfellbowm" is German Apfelbaum: appletree, distorted to bring out the idea of gravity and fall. A similar distortion appears earlier in abfalltree," (88.01) and is used in a temporal context. Finally, among the names of ALP's "untitled mamafesta" (104.04-05) we find "the Fall of Fruit," followed by "Apples" and the scientist himself: "Sare Stood Icyk Neuter" (106.21-29).

Einsten and the Time-Space Polarity

Such are the Wakean glances at Newtonian physics and its fall. Predictably, the resurrection which followed in the form of new physics is also present in Finnegans Wake . Einstein's theory and the space-time debate which accompanied its creation provided Joyce with a convenient motif to augment his theme of the unity of opposites, represented by the Shem-Shaun polarity. This polarity takes different forms in the book. In one aspect, the conflict between the two brothers represents the opposition between time and space: Shem is associated with temporality while Shaun typifies the spatial approach. The polarity between Shem and Shaun is often presented in the Wake in the form of an opposition between an elm and a stone. Einstein's name suggested a way to enhance this motif since the physicist was born in Ulm (German for elm; Latin ulmus ). Joyce often blends these two motifs, as in "on the hike from Elmstree to Stene," preceded by "it was mutualiter foretold of him by a timekiller to his spacemaker" (247.01-04); or in "the Turnpike under the Great Ulm (with Mearingstone in Fore ground)" (293.13-14). Einstein and his theory are recalled when HCE is described as "a onestone parable, a rude breathing on the void of to be" (100.26-27), that is, Einstein's description of our existence (God's breath) as an essentially immaterial entity. This nonmateriality is also evoked in a preceding line where a thinking being is reversed into a "being thinking" (100.24). HCE as the "onestone parable" is "the cluekey to a worldroom beyond roomwhorld" (German Weltraum : space; 100.29). Newtonian "gravitational pull," (100.32) which relativity rejected as a feature of nature, calling it a fiction instead, is indicated as an argument used by the doubters of the new theory, and then HCE transforms into a tesseract, a fourdimensional analog to a cube. The passage closes with "Ulma" (100.36). The children's geometry lesson, with its Euclidian axioms, proofs and drawings, ends with a reference to "Eyeinsteye" (305.06) who showed that geometry of the universe is non-Euclidian. The name is echoed in "stein" (305.29) while "will gift uns his Noblett's surprize" (306.04), with its German pronoun, may well refer to Einstein's Nobel Prize in physics.

The Conjunction of Time and Space

Through time-space and elm-stone correspondences, Einstein is omnipresent in Finnegans Wake , but the main ideas of the relativity theory find their reflection in the book even more often than the theory's creator. Among those ideas the joining of time and space must have especially appealed to Joyce, for he made frequent use of it, turning it into one of the motifs of the book. Time and space, so clearly discrete to the rational intellect and yet now joined by science, provided Joyce with a convenient motif to express his belief in the unity of opposites. His use of the motif typically consists in referring to both time and space coordinates in either a temporal or a spatial context. By placing temporal and spatial terms together he brings out the opposition between them, but at the same time he shows their unity by suggesting that a reference to either spatial or temporal coordinates requires the use of both in conjunction, time and space having been united by Einstein. A spatial context, for example, is augmented with a temporal reference in the following passage: "[HCE] came at this timecoloured place where we live in our paroqial fermament one tide or another" (29.20-21). "Timecoloured place" consists of space joined by time to form the new continuum. The substitution of "tide" for "time" also brings out the notion of gravity, whose new interpretation was an essential aspect of Einstein's theory.

