Today I’m going to tell you something about one of the most important writers of the 20th century, you could even say the most important, James Joyce.
At first, I’m going to tell you something about his life, then about his works, and in the end I will explain two of his major works.
James Joyce was born on February 2nd 1882 in Dublin. He was the son to a impoverished gentleman, John Stanislaus Joyce, and to a accomplished pianist, Mary Jane Murray. The family struggled, in spite of their poverty, to maintain a solid middle-class facade.
At the age of six Joyce attended Clongowes Wood College, at Clane. There he was educated by Jesuits. Then he went to Belvedere College in Dublin, finally to University College, in Dublin, too.
After graduation, in 1902, he went to Paris. He had financial problems and for this reason, he worked as a teacher and journalist. He stayed in Paris until he received a telegram saying his mother is going to die.
Only short after her death, Joyce started to travel again. In 1904 he left Dublin with Nora Barnacle, who he married in 1931.
After the outbreak of WWI, the Joyce family moved to Zurich. In Zurich, Joyce started to write the first parts of Ulysses, one of his major works. I will tell you about its contents later.
Because of censorship troubles, Joyce published Ulysses at first in France in 1923, ten years later the books were legalized in the US and the UK.
After publishing Ulysses in France, Joyce also moved there, he moved back to Paris.
There he started to write “Finnegan’s Wake”, which is also one of his most important books. In Paris Joyce started to suffer from glaucoma, which made him almost blind.
The final version of Finnegan’s Wake was published in 1939.
Some critics considered the work a masterpiece, but many readers found it incomprehensible. After the fall of France in the WWII, Joyce went back to Zurich and died on Jan 13 1941, still disappointed with the receptions of Finnegan’s Wake.
His Major Works:
Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories, first published in 1914.
The fifteen stories were meant to be a naturalistic depiction of the Irish middle class life living in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.
The stories were written at the time when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences. They center around Joyce’s idea of an epiphany: a moment where a character has a special moment of self-understanding or illumination. Many of the characters in Dubliners later appear in minor roles in Joyce’s novel Ulysses.
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, first serialized in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915 and published in book form in 1916. It depicts the formative years in the life of Stephen Dedalus, a fictional alter ego of Joyce and a pointed allusion to the consummate craftsman of Greek mythology, Daedalus.
A Portrait is a key example of the Künstlerroman in English literature. Joyce’s novel traces the intellectual and philosophical awakening of young Stephen Dedalus as he begins to question and rebel against the Catholic and Irish conventions he has been brought up in. He finally leaves for Paris to pursue his calling as an artist. The work pioneers some of Joyce’s modernist techniques that would later come to fruition in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. The Modern Library ranked Portrait as the third greatest English language novel of the twentieth century.
Exiles is the only play by James Joyce. It draws on the story of “The Dead”, the final short story in Joyce’s first major work, Dubliners, and was rejected by W. B. Yeats for production by the Abbey Theatre. It first major London performance was in 1970, when Harold Pinter directed it at the Mermaid Theatre.
Ulysses is considered one of the most important works of Modernist literature.
Ulysses chronicles the passage through Dublin by its main character, Leopold Bloom, during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904. The title alludes to the hero of Homer’s Odyssey (Latinised into Ulysses), and there are many parallels, both implicit and explicit, between the two works (e.g., the correspondences between Leopold Bloom and Odysseus, Molly Bloom and Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus and Telemachus). June 16 is now celebrated by Joyce’s fans worldwide as Bloomsday.
Divided into 18 ‘episodes’, as they are referred to in most scholarly circles, the book has been the subject of much controversy and scrutiny since its publication, ranging from early obscenity trials to protracted textual ‘Joyce Wars’. Ulysses’s groundbreaking stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and highly experimental prose-full of puns, parodies, and allusions-as well as its rich characterizations and broad humour, have made the book perhaps the most highly regarded novel in the Modernist pantheon. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Finnegans Wake, published in 1939, is James Joyce’s final novel. Following the publication of Ulysses in 1922, Joyce began working on Wake and by 1924 installments of the work began to appear in serialized form, first under the title “A New Unnamed Work” and subsequently as “Work in Progress.” (The final title of the work remained a secret between the writer and his wife, Nora Barnacle, until shortly before the book was finally published.)
The seventeen years spent working on Finnegans Wake were often difficult for Joyce. He underwent frequent eye surgeries, lost long-time supporters, and dealt with personal problems in the lives of his children. These problems and the perennial financial difficulties of the Joyce family are described in Richard Ellmann’s biography James Joyce. The actual publication of the novel was somewhat overshadowed by Europe’s descent into World War II. Joyce died just two years after the novel was published, leaving a work whose interpretation is still very much “in progress.”
This was my talk about James Joyce, thank you for your attention!
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