The original version of this FAQ was edited by Charles Cave and published in 1996.   Suggestions for revisions or questions to add or delete are encouraged.  Submit your ideas by scrolling down and enter a reply to this page, or by email to fwfaq@bendofbay.org. Last update:  11.24.2012.

This page contains links, some of which take you to an Amazon Finnegans Wake FAQ Store, primarily because  that makes it easy to update lists of specific items.  Any profit made from any link will be deposited into this program.  In other words, this is not a “for profit” FAQ.

Contents:

1. Is there an internet mailing list where Finnegans Wake is discussed?
2. Where can I find reading groups devoted to Finnegans Wake?
3. Is there an electronic text of Finnegans Wake?
4. Are there recordings of Finnegans Wake read by Joyce? Other people?
5. What’s a good “guide book” to the Wake?
6. What’s the best way to get started reading FW?
7. Resources on the World Wide Web relating to the Wake
8. Can Finnegans Wake be enjoyed and understood by someone who has not
read any of Joyce’s other works?

9. What journals and periodicals are available that discuss FW?
10. Has Finnegans Wake been performed or adapted in music?
11. Has Finnegans Wake been performed or adapted in film?
12. Has Finnegans Wake been performed or adapted in theatre?
13. Is there a large print version of Finnegans Wake
14. What other books are “similar” to FW or suitable as a sequel?
15. Has Finnegans Wake been translated? Can it be translated?
16. How long will it take me to read Finnegans Wake?
17. Does Finnegans Wake have a plot?
18. Is Finnegans Wake a ‘cult’ novel?
19. Why Finnegans Wake? And what about that apostrophe?
20. The manuscripts and genetics.

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1. Is there an internet mailing list where Finnegans Wake is discussed?
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a) FWREAD
The FWREAD mailing list is the “page a week” reading group. The discussion is aimed at amateurs but people of all experience contribute their comments and insights to the discussions. A new page is posted each week to the FWAKE list.  To subscribe to FWREAD, send this exact message:
subscribe fwread Your Name
to listproc@lists.Colorado.EDU
b) FWAKE-L
There are two Joyce-related mailing lists on the Internet, one for Joyce in general, called J-JOYCE and one for Finnegans Wake, called FWAKE-L. To subscribe to FWAKE-L send this exact message:
subscribe FWAKE-L [your name spelled out normally]
to listserv@irlearn.bitnet
or listserv@irlearn.ucd.iec)
J-JOYCE
To subscribe to J-JOYCE send the message “subscribe” to:
j-joyce-request@lists.utah.edu
The “subscribe” message must be in the *body* of the email, not just in the subject line.
To unsubscribe, send “signoff FWAKE-L” (or “signoff j-joyce”) to the
*listserv* (or j-joyce-request) address.To send a message to the entire subscription list, address it either to:
j-joyce@lists.utah.edu
fwake-l@irlearn.ucd.ie
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2. Are there reading groups devoted to Finnegans Wake?
—————————
The Finnegans Wake Society of New York, in addition to hosting their own series of meetings, maintains a directory of reading groups worldwide. 
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3. Is there an electronic text of Finnegans Wake?
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Yes. The text is available on the web from Trent University, here. However you are better off  buying the book, so that you have page references. Additionally, some pages have footnotes, sigla, or marginalia that do not transcribe well.
Electronic text may also be available  from an FTP server: ftp.trentu.ca in a directory /pub/jjoyce/fwake
You can find an annotated version of Finnegans Wake at finwake.com.
Jorn Barger’s shorter version of Finnegans Wake also remains available
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4. Are there recordings of Finnegans Wake read by Joyce? Other people?
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Yes:
a)  You can listen to several recordings by Joyce and other people, right now, from this ubuweb page.
b)  Patrick Healy’s unabridged reading from The Lilliput Press.
c)  Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan’s abridged version from Naxos.

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5. What’s a good “guide book” to the Wake?
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This post provides suggestions for first time readers of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. It also included a reading list.  However, Clive Hart’s Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake is out of print and has also vanished from at least three public libraries. Fortunately, the James Joyce Scholar’s Collection has put Hart’s book online. You can access it directly here.

All the books in the James Joyce Scholar’s Collection are out of print, but all are excellent. Below are links to a few you might explore after getting through the original recommendations.

