Archive for July, 2013


Farley Mount, Feast Day of Mary Magdalene, 22nd July

July 25, 2013


An evening picnic. The air pregnant with summer lightning and the distant rumble of thunder, with a full moon on the rise (as I later found out). Curtains of rain could be seen on the horizon and the skylarks were ascending and descending in song, prompting thoughts of William Blake’s twenty seven larks. For a few minutes the peal of church bells could be heard – greeting a certain Royal Birth – carried on the breeze, along with the spots of rain which pitter-pattered for a few moments.

The pyramidal structure built on top of the Bronze Age barrow commemorates a racehorse buried beneath…


Hittit was of another time, a white horsday where the midril met the bulg, sbogom, roughnow along the first equinarx in the cholonder, on the plain of Khorason as thou goest from the mount of Bekel, Steep Nemorn, elve hundred and therety and to years how the krow flees end in deed, after a power of skimiskes, blodidens and godinats of them, when we sight the beasts, (hegheg whatlk of wraimy wetter!), moist moonful date man aver held dimsdzey death with

Finnegans Wake (346.35 – 347.8).

The ‘whited sepulchre’ of the equine mausoleum at Farley Mount – dedicated to the winner of the Hunters Plate – may register as the ‘museomound’ (FW 8.5) of the Willingdone Museyroom (FW 8.10) in Finnegans Wake, with its parodic representation of Wellington mounted on ‘his big wide harse’ (FW 8.21). Its ‘groundplan of a placehunter’ (FW 585.23) is plotted out in the diagram on page 293:

293Even the pyramidal shape of the monument can be seen in this symbol of oppositional coincidence – ‘from each equinoxious points of view’ (FW 85.28) – where Joyce plays on the theme of the photofinish in horseracing, ‘through neck and necklike Derby and June’ (FW 454.31-32):

Well, almost any photoist worth his chemicots will tip anyone asking him the teaser that if the negative of a horse happens to melt enough while drying, well, what you do get is, well, a positively grotesquely distorted macromass of all sorts of horsehappy values and masses of meltwhile horse. Tip. Well, this freely is what must have occurred to our missive… Heated residence in the heart of the orangeflavoured mudmound had partly obliterated the negative to start with (111.26-35).

With both’s maddlemass wishes

There’s a pleasing circularity to these musings, revealed by the pi symbol at the apex of the upward-pointing triangle in the diagram. Expressed – in the loosest and most playful ‘sinse’ – as a fraction pi approximates to 22/7, which ties up nicely with the 22nd of July…

With thanks to Ken for this image.

With thanks to Ken Lymer for this image. (Click on the picture to make it flicker…)





Enchanted Modernities

July 19, 2013

Enchanted Modernities

I’ve only just found out about this, but it looks an absolute must. Lots of interesting papers, including one on Leonora Carrington and the Occult and another on Kandinsky’s use of dissonance in his Composition V. More details here.

Thought Form

‘Music of Gounod – a Thought Form,’ from Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, Thought Forms (1901).





‘lov’d latakia’: Patterns of Gynemorphic Geography in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake

July 6, 2013

This entry was prompted by my looking up ‘chthonic solphia’ in Finnegans Wake today and finding, on the same page, a reference to the Mediterranean port city of Latakia.

Clay tablet with cuneiform letters, excavated from Ugarit (Ras Shamra), 10 kms north of Latakia

Lovesoftfun at Finnegans Wake

The anthropomorphic landscape of Finnegans Wake is a familiar feature of the novel, in terms of the identity of the Hill of Howth with the head of the patriarch HCE and mother ALP’s identity with the River Liffey flowing through Dublin. Also present are the landscape forms associated with the conversation across the river of the Two Maggies – internalised in the writing/speech of Issy – and certain ‘labial’ landscape features which lend form to these utterances, culminating in ALP’s drifting monologue as she reaches the mouth of the Liffey. The feminine conversational aspect of the Wake was, according to an anecdote of Joyce,  inspired by the sight of washerwomen on both banks of the river Eure when he visited Chartres. Similarly, Anna Livia’s riverine speech is prefigured in the character of Molly Bloom in Ulysses, whose own Gibraltarian origin is a factor of geography which appears key to Joyce’s purposes. 

