According to Max Ernst, when one brings ‘distant realities together on an apparently antipathetic plane (that which in simple language is called “collage”) an exchange of energy transpires, provoked by this very meeting’ (Ernst 1948: 19). In this conjunctive spirit I interpret aspects of the Neolithic of Atlantic Europe (c5000-c2000 BC) through the lens of a novel, Finnegans Wake (Joyce 1939), written by an author described as the foremost modern exponent of the ancient textual mode of Midrash (Levitt 1992: 58), James Joyce. In turn I interpret his novel, dialectically, through this archaeological optic, complying with Theodor W. Adorno’s injunction to ‘treat profane texts like holy scripture’ (Jopp and Martins 2018: 681).(1) However, ostensible immersion in this dialectic of open scriptural interpretation of archaeology and Joyce’s ‘book of Dumlat’ (FW 30.10),(2) his Talmud in reverse, is in actuality the occasion to reflect on the ‘theological moment’ in the thought of Adorno and Walter Benjamin, a moment intermittently punctuating Finnegans Wake. Appearing to refract a dialectic of ‘revelatory regulation’ (Raviv 2008: 168) whereby the greater the ‘inward concealment’ of concealed truths ‘the greater their outward revelation’ (Moses Cordovero, Sefer Gerushin, entry 52, p. 62, quoted in ibid.), what Adorno called ‘the coded character of our theology’ in which ‘our concepts are hidden’ (quoted in Naishtat 2019: 47-48) is ‘all the more destructive for being hidden’ (Benjamin 1931, quoted in Kaufmann 2001: 151). These cryptotheological traits are what Agata Bielik-Robson identifies as the ‘Marrano characteristics’ (Bielik-Robson 2014a: 191) of a critical enterprise which is cloaked in the language of philosophy, the ‘Greek wisdom’, but is directed against the untruth of ‘the totality of identical definitions’ (Adorno 1973: 144).
- Adorno, writes Sebastian Truskolaski, ‘frequently intimates codes, puzzles and riddles that rely on inversions of different kinds, a tactic that recalls Leonardo Da Vinci’s practice of encrypting sensitive texts by inverting their script using a mirror’ (Truskolaski 2021: 37), a tactic adopted too in Finnegans Wake.
2. Quotations from Finnegans Wake are indicated by the initials FW, followed by page and line number.
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