The Joussean context

In the late twenties, Joyce became acquainted with the theories of Father Marcel Jousse, whose lectures or rather performances he attended with enthusiasm, as Mary and Padraic Colum recalled in Our Friend James Joyce (130-1). Although Louis Gillet's account would seem to refer to the mid- to late 1930s, Jousse could still be the name of the Jesuit priest whose identity escapes him and whose lectures on comparative phonetics and linguistics Joyce had heard:

According to this clergyman, all languages constitute a system of the Revelation, and their History in the world is the history of the Logos, the history of the Holy Spirit.  [...] I do not guarantee that the speaker really said all that Joyce quoted of him. One feels, however, that such a speech offered Joyce material for long reveries


Joyce's deep interest was reflected in a series of small clusters entered in three contemporary notebooks (VI.B.18 262; VI.B.21 16‑7, 20, 22, 24, 26; VI.B.23 103) and in VI.A 1, and its structural relevance, especially for the heliotrope riddle in the "Mime of Mick, Nick, and the Maggies," has already been extensively documented (cf. especially Milesi 1988, Weir). To summarise my own earlier findings: the phonetic description of "heliotrope" in the Mime mediates the return back to the visualisation of the girls' underlying gestural pantomime of the consonants, a direct imitation of Father Jousse's own performing girls, who spoke words in Aramaic, a Semitic language, therefore based on consonantal roots (Milesi: 159-60).

Soon after, with still vivid memories of Joussean performances in his mind, Joyce was drawn to the works of Sir Richard Paget, especially Babel, or The Past, Present, and Future of Human Speech (1930). Joyce was no doubt alerted by the title, as is indicated by an earlier indirect reference: "The Tower of Berli{ct}z / -- Turm" (VI.B.32 140) - Paget's monograph kicks off on a recall of the Tower of Babel story in "Genesis" (7) - some four or five years after the first major linguistic offensive in notebooks and drafts, and the earliest treatment of the myth of Babel, at a crucial time when the composition of Work in Progress threatened to grind to a standstill. Paget's study offered Joyce a ready parallel with, and differences from, Jousse's theory about the evolution of language. In this treatise, as well as in the earlier, more comprehensive study on Human Speech. Some Observations, Experiments, and Conclusions as to the Nature, Origin, Purpose and Possible Improvement of Human Speech (also 1930), which Joyce subsequently started reading but soon abandoned, the Fellow of the Physical Society of London and of the Institute of Physics expounds a view of the gestural articulation of sound as an "etymological" basis for the constitution of oral language, and a "Gesture Theory of human speech" (Babel, p. 47), comparable to Jousse's gesticulation laryngo‑buccale (only a derived stage in the latter's system), which sees speech primarily as a pantomime of mouth gestures. This recurrent description found its way both into the index and into the Wake in "learned to speak from hand to mouth" (FW 130.18; see VI.B.32 141 unit), which also has Vichian undertones: "the first language in the first mute times of the nations must have begun with signs, whether gestures or physical objects" (New Science, §401). Although it was mainly used for FW 130.13‑20 and less "directly" (i.e. lexically) for II.1, the Paget index in VI.B.32 - a notebook whose main draft usage was precisely for II.1 - especially his slight reworking of Paget's gestural- phonemic atomisation of "butter" on VI.B.32 142 (and "cheese" to a minor extent, thereby affording a late felicitous parallel with the fable of the Mookse and the Gripes), seems also to have sparked off the wording of the Maggies' first charade in FW 223.09‑11. The description of "heliotrope" in the "Twilight Games" thus admits of a dual "gestural" miming right from the start: "choreographic" (Jousse) and, especially in its very linguistic formulation, "buccal" (Paget) - despite Joyce's possible reservations about some of the implications in the latter's project, which first saw the light in The Nature of Human Speech (1925), a "tract" published for the decidedly un-Wakean Society for Pure English (cf. entry "down with / homofun," in which Joyce's crisp punning summary of the source seems to record his reticence towards the more reductive moves of Paget's crudely mimetic theories).1

Dated ca. 1925‑1927 in the preface to the relevant Archive volume, the VI.B.32 notebook would therefore seem, on the basis of these two 1930 sources, to have been filled out over a longer period of time.2 This would corroborate Vincent Deane's earlier revision of the dating of the notebook to ca. May 1930 on the basis of notes derived from Cyrus Brooks's translation of Jabotinsky's Samson the Nazarite in VI.B.32 74‑76 and 80‑88, also published the same year, with the month's identification coming from two unpublished letters from Helen Fleischman to Harriet Shaw Weaver (British Library Add. MS 57350‑42 and ‑45; cf. Deane). However, the terminus ad quem would need to be pushed back at least a couple of months as the later of the two Paget studies (Babel) was not available until July 1930.3

