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Living Streams: Continuity and Change from Rabelais to Joyce

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Gerald Gillespie

This book examines how a long line of imaginative writers, starting from Rabelais and continuing over Cervantes and Sterne down to such modernists as Proust, Mann, Joyce, and Barth, has reaffirmed the picture of an enduring Western civilization despite repeated crises and transformations. The humanist capacity to recapture a sense of European greatness as exhibited in Antiquity was paralleled by and continued in the guise of newer vernacular works, achievements regarded as vital forms of a shared cultural rebirth. This was amplified most notably in the tradition of the ironic encyclopedic novel which surveyed the state of successive phases of culture. The evolving heritage and revitalization of the arts constituted main subject matters in the series of major self-conscious epochal movements, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Modernism, which Postmodernism reflexively now struggles to supersede.

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Chapter 9: “Paradox Lust”: The Fortunate Fall According to Joyce

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CHAPTER NINE

“Paradox Lust”: The Fortunate Fall According to Joyce

But spiritual marriage is like rain falling from heaven into a river or stream, becoming one and the same liquid, so that the river and the rain water cannot be divided; or it resembles a streamlet flowing into the ocean, which cannot afterwards be disunited from it.

− Teresa of Avila, “The Seventh Mansions”, section 5, The Interior Castle.

Less than a century has passed since the completion of Finnegans Wake, into which Joyce packed an inheritance of myths, religions, philosophies, and literatures millennia deep. As Van Hulle says in his study of the compositional history and principles of the Wake, Joyce was motivated to write a history of the world from its inception and thus the growth pattern of his encyclopedic recycling of details from biological, linguistic, and historical evolution is a gripping saga in its own right. I propose to focus briefly on a theme obviously associated with Milton in the literary stream, especially since Milton’s reworking of Genesis. I can do so only because we enjoy the benefits of a huge critical apparatus on the diverse elements of the Wake such as Campbell and Robinson’s Skelton Key, Atherton’s The Books at the Wake, Glasheen’s repeated census-takings, Benstock’s deeply informed analysis in Joyce-Again’s Wake, the chapter-by-chapter Conceptual Guide edited by Begnal and Senn, Bishop’s invaluable exploration of Joyce’s Book of the Dark, and much much more. There...

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