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Vico’s Thunderous Echoes: The New Science and Finnegans Wake

   | 13 mar 2024


The strandentwining intertext of Finnegans Wake both obscures and unveils meaning. The cultural ramifications of James Joyce’s intertext, however, run deep, as he subjects the relevant intertexts to subsequent rewritings in order to multiply meaning. In such context, intertextuality in itself can be likened to a translation, whereby otherness is adapted into a literary space to enable the construction or reconstruction of new significance, thus facilitating a far-reaching cross-cultural dialogue; both author and readers, in turn, assume the role of poeta doctus and litteratus doctus, respectively. Accordingly, the intertexts Joyce has sewn into the text are in constant transformation both via their medium and their audience, as is the case with the Viconian intertext. Giambattista Vico’s The New Science was carefully integrated by Joyce into Finnegans Wake1 and adapted to Irish society; Vico’s philosophical thought, which permeates the Wake, provides structure and enables the layering of intertextual units, thus multiplying significations and intended meanings. Vico’s theories on language and history enable diachronic and anachronic explorations within the Wake, as well as a simultaneous existence of different systems of thought. Joyce’s use of the thunderwords as a primal linguistic expression, coupled with his creative cultural exploits and the systematic structuring of the Wake find their origin in Vico’ The New Science.