illustrating finnegans wake


These images illustrate the process I am using which makes notational drawing an integral part the reading act. I have included the first image, of the Penguin Classic’s 2000 paperback edition, because the book as physical object is an important aspect of my experience of reading the text and also because in directly annotating (marking/remarking) the pages as I read this particular copy of the mass produced object gradually becomes my own, I occupy the text through successive act of reading and leave traces of this on the thing itself. I tend to notate what occurs to me at the point of reading, whether obvious or not. I notate as I read, then in a separate sketchbook, on a double page spread per page of the Wake, I synthesize written notations and proceed to making rapid drawn notations of the mental impressions provoked by the text, with the edition open in front of me.  In this pivotal part of the adaptation process I’m trying to concentrate and record the movement from word ideas to picture ideas.  Due to the rapid and immersive nature of this technique I am not fully aware of the qualities of the output as I am doing it - as I am ‘inside’ the text as it were.  An interesting and compulsive aspect of this way of working is the emergence from the text to view the nuances of the drawn notation from 'outside’ the text. I use a small digital camera to peruse the drawn pages, isolating and reviewing details in what I consider to be a re-reading of the text visual re-authoring of it.  Some of these pages are developed into more considered or rehearsed images using different media such as ink or charcoal.  Though it is an archaic medium I consider to be particularly suitable to the process because of its sensitivity, subtlety and immediate responsiveness.  It faithfully emulates the ever contingent nature of reading Wakean text and facilitates the rapid changes of emphasis and direction required.  I find ink not only appropriate due to its affinity with both writing and reading but also because, with certain types of ink, I can 'undraw’ with bleach and move towards a description of the the mental impression as the kind experience of interior synoptic fluorescence suggested by John Bishop in his 'Joyces’s Book of the Dark’.  The examples here are from my reading and visual responses to FWp.78 in this Penguin edition.

All images, except book edition, copyright of clinton cahill.  If you would like to use any of my images for academic purposes please contact me by email: 


These images, made in a variety of media, are some of my early attempts at making visual responses to the Wake.  They are principally impressions that lingered after direct readings from the text or evoked by interpretive descriptions given by others.  Either way they are made ‘outside’ the text and differ from the mental image notations, and their visual developments, I am trying to get at through my current drawing-as-reading practice. 


These images are selected from quite a large number of monoprints I did provoked by the notion of Sean the Post walking backwards through the night. As with all of my earlier work on the Wake they are done ‘outside’ the text i.e. based on remembered summary interpretations rather than notations made whilst reading. In doing them I began to consider the counter-intuitive nature of communication, how it always runs in reverse, starting with the reception of the message. Some of them in turn became studies for a small scroll piece call 'Nightpost’.

All images copyright clinton cahill.  If you would like to use any of my images for academic purposes please contact me by email: