Born in Dublin in 1882, James Joyce was educated in a Jesuit school, and in the University College of Dublin. He grew up as a rebel among rebels, but the Irish movements of freeing Ireland from England held little attraction on him: he felt like a European more than an Irishman. His attitude was in contrast with others intellectuals leading the Irish Renaissance by looking back to the Celtic identity to create a national conscience (while Joyce believed that the only way to increase Ireland’s awareness was by offering a realistic portrait of Dublin’s life, from a European and cosmopolitan point of view). He spent some time in Paris, but his mother’s illness brought him back to Dublin. In 1903 he fell in love with Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid: they went to Trieste, where they spent some difficult years, they got married and had two children. Joyce moved from France to Switzerland, where he died in 1941.
• Chamber music (1907) - Containing 36 short poems, also with obscene elements in its prose;
• Portrait of the Artist as a young man (1916) - Helped by Ezra Pound, it’s a semi-autobiographical novel;
• Ulysses (1922) - It brought Joyce an unwelcome notoriety, since it was determined pornographic by the court of the United States (thanks to a judge it was published in Britain in 1934 - In USA in 1936).
Although Joyce went to a voluntary exile aged 22, all his works are set in Ireland, and mostly in Dublin. His achievement was to give a realistic portrait of life of ordinary people doing ordinary things and living ordinary lives. In his writing facts become confused, explored by different points of view simultaneously; he transcends photographic realism, collecting and analysing impressions that an outer event, at a given moment, has caused in the inner world of characters. Time is perceived as subjective, not objective, and it leads to a psychological change. Techniques used: free direct speech, epiphany and interior monologue.
Dubliners - The raw materials for this realistic picture of lower-middle class Dubliners come from effects of religious, economic and cultural forces. Dubliners consists of 15 short stories; there aren’t obvious actions, they make visible human situations, moments of intensity and lead to a moral or spiritual revelation. Joyce’s intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of his country and he chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to him the centre of paralysis. The stories are arranged in order of Childhood, Adolescence, Maturity and Public life. The last novel, The Dead, is Joyce’s masterpiece: it stands out from the other 14s because, however similar in themes, it is denser, more elaborate ad more remarkable: it is the summary, the top of Dubliners. Stories are held together by themes and techniques.
EPIPHANY - Descriptions are realistic and concise, with manydetails. Realism is mixed with symbolism (external details have deeper meanings). Joyce wanted to take the reader beyond usual aspects of life by using the technique of “epiphany”: this is a revelation, a sudden spiritual manifestation caused by an external object or situation that leads the character to realize about himself or things around him.
PARALYSIS - Dubliners accept their conditions because they’re spiritually weak people, they haven’t courage. Centre of these stories is the effect of paralysis: climax is reached when people are self-realised and got awareness. The “escape” is the opposite - it is a failure, deriving from a sense of enclosure, exile.
Omniscient narrator and single point of view are rejected: stories are told by the perspective of the characters. Narrated monologue is used in the form of free direct speech or free direct thought.
Eveline - Story of a 19-year-old girl from Dublin. She looks at people outside through the window, while a smell of dust fills the room and yellowed portraits watches her. She thinks about her life: her mother, died crazy some year before and her brother Ernest, died as well. She is also terrified by her dad and frustrated by her job. She plans to leave for Buenos Aires with a sailor named Frank, but when the ship is about to leave, she stops and she remains in Dublin, with a big interior pain. After a short description of the setting, Joyce focuses on the protagonist, Eveline, who starts reminding her past (psychological time, opposed to chronological time). Through the memory it comes out the gap between past and present: she would like to leave, but she can’t break the promise made to her mother (not to leave Dublin). Action is reduced to the minimum, to give space to interior thoughts and memories of Eveline.