A Classical Lexicon for Finnegans Wake
The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake: A Structuralist Analysis
A Finnegans Wake Gazetteer
Joyce-again’s Wake: An Analysis of Finnegans Wake
The Sigla of Finnegans Wake
Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake
Third Census of Finnegans Wake
The “Wake” in Transit

Listed below are comments from FWAKE List-members on the usefulness of specific books.  You can buy some of the books here. 

Title: Portraits of the Artist in Exile: Recollections of James Joyce by Europeans
Editor: Willard Potts
Comments: Peter Chrisp suggests that “If you want to find out what Joyce thought Finnegans Wake was about, I recommend Willard Potts (ed) Portraits of the Artist in Exile, 1986. Joyce discussed his aims in writing the Wake with Ole Vinding, Adolf Hofmeister, Jan Paradowski, Jaques Mercanton and others, and their accounts are included. It’s to Finnegans Wake what Budgen’s James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses is to that book.

Title: Selected Letters of James Joyce
Editor: Richard Ellman
Comments: Peter Chrip writes this “includes many of the letters he sent Harriet Shaw Weaver, in which he gave detailed glosses of specific passages (including the very first page).”

Title: Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work
in Progress
Author: Samuel Beckett and Others
Publisher: Norfolk, Conn.
Year: 1939
Comments: This was written before the Wake was completed, and is interesting from a historical purpose.  It had Joyce’s support. The Beckett essay is recommended.

Title: The Books at the Wake: A Study of Literary Allusions in James
Joyce’s Finnegans Wake
Author: James S. Atherton
Publisher: New York
Year: 1960
ISBN:
Comments:

Title: Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake
Author: Clive Hart
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year: 1962
Comments:  Peter Chrisp indicates “this is a book that the author later renounced. I went to a talk he gave where he said, ‘There is no deep structure in Finnegans Wake’. But it has a wonderful appendix, describing Joyce’s use of motifs, and listing their appearances.”

Title: A First-Draft Version of Finnegans Wake
Author: David Hayman
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year: 1963
Comments: For looking at the history of the text, this book is extremely helpful and helps orient one to whatever part one is reading.

Title: A Third Census of Finnegans Wake – An index of characters and
their roles
Author: Adaline Glasheen
Publisher: Berkeley: University of California
Year: 1977
Comments:

Title: Annotations to Finnegans Wake
Author: Roland McHugh
Publisher: Routledge and Kegan Paul, London
Year: 1980 (and revised 1991 edition)
ISBN:
Comments:  While the only references may make this version appear quaint and obsolete, it is still one of the best ways for a newcomer to step into specific glosses. It is also light enough to hold open while you rest your copy of the Wake in your lap.

Title: James Joyce Finnegans Wake, Chapter I. The Illnesstraited Colossick
Idition
Author: Tim Ahern
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Year: 1983
ISBN: 0-295-95991-6
Comments: Stan Isaacs wrote: this is the book that got me started. I wish there were more than just chapter I. Its a very light- hearted set of cartoon-like pictures of every half-paragraph or so. Makes the words almost make sense.

Title: A Companion to Joyce Studies_, edited by Zack Bowen and James
Carens) The Structures and Meanings of Finnegans Wake
Author: Patrick McCarthy
Comments: Highly Recommended by Jack Kolb, Dept. of English, UCLA Email:

Title: The Finnegans Wake Experience
Author: Roland McHugh.
Publisher: University of California (???)
Year: 1982
ISBN: 0520042980.
Comments: What is nice about this book, is that it recounts one man’s initial experience in reading the Wake, how he did it without guides, and the overall *experience*. This book is particularly usefu to someone approaching the Wake for the first time – if for no other reason than it provides much reassurance that if you relax and stay with it, meaning will come. (Details from Alfred Crumlish)

Title: Understanding Finnegans Wake
Author: Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon
Publisher: Garland
Year: 1982
Comments: From Bill Cadbury: This book as a try at the literal meaning.

Title: Finnegans Wake: A Plot Summary
Author: John Gordon
Publisher: Syracuse
Year: 1986
Comments: From Bill Cadbury: I found John Gordon’s book truly suggestive (though it’s a radical reading and different from pretty much anybody else’s) and I return to it over and over again, always giving it serious thought before I think of discounting his ideas.

