Joyce's Kaleidoscope: An Invitation to Finnegans Wake

Oxford University Press
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James Joyce's Ulysses, once regarded as obscure and obscene, is now viewed as one of the masterpieces of world literature. Yet Joyce's final novel, Finnegans Wake, to which he devoted seventeen years, remains virtually unread, except by scholarly specialists. Its linguistic novelties, apparently based on an immense learning that few can share, make it appear impenetrable. Joyce's Kaleidoscope attempts to dissolve the darkness and to invite lovers of literature to engage with Finnegans Wake. Philip Kitcher proposes that the Wake has at its core an age-old philosophical question, "What makes a life worth living?", and that Joyce explores that question from the perspective of someone who feels that a long life is now ending. So the complex dream language is a way of investigating issues that are hard to face directly; the reader is invited to struggle with the novel's aging dreamer who seeks reassurance about the worth of what he has done and been. Joyce finds his way to reassurance. The sweeping music and the high comedy of Finnegans Wake celebrate the ordinary doings of ordinary people. With great humanity and a distinctive brand of humanism, Joyce points us to the things that matter in our lives. His final novel is a festival of life itself. From this perspective, the supposedly opaque, or nonsensical, language opens up as a rich source for the reader's reflections: though readers won't all approach it the same way, or with the same set of references, there is meaning in it for everyone. Kitcher's detailed study of the entire text brings out its musical resonances and its musical structures. It analyzes the novel overall while bringing deep insight to the reading of key individual passages. This engaging guide will aid readers not just to make sense of the novel, but to relish the remarkable accomplishment of Joyce's least appreciated work.
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About the author

Currently John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, Philip Kitcher is a former President of the American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is also the first recipient of the Prometheus Prize of the American Philosophical Association. His previous books include The Advancement of Science (OUP); The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities; Science, Truth, and Democracy (OUP); In Mendel's Mirror; and Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Apr 3, 2009
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Pages
332
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ISBN
9780199886500
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Literary Criticism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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For more than two hundred years after William Shakespeare's death, no one doubted that he had written his plays. Since then, however, dozens of candidates have been proposed for the authorship of what is generally agreed to be the finest body of work by a writer in the English language. In this remarkable book, Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro explains when and why so many people began to question whether Shakespeare wrote his plays. Among the doubters have been such writers and thinkers as Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Mark Twain, and Helen Keller. It is a fascinating story, replete with forgeries, deception, false claimants, ciphers and codes, conspiracy theories—and a stunning failure to grasp the power of the imagination.

As Contested Will makes clear, much more than proper attribution of Shakespeare’s plays is at stake in this authorship controversy. Underlying the arguments over whether Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays are fundamental questions about literary genius, specifically about the relationship of life and art. Are the plays (and poems) of Shakespeare a sort of hidden autobiography? Do Hamlet, Macbeth, and the other great plays somehow reveal who wrote them?

Shapiro is the first Shakespeare scholar to examine the authorship controversy and its history in this way, explaining what it means, why it matters, and how it has persisted despite abundant evidence that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to him. This is a brilliant historical investigation that will delight anyone interested in Shakespeare and the literary imagination.
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