Navigation – Plan du site
Art et image

“Soul of the Devil’s Pig”: Comedy and Affirmation in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

Bernard McKenna
p. 85-98

Résumés

Dans Finnegans Wake, James Joyce explore les associations du mythe irlandais du « Cochon Noir », en construisant des scènes autour de ses motifs dans le Chapitre I, Livre 1 et dans le Chapitre III, Livre 4. Par le recours à la comédie (satire, parodie et ironie), Joyce offre une critique de la façon dont les auteurs de la Renaissance Celtique ont illustré le mythe et la façon dont ils ont essayé de retrouver et de définir une identité nationale par l’écriture. Simultanément, les passages offrent une affirmation.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 The evidence from the early drafts of pages 24.15-25.16 indicates that Joyce built an association b (...)
  • 2 The early drafts of pages 564.4-565.5 indicate that Joyce built the passage around the myth of the (...)

1In Finnegans Wake, James Joyce explores the associations of the Irish myth of the “Black Pig,” building scenes around its motifs in Chapter I, Book 11 and in Chapter III, Book 42. Through the use of comedy (satire, parody, and irony), Joyce offers a critique of the way Irish Revival writers came to terms with myth and the way they attempted to trace and establish a national identity in writing. Simultaneously, the passages offer an affirmation. The traditions surrounding the Valley of the Black Pig offer an ideal metaphor for such dual representations in that the Valley marks, according to myth, the site of the battle of the end of the world. However, the death of one world leaves an opening for a new beginning in just the same way that Joyce’s use of comedy tears down one world and his affirmations build another. Such a process is not uncommon in cultures and societies emerging from a colonial/post-colonial era. Mbembe and Roitman, in “Figures of the subject in Times of Crisis”, define the process as “the possibility for self-constitution”:

  • 3 Achille Mbembe and Janet Roitman, “Figures of the Subject in Time of Crisis.” The Geography of Iden (...)

According to this formulation, we are not interested primarily in the problematics of resistance, emancipation, or autonomy. We distance ourselves from these questions in order to better apprehend, in today’s context, the series of operations in and through which people weave their existence in incoherence, uncertainty, instability, and discontinuity; then, in experiencing the reversal of the material conditions of their societies, they recapture the possibility for self-constitution, thus instituting other words of truth3.

2Through the myth of the Black Pig, Joyce weaves new possibilities for self-constitution into the space left empty by the disposition of colonial and post-colonial discourse. Finnegans Wake then offers a perspectival shift towards formerly marginalized narrative constructions.

Pastiche and Affirmation

  • 4 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham, Duke University Pres (...)

3In a passage taken from Book III, Chapter IV, Joyce parodies the manner and consequences of Revivalist assemblage of folklore, customs and traditions. As a result, Finnegans Wake offers up a narrative that anticipates Frederic Jameson’s reading of the “Postmodern pastiche”: “a field of stylistic and discursive heterogeneity without a norm4”. The Revivalists, however, do offer a “norm” for their descriptions; Yeats, in The Trembling of the Veil, seeks to distill the essence of spiritual truth from a variety of traditions, writing that he planned

  • 5 William Butler Yeats, Autobiographies: The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume III, William H. O’ (...)

a mystical Order which should buy or hire the castle, and keep it as a place where its members could retire for a while for contemplation, and where we might establish mysteries like those of Eleusis and Samothrace. […] I did not think this philosophy would be altogether pagan, for it was plain that its symbols must be selected from all those things that had moved men most during many, mainly Christian, centuries5.

  • 6 All textual citations to Finnegans Wake are taken from James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, London, Faber a (...)
  • 7 Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, Third Edition, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Pr (...)
  • 8 Dounia Bunis Christiani, Scandanavian Elements of Finnegans Wake, Evanston, Northwestern University (...)
  • 9 Arthur Stanley Pease, “Sybylla,” The Oxford Classical Dictionary, N.G.L. Hammond and H.H. Scullard, (...)
  • 10 Jameson, op. cit., p. 19.