The VI.B.32 entries4

Main draft usage in FW 130.13‑20; deleted material appears at 1.6+/2.4+/3.9+/4.5+ stage as part of a long, neatly handwritten or typed holograph addition which developed in several discrete vignettes (MS 47475-228ff.; JJA 47:259ff.; now FW 127.07-136.12), showing slight duplication and subsequently repenned for clarity, dated 1936 by the Archive editors, on either side of the appropriate "Al <in> an the highest but Roh <in the re his> root" (MS 47475‑271 and ‑232, JJA 47:264‑5; pages of the final page proofs or "First edition" of transition 6 [August 1927]). In their introduction to the volume, the Archive editors note that transference of elements in VI.B.32 mainly occurred during the 1931 revisions (JJA 47: xvii). A subsequent posse of units, all from the second Paget book (Human Speech) with the exception of the gestural decomposition of "butter," were crossed out in the Raphael transcription of the notebook in VI.C.8, pp. 4-11, and used in FW 360.03-07, a passage with a strong Joussean-Pagetian note which Joyce composed as part of a late, multilayered accretion (cf. MS 47480-153v, 155; JJA 55: 272-3: second draft, early 1938 but probably revised during the following winter). Ending with "A mum," itself a thematic and genetic recall of the final "Mummum" at the end of the Mime, the interlude segues into a series of puns on famous musicians, derived from what could have been a spontaneous expansion on the musical flavour of the Paget notes, on VI.B.32 154-6.



Image3FW 130.125



Human Speech

Not used until the Raphael transcriptions in VI.C.8, i.e. any time between 1933 and 1936­ - pp. 9-17 represent the largest run crossed out in any single colour in VI.C.8 and the deleted units were exclusively used for the thematic ("musical") expansion now on FW 359.31-360.16. Thus, if one adheres to the system of deletions, its direct relevance would seem to postdate Joyce's drafting of the two versions of the heliotrope riddle in the Mime, although its entries were worked into a thematically cognate sequence when Joyce resumed the composition of FW II.3.





Though the main lexical use of the Paget units was for FW 130.13.20 - part of a fairly convoluted, cryptic passage to whose deciphering the knowledge of the source elements contributes arguably little - these indexes provide an interesting example of how thematic or even textual relevance of both the source and the notetaking is not simply a matter of mechanical, attestable usage but can sometimes be more fruitfully extended to other contemporaneous draft developments which share a deeper resonance with the notebook's rough material. The terse, archetypal, monosyllabic lexical roots dredged up by Paget may have found their way into page 130 of Finnegans Wake but it is to bolster up the interpretive strategies of the episode of the "Mime," and how it ultimately links up with the "Storiella" section or even, though tenuously and by a fortuitous coincidence, with the fable of the Mookse and the Gripes (alias Burrus and Caseous), that their thematic aura was deployed. Like the root Al (or El, Il), or any Semitic unit, the sacred word "heliotrope" - the Mime takes place in the first chapter or divine subcycle of Book II -is made up of (fairly) fixed consonants (h-l-t/dr-p) and labile vowels. In particular here, there seems to have been a disjunction between the localised lexical usage (orange deletions, mostly for FW p. 130) and the larger thematic relevance (blue deletions, mostly for FW p. 360) for the overall project or some of its key episodes that might even cut across the traditional distinction between crossed, therefore used, and uncrossed, therefore unused, units. Paget's decomposition of butter as "down in front / up at the back / down in back / backward jerk," though not crossed until the Raphael VI.C transcriptions (but for which no close textual match has been found), may well be the source behind the two evocations of the sacred heliotrope, especially the first riddle on p. 223: "Up tighty in the front, down again on the loose, drim and drumming on her back and a pop from her whistle." As we saw, Joyce started composing the Mime in September 1930 and both variations on the miming of "heliotrope" found their way into the drafts soon after. One may therefore imagine Joyce reading or remembering across both notebook and Paget's two books as he was piecing together the famous gestural evocation of the flower (though this still fails to account for the later crossing in VI.C.8): both Babel and Human Speech abound in descriptions of vowel "postures" (the girls are thematised as vowels in the Wake and the girls' posturings are necessary for the females-as-vowels to fill out the gaps in the consonantal patterns of "heliotrope"); the "drumming" of the heliotrope riddle could be a faint echo of the drum of the ear mentioned in Human Speech (in that respect Joyce's shorthand "earwig" is revealing of his Wakean filtering of sources already at notetaking stage); and that "pop from her whistle" could distantly echo and combine the "musical pop," and Paget's not infrequent mention of whistle / whistling in those introductory pages, with his dissection of the monosyllable in Babel 43. And no doubt prompted by Paget's frequent recourse to "orifice," Joyce would have found a way of deploying this complex theory on the origin and development of speech as well as on vowel and consonant symbolism into a sexually charged framework.

