A Political Reading of Finnegans Wake

  • Colin MacCabe
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


It has been argued that Joyce’s texts grant a primacy to the material of language over the fugitive meanings that attach to it. As such they offer a different experience and have different political consequences, from the classic realist text which they displace. The realist text is organised to confer an identity on the reader through an exclusion of language. We become deaf to the shifting of the signifier as we become fixated in meaning. As we read Joyce, however, a surplus of meaning enables us to hear the crowd of voices that compose us. Voices that bear witness to the incompatible discourses that have traversed our flesh. Joyce’s formal experiments deal with our very substance and when Beckett states that Joyce’s writing ‘is not about something, it is that something itself’ (Beckett 1929, p. 14), he points not to an empty formalism but to an encounter with those constitutive processes that render us sexed and civil subjects. Joyce’s writing concentrates on the relations of language, desire and power; of discourse, sexuality and politics.


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© Colin MacCabe 1979

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  • Colin MacCabe

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