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James Joyce Biography

James Joyce was born in Dublin, son of a talented but feckless father who is accurately described by Stephen Dedalus in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. The elder Joyce drifted steadily down the financial and sociale scale, his family moving from house to house, each one less genteel and more shary than the previous. James Joyce’s whole education was Catholic. From a comparatively early age Joyce regarded himself as a rebel against the shabbiness and Philistinism of Dublin.

In his early youth he as very religious, but in his last year at Belvedere he began to reject his Catholic faith in favor a literary mission which he saw as involving rebellion and exile. By 1902, when he received his B. A. degree he was already committed to a career as exile and writer. For Joyce the later implied the former. To preserve his integrity, to avoid involvement in popular sentimentalities and dishonesties, and above all to be able to re- create with both total understanding and total objectivity the Dublin life he knew so well, he felt that he had to go abroad.

Proud, obstinate, absolutely convinced of his genius, given to fits of sudden gaiety and of sudden silence, Joyce was not always an easy person to get on with, yet he never lacked friends and throughout his 36 years at first. Joyce’s almost life-long exile from his native Ireland has something paradoxical about it. No writer has ever been soaked in Dublin, its atmosphere, its history, its topography; in spite of doing most of his writing in Trieste, Zurich and Paris, he wrote only and always about Dublin.

Indeed that was his life’s ork: to write about Dublin in such a way that he was writing about all of human experience. Some of Joyce’s innovations in organization and style have been imitated by other writers, but his books are, and will probably remain, unique in our literature. They are not freaks or historical oddities, but serious and exciting works. His two great works are “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake”, the first of which pushes the novel form to its limits, while the second does the same thing to the English language.

Ulysses” deals with the events of a single day(16th June 1904) in Dublin, concentrating on three main characters-a Jewish advertising canvasser, his singer wife, and a young poet who is a transcription of Joyce himself. We not only see and hear these characters; we are admitted into their inner most thoughts, and these are presented in the jerky “telegraphese” of the “interior monologue”.

Joyce shares with Marcel Proust a passion for the actual, but his preoccupation with form goes much further, reaching-so some of his critics say-the obsessive or maniacal. Ulysses” is a comic re-telling of Homer’s “Odyssey”. Joyce not only initiates a fresh approach to the form but himself realizes its potentialities. He is the pioneer but he is also the past master. All that his successors have been able to do is to chew on fragments crumbled from the gigantic cake. But Joyce has sanctified experiment, as well as brought a bigger-than-Jamesian integrity and dignity to the novelist’s vocation, and present-day writers must always be aware of working in his shadow. Joyce occupies a unique place in the history of modern fiction, and it is a high place.

A bold experimentalist, he wrote with an abashed realism and frankness, and made use of a new form of narrative writing and of a new prose style; besides he created a rather startling and brusque vocabulary. Most conspicuous of his innovations is his use of the so called “stream-of-consciousness” or interior monologue technique, the intention of which is to approximate the operation of the human mind, in a waking or a dreaming state. Critics have spoken of him as a great creative artist and the reader of modern fiction will note his marked influence upon many later writers.

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