Title: Joyce’s Book of the Dark
Author: John Bishop
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Year: 1986
ISBN: 0-299-10824-4
Comments: Contains many ideas about Finnegans Wake with descriptions of the Egyptian book of the dead, dreaming, the hearing apparatus, earwigs, wordplay, etc.  Stan  Isaacs writes: It was highly recommended to me, but I haven’t had time to read much of it yet. There’s a lot about the Egyptian Book of the Dead, but also a lot of other points of view. Figures include several etymological charts (such as on *men, or *ar- or *gen), tracing relationships of a lot of words in the Wake with these sounds in them; a schematic eye, relating pieces of the wake to parts of the eye; The “otological life” of “H.C. Earwicker” (a diagram of the ear).

Bill Cadbury writes: I think this book has come to be recommended too much as a sure guide—his is a radical reading too and while it also has to be consulted I think Gordon’s the much better starting-place, if only because it has some connection to the sequence of the work whereas Bishop’s treats it as one big data-base of words without regard to the sentences they appear in.

Useful Reference Books to help understand FW:
The following books are essential aids (even for beginners, especially the first). Details supplied by Bill Cadbury

Brendan O Hehir, *Gaelic Lexicon for Finnegans Wake* (which has some
extremely helpful essays in the back).

Cristiani, *Scandinavian Elements of Finnegans Wake*

Louis O. Mind, *A Finnegans Wake Gazetteer* (again, this surprisingly
often solves problems for me [Bill Cadbury]).

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6. What’s the best way to get started reading FW?
——————————————
This post provides some advice and encouragement for newcomers to the Wake.  Additional suggestions:
Alfred Crumlish writes:
I tell my friends to start with the excerpts in The Portable James Joyce (see below). Then I suggest they read “The Finnegans Wake Experience”. Then a casual, cover to cover reading, preferably out loud (in a whisper if embarassed). Then I suggest reading Clive Hart’s book “Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake” and Bishop’s “Joyce’s Book of the Dark”. I discourage the Skeleton Key.
Charles Cave writes:
My approach to the first reading of FW was to get the “big picture” by reading chapter overviews from the Skeleton Key, and Tindall’s “Reader’s Guide to James Joyce”. Then I read Tindalls’ “Reader’s Guide to Finnegans Wake” and marking the appropriate text in FW with a red pencil and a page reference to Tindall. This helped to a certain extent, but I would now like to explore specific themes by using Hart’s “Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake”, Atherton’s “The Books at the Wake” and Bishop’s “Joyce’s Book of the Dark” which I recently ordered. During my reading of FW, I made extensive pencil scribbles in the margin: HCE for instances of the HCE initials, ALP, !!! for text I found humourous, OZ for references to Australia, TUNC for Book of Kells references, VICO for structural elements pertaininng to Vico, and so on. At least I have left some marks for the next reading.
Michael P. Brewster:
I just wanted to add (to the question of novice readers) that reading *any* Joyce is an adventure & should be treated as such. No person can be led to Joyce and forced to read any Joyce. ‘Dubliners’ to ‘FW’ is a celebration of language. That idea is key to reading any of these works. That plus the idea that the stories and episodes change from reading to reading. ‘Dubliners’ is not the same for me now as when I first read parts in high school – and it’s not because I did a lot of literary study or anything like that. It’s because the reader completes the text in a beautifull poetic way – and the more you read, the more effort you put in – the more you get out. You can’t shortcut experience.
Brett Zombro:
I found Glasheen’s “Census” and Atherton’s “Books at the Wake” helpful as an entry-level reader. I find “translations” such as the Skeleton Key spoil things a bit and maybe steer the reader too much towards a particular interpretation (this goes for Glasheen’s synopsis in the beginning of “Census” as well), but this may be a matter of taste. Some good places in the text to explore are found in “The Essential James Joyce”
a) Here Comes Everybody (7.20)
“Yet may we not see still the brontoichthyan form outlined aslumbered, even in our own nighttime by the sedge of the troutling stream that Bronto loved and Brunto has a lean on.”
b) Anna Livia Plurabelle (196.1)
O
tell me all about
Anna Livia! I want to hear all
about Anna Livia. Well, you know Anna Livia? Yes, of course, we all know
Anna Livia. Tell me all. Tell me now. You’ll die when you hear”…
c) Tales Told of Shem and Shaun (???.??)
“Gentes and laitymen, fullstoppers and semicolonials, hybreds and lubberds! Eins within a space and a wearywide space it wast ere wohned a Mookse. The onesomeness wast alltolonely, archunsitslike…
Karl Reisman is a strong believer that new readers should be introduced to two subjects 1) Joyce’s strong concern with colonialism and slavery – and therefore with Africa – both colonial Nigeria and its languages and and other African and African American topics, and 2) Joyce’s skill as a linguist and his awareness of lilntuistics as an academic study. He suggests two of his articles, both available online 1. ‘”In the muddle is the sounddance” another introduction to the reading of Finnegans Wake’  2. Darktongues”: Fulfulde and Hausa in Finnegans Wake from Journal of Modern Literature Vol 31 No 2 2008.
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7. Resources on the World Wide Web relating to the Wake
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Many answers to the questions in this FAQ contain links worth visiting. Here are some more:

