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“Paris Profanely Illuminated” explores the “Circe” episode’s relation to 1920s Paris. It situates “Circe” at the origins of the Surrealist movement, showing the influence on the episode of the first Surrealist play, Apollinaire’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias, and the influence of the episode on the first Surrealist novel, Aragon’s Le Paysan de Paris. Tracing the influence of Joyce’s sentient thinking, it reexamines Benjamin’s reception of Surrealism, uncovering the influence of Joyce’s materially embedded reflection on the literary and conceptual experiments of a theorist who struggles with the nature of theory following the collapse of critical distance. The chapter examines Benjamin’s conceptions, in his 1929 essay “Surrealism: Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia” and the Arcades Project, of the profane illumination and the body-image space. It argues for the relevance of the nonrational, sensual modes of engagement Benjamin describes in the Arcades Project for the interpretation of Finnegans Wake.
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