"The abnihilisation of the etym": Finnegans Wake's Entanglement in Quantum Ideality

No Thumbnail Available



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Department of English, NTNU


In 1996, Alan Sokal's (in)famous hoax impugned the credibility of social constructionism. He deceived Social Text into publishing his paper, a disjointed collage of continental philosophy and theoretical physics. Sokal's calculated choice of quantum gravity is an attack on contemporary philosophers' and literary critics' tendencies to see quantum physics as the scientific support for a new idealism. James Joyce's Finnegans Wake was embroiled in Sokal's hoax: on the one hand, the sneak attack Sokal waged against the humanities is evocative of Joyce's parody of the culture war between "Bitchson" and "Winestain" (Joyce 149.17-28); on the other hand, among Sokal's targets of ridicule are two articles on James Joyce and quantum physics. In retrospect, this paper proposes to re-read Finnegans Wake through the lens of quantum physics and re-evaluate the legitimacy of injecting idealism into the contemporary scientific theory of matter. This paper will trace the conceptual development of modern physics on the basis of Tim Maudlin's and John Polkinghorne's rigorous expositions, expose the epistemological and ontological crises of quantum theory, investigate the philosophical interpretations of subatomic ideality proposed by Elizabeth Grosz and Slavoj Žižek, and finally analyze how James Joyce has meticulously incorporated "quantum theory" and the "most tantumising state of affairs" into the mindscape of Finnegans Wake (149.35- 36).