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The Ecology of Finnegans Wake
The Florida James Joyce Series
University Press of Florida
Florida A&M University, Tallahassee
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton
Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers
Florida International University, Miami
Florida State University, Tallahassee
New College of Florida, Sarasota
University of Central Florida, Orlando
University of Florida, Gainesville
University of North Florida, Jacksonville
University of South Florida, Tampa
University of West Florida, Pensacola
The Ecology of
Foreword by Sebastian D. G. Knowles
University Press of Florida
Gainesville · Tallahassee · Tampa · Boca Raton
Pensacola · Orlando · Miami · Jacksonville · Ft. Myers · Sarasota
Copyright 2015 by Alison Lacivita
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper
This book may be available in an electronic edition.
20 19 18 17 16 15
6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lacivita, Alison, author.
The ecology of Finnegans wake / Alison Lacivita ; foreword by Sebastian D. G. Knowles.
pages cm –– (The Florida James Joyce series)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Joyce, James, 1882–1941––Criticism and interpretation. 2. Joyce, James, 1882–1941.
Finnegans wake. 3. Ecology in literature. I. Knowles, Sebastian D. G. (Sebastian David
Guy), author of introduction, etc. II. Title. III. Series: Florida James Joyce series.
Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the
use of copyright material. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions and would be
grateful for notification of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or
editions of this book.
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System of Florida, comprising Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida
Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida State University, New
College of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of North
Florida, University of South Florida, and University of West Florida.
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Introduction: An Ecocritical Joyce?
1. Reading the Landscape
2. City versus Country
3. The Politics of Nature
4. Religion and Ecology
5. Growing Things
Conclusion: New Boundaries of Ecocriticism
Once in a blue moon a work comes across an editor’s desk that promises
to shape the work of a generation. Whoever first read On the Origin of
Species in manuscript must have felt this way, seeing an entire horizon
heave into view. Here comes ecocriticism—led by Alison Lacivita. Lacivita has created an exquisite chapel in her study of the Wake and the natural world; the intertwining vines of genetic study and ecocritical reading
pleach together in an intricately braided text that is a veritable archipelago
of new and hidden discoveries. It is as if James Frazer had actually done
his homework: this is The Golden Bough for the ecocritical age, an inspirational and breathtakingly original reading that is everywhere supported
by close critical engagement with the text. This book provides a necessary
redress to the legions of critics who require Joyce to be an urban writer in
Aesopian dualism against the Irish literary revival, a town mouse against
the country mice of Yeats and Synge, out in their pampooties to murder
him. Joyce may have played that distinction up in a particolored way ever
since his departure from Dublin, but Alison Lacivita isn’t fooled, and she
returns James Joyce to the green world where he belongs, leading us to
fresh woods and pastures new.
In undergraduate exams on Ulysses, I have been known to set two simple
questions from the “Ithaca” catechism: “Did he fall?” and “Did it flow?”
What follows constitutes the single best possible answer to both questions
at once. Lacivita is concerned with nothing more nor less than our postEdenic existence, and the way that we may make our return to Paradise.
Did it flow? Yes, it certainly did: the watery sources of all Joyce’s work
are revealed in all contexts—genetic, cultural, political, physical, literary,
geographical. From paleobotany to post-structuralism, from partridges to
peat bogs, from polar bears to Poulaphouca, we are given an encyclope-
viii · Foreword
dic topology of the legible landscapes of the Wake, including a welcome
disquisition on the influence of gaslight on paraheliotropic trees. Lacivita
does more than shore up the presence of the River Liffey in the Wake; her
reclamation of an entire subject from the silted waters of the Wake makes
her at once charitable mason, landscape architect, and hydroengineer.
