Joyce's Kaleidoscope: An Invitation to Finnegans Wake

Joyce's Kaleidoscope: An Invitation to Finnegans Wake

by Philip Kitcher
     
 

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James Joyce's Ulysses, once regarded as obscure and obscene, is now viewed as a masterpiece of world literature. Yet Joyce's final novel, Finnegans Wake, to which he devoted seventeen years, remains virtually unread. Its linguistic novelties, layered allusions, and experimental form can make it seem impenetrable.

Joyce's Kaleidoscope attempts to dissolve the

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Overview

James Joyce's Ulysses, once regarded as obscure and obscene, is now viewed as a masterpiece of world literature. Yet Joyce's final novel, Finnegans Wake, to which he devoted seventeen years, remains virtually unread. Its linguistic novelties, layered allusions, and experimental form can make it seem impenetrable.

Joyce's Kaleidoscope attempts to dissolve the darkness that surrounds the Wake and to display instead its mesmerizing play of light. Philip Kitcher offers an original, appealing interpretation of Joyce's novel while also suggesting an approach to the magnum opus that will attract readers of every sort. Focusing throughout on the book's central themes, Kitcher proposes that Finnegans Wake has at its core an age-old philosophical question-"What makes a life worth living?"-that Joyce explores from the perspective of someone who feels that a long life is now at its end.

Alert to echoes, Kitcher progresses through the novel, adding texture to his portrait of an aging dreamer who seeks reassurance about the worth of what he has done and who he has been. The novel's complex dream language becomes meaningful when seen as a way for Joyce to investigate issues that are hard to face directly, common though they may be. At times the view is clouded, at times it's the music or sheer comedy that predominates, but one experiences in the retrospective momentum a brilliant clarity unlike anything else in literature. With a startlingly profound compassion and a distinctive brand of humanism, Joyce points us to the things that matter in our lives. His final novel, Kitcher believes, is a call to life itself. Those who heed the call and pick up Finnegans Wake, whether for the first or the fifth time, will find in Joyce's Kaleidoscope an ideal companion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Philip Kitcher is just the person we need to rein in a virtuoso performance that threatens at every turn to spin out of control. There's no novel more in need of, and more worthy of, a philosophical perspective, and Kitcher, himself a virtuoso devotee of literature, will henceforth have provided Joyce's summa its firm foundation." —Paul Fry, Yale University

"Kitcher has an important reading of Finnegans Wake to present, and his is an ideal way into the book for those who have heretofore been too timid to attempt it. But Joyce's Kaleidoscope also has much to recommend it for 'seasoned' Joyceans, who may be surprised at how much they have to learn. I've read a lot of scholarship on Finnegans Wake over the years; but Kitcher's book is the first in a very long time that has made me eager to pick up Joyce's last, monstrous novel, and try again."—Kevin J.H. Dettmar, Southern Illinois University

"This book performs the remarkable feat of making the pleasures of Finnegans Wake enticing to the general reader. Philip Kitcher shows that Joyce's last masterpiece, rather than an esoteric word game, is a heartwarming portrait of the aging artist in his family, as sad and funny as the portrait of Leopold Bloom in Ulysses. An irresistible invitation to Finnegans Wake, Joyce's Kaleidoscope also appeals to experienced readers by illuminating the humanity of Joyce's vision."—Maud Ellmann, University of Notre Dame

"Kitcher begins Joyce's Kaleidoscope by asking the right question: not 'What does each word mean?' but 'What meaning does our experience of reading convey?' This will find an elegant and satisfactory answer if we accept this invitation to a spiraling tour of the book. The 'passkey' has been given, just 'mind your hats goan in!'"- -Jean-Michel Rabaté, Princeton University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195321036
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
04/03/2009
Pages:
332
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

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