Literature and Cognition: Edgework and Epiphanies in James Joyces’s Finnegans Wake


Epiphanies can be considered isolation processes which allow the main characters to explore new dimensions, occasionally awaking their desire to change their condition. Thus, metaphorically speaking, they can be considered as a bridge between the inner selves and the external world, often provoking a reciprocal change. Such phenomenon of isolation is strictly bound to edgework, which aims at “identifying the boundaries of deictic fields” (Stockwell 2005:49). Analyzing James Joyce's Finnegans Wake from a cognitive perspective presents a challenge due to the array of languages, linguistic strategies, and overlapping deictic fields. Therefore, this paper will only concentrate on epiphanies, the “special, sudden illumination[s]” (Beja 1971:75), which characterize Joyce’s writing. By employing the Possible World Theory and the Deictic Shift Theory, the present essay firstly explores how epiphanies influence the cognitive states and choices of characters and, then, focuses on the edges between worlds and their impact on the reader. More specifically, it aims to demonstrate that such edges serve as pivotal moments triggering sudden metamorphoses for both characters and readers.

Author Information
Emma Pasquali, University of Naples L'Orientale, Italy

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2023
Stream: Literature

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon