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[Here are three recent posts to the JJOYCE and FWAKE mailing lists.  They 
only scratch the surface of my reflections on these topics, over the last 
two years.  FW is Finnegans Wake.]

             Email about James Joyce and symbolic a.i.
                          Jorn Barger

I come to Ulysses the very-long way round: psychology -> literature -> FW 
-> artificial intelligence -> FW again -> FW notebooks -> Ulysses notebooks 
-> Ulysses

My hypothesis about FW is that Joyce constructed it as a *thesaurus of 
story plots*, which could make it, quite dramatically, the unacknowledged 
grail of certain schools of artificial intelligence research.  Making 
computers smarter requires *spelling out in a formalized way* all the 
simple common-sense truths that we know but never articulate, and 
formatting these truths as *stories* about human actions is quite a 
reasonable strategy!

(Joyce's Trieste library included a copy of Polti's "36 Dramatic 
Situations", a work that AI-gurus have been known to cite *jealously*.)

So I've been looking for evidence among the early FW drafts and notebooks, 
and have built a not-very-tidy-(yet) case that this *is* true, in a 
superhumanly cunning way that probably *is* mathematical, as JJ claimed.

But another sort of pattern turned up too, that pointed backwards to 
Ulysses as, indeed, *way* more systematized than anyone's noticed.  
(Ellmann has Joyce regretting he may have oversystematized Ulysses.  I'm a 
little afraid that if/when these patterns are brought to light, a certain 
amount of the majesty of Ulysses will be deflated, by their obviousness
*in retrospect*.)

Many otherwise-bizarre early FW notes start to make sense if one imagines 
Joyce was systematically focusing on motifs like mirrors, gems, umbrellas, 
handkerchiefs, reading, foreign-language-use, reciting-poetry, etc etc etc, 
and seeking "story variants" on each of them.  If this practice was begun 
in Ulysses, we ought to see him distributing these 'finds' across the 18 
chapter-themes in fitting ways. (And not necessarily one-per-chapter, 

The patterns I'm detecting go back long before 1918, by the evidence, quite 
possibly before 1914.  I suspect we're going to have to go thru Roget's 
entire thesaurus, checking *every* category it offers, possibly ending up 
with an extension of the Linati schema from nine to some *thousands* of 

As an example, here are (some of) the mirrors of Ulysses:

1.2 Mulligan's shavingkit (symbolizing vanity/ appearances?)
1.17 used as lid of latherbowl
1.121 talks to self in mirror
1.130 signals "tidings" (betraying Ireland to foreign invaders?)
1.135,138 stolen from servant, cracked
1.136 reflects SD's image, critically
1.143 (denies Caliban his image, infuriatingly)
1.243 sea as mirror

2.9 history as "shattered glass"
2.159 mocking mirrors of Averroes and Maimonides diluting (?) Aristotle

3.137 little SD bowed to self in mirror
3.249 shattered glass again

4.288 Milly "my lookingglass from night to morning"
4.293 Milly finds Goodwin's mirror in hat
4.531 Molly uses handglass because mirror is in shadow, rubs it against 
"bub" (Here's where LB says "wouldn't pan out somehow" but see Penelope 

5.335 sunglasses of missionary? 
5.429 whispering gallery? (sound-mirror)

6.31 "crazy glasses" in carriage doorframe?
6.76 "Me in his eyes." of lost little Rudy
6.478 "murderer's image in eye of the murdered"  (Does LB feel he murdered Rudi?)

7.21, 206, 683 'reflected' letters and words

Lestrygonians:  ??? anyone?
8.297 Farrell stares through heavystringed glass?

