by James Joyce


Glosses of words in Finnegans Wake


            riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend

            of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to

            Howth Castle and Environs.


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    These glosses are made with the Oxford English Dictionary, Britannica, few sources from the Internet and some autobiographies. This is not a translation of Finnegans Wake in English, neither it is a list of all possible meanings of 'deciphered' words. I had in mind that ''it is surely a lesser ignorance to write a word with every consonant too few than to add all to many''. Also, there is no doubt that much better results are achieved if reader himself 'grasps' a gloss of unknown word (it is something like a little flash in the head), than if he looks for that word in dictionary or, in this case, if he clicks a hyperlink. However, it is not easy to reach state of mind in which Finnegans Wake opens itself; it takes years of almost everyday reading, and many people do not have all the time in the world for something like that. This site can help them to 'speed things up' - at least it will spare them time otherwise spent in delving in various dictionaries and searching for meanings of some rare and obsolete words, phrases and colloquial expressions. In addition, site offers quite a few hints and suggestions of how to see one's way in intricacies and convolutions of, otherwise, crystal clear narrative of Finnegans Wake.
    Nevertheless, reader should draw the line somewhere (as, strictly between ourselves, there  is a limit to all things so this will never do), and try to establish his own link with the text. In order to do that, cyclic reading is indispensable, and that doesn't mean returning on 'unclear' parts, but going on as if everything is perfectly clear. When you finish with the whole book, start again from the beginning (if we assume that the beginning is word 'riverrun').

There are many words which are not deciphered and with these you are on your own.


    A few remarks about word gloss:

    - a word inserted between the lines or in the margin as an explanatory equivalent of a foreign or otherwise difficult word in the text.

    - superficial lustre, a deceptive appearance, fair semblance, plausible pretext.

    - a layer of glowing matter

    Talcott Parsons' idea of glosses: A gloss is a total system of perception and language. For instance, this room is a gloss. We have lumped together a series of isolated perceptions--floor, ceiling, window, lights, rugs, etc.--to make a totality. But we had to be taught to put the world together in this way. A child reconnoiters the world with few preconceptions until he is taught to see things in a way that corresponds to the descriptions everybody agrees on. The world is an agreement. The system of glossing seems to be somewhat like walking. We have to learn to walk, but once we learn we are subject to the syntax of language and the mode of perception it contains... - C.C.



    First three chapters of Book I are available right now and they are free for all:




You can find some more introduction with a preface here


    This page is under construction (now I am working on Chapter 3, Book III). Site will include the whole book, and resolution of glosses will be increased. Also, this is intended to be commercial site, and will be available for sale this summer.

    I am aware of errors in first three chapters. However, I am following the same principle in making these glosses as some ideal reader should follow reading them, i.e. I have to finish the whole book and only then it will be possible for me to start form the beginning and to make some revisions.


27. May 1999.


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