4In constructing an idyllic mystical retreat, Yeats makes himself vulnerable to the charge that he de-contextualizes the religious symbols and “mysteries” from their cultural and ritual context, potentially robbing them of their spiritual potency. Joyce, in the voice of Mark, echoes and reduces to the absurd the type of de-contextualized assemblage present in Yeats’ The Trembling of the Veil. Specifically, Mark describes “that white and gold elephant in our zoopark” (564.5-6), suggesting the sacred objects of India or Africa. Animistic religious traditions find a resonance in the “Talkingtree and sinningstone” (564.30-31). Pastoral religion is also present, in the “shady rides [that] lend themselves out to rustic cavalries” (564.25-26) and in the “olave, that firile, was aplantad in her liveside” (564.2122). The passage even gives voice to Classical religious practices, describing the “grekish and romanos” (564.9); the “Hystorical leavesdroppings” (564.31), which recall the withering Cumaenean Sybil; and, in another sense, “that white and gold elephant”: Pheidias statue of Zeus at Olympia, according to the Greek historian Pausanias, included ivory and gold elements. Mark, like Yeats, also includes Christian components: “How tannoboom held tonobloom. How rood in norlandes” (564.21-23)6, signifying Christmas and the word for the cross7. The passage adds to the spiritual references a clear signal of satiric perspective: “sir Shamus Swiftpatrick, Archfieldchaplain” (564.31-33): Jonathan Swift. The subsequent lines reveal Joyce’s satiric target: “How familiar it is to see all these interesting advenements with one snaked’s eyes” (564.33-34). The use of “snaked eyes” implies Satan’s revelation to Adam and Eve and, by connection, reveals the naked assemblage of a variety of de-contextualized religious traditions, robbed of their spiritual value (Jameson’s “norm”) as a consequence of their de-contextualization. The passage’s satiric force culminates in a call of “Ulvos! Ulvos!” (565.5). The warning certainly suggests wolves at the gates threatening civilization. In this sense, Yeats and his type of assemblage are the wolves that threaten the ordered practice of rooted religious tradition. The warning also suggests, “Odin, in the Voluspa of the Poetic Edda, [who] calls up the Volva, or Sibyl, from the lower regions to learn the fate of the gods from her8”; fire destroyed Sybil’s prophecies when Rome burned in 83 B.C. Subsequently, classical and early Christian writers attempted to reconstruct or even invent her prophecies9. The passage reads then like an invented tradition, once again recalling Jameson’s observations of the “pastiche,” in that it “randomly and without principle but with gusto cannibalizes all the […] styles of the past and combines them in over-stimulating ensembles10”. Finnegans Wake parodies the effect of Revivalist compilations of folklore and tradition, arguing that the intended purpose of the assembly, to reconstruct lost spiritual vitality, is itself lost when random assembly robs spiritual traditions of the normative value inherent in their cultural context.

  • 11 Linda Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism, New York, Routledge, 2002, p. 90.
  • 12 Fredric Jameson, Modernism and Imperialism, Derry, Field Day Theatre Company,1988, p. 20.
  • 13 Ibidem.
  • 14 Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Jonathan R (...)
  • 15 Brendan O’Herir and John Dillon, A Classical Lexicon for Finnegans Wake, Berkeley, University of Ca (...)
  • 16 Brendan O’Herir, A Gaelic Lexicon for Finnegans Wake, Berkeley, University of California Press, 196 (...)
  • 17 Richard Kearney, Poetics of Modernity, Atlantic Highlands, Humanities Press, 1995, p.75.
  • 18 O’Herir, Gaelic Lexicon, p. 297.

5However, the passage may also be read as an affirmation. The parody that mocks the type of discourse characterized by Yeats, liberates the assemblage of spiritual traditions from that same oppressive discourse and carries a resonance with Linda Hutcheon’s views of “pastiche” as an artistic form that has not necessarily “lost its meaning and purpose”, but rather “inevitably has a new and different significance11”. Pastiche then, as Hutcheon characterizes it, offers possibilities not inherent in Jameson’s reading. Joyce, in Finnegans Wake’s representation of the myth of the Black Pig, anticipates both alternatives. The text simultaneously parodies the style of discourse adopted by Yeats in his memoirs, a discourse consistent with Jameson’s reading of pastiche, but also offers, within the void left by parody, an example of Hutcheon’s reading of pastiche. Hutcheon’s view, furthermore, echoes Jameson’s reading of an “Irish Modernism12” in connection with Ulysses: “Irish Modernism [is] a form which […] [projects] a radically different kind of space, a space no longer central, as in English life, but marked as marginal and ec-centric after the fashion of the colonized areas of the imperial system. The colonized space may then be expected to transform the modernist project radically, while still retaining a distant familial likeness to its imperial variants13.” Joyce’s representation of myth from a variety of traditions functions both as a parody of imperial discourse and as an alternative to imperial discourse. Specifically, the words and phrases that parody colonial constructions, also, as Stuart Hall observes of articulations of identity freed from post-colonial discourse, “offer a way of imposing an imaginary [i.e. creative] coherence on the experience of dispersal and fragmentation14”. Freed from the imagined [i.e. fabricated] coherence of Revivalism, Finnegans Wake offers a unity through a creative construction of words and phrases that universalizes myth without the imposition of an imperial order or hierarchy and without decontextualizing traditions. Joyce’s text then presents a common human experience in the void left by parody. For example, “that white and gold elepant” suggests not only India but also the “chryselephantine [ivory and gold] statue of Zeus15”. The passage’s reference to pastoral religious traditions also makes a specific connection to Ireland; “liveside”, (564.22), for example, suggests the “Liffey River16”. Ireland then, through juxtaposition, does indeed have a unity with the Classical world. Moreover, the hierarchy implicit in representation of pastoral to agrarian to Christian religious also dissolves in the parodic representation, leaving an association without need for hierarchy. Joyce then anticipates a use of language and myth consistent with Jameson’s characterization of an “Irish Modernism” in that he roots an “ec-centric” view of myth within Irish tradition and history and, therefore, “transforms the modernist project” from one rooted in post-colonial and colonial discourse into one which, as in Richard Kearney’s observations regarding the hermeneutic imagination, “offer(s) the possibility of redeeming symbols from the ideological abuses of doctrinal prejudice, racist nationalism, class oppression, or totalitarian domination17.” In a very real sense, Ireland’s “firile” (564.22), or “man18” that “was aplanted in her liveside” (564.22) and the progeny of Joyce’s reversal of Genesis’ gender roles is the universality inherent in Joyce’s Hutcheon-like pastiche.