There are sound mythological antecedents for Joyce’s gynemorphising of geological features, the most obvious being the Paps of Anu, a pair of breast-shaped hills near Killarney in Ireland, seen as the breasts of the goddess Anu, a mythological prototype for Anna Livia Plurabelle. Likewise, the Wittenham Clumps, a pair of rounded hills overlooking the river Thames – the Sinodun Hills – are also known as Mother Dunch’s Buttocks, named after a Lady of the Manor of the seventeenth century, as well as by ‘the homely appellation that recalls the Breasts of Sheba in King Solomon’s Mines’: the Berkshire Bubs. As the Wittenham Clumps, to the artist Paul Nash they were ‘the pyramids of my small world’.

The Paps of Anu

The Paps of Anu

Let us look at Latakia, mentioned here in Jaun’s courting of Issy:

What wouldn’t I poach – the rent in my riverside, my otther shoes, my beavery, honest! – ay, and melt my belt for a dace feast of grannom with the finny ones, those happy greppies in their minnowahaw, flashing down the swansway, leaps ahead of the swift MacEels, the big Gillaroo redfellows and the pursewinded carpers, rearin antis rood perches astench of me, or, when I’d like own company best, with the help of a norange and bear, to be reclined by the lasher on my logansome, my g.b.d. in my f.a.c.e., solfanelly in my shellyholders and lov’d latakia, the benuvolent, for my nosethrills, with the jealosomines wilting away to their heart’s deelight and the king of saptimber letting down his humely odours for my consternation (450.2-13).

What this – not immediately comprehensible – passage evokes is an atmosphere of sensual pleasure surrounding a place, ‘lov’d latakia’, which must have been known to Joyce for the ‘nosethrills’ of its fragrant blends of tobacco. 


In the ‘Phenecian blend’ (FW 221.32) of Jaun’s eloquent appeal to Issy, he promises to plant her, his Gizzygay, ‘on the electric ottoman in the lap of lechery’ (FW 451.30-31). If anything, there is a strong hint of the dreamt ‘telepath posts dulcets’ of Issy herself ‘on this isinglass stream’ (FW 460.21) of Jaun’s words, consistent with the fluidity of identity in the Wake, a shifting kaleidoscope of fragmentary words and motifs in which ‘every person, place and thing in the chaosmos of Alle anyway connected… was moving and changing every part of the time’ (FW 118.21-23). Furthermore, the veritable shoal of different fish species swimming in the ‘isinglass stream’ of these spoken or dreamt words is surely a textual evocation of the vesica piscis (‘fish bladder’) depicted on page 293 of the Wake, the ovoid shape formed by the overlapping of the twin circuits around the central rhombus – ‘fraywhaling round Myriom Square’ (FW 285.F4) – which symbolises the ‘sixuous parts’ (FW 297.22) of ALP as well as Dublin. As Joyce’s adaptation of Euclid’s first proposition, this ‘first of all usquiluteral threeingles’ (FW 297.27) is the ‘elementator joyclid’ (FW 302.12) which structures Joyce’s ‘handybook’. This ‘joyfold’ (FW 527.21) is ‘a huge chain envelope… bespaking the wisherwife’ (FW 66.13-16), ALP, written in ‘her all cunniform letters’ (FW 198.25).


‘O be joyfold! Mirror do justice, taper of ivory, heart of the conavent, hoops of gold!’ (FW 527.21-23)

In Issy’s whispered invitation to meet Jaun (in which person and place seem to merge, just as the ALP diagram is Anna Livia and Dublin) the promise of some erotic display is implied:

but, hvisper, meet me after by next appointment near you know Ships just there beside the Ship at the future poor fool’s circuts of lovemountjoy square to show my disrespects now (460.7-9).


