James Joyce and his 'Epiphany'

The First Epiphany
A young lady was standing on the steps of one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis. A young gentleman was leaning on the rusty railings of the area. Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely.

The Young Lady — (drawling discreetly) … O, yes … I was … at the …. cha …pel …
The Young Gentleman — (inaudible) … I … (again inaudibly) … I …
The Young Lady — (softly) … O … but you’re … ve … ry … wick …ed … .

This triviality made him think of collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies. By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments. (Stephen Hero [1st draft manuscript version of A Portrait of the Artist], 1944, pp.187-88.)

Note: Stanislaus Joyce explains the epiphanies as ‘little errors and gestures - mere straws in the mind - by which people betrayed the very things they were most careful to conceal.’ (My Brother's Keeper, NY 1958, p.124; quoted in A. Walton Litz, James Joyce, Boston: Twayne 1966, p.37.)

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The Theory of Epiphany
— You know what Aquinas says: The three things requisite for beauty are, integrity, a wholeness, symmetry, and radiance. Some day I will expend that sentence into a treatise. Consider the performance of your own mind when confronted with any object, hypothetically beautiful. You mind to apprehend the object divides the entire universe into two parts, the object, and the void which is not the object. To apprehend it, you must lift it away from everything else: and then you perceive it as one integral thing, that is a thing. You recognise its integrity. [...]
— That is the first quality of beauty: it is declared in a spimple sudden synthesis of the faculty which apprehends. What then. Analysis then. The mind considered the object in whole and in part, in relation to itself and to other objects, examines the balance of its parts, contemplates the form of the object, traverses every cranny of [189] the structure. So the mind receives the impression of the symmetry of the object. The mind recognises that the object is in the strict sense of the word, a thing, a definitely constituted entity.
— Now for the third quality. For a long time I couldn’t make out what Aquinas meant. He uses a figurative word (a very unusual thing for him) but I have solved it. Claritas is quidditas. After the analysis which discovers the second quality the mind makes the only logically possible synthesis and discovers the third quality. This is the moment which I call epiphany. First we recognise that the object is one integral thing, then we recognise that it is an organised composite structure, a thing in fact: finally, when the relation of the parts is exquisite, when the parts are adjusted to the special point, we recognise that it is that thing which it is. The soul of the commonest object seems to us radiant. The object achieves its epiphany. (Stephen Hero [draft novel], 1944, p.190; see the closely comparable version in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), infra.)

Cf., A Portrait: ‘The synthesis of immediate perception is followed by the analysis of apprehension. Having first felt that it is one thing you feel now that it is a thing. You apprehend it as complex, multiple, divisible, separable, made up of its parts and their sum, harmonious … When you have apprehended that basket as one thing and have then analysed it according to its form and apprehended it as a thing you make the only synthesis which is logically and esthetically permissible. You see that it is that thing whch it is and no other thing.’ [AP241-2]

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The Panepiphanal world (Finnegans Wake, 1939)
all too many much illusiones through photoprismic velamina of hueful panepiphanal world spectacurum of Lord Joss, the of which zoantholitic furniture, from mineral through vegetal to animal, not appear to full up together fallen man than under one photoreflection of the several iridal?] gradationes of solar light, that one which that part of it (furnit of huepanepi world) had shown itself (part of fur of huepanwor) unable to absorbere, wheras for numpa one puraduxed seer in seventh degree of wisdom of Entis-Onton he savvy inside true inwardness of reality, the Ding hvad in idself id est, all objects (of panepiwor) allsides showed themselves in trues coloribus resplendent with sextuple gloria of light actually retained, untisintus, inside them (obs of epiwo) [FW611; itals. mine.]

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