In his essay on Bataille, ‘From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism without Reserve,’ Derrida alludes to Bataille’s reference to Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake in his essay, ‘Hegel, Death and Sacrifice’, in which the ‘Welsh Coffin’ is illustrated as the symbol of a communal event that is performed – comically, as with the ‘wake’ in the southern United States – in the face of the tragic ‘event’ of death. As Derrida retells Bataille’s (second-hand) story, the deceased is stood up in his coffin in pride of place amongst his fellows – dressed with a top hat, cigar and suit – and who, contrary to the usual and useful expulsion of the corpse, begin to essentially ‘roast’ the one who had passed – but, is still strangely in attendance. Such a surreal performance is a sublime example of a Dionysian mortality that is shared by each member of the community.
In the following pages, I will explore various threads of philosophical questioning that have emerged in light of this ‘unconscious’ and ‘unstable’ last text of Joyce – in its reception by the exiled surrealist Bataille, and by the post-structuralist Derrida, in his own excursions into Joyce and Bataille. Against the background of cautionary remarks by Habermas, I will argue that Finnegan’s Wake is a disseminal text which, in its a-syntactic operation, is a strategic abuse (abuso) of language (catachresis) with the intention of, in the formulation of Turnheim, an ‘apotheosis of the word’. In the wake of the apotheosis, the text not only reflects the – as with Kristeva’s contemplation of Celine in her magnificent Powers of Horror – necromantic and abject character of existence, but also serves to disrupt the inter-textual universe in which the subversive text erupts – and disseminates its contagion.
For the rest of the essay, please visit The Laughter of Dionysus