With some cartographic licence Latakia, situated as it is on a gentle, nose-like protuberance on the Mediterranean littoral of modern Syria, a ‘mount of impiety’ (FW 206.19-20) in profile, has a joyclidian, ‘aquilittoral’ (FW 286.19) quality, as if Issy, languidly, ‘is naturally reclined to rest‘ (FW 284.L) on her ‘electric ottoman in the lap of lechery’. Seen this way, it partakes of a range of gynemorphic geographical features which correlate with the primary female characters in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake

Flower of the Mountain

Marion, Molly Bloom is from Gibraltar, located close to the ‘lips’ of the western Mediterranean formed by the continents of Europe and Africa. This parallels the mouth of the Liffey in Dublin, and the Rock of Gibraltar also resembles Dublin’s Howth Head. Bergen too, ‘the gateway to the fjords’ in Norway, is part of this masquerade:

Well, she bergened a zakbag… and then she went and consulted her chapboucqs, old Mot Moore, Casey’s Euclid and the Fashion Display and made herself tidal to join in the mascarete (206.9-14).

Another common feature of these places – Dublin, Gibraltar, Latakia, Alexandria, Bergen – are their harbours, havens for the ships which – especially in the Wake – Joyce has given phallic significance.


Of Molly, Richard Ellmann writes:

Coming after the dry, impersonal, and pseudo-scientific order of most of the “Ithaca” episode, the final monologue offers a personal, lyrical efflorescence. It is the only episode to which Joyce assigns no specific hour—the time is no o’clock, or as he said in an Italian schema of the book, it is the time indicated mathematically by the lemniscate or figure eight lying on its side—∞—the number of infinity and eternity. It might be more exact to say that the ruins of time and space coexist with the mansions of eternity and infinity, at least until the very end. Molly presents herself without portentousness as spokesman for nature. Like the Wife of Bath, she contends that God has not endowed us with sensual proclivities if these are not to be indulged.

Molly Bloom’s birthday is September 8—she shares it with the Virgin Mary as if to confront the Holy Family with the secular one—and in tribute to this anniversary, and to the symbol of eternity-infinity, Joyce writes her monologue in eight sentences. “It begins and ends,” Joyce wrote Budgen, “with the female word yes. It turns like the huge earth ball slowly surely and evenly, round and round spinning, its four cardinal points being the female breasts, arse, womb, and cunt expressed by the words because, bottom (in all senses bottom button, bottom of the class, bottom of the sea, bottom of his heart), woman, yes. Though probably more obscene than any preceding episode it seems to me to be perfectly sane full amoral fertilisable untrustworthy engaging shrewd limited prudent indifferent Weib.”


Scholars have remarked on the historical inaccuracy of Molly’s recollections of Gibraltar, suggesting that Joyce wanted to add a splash of local colour to enliven the otherwise dull palette of Dublin, while others are unconvinced by Joyce’s implausible portrayal of a Gibraltarian who speaks in the native idiom of Dublin. Perhaps Molly’s hailing from Gibraltar is a narrative device Joyce felt was necessary for the integrity of what he wished to convey. Dreaming of Molly Bloom inspired Joyce to write this song, in which she appears as a prefiguration of ALP and in which the identity of these women, geomorphology and book assumes shape:

Man dear, did you never hear of buxom Molly Bloom at all,

As plump an Irish beauty, sir, as Annie Levy Blumenthal,

If she sat in the vice-regal box Tim Healy’d have no room at all,

     But curl up in a corner at a glance from her eye.

The tale of her ups and downs would aisy fill a handybook

That would cover the whole world across from Gib right on to Sandy Hook,

But now that tale is told, ahone, I’ve lost my daring dany look

     Since Molly Bloom has gone and left me here for to die.

