Friday, January 29, 2016

Mathematicians Confirm: Finnegans Wake is Fractal

While constructing Finnegans Wake, James Joyce boasted, "I am really one of the greatest engineers, if not the greatest, in the world."

In studying the intricate designs of the Wake, one realizes this statement applies to many different aspects of it. The book is a living machine, cranking out fresh meanings, references, and connections every time you engage with it. It was published nearly 80 years ago yet somehow its material can always apply to the present day.

It was also, as I've written about recently, engineered as a rotating reconstruction of the Earth.

And its entire framework, from the most minor details to the overriding structure, is fractal. Devoted Wake-heads have always been aware of this, but now some physicists and mathematicians examining literature have confirmed the Wake's fractal fabric.

From The Guardian:

The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” said Professor Stanisław Drożdż, another author of the paper, which has just been published in the computer science journal Information Sciences."

fractal (n) - a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.

"find, if you are not literally cooefficient, how minney combinaisies and permutandies can be played on the international surd!" - FW p. 284  


  1. The only aspect of FW they analysed was its sentence-lengths. So all they're saying is Joyce used the richest mix of very long and very short sentences.

  2. Fair enough. Beyond that, you and I both know the content of FW is fractal. Each page (one might even say each word) contains the whole work.