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‘“Averred with Solemn Emotion’s Fire”: The Affective Contours of Finnegans Wake’ by Dr. Frances McCormack, NUIG

December 2, 2019 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


December 2, 2019
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Seminar Room G010, Hardiman Research Building


Tiana Fischer

Modernist Studies Ireland

Works in Progress 

 To see out this semester’s series of Works in Progress talks, please join us for a fascinating Christmas talk (avec gingerbread & wine) by NUI Galway’s own Frances McCormack. Frances’s paper will shine a light on one of the most critically neglected universals underpinning Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: emotional expression.



The emotional turn in literature has much to contribute to Wakean scholarship. Joyce himself creates a rich tableau of affect in the work, depicting human feeling as not only a catalyst for much of the action—both historic and domestic—in the text, but also reiterating its truth value as lying beyond mere human experience. This paper will examine some of the ways in which emotions scholarship can elucidate the Wake, analysing conceptual metaphors and somatovisceral experiences of emotions. It will explore the ways in which the Wake both invites and resists such readings, explain which emotions dominate the text, and explain how that ought to shape our reading of the work as a whole. Concern with the affective contours of the Wake can help to shed light on some of the seemingly more inscrutable passages of the text, providing a point of entry for the reader through experiences that are depicted as ubiquitous. Emotion scholarship therefore functions as a way of mediating—in its negotiation of both sense and sensed—between audience and text.


Dr Frances McCormack is a lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland, Galway. A medievalist by training, she has published on Old and Middle English literature, Graham Greene, and literary animal studies. She is currently engaged in explorations of emotions in Old English poetry, and is working on a monograph on the nature of compunction in Old English. Her first monograph, Chaucer and the Culture of Dissent, was published in 2007. She was co-editor of Chaucer’s Poetry: Words, Authority, and Ethics, and of Anglo-Saxon Emotions: Reading the Heart in Old English Language, Literature, and Culture. She is a multi-award-winning teacher, and became obsessed with the Wake eight years before she tried to read it.