In the line, ‘from Gib right on to Sandy Hook’, Gibraltar is connected across the Atlantic Ocean to a six-mile-long lip of of sand in New Jersey, as if we are ‘listening to the oceans of kissening’ (FW 384.19).

I suggest that the characteristic that determined Joyce’s choice of a location away from the familiar territory of Dublin is the same as that remarked on in Anthony Steyning’s novel, The Applicant (2004 Lewes: The Book Guild, p.137): ‘Gibraltar. Vulva to the womb that is the Mediterranean’. With the benefit of the cartographic view from above, the vulvic appearance of Gibraltar may not have escaped the attention of Joyce.

Gib mapIntriguingly, the Spanish town on the sandy isthmus which connects Gibraltar to the mainland is called La Línea de la Concepción, named after the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, to whom Molly Bloom is the secular, earthly counterpart in view of their shared birthday on 8th September. This would be an irresistible coincidence for Joyce in characterising Molly, who has some of the qualities of Irish earth goddesses, these qualities and more assumed by the character of ALP in Finnegans Wake, as if Molly has – serpentlike – sloughed her skin to emerge as ALP: ‘slitheryscales on liffeybank’ (FW 526.1). Molly’s final, eight-sentence soliloquy echoes in ALP’s final monologue as her riverine flow passes out into the sea:

First. We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousendsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the (628.12-16).

In this ricorso of the unfinished sentence – which joins lemniscately with the ‘riverrun’ at the start of Finnegans Wake – ALP passes the keys from her ‘Lps’, the labial estuary of the Liffey as it blends with the sea by Howth Head. Mundanely, this gesture may be ALP-as-mother passing the house keys to Issy-as-daughter in a vision of female succession. Or offering the keys to her heart in a gesture of forgiveness and compassion to her beloved. Indeed, the kiss of ‘Bussoftlhee’ – ‘there’s a key in my kiss’ (FW 279. F1. 8) – identifies ALP (and Issy) as Arrah-na-Pogue, the heroine of Dion Boucicault’s play of the same name, who frees a man from prison by passing a message through a kiss. This intimate communication is lent a flavour of the Egyptian mysteries when the four old men remember kissing ALP ‘in Arrah-na-pogue, in the otherworld of the passing of the key of Two-tongue Common’ (FW 385.3-5). The recurrent motif of the passing of the key may be borne in mind in regard to the badge of Gibraltar, which features a red, three-towered castle with a golden key suspended from the central portal, on a red field. The butt-end of the key is the same rhomboid, lozenge shape – ‘that eternal Rome’ (FW 198.33) – which is framed by the conjoined circles on page 293 of the Wake – a rhomb whorled, so-to-speak.

Gib flag

‘but tristurned initials, the cluekey to worldroom beyond the roomwhorld’ (FW 100.29).

This symbol was granted to Gibraltar by Royal Warrant of the namesake of the character of Issy in Finnegans WakeQueen Isabella I of Castile, on 10th July, 1502. The three towers – the ‘trifulgurayous pillar’ (FW 422.30) – recall the three burning castles which feature on the Dublin coat-of-arms, flanked by two red-clad female figures. These two maidens are the prototype for the two temptresses in Phoenix Park who precipitate the fall from grace – ‘let me see your isabellis’ (FW 446.6-7) – through the voyeurism, ‘this municipal sin business’ (FW 5.14), of the patriarchal pillar of the community, Finnegan/HCE, seen ‘larking in the trefoll of the furry glans with two stripping baremaids’ (FW 526.22-23), ‘who hear show of themselves so gigglesomes minxt the follyages’ (FW 8.3-4).


