Finnegans Wake: Approaching and Appreciating James Joyce's Baffling Masterpiece

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Taught by Richard Exelbert

Richard Exelbert does not have any degrees in English or Literature, and he does not claim to have completely mastered the works of James Joyce.  He has, however, devoted much time to understanding Joyce and why his body of work has created such a unique impact in the world of literature and art in general.  He regularly attends a Finnegans Wake reading group, and has recorded a portion of the book for a musical project based on The Wake featuring musicians from around the world.  He would like to share his insights on this strange, majestic work with you.


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Notoriously called the most difficult novel ever written, thought of as either a colossal joke (or waste of time) or the greatest work of genius ever - James Joyce's Finnegans Wake has fascinated and repelled the literary world since its release in 1939.

In this class we will address ways to access and appreciate a book that no one ever claimed to understand completely (except for its author), but nonetheless can provide a rewarding reading experience like no other literary work.

We will cover an overview of:
-James Joyce's life
-his literary canon and how his works progressed toward Finnegans Wake
-a chapter by chapter journey through the book - replete with photos, illustrations, and recordings to make it go down easier
-different ways of accessing and enjoying Finnegans Wake, including as a:

    - work of music
    - cosmology linking the very specific to the universal
    - still-groundbreaking destroyer and inventor of language and thought
    - impressionist word-painting
    - depiction of dreamy night journey
    - new language experience - creating the sense of being a 2-year old learning language
    - seemingly endless source of album titles and band names

There will also be photos and footage of the actual places in Dublin where The Wake takes place, along with a list of helpful resources and even a look at words and phrases in Finnegans Wake that seemingly refer to the internet-based world we live in today. For example - did you know Joyce uses the word "googling" at one point in his book?

Even if you have little to no experience reading James Joyce, you might find this class fun and informative!

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