Genetic criticism and environmental scholarship can be neatly aligned
in ways that make Finnegans Wake a perfect study for Lacivita’s general
argument. Over time and through space Finnegans Wake developed like
nothing else in literature, allowing Lacivita to shuttle effortlessly between
the growth of the text and the text’s love of growing things. By the end of
Lacivita’s book, we come to realize that Finnegans Wake allows infinite
space to explore the nutshell of the natural world. But that does not make
Joyce’s work unique; Finnegans Wake just makes the general ecocritical
argument better than any text ever written. This is the unique quality of
Lacivita’s scholarship: she makes Finnegans Wake a representative work
rather than a singularity, a great tree of life instead of a radioactive stone
only to be approached in a hazmat suit with a Geiger counter. “Allalivial,
allalluvial!” (FW 213.32). “Environs” (FW 3.03) has been hiding in plain
sight. Lacivita is our Lucretius, and The Ecology of Finnegans Wake our
De Rerum Natura: through her marvelous work, we are drawn closer to the
Sebastian D. G. Knowles
Editor, Florida James Joyce Series
Many individuals and institutions supported this book, and I would like
to express my gratitude to all who have helped out along the way. I would
particularly like to thank Sebastian Knowles for his encouragement; Sam
Slote, my fearless adviser; Philip Coleman; the whole English Department
at Trinity College Dublin; John Elder; Niamh Dowdall, for her constant
support and faith; the James Joyce Centre; Geert Lernout; Fritz Senn and
the Zürich James Joyce Foundation for providing me with a fellowship in
2009; everyone at Foster Place—I hope I got the milk enough times; Kate
O’Connor and 2 Maple Drive; my wonderful friends who supported me
across the Atlantic—Beth, Kelly, Katie H., Kate P., Kathleen, and Martin;
Keel Geheber for his patience when repeatedly being asked to read this
over half a decade; and my colleagues and students at the University of
I would like to express my gratitude to Dale and Janet Shearer, who
kindly helped support this project. I would like to thank the Joyce Studies
Annual for permission to reprint excerpts from my article “Polar Exploration in Finnegans Wake,” from Joyce Studies Annual (2013). I would also
like to thank David Hayman for allowing me to draw on his work, The FirstDraft Version of Finnegans Wake, extensively, and Catherine de Courcy,
for allowing me to publish information from our e-mail correspondence.
I dedicate this book to my parents, Mark and Audrey Lacivita, who supported me for the seven years I was away from the United States and were
always only a phone call away.
1. Editions of Joyce’s Works
Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. Drafts, corrected typescript,
and proofs, 1923–1939. British Library, London, Archives and
Joyce, James. Occasional, Critical, and Political Writing. Ed.
Kevin Barry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Joyce, James. Dubliners. Ed. Robert Scholes and A. Walton Litz.
New York: Viking Press, 1969. Print.
Hayman, David, ed. A First-Draft Version of Finnegans Wake.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963. Print.
(plus page and line number) Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake.
New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.
(plus volume and page number) The James Joyce Archives. Ed.
Michael Groden et al. 63 vols. New York: Garland Publishing,
Joyce, James. Letters of James Joyce: Volume 1. Ed. Stuart
Gilbert. New York: Viking Press, 1957; reissued with corrections,
Joyce, James. Letters of James Joyce: Volume 2. Ed. Richard
Ellmann. New York: Viking Press, 1966. Print.
Joyce, James. Letters of James Joyce: Volume 3. Ed. Richard
Ellmann. New York: Viking Press, 1966. Print.
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ed.
Chester G. Anderson. New York: Viking Press, 1968. Print.
Joyce, James. Poems and Shorter Writings. Ed. Richard Ellmann,
A. Walton Litz, and John Whittier-Ferguson. London: Faber and
Faber, 1991. Print.
xii · Abbreviations
Joyce, James. Stephen Hero. Ed. Theodore Spencer, John J.
Slocum, and Herbert Cahoon. New York: New Directions, 1963.
(plus episode and line number) Joyce, James. Ulysses. Ed. Hans
Walter Gabler et al. New York: Garland Publishing, 1984, 1986.
2. Frequently Cited Works of Joyce Criticism
Buffalo VI.B. (plus notebook number and page) The Finnegans Wake
Notebooks at Buffalo. Ed. Vincent Deane, Daniel Ferrer,
and Geert Lernout. Turnhout: Brepols, 2001– . Print.
EFW Epstein, Edmund. A Guide through Finnegans Wake.
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009. Print.
Geni Slote, Sam, and Wim Van Mierlo, eds. Genitricksling Joyce.
Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999. Print.
HJW Crispi, Luca, and Sam Slote, eds. How Joyce Wrote Finnegans
Wake: A Chapter-by-Chapter Genetic Guide. Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 2007. Print.
Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford and New York: Oxford
University Press, 1982. Print.