Beyond the Boysforus

The conversation of the two laundresses – the Maggies – across the river is also reflected in the ‘mirrorminded curiositease’ (FW 576.24) of Issy, who ‘is approached in loveliness only by her grateful sister reflection in a mirror’ (FW 220.8-9): ‘(and what do you think my Madeleine saw?)’ (FW 586.8-9). This ‘doubling’ of Issy – the Persephonic ‘bluishing refluction below’ (FW 299.17-18) of her mother ALP in the ‘myrioscope’ (FW 127.35) diagram on page 293 – informs the presentation of the ‘duo of druidesses’ (FW 271.4) encountered in the Park:

I will give your lovely face of mine away, my boyish bob, not for tons of donkeys, to my second mate, with the twirlers the engineer of the passioflower (…), in one of those pure clean lupstucks of yours thankfully, Arrah of the passkeys, no matter what (459.33-460.3).


The Bosphorus, where Europe and Asia meet, must have appealed lexically to Joyce because of its similarity to the names of the Evening Star, Hesperus, and his brother the Morning Star, Phosphorous, the ‘light bearer’, known in Latin as Lucifer. In fact the two stars are the same planet, Venus, adding a celestial dimension to the coincidenta oppositorum structuring the Wake, while the planet’s venereal associations are played on ad infinitum (fin negans), such as in Issy’s whispered (‘but, hvisper’) proposition to Jaun to meet at Lovemountjoy Square: ‘He fell for my lips, for my lisp, for my lewd speaker’ (FW 459.28). In the stream of consciousness of ‘that slippering snake charmeuse’ (FW 271.F5), Dorset’s river Char and the Meuse in France flow, ‘with a meusic before her all cunniform letters’ (FW 198.24-25).

The sibilant stream of Issy’s speech – ‘flispering in the nightleaves flattery, dinsiduously, to Finnegan, to sin again’ (FW 580.19) – alludes to the recurring theme summed up by the phrase, ‘Woman will water the wild world over’ (FW 526.20-21). For the ‘sin’ in Phoenix Park involves Finnegan’s voyeuristic encounter with ‘two madges on the makewater’ (FW 420.7). A small spring in a grotto in the valley of the Autise, formed by the urine of the serpent-tailed fairy bride, Melusine, offers a ‘geomythical’ prototype for this theme, significant in Joyce’s own personal mythology, notably his fetishistic preoccupation with the urination of women. Extending this to the outflow of waters generally, then cosmogonic dimensions can be found in the origin of the river Xanthos in Turkey, said to have been formed when the goddess Leto’s waters broke, as she gave birth to her twins, Apollo and Artemis. In the ‘chaosmos’ of Finnegans Wake, the two ‘bissyclitties’ (FW 284.23) in Phoenix Park, ‘white in black arpists in cloever spilling’ (FW 508.33), embody the oppositional coincidence of that ‘Primer of Black and White Wenchcraft’ (FW 269.F4), in which Joyce turns something as mundane as pissing on the clover into something as elevated as piano-playing (German: klavier spielen), while alluding to the artists Hans Arp and Paul Klee. The recurrence of the motif of the key (clef) in this ‘Flowey and Mount’ (FW 197.14) context is also of note in the profane illumination of ‘the flash brides’ (FW 66.35) – combining flash floods and illumination in the unification of the fiery and watery triangles, mirrored in the two halves of the rhombus on page 293 – lending significance to the phrase, ‘Sophy-Key-Po’ (FW 9.34-35) in the Museyroom episode, and casting further light on the golden key on Gibraltar’s coat-of-arms: ‘For her passkey supply to the janitrix, the mistress Kathe’ (FW 8.8).


9 Rue d’Alesia – ‘the residmance of a delugion’ (FW 367.24), peut-être? An ‘anacheronistic’ (FW 202.35) evocation of the nine damsels in ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ who gently warm the cauldron of inspiration by their breath?

