“I Shall be Misunderstord if Understood”: The Art of not Understanding James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake
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By investigating and comparing critical responses to James Joyce’s final novel Finnegans Wake, this project attempts to dismantle the idea that the work is difficult and unreadable by demonstrating the ways in which it both invites an overflow of potential meaning and works against the notion of critical interpretation. Focusing on the “Anna Livia Plurabelle” section, my research utilizes the theories of Susan Sontag and Rita Felski to reveal the shortcomings of viewing the Wake through an interpretive framework. Rather than interpreting the novel, I explore how the work redefines the reading experience through the use of sound and polyhedronic language, thereby allowing the reader to interact with the work in a multitude of ways. In doing so, I demonstrate how Finnegans Wake encourages readers to find value in the work’s aesthetic and in the experience of reading, rather than through interpretation.