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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The donkey's bray : analysing the modernist democratic crowd's political strategy in Finnegans Wake's III.1 using narrative viewpoint theory Moar, Sarah Elysia Leif


Many Joyce scholars agree that the first chapter of the Wake's third book is narrated by a donkey (Atherton 2009: 115; Attridge 188; Cheng 36-38; Gordon 45-47; Leland 66; Mierlo 77-79; Norris 17) yet none has explained why Joyce would choose a donkey to both narrate and play the foil to Shaun in a chapter centered around a pointed dialogue between a populist political leader and his audience. This thesis explores the role of the donkey as both character and narrator in the first chapter of the Wake's book of the Democratic Age in order to discover its political aims. In the first part of this thesis, I apply Barbara Dancygier's Narrative Viewpoint theory to trace out a map of the chapter's narrative spaces, triangulating through verb tense and pronoun usage to identify where, when, and how the viewpoints shift. Once this map is created, I then use its topography to analyse the chapter's ecology in the second part of the thesis. Re-reading the map through the magnification lens of Judith Paltin's Modernist Crowd theory, I juxtapose what the donkey says, and where, with what Shaun says, and where, according to the standards set out by Paltin for identifying modernist fascist and democratic crowds. By examining the choreography of their politically charged conversation and analysing their speech patterns and viewpoint shifts according to Paltin's criteria, I discover that the donkey and Shaun are engaged in a verbal political tussle between modernism's democracy and fascism. This thesis concludes that, in the Wake's III.1, the donkey is an avatar of the modernist agile crowd. As such, it presents an early twentieth-century strategy for confronting authoritarian populism head-on in order to create space for democracy.

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