Synopses & Reviews
Perhaps Joyce's most personal work, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man depicts the intellectual awakening of one of literature's most memorable young heroes, Stephen Dedalus. Through a series of brilliant epiphanies that parallel the development of his own aesthetic consciousness, Joyce evokes Stephen's youth, from his impressionable years as the youngest student at the Clongowed Wood school to the deep religious conflict he experiences at a day school in Dublin, and finally to his college studies where he challenges the conventions of his upbringing and his understanding of faith and intellectual freedom. James Joyce's highly autobiographical novel was first published in the United States in 1916 to immediate acclaim. Ezra Pound accurately predicted that Joyce's book would "remain a permanent part of English literature," while H.G. Wells dubbed it "by far the most important living and convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing." A remarkably rich study of a developing young mind, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man made an indelible mark on literature and confirmed Joyce's reputation as one of the world's greatest and lasting writers.
"An eminent novelist was asked recently by some troublesome newspaper what he thought
of the literature of 1916. He answered publicly and loudly that he had heard of
no literature in 1916; for his own part he had been reading "science." This was
kind neither to our literary nor our scientific activities. It was not intelligent
to make an opposition between literature and science. It is no more legitimate
than an opposition between literature and "classics" or between literature and
history. Good writing about the actualities of the war too has been abundant,
that was only to be expected; it is an ungracious thing in the home critic to
sit at a confused feast and bewail its poverty when he ought to be sorting out
his discoveries. Criticism may analyze, it may appraise and attack, but when it
comes to the mere grumbling of veterans no longer capable of novel perceptions,
away with it! There is indeed small justification..." H.G. Wells, The New Republic, 1916
(read The New Republic's entire review
Joyce's semi-autobiographical chronicle of Stephen Dedalus' passage from university student to "independent" artist is at once a richly detailed, amusing, and moving coming-of-age story, a tour de force of style and technique, and a profound examination of the Irish psyche and society.
About the Author
James Joyce, the twentieth centurys most influential novelist, was born in Dublin on February 2, 1882. The oldest of ten children, he grew up in a family that went from prosperity to penury because of his fathers wastrel behavior. After receiving a rigorous Jesuit education, twenty-year-old Joyce renounced his Catholicism and left Dublin in 1902 to spend most of his life as a writer in exile in Paris, Trieste, Rome, and Zurich. On one trip back to Ireland, he fell in love with the now famous Nora Barnacle on June 16, the day he later chose as “Bloomsday” in his novel Ulysses. Nara was an uneducated Galway girl who became his lifelong companion an the mother of his two children. In debt and drinking heavily, Joyce lived for thirty-six years on the Continent, supporting himself first by teaching jobs, then trough the patronage of Mrs. Harold McCormick (Edith Rockerfeller) and the English feminist and editor Harriet Shaw Weaver. His writings include Chamber music (1907), Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Exiles (1918), Ulysses (1922), Poems Penyeach (1927), Finnegans Wake (1939), and an early draft of A Portrait of a Young Man, Stephan Hero (1944). Ulysses required seven years to complete, and his masterpiece, Finnegans Wake, took seventeen. Both works revolutionized the form, structure, and content of the novel. Joyce died in Zurich in 1941.