Comic Deflation

  • 19 Kearney, op. cit., p. 17.

6In Book I, Chapter IV, Finnegan utters an explicative: “Anam muck an dhoul!” (24.15), which Brendan O’Herir translates, “Soul of the Devils pig19”. In the next line, the Four tell him to “be aisy, good Mr Finnimore, sir. And take your laysure like a god on pension and don’t be walking abroad” (24.16-17). The language, with its conversational style and representation in dialect belies the epic language and heroic representation of the pig in Celtic legends, comically deflating the elevated, epic language of Revivalists. Lady Gregory retells the story of Finn’s son as the black pig, slaughtered on the battlefield:

  • 20 Lady Augusta Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men, London, John Murray, 1926, p. 305.

For as to the black pig that came before you on the plain,” he [Finn] said, “it was no common pig was in it, but my own son. And there fell along with him,” he said, “the son of the King of the Narrow Sea, and the son of the King of the Sea of Gulls, and the son of Ilbhrec, son of Manannan, and seven score of the comely sons of kings and queens. And it is what destroyed my strength and my respect entirely, they to have been burned away from me in a far place20.

  • 21 Whitley Stokes, “The Battle of Mag Muccrime,” Revue Celtique, p. 13 (1892).

7The Four Masters address Finnegan, using the surname “Finnemore”, suggesting that he too is Finn (or Finn’s descendant). They tell him to behave like a “god,” indicating a heroic nature but one on “pension”, deflating the epic potential inherent in a giant rising from the Irish landscape. In addition, retellings of Celtic legend also suggest that the black pig is a representative of evil: “Now pigs came out of the Cave of Cruachain and that is Ireland’s gate of hell. […] [M]oreover, come these swine. Round whatever thing they used to go, till the end of seven years, neither corn nor grass nor leaf would grow21.” Finnegan’s declaration of the “soul of the devil’s pig”, but with a comic groan, once again, deflates the elevated language of Stokes’ type of depiction of the pig rising from the gates of Hell. Essentially, Joyce uses humor to demythologize the stories surrounding the black pig, positing instead a very human representation of the god and ironically implying the legends themselves have no insight into the supposedly pure Celtic tradition which they seek. Joyce points out the inherent contradictions in the legacy of Celtic legend, belying the hopes to access through stories the original culture behind the tales. Moreover, because the text represents a rising Finnegan in such a comic and human (as opposed to epic) form, Joyce implies that the heroes were likely more human than epic. Moreover, even if they were to come to life, it is possible, according to the treatment they receive from the Four Masters, that they would not be heralded as heroes but rather dealt with a patronizing tone, designed to mollify and contain any epic energy that might go “walking abroad.” In short, Irish Revivalist society as reflected in the passage, would not recognize a god or hero even if he appeared before them, rising from Phoenix Park.

  • 22 William Butler Yeats, “The Swine of the Gods”, Mythologies, London, Macmillan, 1971, p. 67.
  • 23 Samuel Ferguson, Congal: A Poem in Five Books, Dublin, Edward Ponsonby, 1872, p. 12.

8In addition, Finnegans Wake satirically argues that even if the people of Irish Revivalist culture recognized the traces of a living hero/divinity, they would misinterpret the signs and respond with hostility. Yeats tells the story of one such instance of the sighting of a mysterious pig: “the people of the village took pitchforks and spades and the like, and went along the road with them to drive the pig away. When they turned the comer they could not find anything22.” Joyce associates the waking Finnegan with language of death and sacrifice. The Four Masters warn him that, if he should wander off, “Sure you’d only lose yourself in Healiopolis now the way your roads in Kapelavaster are that winding there after the calvary” (24.17-19). The passage’s reference to “calvary” recalls the sacrifice of the Christian messiah at the hands of a hostile crowd, not unlike the throng who sought the mythic pig in Yeats’ tale. Further, the passage also references the Egyptian City of the Sun god, merging its name, “Heliopolis,” with that of Timothy Healy, recalling Parnell’s sacrifice at the hands of a hostile crowd. The rejection of Parnell recalls a tradition associated with the black pig recounted by Samuel Ferguson: the black pig is a “mythological monster, said to have been banished, after the establishment of Christianity, to the Hebridean Seas, where his ‘rootings’ may be seen in stormy weather in the hollow of the waves, and his ‘gruntings’ heard from the caverned rocks of Mull and Isa23”. The Irish bishops, with the cooperation of members of the Irish Party, led by Healy, betrayed and “banished” Parnell in the same way the establishment of Christianity saw the banishment of Ferguson’s mythological pig. Joyce’s satire not only humanizes the deity it comically depicts as a crowd not ready to accept the presence of the divine, preferring instead to hunt him down, whether at the hands of a hostile Irish village with pitchforks, a crowd calling for the sacrifice of a Christian messiah, or an Irish public ready to sacrifice Parnell.

  • 24 Kearney, p. 66.
  • 25 Ibidem.

