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Free Study Guide-A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY

James Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882 to Mary Jane Murray Joyce and John Stanislaus Joyce. He was the eldest son of a large family of nine sisters and brothers.

Stephenís father began with an inheritance which placed him and his family in the Irish middle class, but as Stephen grew up, his father gradually lost his position in that class and the family ended very poor. At six years old, James was sent to Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school for boys of the middle class. James had to leave Clongowes when his father no longer could pay the tuition. He stayed at home for two years and then went to Belvedere College at the schoolís expense. He stayed at Belvedere from the time he was eleven to the time he was sixteen. Then he went to University College, Dublin, also a Jesuit institution. While at the university, James wrote a number of critical essays as well as poems and short stories. He called the latter epiphanies, a term drawn from the Roman Catholic calendar, and used by Joyce to mean moments of revelation in the depiction of a character.

When he had graduated from the university at the age of twenty, Joyce moved to Paris, but his stay was cut short when he received a telegram from his father that his mother was dying. He returned to Ireland and his mother died four months later. Then he stayed in Dublin for a year teaching and beginning the novel that would later become A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man under the working title Stephen Hero. He also wrote short stories for a magazine. In June of 1904, Joyce met Nora Barnacle who was a chambermaid at a hotel in Dublin. They decided to leave Ireland since they wanted to live together without getting married. They lived in Trieste, a seaport in northern Italy on the gulf of Trieste, an inlet of the gulf of Venice, for the next eleven years. They had a son, Georgio, and a daughter, Lucia Anna.


Joyce spent a great deal of frustrated energy trying to get his works published. They were so unconventional that publishers often rejected them out of hand. He had a book of short stories called Dubliners, which, when finally accepted, was subjected to censorship. The publisher didnít like the fact that Joyce used real names of people and places, nor the fact that Joyce used the language of common people who often curse and talk about sex.

While this business was going on, Joyce went back to his early novel Stephen Hero to revise it into what he called "a work in five chapters." Both works, the latter under its present title, were published in 1914 when Joyce was thirty-two. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man appeared in sections in the magazine The Egoist that year and, two years later, was published as a novel. With the publication of these two works, Joyce had made his name as a major writer of his time.

During World War I, the Joyces moved to Zurich and lived there from 1915-1919. Joyce made his living by giving private English lessons and he worked on his massive novel Ulysses. Its seed was a short story, "Mr. Hunter" from Dubliners. As its title suggests, Joyce uses the story of Ulysses of the epic poem the Odyssey as a framework for the novel. He sets the novel in Dublin, on a single day, June 16, 1904. Stephen Dedalus reappears, here playing the role of Telemachus of the Odyssey, who was sent to look for his missing father. Leopold Bloom is the father figure of the novel. He is an advertising salesman and a Jew, an ironic version of the epic Ulysses. He is married to Molly Bloom, a woman with a beautiful voice and a tendency to engage in extramarital affairs, an ironic version of the faithful Penelope.

When the war was over, the Joyces moved to Paris in 1920. Joyce no longer had to worry so much about making a living. He was receiving grants and patronage. His new worry was his eyesight. He experienced terrible pain from iritis, glaucoma, and cataracts. He had twenty-five operations, and his vision remained poor. Joyce also had another set of troubles to face.

When his novel Ulysses was published in 1922, Joyce was beset by criticism for its so-called obscenity. It was banned in the U.S. and in England. It wasnít until 1933 that a U.S. court rule that the book was not obscene. While all this was going on, Joyce was hard at work on another book, which he called a night book to complement Ulysses, his book about a day. It was eventually titled Finneganís Wake and was published in 1939. Just after it was published, the Joyces had to leave Paris to escape another war, World War II, and in 1941, Joyce died of a perforated ulcer in Zurich.

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