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Finnegans Wake seen from the angle of mathematics

Research output: Other contribution

Published
  • C. George Sandulescu
  • Lidia Vianu
  • Ioan-Iovitz Popescu
  • Andrew Wilson
  • Roisin Knight
  • Gabriel Altmann
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Abstract

This text deals with the relationship between literature and mathematics. It is the first of a series of articles that address the structure of the book Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The authors' main aim is to find out whether, in a text of this sort, linguistic laws are strong enough to counteract Joyce's extended idiosyncrasies, whether the usual mathematical models are still valid.

James Joyce began his writing career in 1914, and ended it with the publication of Finnegans Wake in 1939, after he had worked for 17 years on his last book. Joyce was the main representative of 20th Century Experimentalism, in everything he wrote. He began with the use of interior monologue and reached, in Finnegans Wake, the most formidable concentration of it: almost every word in his last book was a simultaneity of private thoughts, associations and suggestions of all kinds. Those words, in their largest majority, did not exist in the English language, or in other languages, for that matter. Joyce himself created them. Contemporary Literature Press has published these "words" in Volumes 999.4—999.9 of the series Joyce Lexicography.

The fact that Joyce ended up creating a language of his own, which, however, could and did address all readers, is a good reason for this attempt at keeping count of those words by means of quantitative methods, which might shed light on a number of things that literary criticism has not seen so far.