Wake-ing the Reader: The Aesthetics of Reading within a Global Community

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An appreciation of how readers apprehend such a notoriously difficult book as James Joyce's Finnegans Wake can only further our understanding of the aesthetics of all reading experience. More than any other work of literary art, the Wake demands negotiation with its readers as they navigate through individual, investigative, and collaborative readings. This presentation follows the members of a multinational, multilingual, online reading group as they explore a particularly obscure section of Finnegans Wake, "Yawn Under Inquest". There are contributors from many countries including Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, USA, Greece, Japan, and Ireland and they have been reading one page of Finnegans Wake each week for the past 12 years. Surprisingly, such collaborative reading does not result in the creation of a single homogeneous text, but rather it enhances the personal aesthetic journey of the individual. Each reader mediates between private and communal associations so that the act of textual apprehension becomes highly conscious and creative. The reader of Finnegans Wake experiences satisfaction in a site of intermittence as he or she performs what Roland Barthes has defined as applied reading and discovers that significance is more important than meaning. Ultimately, how readers choose to interact with Joyce’s literary artwork is prefigured by their individual life experiences and by the way they apprehend all forms of art. Therefore, because Finnegans Wake sheds a light upon the reader that is dependent upon the individual’s understanding of his or her place in the world, reading the Wake is an existential experience.


Keywords: Aesthetics of Reading, James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, Reader Response, Literary Art, Literary Aesthetics
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Carolyn Susan Butcher

Affiliation not supplied
Santa Barbara, CA, USA


Ref: A09P0413