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by V. Tenedini and the students of Classe V A scientifico-tecnologico Academic year 2011-2012. ‘My own James Joyce’. The central themes in Joyce’s works are:. youth, adolescence, adulthood and maturity ,. and how identity is affected by these different stages of life.

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My own james joyce

by V. Tenedini and the students

of Classe V A scientifico-tecnologico

Academic year 2011-2012

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce

The central themes in Joyce’s works are:

youth, adolescence, adulthood and maturity,

and how identity is affected by these different stages of life.

All the boooks by Joyce have an

autobiographical dimension.

A major experimenter with fictional technique,

Joyce revolutionised the form and structure of the novel

and pushed linguistic experiment

to the extreme limits of communication.

His fame has increased immeasurably since his death, because of the increasing academic interest in his work.

(Adapted from “Literature in time” – Loescher ed.)

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce

“He would be the poet of his race”

(O’Brien E., James Joyce, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999)

JOYCE’S innovative literary techniques

make him

one of the most influential writers

of the twentieth century,

though its reputation is based

on four books only.

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce



“He would be the poet of his race”

In a collection of short stories Joyce writes about a group of Dublin residents, each of whom reflects the moral and political paralysis of the city. The story are characterized by key symbolic moments, which Joyce termed epiphanies*, which allow each of the protagonists to experience a deep level of self-awareness.

[*Remarkable moments of sudden insight, when a trivial gesture, external object or banal situation leads a character to a better understanding of himself and the reality surrounding him. Joyce believed that the writer’s main task was to record these special moments.

‘Epiphany’ has become the standard literary term to refer to the sudden revelation or self-realization which frequently occurs in modern poetry or fiction]

On Dublin – “not merely a backdrop for their veniality but as rich a musical as themselves. No other writer so effulgently and so ravenously recreated a city.”

“Dublin was his inner landscape”.

On the Irish and their language – “The Irish, doomed to express themselves in a language not their own, had stamped it with their genius and competed for glory with other civilized countries. It was called English literature. Samuel Beckett many years later improved on that claiming that the Catholic church and English domination had buggered [Irish writers] into glory’”.

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce



“He would be the poet of his race”

Established Joyce’s literary reputation. It is a largely autobiographical work, recounting the first twenty years of life of a young artist, Stephen Dedalus (notice the symbolism in both name and surname). The novel describes his intellectual development, his search for an identity as a writer and his realization that before he can be a writer he must free himself from the suffocating affects of Irish religion, provincialism and narrow-mindedness. In this work, Joyce uses a stream of consciousness technique, a literary device, called interior monologue*.

[*The interior monologue represents an attempt to transcribe a character’s thoughts,emotions, sensations and reasoning. In order to represent the rhythm of the flow of consciousness faithfully, the writer often disregards traditional syntax, punctuation and logical connections. He does not intervene to guide the reader or to impose narrative order on the often confused, and confusing, mental processes].

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce


(1922) first English edition in 1936

“He would be the poet of his race”

This book gave Joyce international fame. The time span of this long and complex novel is that of a single day, 16th June 1904, the day Joyce met Nora Barnacle, who was to become his lifelong companion.

It has no traditional plot. One key to its interpretation is given by its main structure: 18 chapters whose titles are derived from the Odyssey by Homer, as Joyce based Leopold Bloom’s wanderings in Dublin on the Wanderings of those of the mythical Odysseus.

Leopold is a modern Ulysses, a common Everyman living in Dublin, a city where cultural and artistic life – in Joyce’s opinion – is paralysed.

His travelling is compressed into a single day in a modern town1. His adventures are the events of everyday life.

His wife Molly represents Penelope while Stephen represents Telemachus.

[1Modernist literature focused heavily on experience s of the city space, and the result on conceptions of human life and communication of living in urban centres. The implications of modernist representation of the city is that city life produces a heightened consciousness of the relationships between individuals, and of the diversity and multiplicity of social and cultural experiences].

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce

Joyce represents both the interior and exterior worlds of his characters. The realistic descriptions

of the external events are mixed with historical, literary, religious, and geographical allusions, while interior monologue is used to recreate the characters’ most intimate and random thoughts.

“He would be the poet of his race”

Word, play, puns, and gross jokes are mixed with highly intellectual verbal exchanges. The triviality of everyday life is sometimes described in minute detail, while elsewhere there are intensely poetic passages and a variety of styles that range from the literary to the journalistic.

On symbolism in Ulysses

“To each chapter he gave a title, a scene, an organ, an art, a colour, a symbol and a technique; so that we are in a tower, school, strand, house, bath, graveyard, newspaper, office, tavern, library, street, concert room, second tavern, a lying-in hospital, a brothel, a house and a big bed. The organs include kidneys, genitals, heart brain, ear, eye, nose, womb, nerves, flesh, and skeleton. The symbols vary from horse to tide, to nymph, to Eucharist, to siren, to Virgin, to Fenian, to whore, to heart mother. The technique ranges from narcissistic to gigantic, from tumescent to hallucinatory, and the styles so variable that the 18 episodes could really be described as eighteen novels between the one cover.”

On the language of Ulysses

“Language is the hero and the heroine , language in constant fusion with a dazzling virtuosity. All the given notion about story, character, plot, and human polarizings are capsized.”

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce

THE MYTHICAL METHOD his characters

“He would be the poet of his race”

T. S. Eliot praised Joyce’s innovative device of using an ancient myth to interpret contemporary experience; instead of a narrative method - he said - he used a mythical method which pointed out the loss of values in the modern world as compared with antiquity.

