From Moby-Dick to Finnegans Wake: Essays in Close Reading
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This volume is a posthumous revised edition of selected papers by Andrzej Kopcewicz on classic works of American and Irish fiction, published originally between 1979 and 2005. The book opens with two introductory sketches: a semi-theoretical one on intertextuality and a semi-historical one on the interaction of high and low literary forms. The gist of the book are textual analyses of the intricacies and reciprocities of some of the best-known works by Herman Melville, Frank R. Stockton, Henry Adams, Thomas Pynchon, Gilbert Sorrentino, Donald Barthelme, Paul Auster, Flann O’Brien, and James Joyce. While the essays lend themselves to being read in any order, as well as in isolation, the underlying Peircean-Joycean premise of the book is a semiotic-mythical commodius vicus of palimpsestic recirculation. Informed by a combination of poetic sensibility and disciplined as well as erudite mind, the ten essays collected here demonstrate that the agenda and methods of the more traditional close reading and the more contemporary intertextuality are not exclusive of each other.
History. Perhaps she is a woman … her ways are at least measurable” (Pynchon 1968: 380-381). We remember how faced with the problem of measuring the energy affecting human progress, Adams the historian found the Virgin – symbol or energy – “the easiest to handle” (Adams 1918: 389). The Virgin’s genealogy as immortalized in history, architecture, literature, art, archives, mythology and religion, provides Adams with a stable point of reference, a vantage from which he could at least assess the
darkness” (Pynchon 1973: 324), the Rocket is bound to return to its source. “[I]t’s only the peak that we are allowed to see, ... a very large transfer of energy: breaking upward into this world, a controlled burning––breaking downward again, an uncontrolled explosion ...” (Pynchon 1973: 726). The Rocket is an ambivalent symbol. As the Tree of Life rooted into the Bodenplatte, the axis mundi of the mandala and its own lowest Sephira Malkhut (Königreich, Welt) – ultimately, the region of the
(DF: 93) The anecdote reads like a blueprint for a run-of-the-mill postmodernist narrative that foregrounds on its fictional synchronic plane its temporal, diachronic extension. It is a comic parody of the strategies of postmodernist historical fiction (not unlike John Barth’s Letters  or The sot-weed factor , for example) and a selfparodying ‘simulacrum’ of Barthelme’s own writing. This arbitrary temporal displacement of historical facts, however, disturbs the sense of credibility
with the connotative fluidity of Finnegans wake’s language, shows a near autotelic, selfdefining quality. Reinforced by the present tense of narrative, this pictorial completeness of a verbal event has the immediacy of effect that brings to mind Pound’s famous definition of the image as that which engenders an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. Accordingly, the ultimate event of the novel – the burial of the Dead Father – becomes an irrevocable fact. With crowds of
always the same, and it is always different: “evolutionary clothing, inharmonious creations ... not strictly necessary or a trifle irritating ... but for all that ... full of local colour and personal perfume and suggestive” – while the ultimate meaning is always delayed. It is always a ‘rehearsal’ of the same. Here, art does indeed create itself and conceal itself in art. And Joyce’s passage can be seen as a metaphoric definition of self-conscious fiction with its own critical apparatus built