the interpretation of "Dead! says Alf. He is no more dead than you are. (U388)"


Please have a look at this:

Alf’s response that Dignam ‘is no more dead than’ Joe is a metafictional wink in that it is correct: Dignam the fictional construct is as alive or as dead as any other fictional construct. (T. Conley, Joyces Mistakes. p.130)

Rhetorically speaking, Alf should be just saying, "He is not dead (just as you are not dead)." But this reading is not consistent with Conley's explanation.

If the attention is instead on its literal meaning, it should be "The degree of his being dead does not exceed the degree of your being dead, " or to be more exact, "There is no difference in the degree of being dead between him and you."

Then it should make sense if we say, "Dignam the fictional construct is as dead as Joe the fictional construct." But what about the part "as alive as"?

Conley seems to be suggesting that death is part of life. Then just as the idea of "as short as" (as in the marked question: How short is that bridge?") is part of the idea of "as long as" (as in the unmarked question: How long is that bridge?), you could say the expression of "as dead as" is nothing more than the marked version of that of "as alive as."

Do you think this is what Conley is saying?

Thank you in advance

Seiichi MYOGA

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This is for your reference (which you might well know already):


This anecdote occurs in Swift’s Polite Conversation, first conversation, when Col. Atwit says, “But is it certain that Sir John Blunderbuz is dead at last?” and Lord Sparkish replies, “Yes, or else he’s sadly wrong’d; for they have bury’d him” (p.74). Ellmann records Joyce’s father using this same joke (JJ, p.44)

(W. Thornton, Allusions In Ulysses. P.267)

My primary interest is in how Coley is interpreting the part "no more dead than," but I'd appreciate it as much if you could explain why it is possible to see Alf's response as a joke.

Seiichi MYOGA