9.221 Mrs D's mirror "sheeted"  (how Scylla?)

10.644 auctionroom lacquey views self in chalked mirror
10.742 Kernan preens self in hairdresser's window's sloping mirror
10.1027 long John Fanning approaches self in mirror

11.214, 421 mirror behind bar reflects barmaids
11.691 LB imagines MB greeting BB
11.722 barber spoke to Bloom direct though Bloom spoke to barber's 
11.1046 Bronzemaid gazes sideways at mirror conscious of best side of face

12.349 Dignam from other side views previous life as seen in a glass darkly 
(cf "wouldn't pan out"?)

13.162 Gerty inspects new dress
13.192 practices crying nicely
13.919 Milly dries hanky on mirror to save ironing (hanky motif too)
13.920 Bloom sees mirror as good place for advertising to women
13.1138 Starting fires with glass
13.1260 Bloom looks into pool

14.1044 Bloom sees past self via mirror in mirror
14.1060 mirror breathed on, vision recedes
14.1160 Lynch's girl checks image in pocketmirror after meeting Conmee

15.145 Bloom distorted by convex and concave mirrors
15.2053, 2303 Kitty looks at self in mirror
15.2991 Bloom crossdressed before mirror
15.3821 LB and SD see WS in mirror
15.3907 SD carny barking men to see in mirror "every positions"
15.4058 Morning Hours catch the sun in mocking mirrors (cf Nestor)

16.486 sailor says glass boggles natives (cf Lotus)

17.239 SD dislikes "aqueous substances of glass and crystal" (cf gem motif 
thruout, esp Circe)
17.516 LB exercises before mirror
17.1183 LB and SD see selves reflected in other's face
17.1342 LB sees reflections in mantlemarriagegifts

18.414 MB uses hanglass for powdering because mirror doesn't give you the
expression  (This reminds me of one of my favorite Iris Murdoch images 
(from Nuns and Soldiers) of a mean woman's face softening when she looks 
unselfconsciously into a mirror.)
18.647 MB sees youngself transformed by love
18.1155 Dr Collins' gilt mirrors

The bone motif seems confirmed by the specially appropriate bones in Eolus 
(can u find 'em?), and perhaps by the paradoxical lack of bones in Ithaca,
whose organ is the skeleton.  I see likely wood- and animal-motifs, too.

The Handlist or Concordance is invaluable for this research-game, but the 
references seem frequently disguised, so much creativity is needed too.

Story math and FW

When I say Finnegans Wake may well be 'mathematical', as Joyce claimed, I 
don't really mean anything to do with numbers or calculations, but rather 
with 'mathematically precise and thorough' explorations of ***permutations 
of plot elements***.

Joyce, as I said, owned Polti's "36 Dramatic Situations".  Georges Borach 
quotes JJ in 1917 saying, "There are indeed hardly more than a dozen 
original themes in world literature.  Then there is an enormous number of 
combinations of these themes..." (quoted in Willard Potts' "Portraits of 
the Artist in Exile")  And a source I've lost for the moment had Joyce 
assigning Beckett some combinatorial storytelling challenges. (Bair's
"Beckett" probably.)

I've suggested in the past that the real import of Giambattista Vico in 
FW derives from his anticipation of the concept of the thesaurus (New 
Science, XXII, 161-162): "There must in the nature of human institutions 
be a mental language common to all nations, which uniformly grasps the 
substance of things feasible in human social life and expresses it with 
as many diverse modifications as these same things have diverse aspects.  
A proof of this is afforded by proverbs or maxims of vulgar wisdom, in 
which substantially the same meanings find as many diverse expressions as 
there are nations ancient and modern.  This common mental language is 
proper to our Science, by whose light linguistic scholars will be enabled 
to construct a mental vocabulary common to all the various articulate 
languages living and dead..."

And Harriet Weaver recalled Joyce-in-Summer-1922 announcing that his next 
work would be "a history of the world'.

All progress in artificial intelligence has been hamstrung by the lack of 
any truly *rigorous* sequel to Roget's 1000 categories of meaning (itself 
compiled a century after Vico).  Automated natural language translation, 
for example, founders on the difficulty of discriminating nuances of 
meaning (so that, in the classic example, "the spirit is willing but the 
flesh is weak" might come back, after machine re-translation, as "the vodka 
is good but the meat has spoiled").

While employed as a programmer at the AI lab at Northwestern University, I 
grappled with this problem while struggling to design a general, 
hierarchical system of indexing-menus, for an archive of video-clips of 
educators-telling-stories.  (The goal was a general software architecture
for a video story database, allowing students to browse similar stories freely.)  I proposed to our team two original strategies:

1) that along with the easy-to-specify categories of persons, places, and 
things, recognizable in the stories, we should also identify a category of 
basic human *motives*-- food, safety, esteem, sex, etc.

