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Finnegans wake as a deconstructive text Roughley, Alan Robert


This dissertation considers Finnegans Wake as a deconstructive writing that exemplifies many of the textual operations that the French critical theorist Jacques Derrida attempts to define through his use of such "undecidable" terms and "non-concepts" as "difference," "dissemination," "trace," and "grafting." It argues that the Wake operates much like the "bifurcated writing" and "grouped textual field" that Derrida identifies as the only possible site for a deconstructive engagement of the terms and concepts of the Western metaphysical tradition, the tradition that Derrida terms phallogocentrism. The Wake has been an important text in the critical formulations of many contemporary theorists, and, as Derrida has recently acknowledged, his own theories of dissemination and deconstruction have been considerably affected by the Wake during the twenty-five to thirty years that he has been learning to read it. In drawing on Derrida's theories to analyze the Wake, this dissertation utilizes Derrida's terms to "re-mark" in Joyce's text, the disseminative textual operations that Derrida has marked as operative in the texts of the history of philosophy and in "so-called literary" texts like Finnegan’s Wake. In a certain sense, it renders unto Joyce's text that which has always already belonged to it. Drawing on Derrida's investigation of speech and writing, the dissertation considers the Wake's identification of itself as a fusion of speech and writing that requires a "speechreading" on the part of its readers. It supports this consideration by employing Umberto Eco's semiotic methodology to trace the network of metonymic lexemes by which the Wake identifies itself as a writing for the ear as well as the eye. Next it analyzes the Wake's tenth chapter as a chapter that exploits the formula 1+2+3+4=10 and produces a writing that operates as an arithmetical textual machine which problematizes the traditional concepts of presence and being and which also works towards dislodging the phallogocentric organization of writing with such hierarchically organized binary terms as male/female and central/marginal. In order to illustrate how the Wake disseminatively disrupts the binary terms by which phallogocentrism dominates thought, speech, and writing, the dissertation also considers how Joyce's text functions in an Intertextual relationship with some of the writings of Blake and Shakespeare. It does this by analyzing how the Wake dismantles some of the philosophical paradigms operating in the Blake and Shakespeare texts and takes important signifiers from those texts in order to set them to work as signifiers of signifieds that are radically different from those in the texts of Blake and Shakespeare.

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