Finnegans Wake and readership
The argument of this thesis is that Finnegans Wake is a peculiarly appropriate text for an investigation of the academic discipline of English, and that the issue of readership is the best way to approach the Wake. The thesis, which is organised into three main sections, shows that both Finnegans Wake and the discipline of English Studies are similarly engaged in problems of defining audiences. The opening section shows that the Wake has long been seen as a limit to literature, and as a defining text of literary study. Reception theory proves unable to cope with a study of historical audiences. Finnegans Wake was written over a period roughly concomitant with the rapid professionalisation of English studies and underwent a loss of audiences except for its critical reviewers. The extended third chapter sets out in some detail the growth of English studies, both in itself and more specifically as a context for the name of Joyce in the 1930s and beyond. This also includes analysis of the passage of the Wake in university syllabi. The second section considers post-structuralist claims that the Wake disrupts or subverts the space of the academy. It analyses a wide range of poststructuralist and other reactions to the Wake, and proceeds to a study of inscriptions of readership in the work of Derrida, and explores Derrida's idea of audiences for Joyce. The third section presents two readings of key elements of Finnegans Wake. Analysis of the letters, and of some of Joyce's sources, stresses the important role of the professor figures, which is indicative of the extent to which Joyce's last work was influenced by the professionalisation of literary study. Textual analysis proceeds with the Four, who function as an internal interpretive community. A brief conclusion sums up the argument of the thesis.