Conversely, a temporal context may be augmented by space. This happens, for example, when at the time is rendered as "for the space of the time being" (109.22), thereby both unifying and juxtaposing the notions of time and space. Similar is the phrase "just in time as if he fell out of space" (462.31). In another example the timepiece of a character is transformed into timespace:

Having reprimed his repeater and resiteroomed his timespiece His Revenances, with still a life or two to spare for the space of his occupancy of a world at a time, rose to his feet. (52.06-09)

"Room" suggests German Raum : space, while "the space of his occupancy of a world at a time" typically joins the spatial and temporal coordinates. Another way of suggesting the conjunction of time and space in Finnegans Wake consists in replacing the spatial coordinates with the temporal ones, and vice versa. Such constructions as "thenabouts" (69.24), "anywhen" (427.34-35), "whenabouts" (555.03), or "place of endearment" (571.04) clearly illustrate the idea. "Where are we at all?" asks a confused character, "and whenabouts in the name of space?" (558. 33). Spatially minded Shaun finds this method a convenient way to avoid temporal references: "Johns is a different butcher's. Next place you are uptown pay him a visit. . . . His liver . . . is a great value, a spatiality!" (172.05-09).

Timespace and the Four Old Men

The conjunction of time and space into the fourdimensional continuum provided Joyce with another chance to explore the correspondences between relativity and his book. He identified the four dimensions of timespace with The Four Old Men of Finnegans Wake : Matthew Gregory, Mark Lyons, Luke Tarpey and Johnny MacDougal, who at different times may appear as The Four Evangelists, the Irish historians of The Annals of the Four Masters , the four provinces of Ireland, and several other tetrads. Four, apparently a mysterious number, plays an important role in Finnegans Wake . The book is divided into four parts and among Joyce's sigla is a square. This fourfold division is also based on Vico's concept of time as a cyclical recurrence of four periods: three ages: divine, heroic and human, followed by a ricorso , a period of confusion which "brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to [the beginning]" (3.02). Vico's division of time into three periods and the ricorso provided a parallel to the new scientific concept of time with its coordinates consisting of three dimensions of space and one of time. The Four Evangelists furnished an equally convenient correspondence to the concept of timespace itself. The Three-to-one division of the four spatiotemporal coordinates found a parallel in the division of the Gospels into the first three Synoptic Gospels and that of St. John:

Our four avunculists. And, threestory sorratelling was much too many, they maddened and they morgued and they lungd and they jowld. Synopticked on the world. (367.24-27)

The Four--evangelists and historians--constantly scan the world around them, "facing one way to another way and this way on that way, from severalled their fourdimmansions" (367.26-27). Johnny, the added fourth dimension, is always a little apart or behind, as evident in these comments by gossiping washerwomen:

Are you meanam Tarpey and Lyons and Gregory? I meyne now, thank all, the four of them, and the roar of them, that draves the stray in the mist and old Johnny MacDougal along with them. (214.34-215.01)

Or in the following example, where Johnny requires as much as seven centuries to catch up with his companions, but does so eventually because his participation is necessary:

. . . 4.32 M.P., old time, to be precise, according to all three doctors waterburies that was Mac Auliffe and poor MacBeth and poor MacGhimley to the tickleticks, of the synchronisms, all lauschening, a time also confirmed seven sincuries later by the quatren medical johnny, poor old MacAdoo MacDollett, with notary, whose presence was required by law of Devine Foresygth and decretal of the Douge . . . (290.05-11)

Johnny's presence is required because the book is fourdimensional: in one of the many selfreflecting passages, Finnegans Wake describes itself as a tetradomational gazebocroticon" (614.28). The necessity to supplement the three spatial coordinates with the temporal one is also suggested in the scene where the four old men, "three kings of three suits and a crowner," (474.18-19) find exhausted Yawn and interrogate him:

Those four claymen clomb together to hold their sworn starchamber quiry on him. . . . First klettered Shanator Gregory, seeking spoor through the deep timefield, Shanator Lyons, trailing the wavy line of his partition footsteps (something in his blisters was telling him all along how he had been in that place one time), then his Recordership, Dr Shunadure Tarpey . . . and, up out of his prompt corner, old Shunny MacShunny, MacDougal the hiker, in the rere of them on the run, to make a quorum." (475.18-31)

The relativistic connotations in the passage are reinforced by "timefield" suggesting the quantum field theory which dematerialized the universe by claiming that matter is only a momentary manifestation of interacting fields. Shanator Lyons's "wavy line" evokes the undulatory nature of light, while his blisters and his impression that "he had been in that place one time" suggests another aspect of relativity that Joyce found suitable for inclusion in his work--the curvature of the timespace continuum.

