Joyce's sources: Intertextuality and pretextuality in "Finnegans Wake"

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Patrick A. McCarthy - Committee Chair


The subject of influence and allusion has been a central concern in criticism of Finnegans Wake from the very beginning. However, some received notions about Joyce's reading and the structural importance of his sources for Work in Progress are open to revision, especially when we approach the text from a genetic perspective. Undoubtedly, Vico's work--and all other books pointed to by Joyce himself--exerted an influence over the writer which cannot be denied. Yet the study of the Buffalo notebooks has provided the critic with the textual record of Joyce's reading, which allows him to evaluate more accurately the purposes behind Joyce's use of source materials. Combining traditional textual scholarship with cultural studies, I will contend that rhetorically, rather than thematically, these sources helped shape the linguistic texture and parodic style(s) of Work in Progress.The scope of my dissertation, grafted upon the critical debate surrounding the concepts of allusion and intertextuality, is two-fold. On the one hand I would like to reconsider the importance of some traditional sources-such as Vico's New Science, The Book of the Dead, and The Book of Kells--from a strictly diachronic or pretextual perspective; on the other I will investigate how Joyce's notebook sources in general--including hagiographies, religious pamphlets, popular science books, vulgarized history and mythology, encyclopedias and newspapers--played a role in the composition process, how they shaped the signification of Finngans Wake, and how they can reshape our conception of the book.What is remarkable about the presence of underlying sources in the Buffalo notebooks is their sheer divergence and quantity. More importantly, however, with the help of the notebooks it has become possible to study the tangible links between these sources and Joyce's text in a way that wasn't possible before, since we have access to the selection process that guided Joyce's reading. A pretextual reading will focus in the first place on the idiosyncrasies of the notetaking process and usage in an attempt to describe the transformations in the signification of textual elements--both semiotically and culturally--when they are lifted from the original texts and transposed through notebook and draft to the final text of Finnegans Wake. Thus, the notebooks allow the genetic critic to make coherent assumptions about Joyce's creative dynamic while avoiding either essentialism or absolute open-endedness.


Literature, English

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