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Intersections, Interferences, Interdisciplines

Literature with Other Arts


Edited By Haun Saussy and Gerald Gillespie

This volume advances the study of how the high arts and literature are reciprocally illuminating and interactive. Seventeen scholars from North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe demonstrate the dynamics of cross-referentiality and mixtures involving also newer and popular arts and media: photography, film, video, comics, dance, opera, computer imaging, and more. They consider an expanded universe of discourses embracing contemporary science as well as traditional subject matters. Discussions of theoretical and methodological approaches keep company here with intensively focused case studies of works in which discourses and media establish new relationships. Together, the chapters constitute a dazzling introduction to the diverse realm of imaginative products that the human mind can conjure in pondering the «when», «where», and «how» of existence.
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Among Schoolchildren. Joyce’s “Night Lesson” and Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe


← 34 | 35 →Among Schoolchildren

Joyce’s “Night Lesson” and Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe


Goldsmiths, University of London

In the second chapter of the second book (II.2) of that very unusual novel that is Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939), the children—twin boys and a girl—have their “Night Lesson” before their dinner and before going to bed. Apart from a relatively short section (from FW 287.17 to 292.321) this forty-nine page long chapter (FW 260 to 308) has a very recognizable layout: the main text is printed as a central column, with marginal annotations by the children, evoking the appearance of a medieval manuscript. The twins annotate on the sides: Shem (the naughtier child) on the left, in italics; Shaun (the more pompous and well-behaved) in capitals and on the right (they switch sides on p. 293). Issy, the daughter, annotates the texts too, in footnotes that are often very saucy.

The “Lesson” is a long and complicated one: “We’ve had our day at triv and quad and writ our bit as intermidgets. Art, literature, politics, economy, chemistry, humanity, &c.” (FW 306.12-15). The reference to the medieval liberal arts of the trivium and quadrivium (grammar, rhetoric and logic; arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music) reinforces the sense of a medieval lesson and of the chapter’s (indeed, the book’s) encylopaedic breadth.2

Issy is associated with letters, and in particular vowels, with narrative (she is, tells, and is the...

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