She was fast asleep (The Dead) - The protagonist are Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta - Gabriel, teacher and reviewer, should be the embodiment of Joyce if he had not left Dublin, a city paralysed by traditions, with an obsolete culture; Gretta should be Nora, Joyce’s wife. The story opens with a Christmas Party given by Julia and Kate Morkan, Gabriel’s aunts. Between eating, drinking and merry-makings, Gabriel meets several people, among whom the nationalistic and irritating Miss. Ivors, who accuses him to be a “West Briton”: this makes Gabriel unsure of himself, and from then on the evening would be a disaster for him. Towards the end of the night, Gretta hears a song, The Lass of Augrim, which reminds her of a young man, Michael Furey, who died for her love at age 17. After the party, they come back to their hotel room, but while Gabriel is taken by physical passion, Gretta is far away, still thinking about that song and the young boy. She falls asleep and Gabriel feels defeated, as if all his plans had fallen down - he reaches his failure. He considers that it would be better to die soon in passion than slowly by time.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - “A” because it is one of the possible interpretations of a subject (the mind of the protagonist). The novel is the semi-autobiographical story of Stephen Dedalus, a young Irish writer, Joyce’s fictional double. It is set in Dublin and follows Stephen’s life from childhood through adolescence to manhood. Like Joyce, he is the son of a poor father and a Catholic mother, and he attends the same schools of the author. As he grows up through conflicts in family, he begins to rebel against his family, religion and nation. To establish himself and find his artist identity, he seek voluntary exile in Paris. Stephen is a hero, a martyr to art, and like the mythological character Dedalus, he has to escape from the social, political labyrinth of Dublin to reach the neutrality in art. He undergoes some transformations: from shy little boy to a bright student, from innocence to corruption, from sinner to Catholic, from fanatical religiousness to devotion to art and beauty. Stream of consciousness is employed in this novel.
Ulysses - The plot takes place during a single day, Thursday, June 16th 1904 (a special day for Joyce, it was the day that her future wife revealed him her love). The main character is Leopold Bloom, a middle age canvasser, non-practising Jew (Joyce’s common man). He leaves his house at 8:00 and comes back at 2:00 the following morning. In this period he turns up in many streets, he attends a funeral and he endures misadventures and delight. He meets Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, who becomes momentarily his adopted son (they were both looking for something: Leopold for the son he lost, Stephen for a father figure). The alienated common man Leopold-Ulysses rescues the alienated artist Telemachus from an ill-famed neighbourhood and takes him home, where they talk until night. Finally appears Bloom’s wife, Molly, a lyrical singer, who thinks half-asleep about her life and her husband - she plays the part of Penelope, although she isn’t faithful - she cheats Leopold continuously.
The novel is strictly related to Homer’s Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus and his travels after Trojan War. Joyce used Odyssey as a structural framework, arranging his character around Homer’s heroic model (Bloom → Ulysses; Stephen → Telemachus; Molly → Penelope). Ulysses is divided into 18 chapters and 3 parts (“Telemachiad”, “Odyssey” and “Nostos”) imitating the 3 parts in which Odyssey is divided into. Ulysses is the climax of Joyce’s creativity, it sums up the themes and the techniques of his previous works. Joyce planned each movement like he was playing chess: he placed his characters in places he knew well: in this way he makes the atmosphere of Dublin: the same city becomes itself a character in the novel. Stephen Dedalus → Intellect, young man seeking maturity;
Leopold Bloom → Everybody, the whole of mankind.
The theme of the novel, implied with the journey, is moral: human life means suffering, falling but also fighting to rise and seek the good. Ulysses’ prose is based on the “mythical method”: the author makes a parallel with the Odyssey and provides the novel a symbolic, cross-temporal meaning; the myth is used to express the universal in the particular. Joyce himself said he wanted to write a “modern epic in prose”.
Ulysses has also a complex structure, with brilliant and sometimes “obscene” characters, but the most important introduction is its revolutionary prose: different techniques are used (stream of consciousness, cinematic techniques: close-ups, flashbacks, tracking shots, suspensions; question and answer, dramatic dialogue and juxtaposition of events, with the consequent construction of order and unity from their randomness). Language is rich in puns, images, contrasts, paradoxes, interruptions and symbols.
The funeral - At 11:00 Bloom and his fellow mourners drive Paddy Dignam’s coffin to the cemetery. The ritual of burial evokes in him thoughts about death and human frailty. Martin Cunningam is the first to get into the carriage, followed by Power, Stephen Dedalus and Bloom. The carriage drives off and reaches the burial ground (characterized by dark trees and white monuments). Passengers dismount talking about mundane events, like insurance or mutual friends. Bloom listens to the service, then joins the mourners. In this extract there’s a juxtaposition of different images and situations, without any logic rule.
I said yes I will sermon - Molly Bloom is lying in bed, thinking about her past life, about her husband Leopold in particular. There’s no punctuation, phrases and thoughts are connected by “and”.