This essay proposes a distinction between epistemological error and ontological error in order to explore whether it is possible to talk about Finnegans Wake in terms of error at all. Epistemological error is described as deviation against some normative constitution of what is correct, whereas ontological error arises in situations where recourse to a normative (and thus regulatory) standard is ambiguous. After illustrating these concepts with examples from Ulysses, I amplify this definition by reading a passage from Kierkegaard's The Sickness unto Death and then apply it to chapter II.2 of Finnegans Wake.
The first editor of Ulysses was James Joyce. As he was overseeing typescripts and proofs, Joyce had to correct errors and misprisions inflicted upon his text, some of which he had himself made. Of course, this editorial work was (mostly) subsumed within Joyce’s authorial role as he expanded and revised his text towards publication. Indeed, the character of the editorial emendations that Joyce made evolves over the course of Ulysses’s composition, thereby reflecting his own changing conceptions of his book.