2) that story-skeletons can be sorted, to some extent, according to what 
combination of these elements (person, place, thing, motive) are needed to 
specify the story.  So, for one coarse example, stories about *exchanges* 
might normally involve two persons and two things.

Further, I noticed that if you take these elements in pairs (person-person, 
person-thing, thing-place, etc etc etc) there are basic *binary 
relationships* implied, the clearest example being with person-thing 
relationships like:

person creates thing
person acquires thing
person uses thing
person changes thing
person disposes thing
person destroys thing

In studying FW's chapter four with the FWAKE-L group, I began to wonder if 
most of FW's Book One was not an inventory of just the sort of *exchanges* 
that I was trying to classify at work, and I determined to trek back to the 
1923 vignettes to see what patterns were visible there, and in the 
notebooks that accompanied those sketches.

I can't pretend this angle-of-approach causes the vignettes to blaze with 
unambiguous new light!  But here are some suggestive 'coincidences':

1) the basic relationships I've proposed between a person and a motive 

person suffers motive (Roderick O'Conor touches bottom)
person gratifies motive (Tristan and Isolde in their self-projected heaven)
person denies motive (Kevin's retreat)

2) If ROC is taken to 'be' John S. Joyce, via the coincidence of his age on 
June 16 1904 with ROC's age of 54-to-55, then isn't Kevin likely Stannie, 
and T&I Jim and Nora eloping?

3) The notebooks have *many* references to patterns of *generations*.  I've 
proposed on FWAKE-L that Kevin, T&I, and ROC must represent a single 
personality in three sequential, generational identities.  This would make 
the primary FW cycle the motivational one of motive-denied, motive-
satisfied, motive-suffered.  (The sin in the park will be the seed of the 
fall into dissatisfaction.)

4) There's a subtle pattern of color symbolism, with ROC offering brown 
(umbrageous) leading to black (ruin), while Kevin's garment changes from 
white alb to black cappa magna (within an environment of 'liturgical' 
colors), and T&I project a full rainbow, where the only green is supplied 
by an "olive throb" of T's awakening lust (denial unbound).  (The fourth 
vignette, Berkeley and Patrick, leans especially heavily on color 
symbolism, with green again singled out.)

5) ROC's round table is the center from which his betrayers *centifugally* 
flee.  Kevin, alternatively, moves centripetally to his island's central 
hut, leaving all *others* behind.  T&I seem to 'orbit' each other, 
narcissistically. (The Borach memoir mentioned above also has a telling
comment about the "concentric" state vs the "eccentric" human artist.)

6) The vignettes seem to offer parallels among their characters according 
to their styles of poetry and song, and the characteristic sounds they make 
(throatclearing, etc).  These match the patterns of 'semantic (motif) 
inventory' in the notebooks, which I'm trying to extrapolate backwards thru 
the Ulysses notes into the Ulysses chapter-schema.

But as faint a hope as *these* offer, the trail gets still murkier, fast, 
with the next few vignettes.  So there's endless riddles still to knock our 
sconces on.

And in no wise should anyone be *intimidated* by the AI/math idea-- the 
literary way of thinking is much better prepared to grapple with these 
symmetries than the scientific one, in my experience.

But even this faint hope of a sort of mathematical rigor should encourage 
us to credit Joyce with a *possibly highly intricate* plan even in these 
earliest stirrings of FW, as the fantastical complexities of the late 
Ulysses-work *ought* to have lead us to expect, all along!

Heat of Fusion

My view is that the early vignettes were written by a technique of 
*fusion*.  Joyce was refining *unified images* that fused dozens of 
examples, from history and literature, of these first few universal themes.

Roderick O'Conor:
the crucifixion of Jesus
King Arthur at low ebb
John Joyce at low ebb
James Joyce at low ebb
Roderick Random
King Roderick O'Conor
the IRA-1922 Roderick O'Conor
[surely the form of this vignette explicitly declares the necessity for a 
scene of customers in a pub, to precede it, ending necessarily with their 
rejection of their host?]