McHugh, Roland. Annotations to Finnegans Wake.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. Print.
Probes Hayman, David, and Sam Slote, eds. Probes: Genetic Studies in
Joyce. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995. Print.
TDJJ Rose, Danis. The Textual Diaries of James Joyce. Dublin:
Lilliput, 1995. Print.
UFW O’Hanlon, John, and Danis Rose. Understanding Finnegans
Wake. New York: Garland, 1982. Print.
WiT Hayman, David. The Wake in Transit. Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1990. Print.
3. Joyce Journals, Print and Online
A Finnegans Wake Circular
A Wake Newslitter
Genetic Joyce Studies
Hypermedia Joyce Studies
James Joyce Quarterly
Joyce Studies Annual
References in the text and notes to Joyce’s manuscript material as “simplified” mean that I have not included all changes made to a passage, only
those that are substantial or relevant to the discussion at hand. Carets (^)
in transcriptions of manuscript material indicate Joyce’s additions to the
The British Library (BL) in London is a major repository of Joycean
materials, including annotated drafts, typescripts, and proofs of Finnegans
Wake. All of the BL citations I present in this study come from the 63-volume James Joyce Archive (JJA). In short citations, such as (BL 47482b62v), manuscript number (47482b) and page or folio number (62v), sometimes indicating recto (r) or verso (v), follow BL. In long citations, such
as (BL 47480-267, JJA 55: 446a, FDV 203.29, FW 380.34), the BL locator is succeeded in turn by (1) location in the James Joyce Archive (vol.
and page number), (2) location in the First-Draft Version of Finnegans
Wake (FDV), and (3) location in Finnegans Wake (page and line number). Thus, commas in long citations separate the elements of one citation;
semicolons separate discrete citations.
An Ecocritical Joyce?
“Time and the river and the mountain are the real heroes of my book.”
Joyce made this assertion to Eugene Jolas while explaining one version
of the structure of Finnegans Wake; he continued: “Yet the elements are
exactly what any novelist might use: man and woman, birth, childhood,
night, sleep, marriage, prayer, death” (qtd. in Jolas, “My Friend” 11–12).
This study follows Joyce’s direction, presenting the argument, through a
genetic examination of environmental themes in the text, that “the river
and the mountain” are really the heroes of Finnegans Wake. I define “environmental themes” broadly, as themes relating to the natural world or the
human relationship to the natural world. Such themes are wide-ranging
and include topics such as the city, wetlands, geography, imperialism, animals, agriculture, technology, transportation, engineering, religious tradition, mapping, and the sciences, among others. However, to limit the material, this study focuses only on instances where these themes are clearly
grounded in the physical environment.
Through the dual lenses of ecocriticism and genetic criticism, Finnegans Wake is situated here in a tradition of modernist inquiries into the
relationship between culture and nature. If we broadly define literary modernism as a response to modernity, Finnegans Wake’s articulation of an
urban ecology, of a self-conscious aesthetic appropriation of nature, and
use of experimental form to represent nature make it an exemplary text.
During the first years of its composition, Finnegans Wake was on its way to
becoming the first major text of modernist literature to express profound
engagement with the environment. Joyce did not necessarily commence
the writing of the Wake with this idea in mind. However, from an examination of the earliest sketches and notebooks for the Wake, it appears that
2 · The Ecology of Finnegans Wake
Joyce was interested enough in the environment, in a capacity seemingly
not yet clear even to him, to record dozens of notes from a wide variety of
sources and in very different contexts and to incorporate environmental
themes into all of the early sketches.
In this introduction, I provide a brief overview of ecocriticism and its
relationship to modernist studies, Irish studies, and Joyce studies. Then I
discuss my genetic methodology and provide a genetic approach to three
sources in one of the Finnegans Wake notebooks as an example of its applications in such a study. Finally, I provide a chapter-by-chapter outline
of the book.
An Introduction to Ecocriticism
In the introduction to The Ecocriticism Reader, Harold Fromm and
Cheryll Glotfelty provide the most frequently cited definition of ecocriticism: “Simply put, ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” (xviii). Since the formative essays of
the ecocritical canon were published in the 1970s and 1980s, ecocriticism
has steadily expanded in scope, and the traditional approach of examining
the role of nature in a particular literary text now encompasses an everbroadening definition of both “literature” and “physical environment.”