In the dark and light aspects of Issy may be detected Mossy and Tangle, the main protagonists of George MacDonald’s fairy tale, The Golden Key, who follow simultaneously divergent and unified paths to enter the rainbow: ‘How me adores eatsother simply (Mon ishebeau! Ma reinebelle!)’ (FW 527.29-30). The mutual admiration of Issy for herself is shown by the two ‘issies’ concealed in the allusion to Narcissus here: ‘Nircississies are as the doaters of inversion. Secilas through their laughing classes becoming poolermates in laker life’ (FW 526.34-36). In the looking glass spelling of salices (Latin for ‘willows’) appears Alice amidst the warning that girls who laugh in class become parlour maids in later life. A representation of female self-love is in Milton’s Paradise Lost: Eve, in her first speech, mentions the day on which she was created and recounts her trip to a cave where she found a smooth lake, into which she gazed and discovered a ‘shape’, on which she looked with sympathy and love (G.Banham 1998 ‘Water and Women in Finnegans Wake‘, in J.Brannigan, G.Ward and J.Wolfreys (eds.) Re: Joyce – Text/Culture/Politics. Basingstoke: Macmillan, pp). ‘I recknitz wharfore the darling murrayed her mirror. She did? Mersey me!’ (FW 208.35-36).

Consonant with the Wake‘s fusion of the numinous and the profane, the ‘isisglass stream’ (FW 486.24) of ‘the two remarkable piscines’ (FW 127.35), the ‘Irish prisscess’ (FW 396.8), forms the vesica piscis (‘fish bladder’ – from which the gelatinous material called isinglass is prepared) on page 293. The ovoid vesica shape is formed from the intersection of their ‘hoops of gold’ (FW 527.23), where the radius of each circle passes through the centre of the other. Its almond (amygdala) shape is given the Wake‘s characteristic Magdalenian dimension in the allusion to ‘A pair of sycopanties with amygdaleine eyes’ (FW 94.16-17). The vesica is a Masonic symbol, and its geometry provided the proportional system for Gothic architecture which, mindful of the gelatinous isinglass dream of the Wake, is expressed in the phrase ‘a cathedral of lovejelly’ (FW 486.18). William Blake’s portrayal of a naked woman’s vagina as a Gothic chapel in his manuscript of VALA or THE FOUR ZOAS, partakes of this symbolism (reproduced on page 42 of Marsha Keith Schuchard 2006 Why Mrs Blake Cried: William Blake and the Sexual Basis of Spiritual Vision London: Century).


Joyce’s ‘mistress Kathe’ (FW 8.8) and Blake’s Cathedron? A pencil illustration of a naked woman with a Gothic chapel as her vagina from the manuscript of William Blake’s VALA or THE FOUR ZOAS (c.1797-1807?)
Add. MS 39764, f.48v. The British Library Board

In ‘that siamixed twoatalk’ (FW 66.20-21) of ‘the tulippied dewydress’ (FW 331.8-9) is the suggestion that Issy is ‘having an ambidual act herself in apparition with herself’ (FW 528.24-25), like her ‘sapphire chaplets of ringarosary… with nurse Madge, my linkingclass girl’ (FW 459.1-4). In fact, ‘ambidual act‘ is code for lesbianism, implicit also in the phrase, ‘my own hot lisbing lass’ (FW 553.18), which also evokes the port city of Lisbon and all the ‘female assauciations’ (FW 413.18) of its geography and the recurrence of the sibilant labial leitmotif in the Wake: ‘So mag this sybilette be our shibboleth that we may syllable her well’ (FW 267.20-21). Whether or not the suggestion of Issy’s lesbianism is a symptom of the interrogator’s struggle to understand her strange words and behaviour, the ‘polite sophykussens’ (FW 413.20) of Europe and Asia, along the Bosphorus is a geographical correlate for the intercourse of the Two Maggies – and the mirroring of Issy, ‘overflauwing, by the dream of woman the owneirest, in forty lands’ (FW 397.1-2). Within the portmanteau of ‘owneirest’ is encoded the dream (Gr. oneiros) – written, paradoxically, by Joyce – of a woman’s ownership of her own body as a site of pleasure, denied by the patriarchal religions: ‘I will dream telepath posts dulcets on this isinglass stream… and ’twill carry on my hearz’waves my still waters reflections in words over Margrate von Hungaria, her Quaidy ways and her Flavin hair, to thee, Jack, ahoy, beyond the boysforus’ (FW 460.21-27). In searching for ‘Margaret of Hungary’ I found two candidates – one, a worldly monarch involved in dynastic intrigues, who married three times; the other an unworldly religious ascetic, who never married. The ‘Art’ card from Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot pack – designed by Lady Frieda Harris – illustrates this coincidenta oppositorum very well.

