Using Pointilism as a visual aid to an already visual literature. Or a literal aid to a visual art.
Joyce is able to reinvent the English language by methodically dicing and replicing words her and fro. He tills the dry soil top of spelling and turns it upside down. Seurat and Signac began the pointilist movement in a similar way. Even if Joyce’s neologisms, portmanteaus and puns were not widely adopted, it opened up a new field of literature. I would call it a rift much like that between abstract and applied art. Applied arts were moralistically concerned with the lower class, and the lack of ornamentation, whereas abstract art sought to remain the bastion of the aristocratic. Middlebrow was in many ways, for the new moneyed, and the rest, was up for grabs. If one were to say Finnegan’s Wake were esoteric to the point of being reserved for an elite class, I would say it is far from the truth. Finnegan’s Wake only requirement is that one know the English language. It is not of any brow, but it requires a universal labor. The first 60 pages of Finnegan’s wake are a labor to maintain focus. The words themselves evade definition. The sentences demand attention to detail- that one actually read a word or phrase correctly so that one sees the different spelling that was used. Joyce is making a statement by suggesting eyes should look more carefully at each word, such as not to assume one knows what will be at the end of the sentence, or that it even started a certain way, because a runon will challenge an experienced saying. And that is the point.
The first 60 pages do not flow very smoothly, but they begin to flow more dreamlike on page 61. There is a dreamlike effect that is induced from the cyclical rereading of the sentences to self-vet the closest guess as to the meaning of the sentence. The challenge is to imagine the sentence meaning given a number of newly experimented combination or permutation of phrases and neologisms. The technique is ostensibly mechanical, and thus a departure from what I would call, classical writing. There may have been precedents, but Finnegan’s Wake is a thorough new form. Much like Borges after him, there are thin borders between reality and dream. The focus is on metaphysical reflection, self-awareness, and multiversal or infinite interpretation. Pointilism ignores centralized interpretation and replaces it with potentially self-autonomy. It does not fail to organize into harmonious construct, but it explicates or makes vulgar the process, but it places faith in decentralized brushstrokes. Finnegan’s Wake is said to adopt part of the structure the 1725 essay/book The New Science by Giambattisti Vico, which is a philosophical treatise on the origins of civilized wisdom predating the major world religions. Vico formulated the Verum Factum principle:
“Vico is best known for his verum factum principle, first formulated in 1710 as part of his De antiquissima Italorum sapientia, ex linguae latinae originibus eruenda (1710) (“On the most ancient wisdom of the Italians, unearthed from the origins of the Latin language”). The principle states that truth is verified through creation or invention and not, as per Descartes, through observation: “The criterion and rule of the true is to have made it. Accordingly, our clear and distinct idea of the mind cannot be a criterion of the mind itself, still less of other truths. For while the mind perceives itself, it does not make itself.” This criterion for truth would later shape the history of civilization in Vico’s opus, the Scienza Nuova (The New Science, 1725), because he would argue that civil life – like mathematics – is wholly constructed.”
The concept that all of man have a natural ability to learn from language, suggests that the transformation of a civilization from theocracy to monarchy to democracy to chaos depends on whether knowledge will be privatized or shared. On a more personal level, Finnegan’s Wake is an engine without a mold. A sense of identity without a reference point. It is a running sorites paradox that allows one to understand that one is reading something until one realizes that they are no longer reading what they once thought. If there is more to mere wordplay, and I think there is, then his construct serves multiple clients, or rather, civil life patronizes several constructs.
Once I got past 60 pages, the dream state was induced and the sentences broke free like brush strokes from their master.