“Physical environment” has come to mean everything from the deepest
woods to the busiest urban areas, and “literature” has become almost any
type of text.
As ecocriticism becomes more of an accepted theoretical approach in
literary study, the subject matter of which ecocriticism is allowed to speak
steadily continues to expand. Along with class, race, and gender, place can
now be seen as a determining factor in the understanding of literatures and
their production. By “place,” I (reductively) mean the specificities of the
environment (both built and natural), and their exchange with the culture
specific to that particular geographical area. This new focus on place has
helped result in the merging of ecocriticism with Marxist criticism (ecomarxism), gender studies, queer theory, feminist criticism (ecofeminism),
ethnic studies, and postcolonial criticism.
Though there are presently many different ecocriticisms, two roughly
unifying goals behind them all are (1) the exposure of the ways in which
the language we use to describe and discuss nature affects our perception of that nature, and (2) the acknowledgment of human inseparability
Introduction: An Ecocritical Joyce? · 3
from the nonhuman world. Though early ecocriticism often embraced
and perpetuated the timeless “nature vs. culture” binary, such a division is
usually now seen as an artificial construct (though oddly not with regard
to modernist literature). As Karla Armbruster and Kathleen Wallace argue in Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism
(2001), the focus of earlier ecocritics on personal narratives of the American wilderness is guilty of “seriously misrepresenting the significance of
multiple natural and built environments to writers with other ethnic, national or racial affiliations” (7). The culture/nature binary is implicated in
the endurance of other damaging discursive binaries as well (white/black,
man/woman, colonizer/colonized, urban/rural, human/nonhuman, etc.).
As Steven Rosendale argues in The Greening of Literary Scholarship, an
important idea to keep in mind as an ecocritic is the “human component
of the human-nature relationship” (xvii). In the twenty-first century, there
is no part of the nonhuman environment that is not affected by human
life or vice versa. In short, this dynamic means that the culture/nature and
urban/rural divide becomes less and less clear and that the ecocritic must
examine all types of environments.
Recent years have brought the constructive interaction between ecocriticism and post-structuralism/postmodernism, though the attempt to
bridge the gap between these two approaches has frequently been met
with harsh criticism. Early ecocriticism (and much ecocriticism still) sets
itself as against theory and in favor of a return to the “real” (once primarily through recourse to nonfiction texts and “nature writing”). Critics of
the integration of post-structuralism and ecocriticism often represent poststructuralism as a malicious force that treats nature as solely a linguistic
construct. Such critics tend to focus on only the most nihilistic interpretations of post-structuralism and postmodernism, overlooking the ability of
these approaches to, for example, decenter the human subject and to query
systems of thought and uses of language that reinforce narratives harmful
to the environment. While such ecocritics’ fear is understandable (radical
interpretations of Jacques Derrida or Jean Baudrillard certainly can imply
that nature exists only linguistically or culturally and that therefore we do
not need to worry about our effect upon it), it is also limiting to the development of ecocriticism’s theoretical stance and its larger implications.
Laurence Coupe, in The Green Studies Reader, argues that “green studies does not challenge the notion that human beings make sense of the
world through language, but rather the self-serving inference that nature
4 · The Ecology of Finnegans Wake
is nothing more than a linguistic construct” (3). Coupe accepts the role
of language in understanding and formulating the world, but profitably
separates this from the destructive belief that the world is only a linguistic
construct. Allowing post-structuralism to enter the ecocritical debate on
the linguistic level allows for an exploration into the root of our current
A reassertion of nature’s materiality may seem contrary to much philosophy associated with Joyce and with Finnegans Wake, but several philosophers associated with post-structuralism and postmodernism do in fact
“use” nature to support arguments concerning the decentering of the human, of language, and of the metanarrative. In addition to Martin Heidegger’s concept of “dwelling” and Derrida’s discussions of the “ani/mal”
(in The Animal That Therefore I Am), Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work has
been the most readily adopted by critics working in diverse areas of ecocriticism.1 The passages in Merleau-Ponty to which ecocriticism gravitates
largely concern language, and David Abram goes so far as to conclude
an essay on the phenomenologist by asserting that he stands for an “EcoLogos,” and that “[h]is work suggests a rigorous way to approach and to
speak of ecological systems without positing our immediate selves outside
of those systems” (97). Such a concept is what defines ecocriticism as a
critical approach as opposed to simply a discussion of nature in literature; ecocriticism seeks to uncover assumptions, often buried in language,
about the construction of “nature” as a category, and to explore the formal
innovations for representing this construction.
