Video appunto: Joyce, James - Vita e Opere (3)

Vita di James Joyce, introduzione al modernismo e analisi dell'opera "Dubliners".


Modernism was a complex movement that was born in the early decades of the 20th century. The modernist movement was not restricted to literature but extended across all art forms including painters like Picasso and Braque and composers such as Stravinsky.
All of them were united in a general break with traditional forms of representation, composition and expression. They were concerned with the search for techniques to portray the complexity of life of the characters. This technique is the shifting of the point of view from the external narrator to the minds of the characters. The new technique was called stream of consciousness that reproduce the flow of thoughts in an individual's mind. The term stream of consciousness was coined by the psychologist William James in his "principles of psychology".

James Joyce - life

Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882. He was the oldest of ten children. He studied at university college in Dublin where he showed good abilities. After graduating he went to Paris with the intention of becoming doctor. But he soon changed his mind concentrating instead on writing poems. In 1903 he met Nora barnacle and with her he left Ireland. The couple moved to Trieste in 1905 where Joyce worked as an English teacher. They had two children. He stay i n Trieste for ten years. In this period Joyce published chamber music and Dubliners.
When the first world war started Joyce and his family moved to Zurich where they remained until 1919. The war years were fruitful period for Joyce cause they saw the publication of a portrait of the artist as a young man and exiles. It was in this period where Joyce wrote much of his masterpiece Ulysses. Ulysses was published in 1939 and Joyce died in 1941 in Zurich.


Joyce's first short stories were published in 1914 in Dubliners. They form a realistic and highly evocative portrait of the lives of ordinary people in Dublin. The stories are arranged in four groups: childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life.
A significant theme is the feeling of paralysis about many of the characters. this feeling is reflected also in their relationships in which free expression is inhibited by repressive moral codes. Joyce once defined Dublin as 'the centre of paralysis'.
Dubliners are stories apparently in the tradition of naturalism for the abundance of details related to poverty, squalor and monotony, but we can detect concern with the representation of thoughts: there is a third person narrator but the use of free indirect styles stresses the character's point of view.

The stream of consciousness technique

The stream of consciousness is a narrative technique which aims at reproducing the thoughts as they form in the human mind. Joyce do this by introducing disrupted syntax, unfinished sentences etc. In this way the reader is put into direct contact with the  character's mind without the  narrator's intervention. Joyce for this technique was influenced by Freud, Henry Bergson with the concept of "la durée" that was fundamental for the abandonment of the orderly chronological presentation of events.
There are two levels of consciousness: the speech level, which can be communicated orally or in writing, and the pre-speech level, which has no communicative basis and is not rationally controlled. There is a distinction between the stream of consciousness, that is the psychic phenomenon itself, and the interior monologue. The interior monologue is the instrument used to translate this psychic phenomenon into words. So the interior monologue often disregards formal syntax and conventional punctuation, so as to reflect the chaotic sequence of thoughts.

Focus on "Eveline"

The story is about a nineteen year old girl's internal struggle on whether to stay home and continue her life, or go away with the guy she love. She is unable to take a decision and in the end she prefers not to escape. Eveline is an example of the paralysis that the social and economic environment plays on the inhabitants of Dublin. Eveline is introduced through her thoughts. In the story there is no introduction and the main character is presented through the thoughts. The technique of free direct speech is also employed. Most of the story takes place in  Eveline's mind and her thoughts are not arranged in chronological order, they go from past to present and future. Eveline's present is linked to stillness and dust. Her past is connected with the death of her mother and her future has connections with love, action, the sea and escape. At the end of the story Eveline is compared to " a helpless animal" because she is passive, paralysed and unable to make up any decision. She can't escape the prison of her home and her father's authority.
Then Joyce use the technique of epiphany. This word comes from ancient Greek and means manifestation. Joyce calls epiphany the insight which makes the characters reach a higher level of awareness. In Eveline the sound of the street organ can be considered the epiphany of the story; Eveline remembers her promise to her mother and understand the emptiness of her dreams and love. Her relationship with frank turns out to be a superficial one since she dare not take risks and she gives frank "no sign of love or farewell or recognition'. She understands that her affection for the family and place are the most important ones even if that place is a home with dusty curtains and that family contains  a drunken and abusive father.