www.fweet.org – This site houses a collection of over 80,000 notes o Finnegans Wake, gathered from numerous sources (all listed on the bibliography page). It also allows you to search the entire collection of notes. Massive. Fweet also features a page listing links to various Joyce internet sites many of which are related to FW.

www.finwake.com – more glosses on Finnegans Wake, with full text.

http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/JoyceColl – James Joyce Scholars’ Collection. A great source for out of print books on the Wake.

Robert Anton Wilson interview about the Wake

http://maybelogic.blogspot.com/2009/04/robert-anton-wilson-on-finnegans-wake.html

A Word in Your Ear (by Eric Rosenbloom)
http://www.rosenlake.net/fw/

Index to Finnegans Wake
http://caitlain.com/fw/

Tatsuo Hamada’s FAQ and commentary on his Japanese Translation

http://hcehamada.blogspot.com/

Jorn Barger’s overview of Finnegans Wake.

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8. Can Finnegans Wake be enjoyed and understood by someone who has not read any of Joyce’s other works?
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Alfred Crumlish Writes:
Yes. The the depth of one’s experience with languages and the culture and tradition matters. Probably it would be useful to be familiar with the legend of Tristan and Isolde and some basic Vico for structural reasons.
J. A. Rea writes wryly:
Actually there is some doubt as to whether one can appreciate the Wake without having read all works by all authors. Such ideal readers being few in number, we read on…..
Brett Zombro:
Yes. As background material, a general familiarity with Joyce’s biography and his literary interests (obsessions?) is probably more important than knowing his other books. Of course, for every thing that Joyce knew and you don’t know, there is probably some little thing somewhere in FW that you will miss.Karl Reisman:
Joyce said “Wipe your glosses with what you know.” He believed the book contained the necessary “keys” to its reading in itself. I believe him. But books like Atherton and Bishop and Beckett’s piece do help some.
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9. What journals and periodicals are available that discuss FW?
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Abiko Quarterly (later, the Abiko Annual)
Laurel Sicks, Managing Editor and Publisher
8-1-8 Namiki
Abiko, Chiba 270-11
Japan
“A Wake Newslitter” proper ceased publication with vol 17, no. 6 (December 1980), although “A Wake Newslitter Monographs” continued through no. 9, 1984, and the “AWN Occasional Paper” through no. 4, September 1984. The link takes you to a CD ROM.
James Joyce Broadsheet
William Stephenson, Editorial Assistant
School of English
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT
U. K.
Email: jjbrdsht@leeds.ac.uk

The James Joyce Literary Supplement
The University of Miami, Department of English
PO Box 248145, Coral Gables FL 33124, USA

The James Joyce Quarterly
University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104-3189, USA

Joyce Studies Annual

The Joyce Studies Annual was formerly published by the University of Texas, but is not published  Fordham University.

The Finnegans Wake Circular
This may no longer be published.

Hypermedia Joyce Studies – a refereed journal of criticism and scholarship on the works of James Joyce. Published online only.