9By comically deflating Revival-style representations, Joyce succeeds in re-humanizing the Irish myths on which the representations draw. In doing so, Joyce anticipates what Richard Kearney sees as necessary for “humanity to return to itself and rediscover its own powers of making24”. Specifically, Joyce, applying Kearney’s analysis to Finnegans Wake “debunk[s] the pseudo world of fetish images in which ideology alienates human consciousness25”. Essentially, Joyce’s comic deflation reveals how certain Revivalist writers and their willing audiences, informed by colonial and post-colonial discourse, project their desire for the “pure” onto legends or even public figures, like Parnell. Such acts of projection create a fetish that dehumanizes and decontextualizes the objects of desire. In his comic deflation, Joyce both signals a disconnection from Revivalist representations of myth that tend to dehumanize their subjects and, simultaneously, signals a re-humanization of the myths. Joyce, from the Revivalist’s perspective, ironically brings the myths closer to the people, offering them figures with whom they can identify. Joyce’s representation of the human nature of Irish heroes and myths comically affirms the presence of those heroes and myths and the value of their presence in the lives of a receptive audience. The value rests not in the myth’s ability to elevate a readership’s aspirations to a pure and super-human standard but rather to elevate a readership’s self-conception by stressing the human and flawed nature of the heroes. Joyce grants his readership a clearer and more accurate understanding of their mythological inheritance and grants his readership a clearer and more accurate understanding of their own potential: if the heroes of the past were as human as a contemporary readership, applying Joycean logic, then their heroic acts are within the reach of a contemporary readership.

Carnival

  • 26 Padraic Pearse, “The Coming Revolution,” Political Writings and Speeches, Dublin, The Talbot Press, (...)
  • 27 McHugh, Annotations, p. 564.
  • 28 John Bishop, Joyce’s Book of the Dark: Finnegans Wake, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1986 (...)
  • 29 Ibidem.
  • 30 John Gordon, Finnegans Wake: A Plot Summary. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 1986, p. 84.
  • 31 Gregory, op. cit., p. 304.
  • 32 All textual citations to Yeats’ poetry are taken from The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yea (...)

10When Padraic Pearse wrote that “Bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing26”, he echoed the sentiments of some in the Irish Nationalist movement who sought violence in order to purify an Ireland that they considered weakened by centuries of British occupation. Joyce, in Mark’s narrative (564-565), characterizes sanctifying violence as a “feud fionghalian” (564.30), suggesting that rather than achieve a connection with a pure Irish past, those involved in violence, ironically, destroy their heritage through “fratricide27”. Clues in the narrative further point towards violence extending beyond Ireland. As John Bishop observes, a “whole set of ciphers designating ‘the end of the world’28” emerges, including, “guttergloomering29”. Violence then, the passage suggests, leads to even more death; it cannot be controlled, even by an ideology like Irish Nationalism. The passage indicates that a “scarlet pimparnell now mules the mound where anciently first murders were wanted to take root” (564.28-30). John Gordon argues that “the sight of red blood on white skin, the “scarlet pimparnell, is […] a powerful symbol of alternately shameful and sacred secrets30”. The words, “first murders”, in part recall bloodletting connecting with sacred rites or the attempt at the sacred that actually brings shame to the perpetrator. Moreover, the emergence of the “scarlet pimparnell” suggests that violence does not end, that it has unintended consequences. The myth of the “Black Pig” then is a fitting metaphor around which to build such images of escalating and fruitless violence. Lady Gregory writes of how “the hunt [for the pig] brought destruction on Angus, [and] it brought losses on the Fianna as well31”. W. B. Yeats, in “the Valley of the Black Pig32”, hears “the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries/Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears” (ll. 3-4). Yeats links the Irish myth of the end of the world to “perishing armies” of “fallen horsemen”, to ghostly figures locked in violent struggle. Lady Gregory’s version of the tale reveals unexpected and far-reaching consequences of violence. Mark’s narrative, from Finnegans Wake, builds, around the central metaphor of the “Black Pig”, images containing an uncontrollable violence that originates, as in Padraic Pearse’s writings, in a desire for the sacred and pure.

11Within Joyce’s metaphorical world, there is no clearer image of an attempt at purification leading to an ironic and violent end than the metonymy of the Parnell case, and Mark’s narrative also gives voice to the scandals that eventually destroyed not only Parnell but his efforts to establish, through peaceful means, an Irish nation. In the case of Parnell, the passage’s reference to “first murders” (564.29) and the “scarlet pimparNell” (564.28) could quite easily be taken as a reference to the “Phoenix Park Murders”:

  • 33 J. C. Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland, 1603-1923, London, Faber and Faber, 1981, p. 393.

On 6 May, Lord Frederick Cavendish […] was murdered in the Phoenix Park, together with T.H. Burke, the under-secretary, […] The assassins, members of a band known as “The Invincibles”, had no connection with any organization with which Parnell was involved; but he was so horrified at the crime, and so deeply convinced that it would destroy his political influence, that his first resolve was to retire at once into private life. “What is the use”, he asked Davitt, “if men striving as we have done […] if we are to be struck at in this way by unknown men who can commit atrocious deed of this kind?” […] The obvious sincerity with which he denounced the crime made a good impression in Britain33.”

  • 34 Ibidem, p. 401.
  • 35 McHugh, Annotations, p. 565.
  • 36 Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 32.
  • 37 James Joyce, “The Shade of Parnell”, James Joyce: The Critical Writings. Ellsworth Mason and Richar (...)

