James Joyce
Dubliners - Study Guide
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The Dead

"Greater love than this, he said, no man hath that a man lay down his wife for his friend. Go thou and do likewise. Thus, or words to that effect, saith Zarathustra, sometime regius professor of French letters to the university of Oxtail" (Ulysses)

Joyce, or James Augustine Aloysius Joyce to give him his full and somewhat preposterous moniker, was one of the pioneering figures of modernism. He was born at Rathgar in Dublin to a Catholic family and received a Jesuit education at Clongowes Wood and Belvedere Colleges. Subsequently he studied philosophy and languages at University College, Dublin. The linguistic experimentation hinted at in Ulysses (1922) and fully explored in Finnegans Wake (1939) seems to have derived from this early interest in and talent for language study. His childhood is documented excitingly and with an often-jaded view of Irish upbringing in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914-5) and its draft version Stephen Hero (1944). At this time is seemed likely that he would become a priest (something of the fear and intrigue he felt towards this is clear in the first story of Dubliners (1914)).

However, by 1902, his love for literature, negative feelings about his native country (nationalism was at its fiercest) and distaste for the narrowness of Irish Catholic dogma had drawn him away from Ireland and he had renounced his Catholicism. Nonetheless, in his fiction he portrayed only Ireland and specifically Dublin from the distance provided by continental Europe and there is a consistent religious theme. Joyce lived in Paris during 1902 in a state of poverty which he would seldom leave and after returning for the death of his mother he remained away from Ireland permanently. His partner, Nora Barnacle, accompanied him (they finally married in 1931) and he began to teach in the Berlitz school. His first published work was a respectable first collection of poems, Chamber Music (1907). However, it was his volume of short stories that began a long and difficult relationship with publishing houses and the law. Some of its content, language included, caused difficulties in its publication and it took the better part of a decade for Dubliners to emerge, during which Joyce made his final visit to Ireland in 1912. Yeats had been an early supporter or his work, but now Ezra Pound joined with his enthusiastic review of the stories in "The Egoist".

A less happy period occurred as Joyce attempted to find his footing in the theatre with the play Exiles that was published in 1918 and performed in the same year in Munich to little success. Greater praise by far had followed the publication of A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man in 1916 after it had been serialised between 1914 and 1915 in "The Egoist". This was a largely autobiographical work and one which still has its plaudits. Joyce's finest hour was still to come though. He had gained an award from the Royal Literary Fund in 1915 on the recommendation of Yeats and Pound and further supplemented his meagre income with a grant from the civil list. Though still troubled by poverty and worsening eyesight due to glaucoma he wrote Ulysses, his most famous and substantial work, during these years and it was published in Paris on his fortieth birthday, 2nd February 1922. This incredible feat of diverse literary styles and innovation in the novel form was hailed by his Modernist contemporaries such as T S Eliot as a work of genius. It was not admired by all, however, and Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein were among its critics. It took another fourteen years for the novel to be published in the United Kingdom, by which time he had published a rather less controversial second volume of poetry, Pomes Penyeach (1927).

Joyce's final revolutionary work and most bizarre offering was Finnegans Wake, published in 1939. It portrays a character who, because never fully awake and trapped in a dream world, it not constrained by the limitations of normal consciousness. Written in a lexicon almost entirely its own, it being a sensual and playful mixture and corruption of English and other languages, the novel was and is a stranger and harder read than the (still hardly accessible) Ulysses. Both novels, however, served to change the face of the novel almost totally, and few authors since can claim to be unaware or uninfluenced by them at least in spirit. Joyce pioneered the 'stream-of-consciousness' form, particularly in the last book of Ulysses and in Finnegans Wake as a whole. He died, still in self-imposed exile, in 1941. Characteristically arrogant and amusing was his comment to an interviewer: "The only demand I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works".

ozemail.com Resource site which contains various links and a biographical profile
Guide to JJ Searchable guide to information about James Joyce. Includes a biographical and bibliographic timeline and more
The Zurich James Joyce Foundation Resource and information site on James Joyce

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