Tristan & Isolde:
James and Nora
Preciozo and Nora
Robert Hand and Bertha
Wagner and Mathilde
Byron & Mary Shelley?
Adam and Eve

Saint Kevin:
Stannie Joyce
James Joyce as adolescent
Kevin of Glendalough
Jesus in the desert?
all saints and hypocrites

Berkeley & Patrick:
J Joyce and JF Byrne
J Joyce and Stannie
the druid and Patrick
Berkeley and philosophy
Ham and Shem
the serpent and Adam

Mamalujo might even be a sequel to the infantilisation/senilisation of 
Kevin.  The HCE vignette shows how Tristan segues into ROC.  And ALP's 
letter of exoneration balances Berkeley's betrayal of Leary's secrets.

The question I think we must ask, over and over, is "Where in the Wake is 
XXX?" where XXX can be absolutely anything of human interest.  The key to 
understanding Joyce's method lies in the hypothesis that he was trying to 
fit *all* human stories into one unified framework.

And the complementary question: what range of stories was Joyce trying to 
cover in, eg, Chapter Four?  Stories of imprisonment, punishment, battle, 
exchange, and trial?  Does the sequence from Chapter Two thru Chapter Four 
somehow serve as an even transition from HCE to Shem?

Joyce's Ontology of Human Existence

By going thru a concordance of Ulysses, one can find Joyce using the
following nouns, over and over, to make compounds.  I suggest that he
did this deliberately and systematically, as a way of inventorying the
full range of the human experience.


tool: weapon fuel mirror comb razor rope soap toy makeup nail tack
weapon: shield sword rifle bomb cannon
container: crate valise cup bottle bucket dish box envelope sack pocket 
instrument: bell flute lute piano voice drum trumpet
clothes: boots trousers shirt shoe button coat skirt dress knickers stockings
accessories: hat watch stick hanky jewel coin note stamp glove glasses pocket
furniture: bed chair table stove desk drawer lamp candle
vehicle: coffin bicycle horse boat carriage train wagon tram trapeze? 
plants: tree flower rose grass weed [etc]
food: apple biscuit sweets jam honey milk meat lemon potato bread egg tea
  coffee cabbage nut carrot olive orange pea peach salt pepper plum rice
  sandwich sausage soup spices sugar wheat mushroom melon
food tools: spoon knife fork cup plate dish pot pan
intoxicant: whiskey beer wine brandy tobacco cigarette snuff coffee tea
 opium bhang
medicine: pill ointment poison
bodyparts: head hair eye ear brain mouth teeth tongue nose arm wrist hand
  finger blood bone foot toe bottom cunt cock lung chest breast heart
  muscle navel neck stomach shoulder waist wings shell
waste: soot ash dirt dust corpse
bodywaste: shit piss snot vomit menses flatus tear


home grave heaven hell moon sun stars village city farm park beach ocean
  prison river quay street mountain bog [etc] 
building: church pub hospital school library shop outhouse warehouse
  theater concerthall bank pawnshop morgue courtroom parliament brothel [etc]
room: stairs hall roof wall window door fireplace tunnel maze plaster
  chimney bath? [etc]


roles: asleep drunk lusty ill wounded dead ghost angel god pregnant
  baby child student bride mother father widow [etc] 
occupations: priest whore beggar serf servant waiter milkwoman cook maid
  messenger shepherd butcher midwife nurse engineer detective driver
  policeman soldier sentry mayor lawyer moneylender landlord druggist [etc]

activities: party meal game court sleep touch kiss fuck wank test race
  prize circus opera vow dance sing play recite read write talk yell walk
  war weave wedding wash yawn exchange calculate debate tax  [etc]
emotions: terror love [etc]

animals: bear bull cat cow deer dog donkey elephant fish horse monkey
  oxen pig rabbit rat sheep snail spider tiger toad weasel worm [etc] 
birds: canary dove goose hawk hen rooster parrot peacock pigeon raven
  sparrow swan wren

MODALITY: letter book card heresy ink coin note music newspaper paint
  photo play poem printing telegraph telephone television ticket statue
  gravestone wave story secret theory [etc]
symbols: cross alphabet number punctuation name shadow flag [etc]
colors: white black brown grey red orange yellow green blue violet pink
  gold rainbow shadow

?: nature night rain thunder weather wind
stuff: air wood water fire metal fog peat coal gas ice stone powder sand
  shell hide wool mud

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