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James Joyce

James Joyce (1882-1941) was an Irish writer and poet, and is widely considered one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. He was born into a well-off Catholic family in Dublin which suffered numerous setbacks and slid into poverty. He studied literature at University College Dublin, where he rejected Catholicism. He was born James Augustine Aloysius Joyce in Dublin, Ireland on February 2, 1882 and died in Zurich, Switzerland on January 13, 1941.

Joyce made his first visit to Paris in 1902 to be part of the growing artist movement in Montparnasse and Montmartre at the time. He left the city in 1904 to return to Ireland as his mother was dying. He met Norah Barnacle, a chambermaid, on June 16th of the same year and later the pair went into "exile" (his only play was titled Exiles) to spend the rest of his life on the Continent. He returned to Paris in 1920 and, apart from two visits to Ireland, would remain there for the next twenty years until just before his death in 1941.

His Irish experiences are essential to his writings, and provide all of the settings for his fiction and much of their subject matter. The early volume of short stories, Dubliners[?], is a penetrating analysis of the stagnation and paralysis of Dublin society. The stories are epiphanies, a word used particularly by Joyce, by which he meant a sudden consciousness of the "soul" of a thing.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man[?], largely autobiographical, shows the process of attaining maturity and self-consciousness by a young gifted man. The main character is Stephen Dedalus, Joyce's representation of himself. In this novel some glimpses of Joyce's later techniques are evident, in the use of interior monologue and in the concern with the psychic rather than external reality.

In Ulysses, Joyce employs stream of consciousness, parody, jokes, and virtually every other literary technique to present his characters. The action of the novel, which takes place in a single day, June 16, 1904, sets the ancient myth of Ulysses, Penelope and Telemachus in modern Dublin and represents them in the characters of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, parodically contrasted with their lofty models. The book explores various areas of Dublin life, dwelling on its squalor and monotony.

Joyce's method of stream of consciousness, literary allusions and free dream associations was pushed to the limit in Finnegans Wake, which abandoned all conventions of plot and character construction, and is written in a peculiar and obscure language, based mainly on complex multi-level puns. (His approach here is similar to, but far more extensive than, that used by Lewis Carroll in "Jabberwocky".)

This series of works makes up a volume of short stories and three novels, all three of which would be named as part of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by the editorial board of the American Modern Library. In their selection, the board chose Ulysses as #1 book of the century and his other two novels as #3 and #77.

He also wrote a play and two collections of poetry:

Joyce's work has been subject to intense scrutiny by scholars of all types, and he is one of the most noted writers of the twentieth century. Finnegans Wake is the source of the physicist's word "quark," the name of one of the main kinds of elementary particles. The French philosopher of Jacques Derrida has written a book on the use of language in Ulyssess, and the American philsopher Donald Davidson has written similarlyon Finnegans Wake in comparison with Lewis Carroll. Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges' work draws often on Joyce as well.

James Joyce died on January 13, 1941 at Zurich, Switzerland and is buried in the Fluntern Cemetery, in Zurich with his wife, Nora.

The life of Joyce is celebrated annually on June 16, Bloomsday, in Dublin and in an increasing number of cities worldwide.

Table of contents

Quotations from Joyce

  • "Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end." Stephen Dedalus, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, from Creative Quotations from James Joyce (http://www.creativequotations.com/one/617.htm)
  • "They lived and laughed and loved and left." Finnegans Wake
  • The end of Molly Bloom's Soliloquy, the last words in Ulysses (and perhaps the best-known):
"yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Quotations About Joyce

  • "James Joyce -- an essentially private man who wished his total indifference to public notice to be universally recognized." -- Tom Stoppard

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External Links

e-texts of some of James Joyce's works:



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