12Nonetheless, a scandal began to circulate that threatened Parnell’s claim to the moral high ground: “An accusation made by The Times [London] in 1887 that he had privately condoned the Phoenix Park murders was dramatically refuted, two years later, by a discovery that the letters on which the newspapers had relied had been forged by a journalist34.” The “scarlet pimparnell” in this context can be taken to mean both the shedding of blood in the Phoenix Park and the scandal that attempted to misrepresent Parnell’s private attitude towards the killings. The “scarlet pimparnell” might also refer to the subsequent scandal that eventually did destroy Parnell’s efforts at a peaceful statehood for Ireland. Mark’s narrative ends with the cry of “Ulvos! Ulvos!” (565.5); McHugh glosses the words as “wolves35”. Not only would Pearse’s plea for violence replace Parnell’s plea for peace, Parnell himself became a “hunted animal36”. Moreover, the violence that destroyed Parnell, ironically, did not come from England: “In his final desperate appeal to his countrymen, he begged them not to throw him as a stop to the English wolves howling around them. It redounds to their honour that they did not fail this appeal. They did not throw him to the English wolves; they tore him to pieces themselves37.” In destroying the father of peaceful Nationalism, the Irish people embraced violence and fratricide, a “feud fionghalian”, not only in the destruction of Parnell but also in the creation of an Irish nation founded on violence.

  • 38 O’Herir, Classical Lexicon, p. 471.
  • 39 Giovanni Costigan, A History of Modern Ireland, New York, Pegasus, 1970, 351.
  • 40 Beckett, op. cit., p. 413.
  • 41 Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of Finnegans Wake, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1977, p (...)
  • 42 In Stephen Hero, a “Father Healy” is a “little man” who “looked far away into the golden sun and al (...)
  • 43 Ellmann, op. cit., p. 25-257.
  • 44 Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fior-Ghael, Cork, Cork University Press, 1996, p. 34.

13The passage also refers to the creation of the Irish Free State, its symbolic connection to Britain and its continued close association with the Catholic Church. In the passage’s contemplation of “Holl Hollow” (565.2) as giving “wankyrious thoughts” (565.3), Joyce plants, at the conclusion of Mark’s narrative, references to both British and Roman rule. Brendan O’Herir glosses “wankyrious” as “lord, master38.” Mark’s narrative lays out the geography of the Phoenix Park, which demonstrates Joyce’s thought that Ireland had continued, deleterious links to the two masters even after independence: “On the right prominence confronts you the handsome vineregent’s lodge while, turning to the other supreme piece of cheeks, exactly opposite, you are confronted by the equally handsome chief sacristary’s residence” (564.13-15). Earlier, on pages 24-25, Joyce describes the area as the “Healiopolis” (24.18). Quite literally, Time Healy “was named first Governor General of the Free State39” and took up residence in the former vice-regent’s lodge. Healy “had at one time been secretary to Parnell” but took “a prominent part in his overthrow40”. Joyce would have discerned the irony of the former advocate of a morally pure Irish Nationalism as the representative for and figure head of a British presence in Ireland. As Adaline Glasheen observes, Healy “ratted on Parnell and joined the wolves [. . . ] and priests who hunted Parnell to death41”. Within the imaginative geography of the “Healiopolis” the “Chief Sacristary” lives across from the vice-regent; in actuality, the Chief Secretary’s residence sits opposite to the vice-regent’s lodge. Joyce alters the name to reveal the alliance between Healy42 and the Roman Catholic Church to overthrow Parnell. In doing so, Joyce taps into a vein in Irish history. As Richard Ellmann points out, Joyce felt that “the modern papacy is as deaf to the Irish cries for help as the medieval papacy [under Adrian IV] was43.” Indeed, as Joep Leerssen notes, “the fact that Pope Adrian himself was an Englishman, may indicate the possibility that the strategic or territorial design of the king of England on the neighboring island was, if not in orchestrated concord, at least compatible with the policy of the Holy Sea44”. The metaphorical connection between the two within the geography of the Phoenix Park reveals that Joyce sought to suggest a post-colonial mindset in the newly formed Irish Free state, one that continued its adherence to colonial values while simultaneously proclaiming itself free.

14Joyce, in the passage, makes clear the violent ends of some aspects of the Irish Nationalist movement and makes clear that those ends actually draw Ireland ideologically closer to colonial forces. The violence then functions as a type of Bakhtinian Carnival, meaning that it offers a temporary suspension of colonial control but ultimately results in closer associations with a colonial mindset and colonial power. However, the passage also offers elements that point towards a unity through peaceful procreation and a sociocultural synthesis that belies the values, internalized or imposed, of colonialism and post-colonialism. Reinforcing this view, John Bishop notes the significance of the distinction between “historical” and “hystorical” in 564.31:

  • 45 Bishop, op. cit., p. 378-379.

Creation is not an historical event that happens only once, with a remote big bang in the Garden of Eden, but a ‘hystoRical event’, happening constantly in the ‘Garden of Erin’ and other modern nations as people keep on waking up and children keep on spilling into the world. As in Genesis, then, where all the glittering appearances of the earth come forth out of a dark, formless, and inchoate body of water seeded with paternal form, as if from the interior of an egg45.

