Geometry and topography in James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake

McMorran, Ciaran (2016) Geometry and topography in James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Following the development of non-Euclidean geometries from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, Euclid’s system had come to be re-conceived as a language for describing reality rather than a set of transcendental laws. As Henri Poincaré famously put it, ‘[i]f several geometries are possible, is it certain that our geometry [...] is true?’. By examining Joyce’s linguistic play and conceptual engagement with ground-breaking geometric constructs in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, this thesis explores how his topographical writing of place encapsulates a common crisis between geometric and linguistic modes of representation within the context of modernity. More specifically, it investigates how Joyce presents Euclidean geometry and its topographical applications as languages, rather than ideally objective systems, for describing visual reality; and how, conversely, he employs language figuratively to emulate the systems by which the world is commonly visualised. With reference to his early readings of Giordano Bruno, Henri Poincaré and other critics of the Euclidean tradition, it investigates how Joyce’s obsession with measuring and mapping space throughout his works enters into his more developed reflections on the codification of visual signs in Finnegans Wake. In particular, this thesis sheds new light on Joyce’s developing fascination with the ‘geometry of language’ practised by Bruno, whose massive influence on Joyce is often assumed to exist in Joyce studies yet is rarely explored in any great detail.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Parts of 'Chapter 3' were published in ‘Shut your eyes and see: Verbal Geometry in Joyce’s Ulysses’, Ecloga: Modernist Studies Special Issue (Spring 2014), pp. 5-20.
Keywords: Joyce, Ulysses, Finnegans wake, modernism, modernist literature, Bruno, topography, geometry, non-euclidean, Euclid, mathematics.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Coyle, Dr. John and Creasy, Dr. Matthew
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Mr D. C. McMorran
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7385
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2016 09:56
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2016 08:49

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