Joyce schooled himself in the basics, learning the tradition, spelling out the letters of style and form, intuiting slowly and in stages the contours of his personal vision. Like Flaubert, he never dealt with the frozen, selective, and secondhand "reality" of camera or journalism, but with experience as handmaid to perception, or directly with the materials of perception. His real preoccupation was with systems of presentation. His development was toward the amplification of the verbal, the creation of autonomous forms in motion; toward the vitalized word in Finnegans Wake, the "collideorscape." To arrive there he was obliged to alter and recombine, but not to destroy, existing expressive codes. This purposeful alteration is one source of our discomfort (and joy) when we are faced with that ultimate text. It is, perhaps, Joyce's major contribution to literature.
"Yes, of course, we all know Anna Livia"; yet Finnegans Wake has for years been an acknowledged but unread masterpiece, the least dog-eared book on every English graduate student's shelf, a cult item conned by footnote hounds and citation grubbers. When, after a decade and a half of teasing pre‐ publication in little mags, Joyce finally published his "Work in Progress" in 1939, the Wake fell seemingly into a black hole. The date itself was symbolic of future function; the end of an era (as was 1914, when he published the Portrait1) marked the beginning of a new one. And the Wake's form, which readers through the years have gradually mastered, calls upon other writers to reshape the very tools of their craft, to say nothing of their means of perception.____________________