Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James Olney


The complex of rites, rituals, and mythic reenactments known in Irish mythology as the Rites of Tara provides an interpretive model for James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Using information and theories pertaining to the Rites of Tara obtained from sources used by James Joyce, a comparison of the Rites of Tara with Finnegans Wake reveals important correlates related to chronology, characters, architectonics, themes, and defining characteristics. The three separate chronological events presented by Wakean scholars as possible dates for the events in the Wake---Easter, an unnamed pagan festival, and the Vernal Equinox---converged on a single day at the Rites of Tara. The model of the Rites of Tara can thus resolve the controversy over the date and occasion of Finnegans Wake. The dramatis personae of Finnegans Wake---the Sigla Group---are nearly identical in names, number, and functions to the ritual functionaries conducting the Rites of Tara. The larger structure of Finnegans Wake---the Viconian cycle of Religion, Marriage, Wake and Ricorso---correlates with the major events of the Rites of Tara, which cluster around the same four Viconian components. The individual episodes in Finnegans Wake have their analogues in the distinctive rites, rituals, and performances that collectively constitute the Rites of Tara. The great themes of Finnegans Wake---the Celtic Triangle, the superannuation of the father, the manifestation of antinomial forces as a cosmic pattern of existence, cyclical renewal as a property of both the human soul and the seasons---are identical to the religious principles expressed through the Rites of Tara. The three most distinctive characteristics of Finnegans Wake---its origin in the dream of "Old Finn," its microcosmic qualities, and most significantly, its language---all have their important analogues in the Rites of Tara. Collectively, these parallels between the Rites of Tara and Finnegans Wake indicate a deliberate and comprehensive mythic structure underlying Finnegans Wake based closely on the paradigms of the pre-Christian religion of Ireland. Current assessments of Finnegans Wake have identified no underlying structure to Finnegans Wake. The critical interpretations of Finnegans Wake are, at present, built in large part upon this current assessment. The interpretive model provided by the Rites of Tara, however, strongly reinforces James Joyce's own assessment of Finnegans Wake as the sacred canon of a new (or renewed) religion.