Avante-Text and Magical Realism: Mapping Icons and Identities in Literature

Thursday, March 9, 11:30AM – 12:30PM, CS 101

Erin Bragg, Honours Student (English), Cape Breton University

““Good Morning. My Name is Jesus”: Humour, Religion, and Magic Realism in Gloria Sawai’s “The Day I Sat with Jesus on the Sundeck and a Wind Came Up and Blew My Kimono Open and He Saw My Breasts”  (Supervisor: Dr. M. Silverberg)

In this paper, I argue that by presenting Jesus as a wholly human figure and juxtaposing his normalcy with the narrator’s preconceived notions of “the great Lord and King, Alpha and Omega,” Gloria Sawai offers readers a much more genuinely spiritual portrait of Christ than other Canadian authors’ more overtly devotional writings. Previous representations of Christian spirituality have historically lacked the earthy humour which grounds Gloria Sawai’s incarnation of Jesus in a realm of magical realism, rendering Sawai’s story one of the more authentically relatable and accessibly human accounts of spiritual encounter that have been depicted throughout Canadian religious literature.

Donald Calabrese, PhD Candidate, Western University

“Many names at disjointed times”: (Un)naming in the Finnegans Wake Avant-Texte

In Names and Naming in Joyce, Claire Culleton suggests that names are “a form of shorthand, turning a name, an onomastic morpheme, into the ultimate metaphor of character” (112). Culleton argues that Joyce’s names provide a fundamental component of characters’ identities influencing everything from temperament to physiognomy. While Culleton gives an intriguing assessment of Joycean naming, I argue that her rationale ought to delve into the Finnegans Wake avant-texte. As is well documented, Joyce sometimes began writing scenes in early drafts (and elsewhere) with a name that becomes enlarged, distorted and ultimately buried in revisions. The ensuing drafts often see these names change again and again while the dialogue and context remains intact. I propose that these shifting names trouble an already tenuous relationship between names and identities in the printed text. Rather than representing “the ultimate metaphor of character,” names in Finnegans Wake operate, as Gottlob Frege and Saul Kripke suggest, as mere disguises of descriptions; disguises that are themselves empty of meaning. For example, how do we understand the opening gambit of II.iv, “MAMALUJO,” upon reading in the draft that Matt, Marcus, Luke and Johnny began as entirely other names? How do ostensibly complete identities in the avant-texte oscillate with the printed text? I argue that this unhinging of names from characters in the avant-texte disrupts their identity in the printed text.