Joyce spent 17 years writing his "Work in Progress" (versus a mere 7 on _Ulysses_). The final text, published in 1939 as _Finnegans Wake_, has the glamour—or stigma—of an extreme case in literary history: the _Wake_ gets talked about as either messiah-text (generous, generative, revolutionary, redemptive, emancipatory), or pariah-text (solipsistic, self-regarding, elitist, unread, unreadable, alienating). Our task in the seminar will be both humbler and more interesting than delivering a verdict on the text: we will simply try to read the thing, wrestle with its linguistic innovations, cope with its opacity, and perhaps make some sense of it—as well as allow it to make nonsense of our usual sense-making protocols. Along the way we’ll talk about the _Wake_’s immanent theories about history and politics, language and the body, sleep and dreams, desire and crime, guilt and absolution, memory and catastrophe. We’ll take a look at the major critical approaches to Joyce's book, at some of the conditions of its reception, and at a handful of post-Joycean experimental texts. And we'll ask some hard questions about institutions and practices of reading difficult books like this one: what does the _Wake_ do to our concept of expertise? What sorts of communities and industries does it help sustain? What does it mean to read a book like this in
times like these?
Undergraduates need to fill out a permit form and receive the approval of the Graduate Chair, their advisor, and the professor for all 500-level courses.