This curvature was suitable to Joyce because the circular nature of the relativistic universe resembled the eternal return of the Viconian vision of time. Einstein's universe, curving back upon itself, is further suggested, for example, in the following passage: "we come to newsky prospect from west the wave on schedule time (if I came any quicker I'll be right back before I left)" (442.11-13). Finnegans Wake, called "Work in Progress" during its composition, is in fact "a warping process" (497.03). The line AL in the diagram used in the geometry lesson (293) may appear straight, but it is described as a "strayedline"(294.02-03), curved, like everything else in Joyce's book. The idea of a re-entrant universe, in which the future somewhere has to meet the past, is also implied in "the only wise in a muck's world to look on itself from beforehand" (576.22-23). The following passage explores the same idea:

Bloody certainly we've got to see to it . . . that down the gullies of the eras we may catch ourselves looking forward to what will in no time be staring you larrikins on the postface in that multimirror megaron of returningties, whirled without end to end. (582.16-21)

This "conjugation of the last with the first" (121.31) found a convenient symbol in the curved timespace of Einstein's theory.

The New Cosmogony

The relativity theory is also evoked in Finnegans Wake in the allusions to its new cosmogony. Einstein's discovery brought about a thorough revision of the scientific views on the nature and the origin of the universe. The new understanding of light and its behavior opened new ways to man's inquiry into the cosmos. The most significant change in the outlook was the realization that the universe is not a permanent and static entity, but that it expands at enormous speed. This expansion is accompanied by internal dynamism: stars are not static objects; they have lives of their own. Some collapse upon themselves to form blackholes, others suddenly flare up as novae only to fade away into their former obscurity. Finnegans Wake comments on both the expansion and the evolutionary nature of the universe. Both are combined, for example, in the scene where traveling Jaun halts "to fetch a breath . . . at the weir by Lazar's Walk," and, while resting, he experiences a transformation which is likened to the expansion of the universe and the explosion of a nova:

He was there, you could planemetrically see, when I took a closer look at him, that was to say, (gracious helpings, at this rate of growing our cotted child of yestereve will soon fill space and burst in systems, so speeds the instant!) amply altered for the brighter. (429.02-13)

The image of receding stars in an expanding universe is suggested when in response to Juva's "Dies is Dorminus master," Muta exclaims: "Diminussed aster!" (609.28-30). The expansion is also directly referred to during the children's lesson:

all . . . [is] solarsystemized, seriolcosmically, in a more and more almightily expanding universe under one, there is rhymeless reason to believe, original sun." (263.22-27)

Joyce and Wyndham Lewis

Joyce's use of relativity in Finnegans Wake has yet another important aspect, resulting from his quarrel with Wyndham Lewis. In Time and Western Man (1928), his polemic on the new time philosophy and the "time school" writers, Lewis launched a personal attack on Joyce. In the chapter entitled "An Analysis of the Mind of James Joyce," Lewis blasted Ulysses, describing it as a disorganized quantity of "material, that was scraped together into a big, variegated heap" (83). He condemned Bergsonian philosophy and the relativistic concept of timespace for their reliance on the flux of reality instead of solid objects, and he assaulted Joyce, calling him "the poet of the shabby-genteel, impoverished intellectualism of Dublin." Joyce, he said, "is steeped in the sadness and the shabbiness of the pathetic gentility of the upper shopkeeping class, slumbering at the bottom of a neglected province" (77). The conclusion Lewis reached in his analysis was that "there is not very much reflection going on at any time inside the head of Mr. James Joyce" (90).