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10. Has Finnegans Wake been set to music?
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Stephen Albert and John Cage have both written work based on writings of James Joyce.
John Cage (1912-1992) was an avid student of Joyce’s writings, particularly Finnegans Wake. He was responsible for a number of Wake – related musical projects , including:

In the Name of the Holocaust (1942) — piece for solo prepared piano based on a passage from Book III, Chapter 1. This is possibly the first recorded musical work based on the Wake.

Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake (1979) – This is available in a great package from mode records.  Roaratorio is also available on a Wergo CD. The Wergo performance comes from a 1979 German Radio production. “Roaratorio” was also presented as a ballet in 1983 in collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Dancers.

Writings through Finnegans Wake (4 volumes of text, 1977-1980)— Cage’s attempt to “radicalize” Joyce’s text through a systematic re-editing process. Although this work as a whole could be considered literary, rather than musical, Cage considered the compositional process he used here to be essentially musical, and he “performed” and recorded various excerpts as musical pieces.

Cage also set The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs to music, and a number of recordings are available including one by  Joey Ramone .

In addition to his recorded works, Cage also worked for some time in the 1960’s and ‘70’s on a project called “The Ten Thunderclaps,” which was possibly envisioned as a multi-media project in collaboration with Eric McLuhan (Marshall’s son). This was apparently never completed (at least, it does not appear in Richard Kostelanetz’s very complete 1990 chronology f Cage’s works).

Waywords and Meansigns  is an unabridged musical version of Finnegans Wake.  

Additional recordings and performance are available here.

See this page for a never performed adaptation.

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11. Has Finnegans Wake been adapted in film?
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Yes. Passages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Directed by Mary Ellen Bute. While this is out of print, you can watch it on line at ubuweb. Copies might also be available at your library.“James Joyce’s Women.” incorporated dramatized excerpts from Joyce’s fiction, including a portion of “Anna Livia Plurabelle” from FW.
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12. Has Finnegans Wake been adapted to theatre?
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The Medicine Show Theater staged a musical adaptation in 2005. The soundtrack was sold on CD at the performances, although as a result of copyright rules the CD contains the music, but no lyrics.  The pointer to this performance was provided by someone who attended a performance, thoroughly enjoyed it, and would like to see it revived.
Adam Harvey’s one man show, The Tale of Shem the Penman, is a re-enactment of the whole of Book One Chapter Seven, a vitriolic portait of the artist, Shem, by his brother Shaun. Review here http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/otherresources/fringe/fringe06-71.htm
“The Coach With Six Insides” inspired by FW, was written and staged by Jean Erdman (a Graham trained dancer.) It premiered in New York in October 1962, had a successful run,and then toured around the world. Videos of different performances, scripts, photographs, and Erdman’s oral history are available at the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library at the Lincoln Center. [A side note: Erdman, who was a student at Sarah Lawrence College, was once married to Joseph Campbell, co-author of “A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake”]
Katarzyna Bazarnik in Poland  wrote on 28 August 1992 Zenkasi Theatre Co. from Krakow, Poland,(whose founder and co- director I am) have recently created a performance called “Finnegans Make” based on leading motifs from all of Joyce’s works, but the structure of the play, as the title suggests, is based on the structure of “Finnegans Wake”. We are going to perform it in Dublin on 14 – 19th October 1996, at the Fringe Theatre Festival, and also in London (11th Oct and 25th Oct) and Norwich (22-23rd Oct).
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13. Is there a large print version of Finnegans Wake?
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Not really, but the print in the Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics edition (ISBN 0140185569) is a point or so larger than the Vintage edition.
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14. What other books are “similar” to FW or suitable as a sequel?
———————————————

I doubt that any book is suitable as a sequel, but members of the Finnegans Wake mailing list have suggested a number of books and authors readers of the Wake might try.

