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he Shaun Series, as well as developing from my reading of Finnegans Wake, also stems from my reading of Margaret Solomon’s book Eternal Geomater: The Sexual World of Finnegans Wake, and particularly Chapter 11 The Coach with the Sex Insides. Firstly it is important to provide a small overview in this case in the form of Joseph Campbell and H.M. Robinson's A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944) in which we read:

The Wake is, simply stated (which is to say, to some extent misstated) a record of the dream-thoughts of a man whose dream name is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and whose waking name is, I believe, Porter. He has a wife named Ann who becomes the source of all life, a daughter Isabel, and twin sons Kevin and Jerry who go by many names and who are all forces in opposition. Earwicker is the builder of cities, eternal and indestructible but entirely mutable, his creative power endlessly required to reconstruct what was built before, containing the seeds of its destruction in the sexuality, which is sin, which allowed its erection. His sons are the sundered halves of the creative power, syntheses degenerate into antitheses, and the wife is the river, which eventually always must be the Liffey as all the cities must eventually be Dublin.

The two sons being Shem and Shaun are twins in opposition which means they have as much in common as that which separates them in terms of characteristics: for instance as Bernard Benstock notes in his essay The Quiddity of Shem and the Whatness of Shaun both twins also serve as Caddy and Primus, Jerry and Kevin, Dolph and Kev, Mick and Nick, Glugg and Chuff, Butt and Taff, Mutt and Jute, Muta and Juva, St. Patrick and the Archdruid, Tristopher and Hilary, Festy King and Pegger Festy, the Mookse and the Gripes, the Ondt and the Gracehopper, Burrus and Caseous, Justius and Mercius, time and space, a tree and a stone, etc, and sometimes they are unified in the book and the “family”. As Jorn Barger suggests:

Joyce explicitly claimed he was retelling the history of humankind in a new way, centered on this primal family, and he claimed it was a book of the night, and a dream. But his only comment on the 'dreamer' was that it was an old man dying by the Liffey -possibly Finn MacCool himself (though this seems hard to take 'literally'). (Do see the following http://www.robotwisdom.com/jaj/fwake/)


large part of my own relationship with the Shem-Shaun duality is connected to Jacques Derrida’s notion of differAnce in his writings on the philosophy of language that was first enlisted by me as a means of describing, to some degree, the working of Duchamp’s concept of “infrathin” in his own writings that had developed from working closely with the Glass, its metaphors and its indecidables: a term or word negatively defined by its inability to tolerate any definition, which returns us to “ordinary language” and the “Dream that is the Everyday”


argaret Solomon’s Eternal Geomater is a study of the sexual presences offered in the Wake by individual letters and particularly the letter “T” and its extensions both verbally and also visually. As Solomon prefaces her Chapter 11:

All of Finnegans Wake is a “night-lesson” which can be apprehended only through the kind of medium that transcends day-logic and permits glimpses into the non-rational psychic world – that of the dream. The box that contains the universal secrets of man is as variable in size and symbolism as any of the other objects or clusters of objects in the book. At first, it is spoken of as the “cube-house” of the universe, result of the thunderously creative anal explosion of the father God. (FW.5.14-15). But it is also the father-man of the entire circling epic – Finnegan, the “solid man” (FW. 1.32), and “Hic cubat edilis”, the “brontoichthyan form outlined” (FW. 7.20-23) – as well as HCE’s own pub, which at various times, seems to roll along a railway as a boxcar, wheel down medieval roads as a wagon-stage for mystery plays, sail the seas as an ark or a love-bark, or cross the skies like a starry coach. (Solomon. p.113).

