Introducing James Joyce



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Introducing James Joyce

  • 1882-1941
  • three eras: Victorian, Early Modern, Late Modern
  • Irish Catholic ~ High Modernist ~ European Exile

Irish Catholic

  • An oppressed people (British colony)
  • Agitation of late 1800’s
  • Parnell and Home Rule
  • Betrayal and disappointment

Early Years

  • Born into new Catholic middle class
  • Family’s decline
  • Jesuit education
  • Education in the City of Dublin
  • Vocation: from Priest to Poet

Love and Exile

  • Experiences Paris (1902-03)
  • Death of Mother (1903)
  • Meets Nora Barnacle (June 1904)
  • Leaves Ireland (October 1904)
  • The Continent: Trieste, Rome, Zurich, Paris

Dubliners (1914)

  • 15 stories, written 1903-4 (12), 1906 (2) and 1907 (“The Dead”)
  • “My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the center of paralysis.”
  • “I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin, I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”

Joyce on Dubliners

  • “I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order.”
  • “I have written it for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness.”
  • “What’s the matter with you is that you’re afraid to live. You and people like you. This city is suffering from hemiplegia [paralysis] of the will.”

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

  • Highly autobiographical (but beware!)
  • A declaration of artistic independence
  • Highly modernist: stream-of-consciousness, confluence of naturalism and symbolism
  • Long composition: essay (“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” ~ 1904), early novel (Stephen Hero ~ 1904-06), finished novel (1907-08, 1914)

Importance of A Portrait

  • THE Modernist bildungsroman (novel of education) and kunstlerroman (novel of the making of an artist)
  • Liberating style and themes
  • The anguish and exhilaration of gaining power over language
  • Develops through style as much as through plot

Joyce and Modernism

  • The Experience of World War I (1914-1918)
  • Pound’s dictum: “Make it new”
  • The Great Questioners: Marx, Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud
  • An era of Revolution
  • Fragmentation
  • Order: myth, art

Ulysses (1922)

  • The great modernist epic
  • Mythic method: the past and the present
  • Extends Joyce’s experiments with style to the extreme: style becomes the plot
  • “With me, the thought is always simple”
  • “I have discovered that I can do anything with language I want”

Finnegans Wake (1939)

  • Composed from 1922 to 1939
  • “Work in Progress” (only Nora knew the title)
  • An unclassifiable work: Dream? Scripture? Joke? Philosophy of language? Myth?
  • The Dream of Everyman and Everywoman, in Everylanguage

Death of Joyce

  • A war refugee: fled Paris, arrived in Switzerland
  • Illness of daughter Lucia
  • Despondent over reception of Finnegans Wake
  • Died on 13 January, 1941, 3 weeks after reaching Switzerland

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