  • 46 Antonio Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island, Durham, Duke University Press, 1996, p. 307.

15The nature of creation and of creative forces, contrasting with the power of violence, offers not a millennial event that will transform the world, the kind foreseen by Pearse, but rather offers constantly changing and constantly growing transformation that combines many aspects of Irish society. The passage notes that “Around is a little amiably tufted and man is cheered when he bewonders through the boskage how the nature in all frisko is enlivened by gentlemen’s seats” (564.15-17). The passage makes a distinction between “man” and “gentleman”. However, the two come together in an “little amiable tufted”, a version of the Garden of Eden, in its association with plants that share a common root stem but diverge in growth. Tufted also has associations with weaving. The passage then implies that Ireland’s diverse populations are woven together and share an inexorable connection to one another that cannot be sundered by violence; in fact, violence simply asserts the ascendancy of one tradition over another. Whereas, all come together in the “frisko” and “enlivened” exercise of creativity. In stressing the productive aspects of association, Joyce anticipates the theory of “Carnival” espoused by Antonio Benitez-Rojo. For Benitez-Rojo, carnival is an embrace of social engagement, “unifying through its performance that which cannot [otherwise] be unified46”. Significantly, the carnival functions differently in this context than it does in the definitions of Bakhtin and others. For Benitez-Rojo, carnival functions as a forum to expose the masks of those in power, to reveal their motives for maintaining order. The passage reveals the close association between the violent urges of an aspect of Irish Nationalism and colonial control in Ireland. Carnival also functions as a forum for insurgency. Not only does the language of the passage comically deflate a violent nationalism, the juxtaposition between violence and procreation undermines an aggressive hegemony. In both cases, carnival functions as a way to come to terms with violence. Ultimately, its performative aspects and the comic performance of Finnegans Wake are unifying and represent a sociocultural synthesis.

  • 47 The only obvious reference to the “Black Pig’s Dyke” (517.15) in Finnegans Wake comes in Book III, (...)
  • 48 Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, London, Jonathan Cape, 1995, p. 332.
  • 49 Kearney, op. cit., p. 184.

16Other passages in Finnegans Wake allude to the myth of the “Black Pig47”, but the passages on pages 24-25 and 564-565 are the only references that occur early enough in the composition process to assert that Joyce constructed themes and images around references to the Black Pig. In doing so, Joyce built into the passages not only a reference to the end of the world but also references to a new world. Simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction is a familiar theme to Wake scholars. Declan Kiberd observes a similar pattern, noting that the “moment […] Joyce wrote in English, he felt himself performing a humiliating translation of a split linguistic choice. In his writings, he seeks to express that sundering; and, eventually, in Finnegans Wake he would weave the absent texts in the space between standard Irish and standard English48”. To carry Kiberd’s theories forward into a reading of Joyce’s use of the Black Pig, Finnegans Wake weaves an affirmation in the space left open after his use of the comic tears down the discourse of the Revival. Richard Kearney, in Poetics of Modernity, makes note of a process similar to Kiberd’s observations regarding sundering and creation: Kearney suggests that “Finnegans Wake […] testifies to the fall of the patriarchal Logos into the babel of history49”, but he also argues that Finnegans Wake

  • 50 Ibidem.

is a ‘mamafesta’ which retells how Anna (the Celtic mother goddess who reconciles the father Manaanan and the son Aengus) and Eve (the mythic temptress who challenged patriarchal self-sufficiency) inaugurated the history of human creation and procreation. Anna and Eve become identified in Joyce’s remythologizing with the suppressed poetics of language. Joyce seems to be saying that it is only by attending to this other utopian language […] that we become aware of the polyphonic legacy of “woman’s reason.” […] Joyce is disclosing a non-foundational role for myth as emancipatory play of endless metamorphosis50.

  • 51 Barbara Lalla, “Creole and Respec’ in the Development of Jamaican Literary Discourse,” Journal of P (...)
  • 52 Ibidem.

17Similarly, Joyce’s use of comic forms emancipates through play positive associations and establishes an affirmation. In their discussion of Joyce’s use of language, Kiberd and Kearney echo Barbara Lalla’s observations regarding the representation of language by formerly colonized peoples. Lalla writes of an “Expansion Phase51” that marks “a perspectival shift that relocates the speaker to the centre (rather than margin) of a valorized discourse, which becomes an instrument of identity construction52”. Finnegans Wake’s use of language(s) does indeed mark a profound narrative shift in which the formerly marginalized relocate to the center of discourse, weaving themselves into the empty spaces vacated by the colonizing powers. Significantly, Joyce’s use of myth and specifically the myth of the Black Pig, accomplishes the same ends as does his use of language. Those ends, meaning the affirmation of formerly marginalized discourse, share a commonality with the struggles of people attempting to emerge from the discourses and mindsets of colonialism and post-colonialism.

