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Joyce and Geometry$
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Ciaran McMorran

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780813066288

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813066288.001.0001

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“Writings of Paraboles”

“Writings of Paraboles”

Geometric Traditionalism and Corporeal Topography in the Wake’s “Night Lessons”

(p.15) 1 “Writings of Paraboles”
Joyce and Geometry

Ciaran McMorran

University Press of Florida

This chapter explores how James Joyce interrogates the traditional procedures through which geometric symbols of "perfection and the divine”—including the concept of the infinitely straight line—are first acquired. By referring to Joyce’s early readings of Euclid’s Elements and other geometric texts including the works of Giordano Bruno, it examines how geometry is presented as a traditional system of ideal objectivities in II.2. More specifically, it demonstrates how the schoolchildren’s senseless application of the Wakean classbook’s instructions, and their attempted measurements of the visible world, reflects Bruno’s and Edmund Husserl’s congruent concerns regarding the practice of geometry as a “tradition emptied of sense.” This chapter also sheds light on Joyce’s application of non-Euclidean concepts by referring to his manuscript drafts for II.2, illustrating how non-Euclidean concepts stemming from the works of Bruno and Henri Poincaré are developed within the context of ALP’s curved bodily and terrestrial forms. More generally, this chapter illustrates how Joyce disrupts the univocity of Euclidean symbols by referring to non-Euclidean alternatives, questioning the absolute rectitude (i.e., correctness) of Euclidean geometry. In doing so, it argues, Joyce responds to a history of uncertainty regarding Euclid’s parallel postulate which began over two thousand years ago.

Keywords:   II.2, Finnegans Wake, Giordano Bruno, Euclid, Edmund Husserl, James Joyce, non-Euclidean, parallel postulate, Henri Poincaré

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