“Jaurretche uses a skillful examination of the rhetorical, linguistic, psychological, and emotional elements of spirituality to establish the central significance of prayer as a tool for understanding key aspects of Joyce’s compositional strategy in Finnegans Wake.”—Michael Patrick Gillespie, coeditor of Exiles: A Critical Edition
Language as Prayer in Finnegans Wake shows how James Joyce uses the language of prayer to grapple with profoundly human ideas in Finnegans Wake—the dreamlike masterpiece that critics have called his “book of the night.” Colleen Jaurretche moves beyond what scholars know about how Joyce composed this work to suggest why he wrote and arranged it as he did.
Jaurretche provides a sequential reading of the four chapters and corresponding themes of the Wake from the perspective of prayer. She examines image, manifested by the letters of the alphabet and the Book of Kells; magic, which Joyce equates with the workings of language; dreams, which he relates to poetry; and speech, glorified in the Wake for its potential to express emotions and ecstasy. Jaurretche bases her study on important thinkers from antiquity to the present, including Origen of Alexandria, Giambattista Vico, and Giordano Bruno. She demonstrates how these philosophers influenced Joyce’s view that prayer can imbue language with power.
This book is an illuminating and much-needed interpretation of a work that abounds with echoes and cadences of sacred language. Jaurretche’s insights will guide readers’ understanding of the style and structure of Finnegans Wake.
Colleen Jaurretche is continuing lecturer in the Department of English and Writing Programs at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of The Sensual Philosophy: Joyce and the Aesthetics of Mysticism and the editor of Beckett, Joyce and the Art of the Negative.