  Even more uncannily relevant, in Babel, is the sustained vein of floral metaphors that attend to the description of human speech from the very outset, a coincidence which cannot have escaped Joyce and maybe provided an extra incentive for superimposing a Pagetian level onto an already Joussean framework. The following extracts are particularly illlustrative of the floral mood of Paget's exordium:

Human speech is a wild growth, even our finest flowers of speech are but wild flowers; [...] Even our learned words are but a potpourri compounded of hedgerow flowers of speech - Greek or Latin." (8)

So far there has been no horticulture of the flowers of speech - only botany." (9)

Admittedly Joyce had already started exploring the "[l]anguage of flowers" in Ulysses (5:261) but it is in the Mime of Finnegans Wake that he gave his "languish of flowers" (FW 96.11) or "florilingua" (FW 117.14) the full treatment of a "panaroma of all flores of speech" (FW 143.03‑04), in which the heliotrope is made to blossom as the finest of all the tro(o)ping "FLORAS" (FW 220.03) or "florals" (FW 227.15) of language and (male) desire in this "florileague" (FW 224.23) of a chapter (cf. Norris). Mixing floristry with linguistics and acoustics, Paget's organic, evolutionary theories further goaded Joyce into completing not so much the British scientist's cherished horticulture for a perfect "New English" to come (The Nature of Human Speech 90), but at least an accomplished sexual choreography in Wakese, supplementing the Joussean performance with a Pagetian gestural anatomisation, and turning around the name for metaphor "itself":

Cette fleur de rhétorique n'est‑elle pas (comme) un tournesol? voire ‑ mais ce n'est pas exactement un synonyme ‑ analogue à l'héliotrope? (Derrida 298)

Métaphore veut donc dire héliotrope (Derrida 299)

Woks cited :

1      Paget's contribution on the acoustics of speech was first delivered in French before the Institut général psychologique in Paris. It already refers to "the attitude or gesture of the speech organs" producing the sounds (27). The earlier tract already advocates, as do the subsequent, fuller publications, the purification of speech - by replacing unvoiced sounds with their more audible, voiced equivalents (cf. The Nature of Human Speech, p. 32; Babel, p. 86) - and the perfection of the English language thanks to the understanding of the gestural production of sounds and to the reorganisation of word syntax in synch with the natural order of thoughts, so as to create a more functional, universal vehicle of communication or "New English" (The Nature of Human Speech, p. 90), whose ultimate goal was not unlike C. K. Ogden's Basic English with which Joyce had already become acquainted around 1929 (Ellmann, p. 614).

2      For citation of The James Joyce Archive (hereafter JJA) I have followed the identification of the individual volumes given at the back of each issue of the James Joyce Quarterly. The dates are those established by the editors, unless evidence suggests otherwise.

3      The copies of Paget's Human Speech and Babel held at the British Library bear the accession stamps of 31 March and 4 July 1930 respectively. As this is a copyright library, which therefore receives inland publications as soon as they are available from the press, Joyce would not have been able to make a successful request for both Paget books via Harriet Shaw Weaver until the summer.

4      The following conventions have been used in transcriptions from Joyce's manuscripts:

a) The Buffalo Notebooks

- Joyce's notebook entries are given first, followed by source, then textual identification whenever applicable;

- Entries that can be construed to belong to one single coherent unit are transcribed as a continuum and notebook lineation is indicated by slashes wherever necessary;

- Colour deletion precedes a whole deleted sequence as defined above and is given in superscript as follows: b: blue; o: orange; - A (series of) letter(s) placed within square brackets indicates a conjectural or doubtful reading;

- (also for drafts) Substitution by overlay is indicated using curly brackets as follows: {A B};

- Editorial interpolations will appear within square brackets.

b) The drafts

- Deletions currente calamo are enclosed within pointed square brackets;

- Other transformations by deletion are indicated using pointed square brackets as follows: <A b>.

I have not reproduced separately Mme Raphael's erroneous transcriptions as the variations on the original entries do not seem to have played a part in Joyce's creative recycling of them in this case.

5  Both "fore and rickwards" and "butter" feature in FW 230.22-23 but the possibility of their origin in the VI.C.8 unit can be safely discarded as they entered the genetic process piecemeal, before and after Mme Raphael's transcription respectively. As it stands in the text, this "soul butter" seems more annunciatory of the "highly nutritius family histrionic" vignette on l. 26ff., full of Latin terms denoting various degrees of consanguinity, based on a similar index in VI.B.33 142-4 (extradraft material, probably February 1933; cf. MS 47477-106, JJA 51:157).