Fans of German Baroque Literature should try Johann Fischart

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15. Has Finnegans Wake been translated? Can it be translated?
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Translations have been made into the following languages:a) Italian
1. Italian translation
Marco Graziosi writes: There is no complete FW translation as far as I know, though Luigi Schenoni has long been working on it. At present the only widely available parts are published in two books:
JJ, Finnegans Wake – H.C.E., tr. Luigi Schenoni, introduction by Giorgio
Melchiori, Milano, Mondadori, 1982 [it has been reprinted recently after
publication of the next]
JJ, Anna Livia Plurabelle, nella traduzione di Samuel Beckett e altri,
versione italiana di JJ e Nino Frank, Torino, Einaudi, 1996 [besides the
Italian and French translations promoted by JJ, this includes Schenoni’s
complete version of the ALP chapter]
Other passages have been translated – including the opening one – by
various writers and are published elsewhere.b) Frenchc) JapaneseA Japanese translation of Finnegans Wake (Part I and IV) by Tatsuo Hamada was published by the Abiko Literary Press (ALP) on April 19, 2009. For information, contact the translator via this page.Jeimuzu Joisu: Fineganzu Ueiku I/II
Translator: YANASE Naoki
6th edition: October 20, 1992
Publisher: Kawade Shobo Shinsha
ISBN4-309-20169-5Jeimuzu Joisu: Fineganzu Ueiku III/IV
Translator: YANASE Naoki
3rd edition: January 7, 1994
Publisher: Kawade Shobo Shinsha
ISBN4-309-20228-4

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16. How long will it take me to read Finnegans Wake?
————————————

The long answer is: The rest of your life. Once you have read the Wake (it took the original author of this faq about six months to read it sequentially), you need to read it again, and again…. The more you read it, the more you will get out of
it.

The short answer is: Three minutes a page, if you don’t stop to puzzle out each word.

A better answer is: As long as you like.

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17. Does Finnegans Wake have a plot?
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For a full length argument, try John Gordon’s book,Finnegans Wake, A Plot Summary
Jorn Barger:
FW tells the story of an archetypal family, whose sons are always at war (with each other and with their father) and whose daughter competes with the mother for the father’s love. The father suffers a public disgrace, the son and mother write a letter that accuses or exonerates him, the children play a game and do their homework, the father closes his pub after an evening of gossip and debate… etc. Various literary and historical prototypes can be glimpsed at every point.
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18. Is Finnegans Wake a ‘cult’ novel?
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A subscriber to the FWAKE list posed the question: “I took a lot of English literature courses in college, but Finnegans Wake was never on any of the reading lists, and was rarely even mentioned by the professors. Do contemporary scholars really regard this as a “great” novel, or is it more of a “cult” novel?”Bob Williams writes:
One of the reasons given is the lack of academic standing for FW. As a former dabbler in painting I know that before the dawning of postmodernism no university or college wanted realism. Realism didn’t fit the curriculum. I can’t imagine academe trying to confine anything so riotous as FW within the confines of a curriculum. On the other hand, my wife
remarked of FW enthusiasts that whenever they met they quoted FW to each other. It reminded her of the fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The conclusions to be drawn from this are largely discreditable.Bruce Woodside:
I’d say that the Wake does indeed bear all the earmarks of a “cult”. It is clearly written in a “secret” language which only extensive study and initiation of a sort allows one to penetrate. And, at that, its secrets can never ultimately be totally revealed by any amount of study or perseverance. Though the broad outlines can be discerned, there are doubtless some details which Joyce took with him to the grave, never to rise again. Even its “priesthood” of scholars admits to an incomplete
comprehension of the mystery. I believe Joyce intended for its meanings to be obscure and labored mightily over the text in order to mask them; and yet that it should hint at more than it actually reveals is surely a major source of its appeal, as it is with any cult. I think there is even a suggestion, taken up by not a few of its readers, that the Wake represents some sort of sacred text or holy writ, a view Joyce occasionally encouraged. Certainly the devotion many readers have shown toward the text speaks to the novel’s power to draw us in, as if there were a conspiracy afoot and it was up to the reader to ferret it out. And like any cult, the members of this club smile at each other and nod knowingly, trading in the novel’s coinage, acknowledging a shared passion. Is it “great”? What we can say, after nearly fifty years of its existence, is that it continues to be a living work, and that if it indeed is someday accorded the title of being a “great” novel (or even, as some maintain,
the “greatest” novel ever written) then it is surely the least accessible of all great novels. It’s a sobering thought: minus the gift of language and with the addition of taste for larceny, James Joyce might have become the L. Ron Hubbard of his day.

