A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake

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A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake
Cover of the first edition
AuthorsJoseph Campbell
Henry Morton Robinson
CountryUnited States
Publisher1st edition: Harcourt Brace
2nd: Viking Press
3rd: New World Library
Publication date
1st ed. 1944
2nd ed. 1968
3rd ed. 2005
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
ISBN9781577314059 (3rd ed.)
823/.912 22
LC ClassPR6019.O9 F57 2005

A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake is a 1944 work of literary criticism by mythologist Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson. The work gives both a general critical overview of Finnegans Wake and a detailed exegetical outline of the text.[1]

According to Campbell and Robinson, Finnegans Wake is best interpreted in light of Giambattista Vico's philosophy, which holds that history proceeds in cycles and fails to achieve meaningful progress over time.[2]

Campbell and Robinson began their analysis of Joyce's work because they had recognized in The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), the popular play by Thornton Wilder, an appropriation from Joyce's novel not only of themes but of plot and language as well.[citation needed] They published a pair of reviews-cum-denunciations of Skin of Our Teeth, both entitled "The Skin of Whose Teeth?" in The Saturday Review.[3]


  1. ^ Prescott, Joseph (February 1945). "Review of A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake". Modern Language Notes. 60 (2): 137–138. doi:10.2307/2910513. JSTOR 2910513.
  2. ^ Burgum 1945, p. 135.
  3. ^ For the texts of these articles, see Joseph Campbell (2004). Mythic Worlds, Modern Words. New World Library. pp. 257–266. For Campbell's story of the "Skin of Our Teeth Affair" and how it led to the publication of A Skeleton Key, see Joseph Campbell (2005). Pathways to Bliss. New World Library. pp. 121–123.


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