•  
  •  
 

Abstract

By applying James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake to Kenneth Burke’s dramatic pentad, I argue that Joyce’s lexical ambiguities, while intentionally caustic, succeed in strengthening rather than discarding typical dramatic structures. Renowned for its perplexities, the Wake revels in its flexible allusions and word play. These “puns and reedles,” as Joyce calls them, serve to distort what readers would generally classify as elements of narrative form, summed up succinctly by Burke’s dramatic pentad: act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose. Nevertheless, I attempt to prove that Joyce’s work emerges rhetorically sound through his authorial motives, motives which expand the terms of Burke’s pentad beyond their supposed boundaries.