Joyce's response to Lewis in Finnegans Wake takes several forms. He plays with Lewis's conclusion by observing: "Nonsense! There was not very much windy Nous blowing at the given moment through the hat of Mr Melancholy Slow!"(56.28-30). Time and Western Man , itself an allusion to Bergson's Time and Free Will, is transformed into "Spice and Westend Woman (utterly exhausted before publication, indiapepper edition shortly)" (292.06). Joyce's book repeatedly puns on Lewis's name, often in a non-laudatory way, as in "wind hound loose" (471.21-22). The Wake extends Lewis's objection to Ulysses as a chaotic depository of lifeless objects, by referring to itself as "a jetsam litterage of convolvuli of times lost or strayed, of lands derelict and of tongues lagging too" (292.15-17).

The Lecture of Professor Jones

Joyce's most direct answer to Lewis is contained in two passages: the lecture of Professor Jones followed by the fable of the Mookse and the Gripes (148-68); and in the fable of the Ondt and the Gracehoper (414-18). Professor Jones, who represents Wyndham Lewis (or space-oriented Shaun as opposed to temporal Shem), delivers a lecture on the "dime-cash problem." Speaking "from the blinkpoint of so eminent a spatialist," he begins his lecture by dismissing both Bergsonian flux and Einsteinian physics, claiming that "the sophology of Bitchson . . . is in reality only a done by chance ridiculisation of the whoo-whoo and where's hairs theorics of Winestein" (149.17-28). Next he attacks "Professor Loewy-Brueller" (the anthropologist Levy-Bruhl, who also studied temporality) and places him in the same group of thinkers "hopelessly vitiated" by what he has now resolved to call "the dime and cash diamond fallacy" (150.23-24)--the damned temporal fallacy. Then, in his clumsy and rambling style, which seems to owe much to the idiom of Lewis's opus, he attempts to expound his view of temporality, but is not altogether successful.

The fallacy of his opponents, Professor Jones explains, is their belief that "the inception, and the descent and the endswell of Man is temporarily wrapped in obscenity," whereas he, in his "own spacious immensity," prefers to be "reassured by ratio that the cube of [his] volumes is to the surfaces of their subjects as the sphericity of these globes . . . is to the feracity of Fairynelly's vacuum" (150.30-151.07). Thus self-assured spatially, he dismisses Levi-Brullo's investigation of time as just another case of "romanitis"--like Keats's rebellion against Pope. "What the romantic in rags pines after," Professor Jones pronounces to be "the poorest commononguardiant waste of time" (151.20-21). According to him, it is not when that counts but where, since "[one] man's when is no otherman's quandour . . . while the all is where (151.34-36).

Pleased with his "augmentatively uncomparisoned" discourse, but doubting the capabilities of his audience, Professor Jones now "revert[s] to a more expletive method" (152.06-07) and offers his version of Aesop's fable of the fox and the grapes. Carefully avoiding temporal terms, Professor begins his tale:

Eins within a space and a wearywide space it wast ere whoned a Mookse. The onesomeness wast alltolonely, archunsitslike, broady oval, and a Mookse he would a walking go. (152.18-19)

However, his attempts to eradicate time are only partly successful since "onesome" and "Eins" evoke Einstein's name, and with it not only the notion of time but also that of spatiotemporal conjunction. Such problems of temporal interference in his purely spatial existence continue to plague the Mookse in his "roaming run through Room [ Raum ]," and when he finds a place to sit down he is again joined with time, for the seat he has chosen is a stone, and a stone represents Einstein's name.

Inevitably, as the story unfolds, the problem of time fallacy is brought up by the Mookse when he reacts violently to Gripes's innocent question: "By the watch, what is the time, pace?" To the Mookse, the question is insolent. Enraged, he informs the Gripes that clarifying the question of temporal fallacy is precisely the goal of his mission and then attempts to impose his spatial geometrical approach on the Gripes:

Quote awhore? This is quite about what I came on my missions with my intentions laudibiliter to settle with you , barbarousse. Let thor be orlog. Let Pauline be Irene. Let you be Beeton. And let me be Los Angeles. Now measure your length. Now estimate my capacity. Well, sour? Is this space of our couple of hours too dimensional for you, temporizer? Will you give you up? (154.16-27)

