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Drawing the wake: how might illustrative drawing contribute a valid alternative reading of Finnegans wake?

Cahill, Clinton Barry (2017) Drawing the wake: how might illustrative drawing contribute a valid alternative reading of Finnegans wake? Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The practical aspect of this research and this supporting commentary are intended to contribute to the understanding of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake by applying a method of reading that incorporates drawing as a means of recording subjective visualimaginative responses to the text. The commentary provides a contextualised account of practical inquiry written from the perspective of a visual practitioner. The practical methodology involved annotated reading and mapping, and systematic observation and recording, through written notes and drawing, of visual impressions provoked in the reader. The primary source for the research was the subjective experience of reading documented in, and through, drawing practice. The project applies a conception of ‘illustrative drawing’ through a method of ‘reading-through-drawing’. Material outcomes and the experience of reading Finnegans Wake are discussed in terms of internal and external proximity to the text, privacy, silence, bodies, space, occupation, exchange, enactment and mimesis. The project is intended to contribute to the critical study of drawing as a means of illustration, to the visualisation of literature and its functions, and the relationship of these to the experience of reading. The illustrative intention of the research is in exposing the immediate effect of Finnegans Wake on the visual imagination in the moment of reading, tracing the manner of its occurrence and making this evident to others. The project demonstrates the integration of drawing into the work of reading a complex literary text. It also demonstrates how the reader’s endurance can be made visible in the accumulated trace of a reading practice that addresses and transforms the text by which it is fascinated and to which it returns. The project is situated within the broad historical and critical context of Wake studies and aligned with readings and illustrative visual responses to the text from outside literary scholarship. Its methodology is informed by phenomenological studies in reading and in drawing, and is applied through a qualitative methodology of reflexive, reflective illustrative drawing practice. It proposes that the body of practice can be viewed conclusively as inconclusive, drawn not in finality but as outcome, to date, of an illustrative drawing practice and pertinent method of inquiry into Finnegans Wake. It makes visible the co-production of contingent meanings by text and reader as an extrusion or extension of the literary work into distributed images.

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