Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
James Joyce
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

James Joyce

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (February 2, 1882 - January 13, 1941) was an expatriate Irish writer and poet, and is widely considered one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. He is best known for his short story collection Dubliners (1914), and for his novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939).

Together with Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Richardson, he is credited with the development of the stream of consciousness technique in which the same weight is given to both the internal world of the mind and the external world of events and circumstances as factors shaping the actions and views of fictional characters.

Although most of his adult life was spent outside the country, Joyce's Irish experiences are essential to his writings, and provide all of the settings for his fiction and much of their subject matter. His fictional universe is firmly rooted in Dublin and is peopled by his family life and the events and friends (and enemies) from his school and college days. In this, he became both one of the most cosmopolitan and one of the most local of all the great English language modernists.

Table of contents
1 Early life
2 Exile and early writings
3 Ulysses
4 Finnegans Wake
5 Joyce's legacy
6 List of works
7 Further reading
8 Quotations
9 See also
10 External links

Early life

James Joyce was born into a well-off Catholic family in the Dublin suburb of Rathgar. His family, who originally came from Cork, were wealthy merchants. In 1887, his father, John Stanislaus Joyce, was appointed rate collector by Dublin Corporation and the family were able to move to the fashionable new suburb of Bray.

In 1891, he wrote a poem, Et Tu Healy, on the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. His father had it printed and even sent a copy to the Vatican library. In November of that same year, John Joyce was entered in Stubbs Gazette (an official register of bankrupts) and suspended from work. In 1893 he was dismissed with a pension. This was the beginning of a slide into poverty for the family mainly due to John's drinking and general mismanagement. John Stanislaus Joyce was the model for the character of Simon Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, as well as of the narrator's uncle in several stories in Dubliners.

Joyce was initially educated by Jesuits, originally at Clongowes Wood College, a boarding school in County Kildare which he entered in 1888 but had to leave in 1892 when his father could no longer pay the fees. Joyce then studied at home and briefly at the Christian Brothers school in North Richmond Street before he was offered a place in the Jesuit's Dublin school, Belvedere College in 1893. The offer was made at least partly in the hope that he would prove to have a vocation and join the Jesuits himself. However, he rejected Catholicism by the age of 16.

He enrolled at University College Dublin in 1898. He studied modern languages, specifically English, French and Italian. He also became active in theatrical and literary circles in the city. His review article Ibsen's New Drama was published in 1900 and resulted in a letter of thanks from the Norwegian dramatist. He wrote a number of other articles and at least two lost plays during this period.

James Joyce — detail of portrait by Jacques Emile Blanche

Exile and early writings

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 1903 to return to Ireland as his mother was dying. He met Nora Barnacle, a young woman from County Galway who was working as a chambermaid, the next spring, and on June 16 they went on their first date (which would give a date for the action of Ulysses). Joyce bummed around Dublin for some time longer, drinking heavily, and took up with medical student Oliver St John Gogarty, who formed the basis for Buck Mulligan in Ulysses. After staying in Gogarty's Martello Tower for six nights he left following an altercation, and went out and got drunk in a whorehouse and got into a fight, from which he was rescued by his father's acquaintance Alfred Hunter, an Irish Jew who thus loosely formed the basis of Leopold Bloom, the hero of Ulysses.

Shortly thereafter, he eloped with Nora Barnacle. The pair went into "exile" (his only play was titled Exiles), moving first to Pola and then Trieste in Austria-Hungary to teach English. Joyce would spend most of 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. In Paris, Maria and Eugene Jolas nursed Joyce during his long years of writing Finnegans Wake. Were it not for their unwavering support, there was a good possibility the book might never have been finished or published. In their now legendary literary magazine "transition," the Jolas' published serially various sections of Joyce's novel under the title Work in Progress.

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 incorporate 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.

Finnegans Wake

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".)

Joyce's legacy

All three novels were named in a list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by the editorial board of the American Modern Library. The board chose Ulysses as number one, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as number three and Finnegans Wake as number 77.

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 Jacques Derrida has written a book on the use of language in Ulysses, and the American philosopher Donald Davidson has written similarly on Finnegans Wake in comparison with Lewis Carroll. Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges often drew on Joyce as well.

James Joyce died on January 13, 1941 at Zürich, Switzerland and is buried in the Fluntern Cemetery, in Zürich 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.

List of works

Further reading


from Joyce

about Joyce

See also

External links