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Portrait of the @rtist

January 31, 2011

Depending on your point of view, James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake is either the writer’s greatest work or a failed experiment. In either case it’s full of puzzles, word-games and mysterious references. One of them crops up again and again on Joyce fan pages: “emailia.” As in the sentence “Speak to us of Emailia.” As with much of this famously untraditional novel, the meaning is hard to parse. It comes in a passage about a postman and most scholars think it’s nothing more than a play on the word mail and the name Amelia, a student of the author’s who he pretty clearly had a thing for. Or maybe he saw something coming?

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