Michael McDonald:
For ever increasing numbers of the students I encounter, it would seem than *any* enthusiasm or vocation for the study of literature constitutes a kind of “cult.” As Adorno argued long ago, in a world where the triumph of instrumental reason revels in proclaiming the uselessness of everything that cannot instantly be shown to serve its interests, literature’s very inutility stands as a signal rebuke to such reason’s ultimate unreason. And the *Wake*, in its exemplary uselessness, sounds that rebuke more than any other work ever committed to the page. So of course it *must* be deemed a cult novel, *must* be discredited ere the unwitting disciple of instrumental reason has the opportunity to glimpse a different vision of cognition, of reasoning the world.

Fenris Paddipaugh
dum mef rage: yes yes long wide and capacious, fullsleeved and doublebreasted, a longskirted greatcult of a book indeed. But isn’t [contemporary scholars] an oxymoron?

Will Miller
Too hard for most professors – takes years to read it properly, years more to study it. Rather than cult, or great, for me it is the pinnacle of literary achievement in the history of civilisation itself. Is there anything to compare to it?

Jeroen van Ameijde:
Finnegans Wake has become some sort of an addiction. Yet I am one of those happy not-to-legion that enjoy READING the book and TRYING TO GRASP its contents – and I think one should disapprove of the ‘rest’ that always talk about the ten lines (including reference) they have picked up somewhere. It’s just like being able to quote the first ten lines of Homer’s Odyssee without having an idea what it’s about.

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19. Why Finnegans Wake? And what about that apostrophe?
——————————————

This is a question which most people new to the Wake invariably ask, or wonder about if they are too embarassed to act. Alfred Crumlish writes:

a) The title
Finnegan’s Wake is the name of a 19th Century Irish drinking ballad, about a hod carrier who, having imbibed a bit to liberally, fell from his ladder, bumped his head and was presumed dead. He is laid out, and there is much singing and dancing at his wake. During the festivities, spilled liquour touches his lips – at which point Finnegan rise again. This basic
plot is repeated and echoed throughout the wake, along with other motifs conveying a similar theme of a fall and rise, or a rise and fall.

b) The ‘missing’ apostrophe
And that apostrophe? What does it omission imply? Is the book about one Finnegan, or all Finnegans? Is it about a wake, or a call for all Finnegans to Wake? And who is Finnegan? Everybody? And if Finnegan is everybody is this book about our Wake or a call for everybody to wake? The answer is yes. What is going on here? Everything. Here Comes Everybody.

Patrick McCarthy writes in “Structure and Meanings of Finnegans Wake”: For the title, Joyce chose a comic Irish song, “Finnegan’s Wake,” which celebrates the misadventures of one Tim Finnegan, an alcoholic hod-carrier who falls from his ladder and apparently dies, only to awaken when his mourners begin to fight and spill whiskey over him. Joyce altered the
title slightly by eliminating the apostrophe, turning the title into a pun, for it suggests not only the wake of Tim Finnegan, but also the awakening of this and all other Finnegans. The title, then encapsulates several of Joyce’s major themes: death and resurrection, cyclic form, and a quasi-Jungian concept of collective identity, so that Tim Finnegan is identified, not only with all Finnegans, but with all irishmen and ultimately, the entire human race.

Finnegan is also a pun on FINN-AGAIN, which implies that Finnegan is the modern avatar of Finn MacCool, the legendary Irish hero, much as Leopold Bloom is Ulysses reborn. From this core of meaning, Joyce’s book expands in all directions. The fall from the ladder in “Finnegan’s Wake” becomes all other falls as Timm Finnegan changes into Humpty Dumpty, Adam, Satan, Ibsen’s Master Builder, Charles Stewart Parnell, King Mark of the Tristan and Iseult legend, the drunken Noah, the unhorsed RIchard III or the cuckolded Finn MacCool”

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20. The manuscripts and genetics.
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Looking at the history of the text is extremely helpful and David Hayman’s book “A First-Draft Version of Finnegans Wake” was mentioned earlier.
The James Joyce Archive, volumes 44-63 contain the extant drafts, typescripts and proofs, and volumes 28-43 contain the pre-text notebooks.
A good reference work on genetics  is  How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake, edited by Sam Slote & Luca Crispi.
GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES is an Electronic Journal for the Study of James Joyce’s Works in Progress, An initiative of the Antwerp James Joyce Center , University of Antwerp, Belgium.

Suggestions may be made using this form or by email to fwfaq@bendofbay.org