Merleau-Ponty, in The Visible and the Invisible, provides support for the
type of work ecocriticism is now doing when he writes that the goal now
for philosophy consists ”in restoring a power to signify, a birth of meaning, or a wild meaning, an expression of experience by experience, which
in particular clarifies the special domain of language. And in a sense, as
Valéry said, language is everything, since it is the voice of no one, since it is
the very voice of the things, the waves, and the forests” (155). Continuing,
Merleau-Ponty argues that “language is born of our carnal participation
in a world that already speaks to us at the most immediate level of sensory
experience,” and thus, “language does not belong to humankind but to
the sensible world of which we are but a part” (274). This detachment of
language from the human is crucial when considering, for example, the
relationship between language and the current environmental crisis; in a
Lacanian sense, the system of language is something into which we have
Introduction: An Ecocritical Joyce? · 5
been born, and it exists beyond the control of the individual utterer and
Merleau-Ponty’s attitudes are consistent with the way Joyce portrays
language in Finnegans Wake; the mixing of languages, both synchronically and diachronically, the malleability of words in different contexts,
the difficulties in communication, and the misunderstandings suggest that
individuals are not in control of their language or its usage. This lack of
control is demonstrated through Joyce’s decentering of the human subject,
so that several times throughout the Wake, language’s anthropocentrism
is queried, and the text explores the possibilities of other forms of communication, be it through the legibility of the physical landscape or the
“speech” of the river and the sea.
Louise Westling, author of The Green Breast of the New World: Landscape, Gender, and American Fiction (1998), argues elsewhere that a poststructuralist approach to literary texts can be quite useful to ecocritics, as
“it helps to define the human place within the ecosystem by interrogating
or erasing the boundary that has been assumed to set our species apart
from the rest of the living community” (“Literature” 30). Writing of this
boundary, environmental historian Donald Worster argues in The Wealth
of Nature that “it is a completely arbitrary act to put culture and nature
into separate categories, requiring rigidly separate methods of analysis. The
polar bear has claws and a fur coat to cope with its environment; we humans use our cultures to do the same” (37). In Worster’s view, culture is
something directly born out of and dependent on nature, and this idea is
integral to the exploration of the ecology of Finnegans Wake.
Ecocriticism and Modernist Studies
Though the situation is changing every day (as attested to by the publication of studies such as Bonnie Kime Scott’s In the Hollow of the Wave:
Virginia Woolf and Modernist Uses of Nature [June 2012], or the emphasis on nature in modernism at the 2011 Modernist Studies Association
conference, etc.), very few ecocritics address modernist writers, and very
few modernist critics address the natural environment. It is only slightly
reductive to suggest that prior ecocritical focus on the romantics and nature writing, combined with modernist studies’ emphasis on the urban,
metropolitan aspects of modernism, has led to a significant gap on both
sides. Fairly expansive bodies of ecocritical work already exist on the lit-
Author Alison Lacivita Isbn 978-0813060620 File size 1.6 MB Year 2015 Pages 320 Language English File format PDF Category Languages Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare In this bookone of the first ecocritical explorations of both Irish literature and modernismAlison Lacivita defies the popular view of James Joyce as a thoroughly urban writer by bringing to light his consistent engagement with nature. Using genetic criticism to investigate Joyces source texts, notebooks, and proofs, Lacivita shows how Joyce developed ecological themes in Finnegans Wakeover successive drafts. Making apparent a love of growing things and a lively connection with the natural world across his texts, Lacivitas approach reveals Joyces keen attention to the Irish landscape, meteorology, urban planning, Dublins ecology, the exploitation of nature, and fertility and reproduction. Lacivita unearths a vital quality of Joyces work that has largely gone undetected, decisively aligning ecocriticism with both modernism and Irish studies. Download (1.6 MB) Modernists At Odds Joyce And Militarism British Asian Fiction: Twenty-first Century Voices Northrop Frye And Others: Twelve Writers Who Helped Shape His Thinking The Poetry Of James Joyce Reconsidered Load more posts