How Do We Read Finnegans Wake in Silence?

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To fully experience Finnegans Wake,” James Steven Sauceda claims, “requires an elemental and dramatic shift away from silent reading.”1 Joyce’s text, Sauceda continues, is “unprecedented in its aurality and therefore requires oral utterance to be realized (125). In fact, it “must be viewed as a script to be performed on stage” (125). The last of these clearly hyperbolic claims raises the question of why Joyce did not simply write a stage play. Sauceda’s is an extreme case of a tendency among commentators to stress the desirability of reading the Wake out loud and, even better, in a group, if one is to grasp something of the rich pleasures within.2 The value of Sauceda’s formulation lies in the way it makes explicit a concern one might read into all such exhortations: that silent reading will not bring the book to life. If correct, this is curious, given that Finnegans
Wake seems far more likely to be read in solitude and silence than in chorus. Is the book simply not being heard?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-372
Number of pages20
JournalJames Joyce Quarterly
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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