Haut de page

Notes

1 The evidence from the early drafts of pages 24.15-25.16 indicates that Joyce built an association between the myth of the black pig, the British imperial presence in Phoenix Park, and diverse cultures outside of Dublin and Ireland when he revised the passage. The passage begins immediately after Finn wakes up to the word whiskey. The Four Masters attempt to convince him to accept things as they are. The first available version of the lines dates from 1927 when Joyce wrote in the margins of his manuscript the words, “(Anam a dhoul!) Did ye drink me dead? Now, be easy, good Mister Finnomore sir! And take your laysure and not be walking abroad, […] Aisy now and quiet and repose your honour’s lordship” (James Joyce Archive, 44, Finnegans Wake, Book I, Chapter I: a facsimile of drafts, typescripts & proofs/James Joyce; prefaced by David Hayman; arranged by Danis Rose, with the assistance of John O’Hanlon, 138). The draft suggests that Joyce, when he first came to this passage, wanted to emphasize Finn’s rootedness and to imply that Finn has a high opinion of himself or at the very least, that he expects to be treated with respect. Further, Finn’s initial utterance, “Anam a shoul,” as opposed to “anam muck an dhoul” (24.15), suggests that Joyce originally thought the line should stand as “Soul to the devil,” as simply an expletive uttered by Finn and as a direct reference to the words of the song “Finnegan’s Wake”. The first appearance of the final form of the phrase, with a reference to the devil’s pig, comes in the typescript from the next available revision and adds the word, “muck” (JJA 44, 199) which changes the line to “soul of the devil’s pig,” suggesting that Joyce wanted to make an explicit connection between an evil “pig” and the legends alluded to in the passages subsequent lines.

2 The early drafts of pages 564.4-565.5 indicate that Joyce built the passage around the myth of the black pig, adding details to create an association between the mythic tradition, the British presence in Ireland, and an assortment of religious traditions. The passage, the section of “discord” in the chapter, is spoken by Mark (Munster) and focuses on the various conflicts present in the narrative: brother/brother, sister/brother, father/child, parents/children, mother/father, Ireland/England, the present/the past, and Ireland/the Catholic Church. The earliest draft of the passage contains a reference to the mythical black pig. Joyce details the “black and blue markings [the traces of the wild boar that] indicate the presence of sylvious beltings. Any pretty dears to be caught. At the lowest end is the depression, called the Hollow. It is often quite gloomyand gives bad thoughts” (James Joyce Archive, 60, Finnegans Wake, Book III, Chapter 4, Drafts, TSS and Proofs, David Hayman and Danis Rose [eds.], New York, Garland Publishing, 1978, p. 70).

3 Achille Mbembe and Janet Roitman, “Figures of the Subject in Time of Crisis.” The Geography of Identity. Patricia Yeager (ed.), Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1996, p. 155.

4 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham, Duke University Press, 1991, p. 17.

5 William Butler Yeats, Autobiographies: The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume III, William H. O’Donnell, Douglas N. Archibald (eds.), New York, Scribner, 1989, p. 204.

6 All textual citations to Finnegans Wake are taken from James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, London, Faber and Faber, 1957.

7 Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, Third Edition, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006, p. 564.

8 Dounia Bunis Christiani, Scandanavian Elements of Finnegans Wake, Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1965, p. 216.

9 Arthur Stanley Pease, “Sybylla,” The Oxford Classical Dictionary, N.G.L. Hammond and H.H. Scullard, (eds.) Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1970, p. 984.

10 Jameson, op. cit., p. 19.

11 Linda Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism, New York, Routledge, 2002, p. 90.

12 Fredric Jameson, Modernism and Imperialism, Derry, Field Day Theatre Company,1988, p. 20.

13 Ibidem.

14 Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Jonathan Rutherford (ed.), London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1990, p.224.

15 Brendan O’Herir and John Dillon, A Classical Lexicon for Finnegans Wake, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1977, p. 470.

16 Brendan O’Herir, A Gaelic Lexicon for Finnegans Wake, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967, p. 297.

17 Richard Kearney, Poetics of Modernity, Atlantic Highlands, Humanities Press, 1995, p.75.

18 O’Herir, Gaelic Lexicon, p. 297.

19 Kearney, op. cit., p. 17.

20 Lady Augusta Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men, London, John Murray, 1926, p. 305.

21 Whitley Stokes, “The Battle of Mag Muccrime,” Revue Celtique, p. 13 (1892).

22 William Butler Yeats, “The Swine of the Gods”, Mythologies, London, Macmillan, 1971, p. 67.

23 Samuel Ferguson, Congal: A Poem in Five Books, Dublin, Edward Ponsonby, 1872, p. 12.

24 Kearney, p. 66.

25 Ibidem.

26 Padraic Pearse, “The Coming Revolution,” Political Writings and Speeches, Dublin, The Talbot Press, 1952, p. 99.

27 McHugh, Annotations, p. 564.

28 John Bishop, Joyce’s Book of the Dark: Finnegans Wake, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1986, p. 402.

29 Ibidem.

30 John Gordon, Finnegans Wake: A Plot Summary. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 1986, p. 84.

31 Gregory, op. cit., p. 304.

32 All textual citations to Yeats’ poetry are taken from The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats, Peter Alt and Russell K. Alspach (eds.), London, Macmillan, 1966.

33 J. C. Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland, 1603-1923, London, Faber and Faber, 1981, p. 393.

34 Ibidem, p. 401.

35 McHugh, Annotations, p. 565.

36 Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 32.

