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.
Chapter 10: Ondts, Gracehopers, and Quarks; Joyce Never Gets Quit of Faust
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Ondts, Gracehopers, and Quarks; Joyce Never Gets Quit of Faust
The plural Ondts and Gracehopers in the above title I let stand for the multiple instances when Joyce juxtaposes the often crisscrossing, interlaced polarities of the rival brothers Shaun the postman and Shem the penman in Finnegans Wake.4 These particular terms occur with some frequency in the parable of the Ondt and the Gracehoper as told by Shaun in book 3 (FW 414 ff) and are anticipated in the long passage near the end of the Nightletter in book 2, with the suggestion: “Tell a Friend in a Chatty Letter the Fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant […]” (FW 307.14-15). The Grasshopper is far from a coincidental antecedent of the Gracehoper, as I hope to demonstrate. But first I turn to the plural Quarks that appear in the opening line of the bawdy song in book 2 that introduces the quite un-Wagnerian version of the story of King Mark, his nephew Tristan, and the mission gone awry to fetch the royal bride Isolde from Ireland to Brittany: “− Three quarks for Muster Mark!” (FW 383.1). The number three, followed by the word suggesting quarts (to English-speakers) and soft cheese (to German speakers), and Joyce’s further comic shifting of vowels in the poem, especially in rhyme words, so charmed the Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann that he adopted quark as the name for a new particle which he hypothesized was a...
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