But the other cannot give up his sense of time. The Mookse then is forced to revert to the formerly unsuccessful method of discourse. With the help of Greek, Latin and Rosicrucian literature he proves his point over and over, a hundred and thirty-three times in all, and then the same number again:

[H]e gathered together the odds docence of his vellumes, gresk, letton and russicruxian, onto the lapse of his prolegs, . . . and set about his widerproof. He proved it well whoonearth dry and drysick times, . . . [proved it] by Neuclidius and Inexagoras and Munifsen and Thumpsem, by Orasmus and Amenius, . . . he reproved it ehrltogether when not in that order sundering in some different order, alter three thirty and a hundred times. (155.26-156.02)

But this "promulgating [of] ipsofacts and sadcontras" has only as much effect on the Gripes as Professor Jones's lecture had on his "muddlecrass pupils" (152.08). The temporal Gripes remains as ethereal as he has always been: "Mee are relying entirely," he says, "on the weightiness of mear's breath" (156.33-34).

The fable finished, Professor Jones proclaims that he has now successfully explained his point, but he still returns to the question of temporal fallacy. Echoing Lessing's discussion of the spatial and temporal arts in Laocoon , the Professor takes the example of music to further clarify his views:

Of course the unskilled singer continues to pervert our wiser ears by subordinating the space-element, that is to sing, the aria , to the time-factor, which ought to be killed, ill tempor . (164.32-35)

He advises any singer "to forget her temporal diaphragm at home . . . and attack the roulade with a swift colpo di glottide to the lug," and thus to eliminate the time-factor in music entirely (164.34-165.02). Professor Jones's attitude towards music expresses Lewis's own. "To the trance of music," Lewis wrote, "with its obsession of Time , with its inalienable emotional urgency and visceral agitation, we prefer what Bergson calls 'obsession of space'" (428).

The Story of the Ondt and the Gracehoper

Joyce explores this correspondence between temporality and music in his second fable, the story of the ant and the grasshopper. Here Shaun is asked to sing a song, but he refuses to engage in this purely temporal form of art. He apologizes and offers instead to spin a yarn "from the grimm gests of Jacko and Essaup . . . [and] consider the casus . . . of the Ondt and the Gracehoper" (414.17-21). As in the story of the Mookse and the Gripes, the characters of this fable represent the Shem-Shaun polarity, but in another of their aspects they are Joyce's response to Wyndham Lewis.

In the fable Lewis is the stern and prudent Ondt, "thothfolly making chilly spaces at hisphex affront of the icinglass of his windhame" (415.28-29). A clearly spatial character, he is a "raumybult" fellow, "chairmanlooking when not making spaces in his psyche" (416.01-66), and smokes "a spatial brunt of Hosana cigals" (417.12-13). The musicmaking Gracehoper is Joyce himself, "always jigging ajog, hoppy on akkant of his joyicity, . . . [with a] pair of findlestilts to supplant him" (414.22-24). When they meet, the Ondt is "making the greatest spass a body could," while the famished Gracehoper, like the ethereal Gripes at the close of the earlier fable, is a "featherweighed animule, actually and presumptuably sinctyfying chronic's despair" (417.24-35). But, unlike the Mookse and the Gripes tale, this time Joyce does not leave the space-time question unresolved. The Ondt may have the upper hand in the story but in the Gracehoper's song which closes the fable the opposition of space and time is dissolved into a unity:

A locus to loue, a term it t'embarass
These twain are the twins that tick Homo Vulgaris
. . .
We are Wastenot with Want, precondamned, two and true,
Till Nolans go volants and Bruneyes come blue. (418.24-31)

Space and time are thus pronounced to be one: each can only develop its essence by opposition to the other. It is this interdependence that ultimately unifies them. And as for the last word in the argument, it belongs of course to Joyce. It is a personal question addressed directly to Wyndham Lewis - both as a writer of prose and as a champion of space:

Your genus is worldwide, your spacest sublime,
But, Holy Saltmartin, why can't you beat time?
 
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Copyright © 1997 Andrzej Duszenko duszenko@wolf.northern.edu