Joyce believed in the impersonality of the author. The formal aspect of fiction was very important for him, as well as the problem of the point of view. In order to ensure that his works carried no ‘messages’ from himself, he adopted different points of view, different narrative techniques, different linguistic styles, appropriate or paradoxical to different characters or situations. In this way he hoped to solve the problem of how to present the fragmented, multifaceted nature of reality and how to convey the subjective dimension of experience.

It was Joyce’s opinion that the artist’s task was neither to teach nor to convince, but to make people aware of reality through their own subjective perception. Therefore he sought a form which would make a literary work as ‘impersonal’ as possible.

The modernist writer no longer pointed out and explained the meaning and the values of the world he was depicting but he had to provide all the separate elements of the picture which would enable to readers to reach their own conclusions.

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce


“He would be the poet of his race”

“ ‘written symbols of the languid light’ which had flashed across his soul. There were less things easy for a public stomach. His technical monstrosities, his anti-humanist indifference, his desecration of style and his obsession with bodily functions which bordered on the macabre. He would be accused of all that and more and he countered by saying that obscenity occurs in the pages of life as well. More importantly he would say that ‘the measure of a work of art is from how deep a life does it spring’. His is immeasurable”.

“Ulysses took seven years of unbroken labour, twenty thousand hours of work, havoc to brain and body, nerves, agitation, fainting fits, numerous eye complaints – glaucoma, iritis, cataract, crystallized cataract, nebula in the pupil, conjunctivitis, torn retina, blood accumulation, abscesses and one tenth-normal vision”.

(According to G. B. Shaw)

“As a young beglamoured barbarian the book seemed to [Sylvia Beach] to be art but was in fact a slice of Dublin life”.

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce


[quoted in O’Brien E., James Joyce, Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999]

“He would be the poet of his race”

• According to Stanislaus Joyce” the book ‘lacked’ warmth and serenity’

• According to Virginia Woolf “ underbred - the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples”

• “T. S. Eliot while admiring it was also threatened by its audacity and wished […] he had not read it. How could anyone surpass that achievement?[…] In private Eliot said that the book gave no insight into human nature, was a dazzlement of style and not a sea of consciousness.”

• “George Moore called it a work form the ‘Dublin docks’;”

• “Yeats recognised its genius and wrote to Joyce to reassure him of his many admires in Dublin.”

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce



“He would be the poet of his race”

In his last and most complex work Joyce carries his linguistic experimentation to the limits of comprehensibility. The novel recounts a single night’s events in the life of a Chapelizod publican, Humphrey Earwicker. The plot is apparently simple: Humphrey goes to bed, falls asleep, has a dream, is awakened by the cries of one of his children and falls back asleep. The next day life gores on a s usual. There are, however, no fixed events, characters, times or places and everything is described in highly manipulated language, which includes idioms, curses, nursery rhymes, literary quotations and new words made by combining parts of words from various languages. Despite the immense richness of the language, the book’s complexity and impenetrability intimidated both the critics and the reading public.

Joyce wrote Finnegans Wakein a language that he had invented (capable of keeping linguists busy for the next four hundred years – which was Joyce’s own intentions), a mixture of linguistic fragments and borrowings from other languages.

“If Ulysses was a book about daytime Finnegans Wake was a book of the night. Dream and riddle, myth-making, syllepses, syllogism, naturalism, supernaturalism, fabulism, kings and giants along with Sir Tristam, violer d’amores […] Finnegans wake is a journey into the unconscious attempting to be conscious”.

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce


“He would be the poet of his race”

Perhaps Joyce’s most remarkable talent was his linguistic resourcefulness. He was able to render in writing the rhythm, tone and pitch of a large variety of speaking voices, to imitate musical form (which he knew – in words, and to recreated many different prose styles (see Ulysses' chapter “the oxen of the Sun’)

“Fame, as Rilke has said, is the quintessence of all the mistakes which gather around a name. Legends begin to spring up […] Fame had changed him. What he would say in his books he would conceal in life. […] Joyce functioned best in a noisy place. He needed people around him. […] He could not have lived without outings and appreciation. Isolation would have been unbearable”.

“Conflict was at the root of Joyce’s thrust and not obfuscation as he was accused of. […] Artistic truth was sacred to him, that was his religion – the minutes perfection of style, diverse metres, musical notations and a ravishing lyrical myth”.

(O’Brien E. James Joyce, Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999)

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce


“He would be the poet of his race”

“He was a tragic man with a staggering genius from whom humor was a weapon. Oliver Cogarty writing about him in the Saturday Evening Post, said that Joyce was a Dante who had lost the key to his own inferno. Joyce had lost none of the keys and none of the words; in truth he excavated them”.

“[…] according to 'D.H. Lawrence Had Joyce a future? The answer was no. As a poet and novelist Joyce would always fail' ”.

Joyce future was assured. His shade haunts every great write who has followed him.

“Ezra pound placed him above all living writers”

“the uninterrupted unrolling of thought […] the radical innovativeness of Ulysses

[with his works] “He compassed body and soul, high and low, faithful to his secret conviction that ‘violence and desire are the breath of literature’’

“What he wanted to do was to wrest the secret form life and that could only be done through language because, as he said, the history of people is the history of language”

‘My own James Joyce’

My own james joyce

“He would be the poet of his race” Italo Svevo)

“What he wanted to do was to wrest the secret from life and that could only be done through language because, as he said, the history of people is the history of language”

(All the quotes appear in : O’Brien E., James Joyce, Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999)

‘My own James Joyce’