Saturday, March 17, 2012

A tour of the museum with Joyce and Re-joyce

Our publications department recently wandered into new territory with a bit of literary impertinence in which it is imagined that the spirit of the author of Finnegans Wake (the notoriously unreadable modern classic) is channeled through a museum docent also named Joyce. The transcript is accompanied by the obligatory scholarly commentary.

The results can be seen here

Museums figure briefly in both of Joyce's major works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. In Ulysses, the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, visits the National Museum of Ireland in his epic single-day odyssey around Dublin. His purpose for the visit is to avoid his wife's lover, whom he sees on the street, but mostly to admire the divine female forms in the statuary.
"Can see them library museum standing in the round hall, naked goddesses. Aids to digestion." (p.144)
"His heart quopped softly. To the right. Museum. Goddesses...His eyes beating looked steadfastly at cream curves of stone" (p. 150)
Finnegans Wake contains within its dream pages a visit to a fictional Willingdone, or Wallinstone, Museum (pp 8-10). Joseph Campbell writes in A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake
This Museum should be regarded as a kind of reliquary containing various mementoes symbolizing not only the eternal brother-conflict, but also the military and diplomatic encounters, exchanges and betrayals of recorded history
Another interpretation [citation needed] is that the museum was simply the outhouse behind the dreamer's pub: "For her passkey supply to the janitrix, the mistress Kathe"

For further examples of museums as literary devices, see:
Steven Millhauser - The Barnum Museum
Kurt Vonnegut - Skip's Museum in The Sirens of Titan
Mark Twain reviews a dime museum as a journalist
Orhan Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence , both a novel and a (planned) physical museum

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