37 James Joyce, “The Shade of Parnell”, James Joyce: The Critical Writings. Ellsworth Mason and Richard Ellmann (eds.), Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1989, p. 228.

38 O’Herir, Classical Lexicon, p. 471.

39 Giovanni Costigan, A History of Modern Ireland, New York, Pegasus, 1970, 351.

40 Beckett, op. cit., p. 413.

41 Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of Finnegans Wake, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1977, p. 122.

42 In Stephen Hero, a “Father Healy” is a “little man” who “looked far away into the golden sun and all of a sudden – imagine! – his mouth opened and he gave a slow noiseless yawn.” (Stephen Hero, Theodore Spencer, John Slocum, Herbert Cahoon [eds.], London, Jonathan Cape, 1969, p. 239).

43 Ellmann, op. cit., p. 25-257.

44 Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fior-Ghael, Cork, Cork University Press, 1996, p. 34.

45 Bishop, op. cit., p. 378-379.

46 Antonio Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island, Durham, Duke University Press, 1996, p. 307.

47 The only obvious reference to the “Black Pig’s Dyke” (517.15) in Finnegans Wake comes in Book III, Chapter 3 placing the allusion after the story of the fall and during the conflict between Shem and Shaun. Joyce’s reference reinforces the conflict between the two brothers as part of a mythic conflict associated with Irish legend. However, it is not an essential component of this particular passage having been added relatively late, in 1936 (JJA 62, 473). However, Joyce scatters references to the valley of the black pig throughout his text referencing the traditional motifs associated with the myth. Specifically, on pages 15, 77, and 262, Joyce uses the myth to reinforce notions of the apocalypse finding a resonance with late-Victorian and early modern representations of the black pig’s dyke. On pages 15, 77, 362, 441-442, and 448, Joyce uses the myth in reference to the battle between the English and the Irish finding a resonance with the “prophecy of the Irish Columba … [who] said that the carnage of the citizens would be so great, that the enemies would be knee-deep in the blood of the slain” (Eugene O’Curry, On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, Dublin, Williams and Norgate, 1873, p. 432), and “a belief held by many natives of Ulster that the English will some day make a bloody massacre of the Irish in the Valley of the Black Pig” (William Kane, “The Black Pig’s Dyke,” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 27 [1907-1909], p. 326). On pages 262 and 448, Joyce links his black pig to traditions associated with ritualised food and drink – “From a very early period, pig bones and whole joints of pork appear in burials, and this association of the animal with grave goods and with the Celtic ritual of the feast continues right down into the late literary tradition” (Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain, London, Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1967, 391). Further, on pages 77 and 362, Joyce represents the black pig in connection with the feast of Samhain and the corn mother finding a resonance with Yeats’ pig which is “a type of cold and of winter that awake[s] in November, the old beginning of winter” (William Butler Yeats, The Variorum Edition of the Plays of W.B. Yeats, Russell K. Alspach (ed.), London, Macmillan, 1966, 1184) and the “pig [which] seems to have been originally a genius of the corn” (James Frazer, The Golden Bough, London, Macmillan, 1890, 56). Further, on pages 362 and 448 Joyce finds in the black sow a representation of the border between Ulster and Connaught, the ancient boundary for fighting and rivalry between provinces. (Kane, 560) In addition, Joyce finds in his recreation of the myth the pig a creature of revenge on pages 15, 77, 362, 441-442, and 448. Finally, Joyce suggests on pages 15, 77, and 362 the legends associated with the black pig and the sea – “When the Firbolgs ruled the kingdom the land was overrun with swine, which committed great depredation.” The Tuatha De Danann destroyed all save one herd which they eventually killed off by raising “a violent convulsion of the elements which swept the entire herd into the sea” (William Gregory Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faiths in Ireland, London, Longmans, Green, and Company, 1902, 131). The references taken together with the motifs of the black pig carried forward in the revisions of the passage, there exists quite a bit more than a mere hint of resemblance between Joyce’s text and the legends associated with the traditions of the black boar. “Everyone of course knows that Joyce was fond of weaving into his work parallels with myth, saga, and epic. It is, however, a mistake to assume, when such a parallel is identified, that it must be complete. It rarely is. … In Finnegans Wake wonders can be done with a mere hint of resemblance” (James Kelleher, “Irish History and Mythology in James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’”. The Review of Politics. 27.3 [July 1965], p. 421).

48 Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, London, Jonathan Cape, 1995, p. 332.

49 Kearney, op. cit., p. 184.

50 Ibidem.

51 Barbara Lalla, “Creole and Respec’ in the Development of Jamaican Literary Discourse,” Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 20:1. 53-84 (2005), p. 67.

52 Ibidem.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Bernard McKenna, « “Soul of the Devil’s Pig”: Comedy and Affirmation in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake », Études irlandaises, 34.1 | 2009, 85-98.

Référence électronique

Bernard McKenna, « “Soul of the Devil’s Pig”: Comedy and Affirmation in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake », Études irlandaises [En ligne], 34.1 | 2009, mis en ligne le 30 juin 2011, consulté le 23 septembre 2017. URL : http://etudesirlandaises.revues.org/2580 ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesirlandaises.2580

Haut de page

Auteur

Bernard McKenna

University of Delaware

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

© Presses universitaires de Rennes

Haut de page