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Looking for the Bilder: the Subversion of Ocularcentrism in Finnegans Wake

Roy Benjamin
Journal of Modern Literature
Vol. 38, No. 2 (Winter 2015), pp. 71-85
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/jmodelite.38.2.71
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Page Count: 15
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Looking for the Bilder: the Subversion of Ocularcentrism in Finnegans Wake
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Finnegans Wake is a work that subverts the distancing, dominating, totalizing gaze of the Western Eye. Writers such as David Levin, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Martin Jay provide a philosophical and cultural context from which to analyze Joyce's subversion of what Heidegger calls the age of the world picture. Joyce's lifelong argument with Wyndham Lewis is staged in the Wake in terms of the conflict between the ocular Shaun and the aural Shem. In addition, the theoretical detachment promoted by ocular metaphors is opposed by turning to the other senses and recognizing the blanks and blind spots in seeing itself. The political and philosophical dimensions of the issue are presented in terms of a recovery of being and a subversion of political domination. Ultimately, Joyce does not promote a defeat of the eye and a victory of the other senses, but works to achieve a new point of reconciliation and equilibrium.

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