A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake

A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake

Overview
A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944) by mythologist Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 and Henry Morton Robinson
Henry Morton Robinson
Henry Morton Robinson was an American novelist, best known for A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake written with Joseph Campbell and his 1950 novel The Cardinal, which Time magazine reported was "The year's most popular book, fiction or nonfiction."-Biography:Robinson was born in Boston and graduated...

 is a work of literary criticism. One of the first major texts to provide an in-depth analysis of Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake is a novel by Irish author James Joyce, significant for its experimental style and resulting reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language. Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in 1939, two years before the author's...

(James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's final novel), A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake is considered by many scholars to be a seminal work on the text. The term monomyth
Monomyth
Joseph Campbell's term monomyth, also referred to as the hero's journey, is a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world. This widely distributed pattern was described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces...

, which Campbell used to describe his journey of the hero in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell...

, came from Finnegans Wake.

Campbell and Robinson originally began their unlocking of Joyce's masterwork for two reasons: because Finnegans Wake, while widely recognized as a masterpiece, was also widely dismissed as unintelligible--"the greatest book that nobody's ever read"; and because they had recognized in The Skin of Our Teeth
The Skin of Our Teeth
The Skin of Our Teeth is a play by Thornton Wilder which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It opened on October 15, 1942 at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, before moving to the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway on November 18, 1942...

, the popular play by Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder
Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.-Early years:Wilder was born in Madison,...

, an appropriation from Joyce's novel not only of themes but of plot and language.

A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake was originally published by Harcourt Brace in 1944.
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Encyclopedia
A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944) by mythologist Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 and Henry Morton Robinson
Henry Morton Robinson
Henry Morton Robinson was an American novelist, best known for A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake written with Joseph Campbell and his 1950 novel The Cardinal, which Time magazine reported was "The year's most popular book, fiction or nonfiction."-Biography:Robinson was born in Boston and graduated...

 is a work of literary criticism. One of the first major texts to provide an in-depth analysis of Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake is a novel by Irish author James Joyce, significant for its experimental style and resulting reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language. Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in 1939, two years before the author's...

(James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's final novel), A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake is considered by many scholars to be a seminal work on the text. The term monomyth
Monomyth
Joseph Campbell's term monomyth, also referred to as the hero's journey, is a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world. This widely distributed pattern was described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces...

, which Campbell used to describe his journey of the hero in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell...

, came from Finnegans Wake.

Campbell and Robinson originally began their unlocking of Joyce's masterwork for two reasons: because Finnegans Wake, while widely recognized as a masterpiece, was also widely dismissed as unintelligible--"the greatest book that nobody's ever read"; and because they had recognized in The Skin of Our Teeth
The Skin of Our Teeth
The Skin of Our Teeth is a play by Thornton Wilder which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It opened on October 15, 1942 at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, before moving to the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway on November 18, 1942...

, the popular play by Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder
Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.-Early years:Wilder was born in Madison,...

, an appropriation from Joyce's novel not only of themes but of plot and language.

A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake was originally published by Harcourt Brace in 1944. A second edition was published by Viking Press
Viking Press
Viking Press is an American publishing company owned by the Penguin Group, which has owned the company since 1975. It was founded in New York City on March 1, 1925, by Harold K. Guinzburg and George S. Oppenheim...

 in 1968. An unauthorized edition was published by Buccaneer Books in 1993, but was withdrawn when the Joseph Campbell Foundation
Joseph Campbell Foundation
The Joseph Campbell Foundation is a US not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserve, protect and perpetuate the work of influential American mythologist Joseph Campbell...

 complained of copyright infringement
Copyright infringement
Copyright infringement is the unauthorized or prohibited use of works under copyright, infringing the copyright holder's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works.- "Piracy" :...

. A third edition was published in 2005 by New World Library
New World Library
New World Library is a San Francisco Bay Area-based American publisher of books for adults and children. The press focuses on publishing books concerning the mind, the body and the spirit....

 as part of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series; this edition, edited by Joyce scholar Edmund Epstein, featured a new introduction, corrections, and editorial additions to keep this seminal critical work current and useful to Joyce scholars and readers.

Chapters

  • SYNOPSIS AND DEMONSTRATION
    • Synopsis
    • Demonstration
  • BOOK I:THE BOOK OF THE PARENTS
    • Chapter 1: Finnegan's Fall
    • Chapter 2: HCE-His Agnomen and Reputation
    • Chapter 3: HCE-His Trial and Incarceration
    • Chapter 4: HCE-His Demise and Resurrection
    • Chapter 5: The Manifesto of ALP
    • Chapter 6: Riddles-The Personages of the Manifesto
    • Chapter 7: Shem the Penman
    • Chapter 8: The Washers at the Ford
  • BOOK II: THE BOOK OF THE SONS
    • Chapter 1: The Children's Hour
    • Chapter 2: The Study Period-Triv and Quad
    • Chapter 3: Taverny in Feast
    • Chapter 4: Bride-Ship and Gulls
  • BOOK III: THE BOOK OF THE PEOPLE
    • Chapter 1: Shaun before the People
    • Chapter 2: Jaun before St. Bride's
    • Chapter 3: Yawn under Inquest
    • Chapter 4: HCE and ALP-Their Bed of Trial
  • BOOK IV: RECORSO
  • CONCLUSION

External links