The Infinitude of Finnegans Wake

Finnegans Wake is a book about anything and everything. Of course, the phrase “anything and everything” is usually used hyperbolically. However, I mean it quite literally. Whereas most literary works are only about some things, the Wake is about anything and everything: its world is absolutely unbounded, and this unboundedness is one of its central preoccupations. In the book, Joyce took up a cosmic impulse characteristic of great religious texts and metaphysical treatises, and found a way to give it distinctive literary expression.


Spinoza’s dual perversity

Spinozian religion inhabits a strange space somewhere between secular atheism and traditional Abrahamic religion. For this reason, it can seem equally perverse to people in both camps—and despite all their differences from each other, for similar reasons. That is, in the religious life that Spinoza proposes, we take joy in our finitude: in the fact that we’re inescapably dependent on and vulnerable to a world that is utterly indifferent to us. For many secular and religious persons alike, though, our finitude is anything but a cause for joy, let alone joy of any religious sort.


A Spinozian Job: On Stephen Mitchell’s Translation

God speaks from the whirlwind, by Walter Russell.
Reposted from

I used to think of the book of Job with the utmost contempt. You know, it’s that bit of the Bible where God torments poor Job to win a bet, and then bullies him into being damn well thankful for the favor. As for many people who’ve rejected Christianity, for me the book seemed to embody the worst aspects of religion. It seemed, that is, to be propaganda encouraging us to embrace our own domination and degradation—pawns to be manipulated by a cosmic thug, as well as by anyone who can dupe us into thinking that they wield his authority.

This was before my friend Howie Wettstein introduced me to Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the book. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite works of literature. This isn’t, however, because I’ve embraced Christianity or Judaism, or because I love it on its aesthetic merits alone. Rather, I see it as a text with deep religious significance, but of an unusual, Spinozian sort.

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