Solomon reveals Joyce’s fascination in non-Euclidean Geometry and the 4th Dimension as the coach of which she writes (through her use of diagrams and text) begins to turn through 2 space, into 3 space and finally into 4 space (as does the Bride of Duchamp’s Glass), such that we are finally confronted with a tesseract (a 4D Hypercube): the problem for us being that we have no other visually perceptible dimensions than the three of length, breath and thickness: but, as she claims from her own reading of Joyce’s “mirror-world”, Shaun as Yawn is:

All of asprawl he was laying too amongst the poppies…And it was far more similar to a satrap he lay there…all surrounded…like Lord Lumen, coaching his preferred constellations in faith and doctrine, for old Matt Gregory, ‘tis he had the starmenagerie, Marcus Lyons and Lucas Metcalf Tarpey and the mack that never forgave the ass that lurked behind him, Jonny na Hossaleen. (FW. 476.19-28)

Further, as Solomon ventures wholly into her theme she proposes that:

When one reflects that a three-dimensional being can see right onto the centre of a two-dimensional object – say, a square – one can understand Joyce’s interest in a four-dimensional world where a being might penetrate with ease the dark inside-world of the three-dimensional human, might be able to see all his six sides (twelve, if we count interior as well as exterior) of the cube at once. (Solomon. p. 122)

Shaun as Yawn is identified by Solomon as connected with constellation-images and by being a cubical coach himself traversing Ursa Major, the Bear (in the form of the Big Dipper) and also Ursa Minor:

…the Little Dipper, as a “cross” and as a “cross-roads puzzler”, his “bellyvoid of nebulose with his neverstop navel” – “The nebulousness of his thickness is partly explained by his extension into the starry atmosphere. His hair is “cometshair”, he has asteroid knuckles, ribs and members” and his veins are like shooting stars”. (Solomon. p.119)


n this Series of the Dream World, the Dream Work, I was particularly interested in Shaun – Yawn and the effort of working through the book at this junction where Joyce and Duchamp and also Solomon – a new commentator – had become twined around one-another in regard to what I regarded as a joined plane of consciousness concerning human imagination and the slightest most infinitesimal sounds and sights that might be entertained as visual possibilities.

Joyce had not worked on Finnegans Wake from beginning to end (!) in one direction, but had written sections in a manner quite unlike that of an author creating a story “with a go-ahead plot” (as Joyce put it).

The pages from 474 through 554 are often called “the Inquest of Shaun” and these pages occupy an image each in the Shaun Series arranged below the central mid-point of each work and intrinsically bound to the imagery that surrounds them – this was a point in the creation of the works-as-a -whole (using all the pages of the Wake on all of the images I would make) that has become a key feature for the structure of the enterprise.

The 4th Dimension as indicated thoroughly by Solomon in her own research and interpretation of this section of the Wake had me working through 15 months or more of reading in order to begin making a (hesitant) opening Series that would have correspondences with the inquest I was myself undertaking on visual imagery and language throughout the Collection of Potentialities in Progress on “Image” and “Language” that is the Zoomify work whose total proportions are already significantly large.

This perhaps gross scale is also a reflection on my reading on and for the project such that the Zoomify has become a repository for ideas and Notes, plans and sketches in motion that could be associated with Joyce and Duchamp’s Notes and also perhaps Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad (see http://elab.eserver.org/hfl0257.html which has interesting connections with Jacques Derrida’s work on Language and my work on Hypertext and Hypermedia – particularly Hypermedia Joyce.

The visitor to the site will note the predominant presence of Tesseracts in this opening to the Series subtitled the “Inquest of Shaun” where the geometric influence of the Tesseract as a foil is presently at its greatest so far and has become a kind of cart or wheeled vehicle of the most simple kind intended to suggest the Absurd and the Childlike that beckoned to Duchamp too through the writings of Raymond Roussel in favour of the 4th Dimension, and is also a visual response to Margaret Solomon’s “coach” metaphor for a box with six inside planes which, in the context of Yawn, becomes a ghost ship, a child’s buggy, Christ’s metamorphosis (like Shaun’s) in the shape of a cross, a Star Ship and thus an image suggesting the brilliant “Naïve”, as in the works of Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Cubist so-called “attempts” at initiating an “art” whose strength was an avant garde provocation after the works of Cézanne.

Background Shaun I - Zoomified viewShaun II - Zoomified viewShaun III - Zoomified viewShaun IShaun IIShaun IIIShaun IVShaun VShaun VIShaun VIIShaun VIIIShaun IXShaun XShaun XIShaun XIIShaun XIIIShaun XIV << Back