Imagining Joyce and Derrida: Between Finnegans Wake and Glas


Imagining Joyce and Derrida: Between Finnegans Wake and Glas (Toronto; Buffalo; London: University of Toronto Press, 2007: 416pp).

Cover copy:

“How is meaning in one text shaped by another? Does intertextuality consist of more than simple references by one text to another? In Imagining Joyce and Derrida, Peter Mahon explores these questions through a comparative study of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and the deconstructive texts of Jacques Derrida.

Mahon’s reading of these works insists on thinking through Derrida’s ‘Hegelian’ manner of understanding Joyce. Using key texts of Vico, Kant, and Heidegger, Mahon develop a theoretical framework to theorize and re-conceptualize the intertextuality between Joyce and Derrida in terms of the imagination. In order to test the flexibility of this imaginative framework, Mahon applies it to a sustained comparison of Finnegans Wake and Derrida’s under-appreciated masterwork, Glas. In so doing, Mahon seeks to reconfigure and expand the intertextual terrain between Joyce and Derrida beyond a simple catalogue of those instances where Derrida cites Joyce.

Engaging and innovative, this erudite study makes an important contribution to literary critical theory.”

Reviews and endorsements:

Imagining Joyce and Derrida is a singularly impressive and faithfully attentive study in how to read Joyce through Derrida, Derrida through Joyce, and, generally, how to be a good reader of both. Peter Mahon offers a scintillating read that is fresh, full of verve and wit, and produces a significant intervention in the field of Joycean studies through a radical revision of the notion of mimesis as rethought in Finnegans Wake. This is a welcome study by an author who is both a scrupulous, rigorous scholar and a lucid and engaging writer.” —Julian Wolfreys, Professor of Modern Literature and Culture, Loughborough University

“Mahon (Univ. of British Columbia) departs from poststructuralist readings of Joyce … by performing a complex pas de deux (menage à trois?) founded in reenvisioning intertextuality. A work more of theory than of criticism, the book argues that the relationships among eidos and mimesis crucial to Western thought and art as brought forth in Hegel, Joyce, and Derrida form a Mobius strip, a site of hypermnesia in which these authors’ texts circle around each other across time and space, redefining the work of the imagination (“immargination”). … Joyce’s breaking down of the opposition between eidos and reality is a new form of reading, and in setting Joyce in dialogue with Derrida (and Derrida’s Hegel), Mahon performs that practice. The contributions of this dense book are two: it models new ways of reading and practicing intertextuality, and it originates a more creative study of Joyce and theory. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.” — J. M. Utell, Widener University, Choice

“Through his careful, almost dogged, tracing of terms and topics in [Finnegans Wake and Glas] as they double each other (and I would say, double each other’s doubling), [Mahon] offers a resistant further doubling. […] Part of the value of Mahon’s study is that it homes in on most basic presuppositions of all, the ones that animate much of Derrida’s work: meaning as presence, the primacy of the imitated over the imitator, the linear simplicity of time. […] I put the book down feeling that it is an achievement easier to admire than to take pleasure in, but I know that my future readings of Derrida and Joyce will be enriched by having grappled with it.” — Derek Attridge, Professor of English, University of York, UK. James Joyce Literary Supplement

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