Crowley Thoth

‘Let the priests tremble, we’re going to show them our sexts!’

Today, Latakia has a whiff of ‘utmostfear’ (FW 505.7-8) for, on looking up Latakia on the internet when first composing this post, I found a news report about a massive explosion in a munitions depot there the night before, part of the bloody civil war unfolding in Syria. Days later and there’s news of a ‘senior Free Syrian Army commander’ killed in Latakia by the Al Qaeda linked group he had just discussed future military action with. What a yawning gulf there is between the supposed ‘meaningless absurdity’ of Joyce’s ‘heart’s deelight’ in writing – which is actually ripe with the infinite proliferation of meaning and utopian desire – and the cold calculation of a realpolitik of world powers jockeying for influence or ultimate domination, which would sponsor and justify senseless slaughter by their proxies behind the ‘sensible’ façade of rational political discourse. The ‘unusable, superfluous  force of matter or luxury’ which Joyce finds unlocked in his female characters – ALP, Issy and Molly Bloom – does not conform to the dead certainties of this utilitarian world, in which lifeless bodies pile up on an industrial scale – from garment factories in Bangladesh to the shambles of Syria – accounted as a price worth paying in the functioning of the all mighty economy. 

Likewise, the ‘overflauwing’ sensual world of desire embodied in Molly, ALP and Issy* is a testament of the lived body in spite of its denigration by religions of transcendence which promise joy and riches in the afterlife while justifying and reinforcing the miseries of this life. 


*Is science only now registering – within the ‘single vision’ of objectivity – what Joyce seems to have intuited about female desire (at least from the ‘male perspective’ of where Joyce was writing and where I’m writing)? Were the Surrealists onto something with their ‘poetics of hysteria’? Is Anglo-American feminism an apologia for an ‘equal opportunities’ capitalism and patriarchy which upholds the institution of work above desire? In the interrogative glare of Enlightenment and its mission to explain in order to control, what hope remains in the shadows it casts? Who can speak for anyone? Ah, questions, questions…

her redtangles are all abscissan for limitsing this tendency of our Frivulteeny Sexuagesima to expense herselfs as sphere as possible, paradismic perimutter, in all directions on the bend of the unbridalled, the infinisissimalls of her facets becoming manier and manier as the calicolum of her umdescribables (one has thoughts of that eternal Rome) shrinks from schurtiness to scherts (FW 298.25 – 299.1).


Maye faye, she’s la gaye this snaky woman!

July 1, 2013

Javier Pinon Medusa Collage 2009

With the peeling snakeskin in the lower half of this collage by Javier Pinon – part of his series of Medusa collages – there’s an allusion to the figure of Melusine, too. I always took this phrase from Finnegans Wake as a Melusine reference: “Maye faye, she’s la gaye this snaky woman!” (FW 20.33), but it’s fitting for this image (lifted from here) as well.

It also brings to mind the corporate prudery of Starbucks, whose own logo – based on a fifteenth-century woodcut of the twin-tailed Melusine – has been modified progressively to downplay its sexual overtones and ‘play it safe’ with its consumers. An intriguing exploration of the mythical crosscurrents of the siren/mermaid image can be found here and here.

Teodoro Ghisi (1536-1601)

Illustration by Teodoro Ghisi (1536-1601) from a Bestiary.