James Joyce (1882-1941)
In the first phase of his activity Joyce follows the rules of traditional techniques, sequences of time, use of common speech, richness of detail. The cute analysis of the character is often enlightened by the so-called "epiphany" , or sudden revelation , a moment of insight into the inner truth of our actions. In his second phase Joyce turns to experimentation , rejecting time sequence, logical syntax, common punctuation, using the form of the "interior monologue", by which he reveals hidden thoughts, inner feelings, lost memories of his character.
Joyce was an Irishman, like so many other major figures in "English " literature (Swift, Burke, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Shaw, Wilde, Yeats, Beckett and lots more), he was born in Dublin in 1882, into a middle class Irish Catholic family.
In 1888 the young James was sent to a boarding school at Clongowes Wood College, a Catholic institution run by the Jesuit order: the Jesuits were responsible for all Joyce's education, even at university. He always retained the disciplined intelligence and intellectual subtlety he had learnt from them, long after he had abandoned their doctrines.
His schooldays provide much of the material for the early chapters of his autobiographical novel, A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. An important influence in his childhood was that of Irish nationalist politics. Joyce's father was a passionate supporter of Charles Parnell, the protestant leader of the Irish Home Rule movement which was fighting gor independence from Britain in the 1880s and 1890s.
After Parnell's death in 1891, Joyce adopted an attitude of disillusioned detachment towards Irish political extremism, as well as to the nationalist movement in literature. In 1890s he came under the influence of Ibsen, then regarded as a highly immoral and dangerous writer. In 1898 Joyce entered university college, where he studyed modern languages. In 1902 and 1903, having taken his degree , he went to Paris , where he met various literary figures.
In 1903 he returned to Ireland, living very precariously, drinking too much, and spending most of his time in dissolute idleness. In 1904 he met Nora Barnacle, the woman who was to be his lifelong companion. She was a simple country girl who had come to Dublin, partly to escape from her father, who (like Joyce's) was a heavy drinker and kept his family poor. Despite the immense differences in their education, their relationship was unusually happy and enduring. In the same year the couple left Ireland for voluntary exile on the Continent . They first settled in Pula, on the Is train peninsula (present day Croatia); they then moved to Trieste, at the time still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Here Joyce stayed untill 1915, teaching English and working on his early books, Dubliners (a collection of short stories) and A portrait of the Artist as Young Man. His pupils included Ettore Schmitz (italo svevo) at that time an unknown author whose two early novels (Una vita and Senilità) had been ignored by the critics.
Finally, in 1914, Dubliners was published. It was not very successful in commercial terms, but it attracted the intrest of the more intelligent critics, notably Ezra Pound, who eventually became Joyce's most helpfull friend and critic. In the same year he began serial publication of his novel, A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in the periodical "The Egoist".
With the outbreak of war, joyce took his family to Zurich where he worked on his new novel, Ulysses, which was to take him seven years to write. In 1920 he moved to Paris , and there Ulysses was finally completed in 1921. Paris after the Great war was the intellectual capital of Europe, with painters like Picasso and Braque, and a colony of expatriate American intellectuals which included Pound, Hamingway and Gertrude Stein. Joyce was now one of the most distinguished writers in Paris, at last able to provide for the needs of his family and devote himself to his art without the pressing financial problems that had always beset him. In the stimulating intellectual atmosphere of Paris, James Joyce felt able to push his technical experimentation to the limit in his last work, Finnegans Wake, which occupied him from 1923 to 1939. Predictably enough, the immediate critical reaction to this work was bewilderment, a feeling that most readers still share. With the outbreak of war in 1939, Joyce returned to Zurich, where he died in 1941.