Researching The Spirit Of James Joyce English Literature Essay

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In the heart of Dublin resides the spirit of James Joyce-the very name bears with it all the passion of the Irish people. A slave to his pen, the paradoxically patriotic expatriate is known as one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century (McCourt, 118). Throughout his lengthy writing career, Joyce developed an increasingly cryptic and kaleidoscopic writing style, riddled with the implementation of polyglottous riddles, ambiguous subtleties, and most notably his signature stream-of-consciousness technique. Through the creation of such a unique and unconventional style, Joyce placed himself among the pioneers of the Modernist Movement and "'killed the nineteenth century" (Eliot).

On February 2, 1882, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born to John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Murray in Rathgar, a suburb outside of Dublin. The two bore sixteen children in total; however, six of the children, including James' would-be older brother John, died at very young ages (O'Brien, 2-3). In 1887, Joyce's father was appointed a local tax collector by the Dublin Corporation, and his family consequently moved to the contiguous, prosperous municipality of Bray, situated twelve miles outside of Dublin. However, "his father lived beyond his means, and when he lost his post as a rates collector in 1891 the family moved into ever poorer lodgings in north Dublin" (Wallace, 71).

Typical of a traditional Irish upbringing, Joyce's parents raised young James in the Roman Catholic faith. In 1888, he was enrolled at Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school located in County Kildare (O'Brien, 5) He remained there until 1892 when he had to leave because his father could no longer support Joyce's enrollment. Subsequently, Joyce studied at home and then for a short time at the Christian Brother's school in Dublin until he was offered a slot at the Jesuit's Belvedere College in 1893.Throughout his stay at Belvedere, "James excelled at lessons and won prizes for the best English compositions" (O'Brien, 6). While his parents hoped he would go on to pursue admittance into the Jesuit Order, Joyce proved to be a brazen youth: by the age of fourteen, he had experimented with prostitutes (Wallace, 71), and before graduating from Belvedere he had rejected Catholicism. His denunciation of his faith proved to be a pivotal event of his life, remaining a recurring theme throughout the course of his writing career (Ellman, 29-30).

Upon graduation from secondary school, James Joyce enrolled in the recently opened University College Dublin and studied modern European languages including English, Italian, and French. During his tenure at UCD, Joyce made a proactive effort to associate himself with some of Dublin's most prestigious literary and theatrical circles; quite notably, his critical review of Henrik Ibsen's When We Dead Awaken warranted a letter of thanks from Ibsen himself (Wallace, 71). Joyce went on to produce a number of subsequent reviews along with two plays; however, the latter of which remain lost to this day. While he did not begin work on any of his major published works while in tertiary school, his time at the university made a profound impression on his later compositions, most obviously so in A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man.

After graduating from University College Dublin in 1903, Joyce relocated to Paris to study medicine, but he quickly dropped out, finding the French science lectures too difficult. Joyce remained in Paris for a few more months, falling into an extended period of drunken debauchery and squandering of his parents' money. Upon receiving notice that his mother had been diagnosed with cancer, Joyce moved back to Ireland. On August 13 of the same year, his mother slipped into a coma and passed away (Ellman, 128-130). At their mother's deathbed, he and his brother Stanislaus refused to kneel in prayer with his father and siblings, an event which caused a great deal of tension in the family (O'Brien, 20). The incident had such a profound effect upon Joyce that a similar episode is referenced in his 1918 opus Ulysses.

On January 7, 1904, James Joyce attempted to publish his first full-length work, A Portrait of the Artist, a heterogeneous splicing of short story and essay on aesthetics. The work was rejected by Dana, a popular free-thinking magazine. The rejection led him to revise and lengthen the story under the title Stephen Hero; however, Joyce decided to completely redraft the work and entitle it A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. A coming-of-age novel, Portrait is the first of Joyce's publications to implement the use of stream-of-consciousness, a technique he mastered in his later works Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake, as well as "'epiphanies,' a word that Joyce used to describe his accounts of moments when the real truth about some person or object was revealed" (Atherton , 1). The final draft was finally published in 1913.

For approximately another year, Joyce remained in Ireland, making a meager living writing simple short stories. On June 6, 1914, he met Nora Barnacle, who was to be his long-time lover and future wife. Due to his persisting desire "to be continentalized" (O'Brien, 12) Joyce convinced Nora to move off with him to mainland Europe, but "he refused, on principle, to go through a ceremony of marriage" (Atherton, 1). In 1905 the couple moved to Trieste, where Nora gave birth to their first child, George. Finding no work in Trieste, Joyce had no choice to accept a teaching job in the naval town of Pola approximately fifty miles outside of Trieste. There, his explorers noted him as "gifted but also conceited and absurd, a man of contradictions, fragile and hysterical, refined and ascetic yet one who gravitated toward the mud" (O'Brien, 44). The new family's economic situation expeditiously spiraled downward. Desperate for a supplement to his income, James Joyce convinced his brother Stanislaus to move in with them (Ellman, 211-214). However, the arrangement worked quite poorly; Stanislaus could not come to terms with James's reprobate and economically unsound lifestyle (O'Brien 51-52).

By 1906, Joyce's home life and economic state had pressured him into moving to Rome for a change of pace. He secured a job with the help of a letter of recommendation from the Lord Mayor of Dublin and took to a desk job consisting of writing letters. However, it was not long until Joyce came to despise the city, describing it as little but "ruins, piles of bones, and skeletons" (O'Brien, 54). So great was his animosity for Rome that he moved backed to Trieste in 1907, but a year after he moved to the "eternal city" (O'Brien, 53). Soon after returning to Trieste, the couple had their second child, Lucia.

In 1909, James Joyce made two consecutive trips to Ireland, both arranged in hopes of publishing Dubliners, his critically acclaimed collection of short stories. Although neither trip culminated in the publishing of the work, Joyce managed to set up a chain of Irish cinemas; however, the business venture ultimately was a disaster (Atherton, 2). In 1912, Joyce returned to Dublin to once again fruitlessly reassert his efforts to publish Dubliners. The work was finally published in 1914.

Upon Italian emergence into World War One in 1915, Joyce was deprived of most of his students due to mass conscription and therefore moved to Zürich, which at the time was becoming a haven for European artists and expatriates alike. It was there he met English publisher Harriet Shaw Weaver, who would remain his patron for the remainder of his life. With Shaw's financial support, Joyce could finally end his teaching career and focus solely on writing. During his stay in Zürich, Joyce made tremendous bounds: In a matter of five years, he published Portrait; wrote Exiles, his sole published play, in its entirety; and began drafting his next novel, Ulysses, now considered one of the greatest works of the nineteenth century.

After a short return to Trieste, Joyce received an invitation from American expatriate poet Ezra Pound to join him in Paris, where Joyce would reside for the next twenty years. While in Paris, Joyce completed and published Ulysses, which proved to be both a critical and fiscal success, despite fervent accusations of a pornographic nature. Written about a typical day in Dublin, the book is heralded to have changed the literary world virtually overnight: "All the given notion about story, character, plot, and human polarizing are capsized. By comparison, most other works of fiction are pusillanimous. […] No other writer so effulgently and so ravenously recreated a city" (O'Brien, 96-97).

Approximately a year after completing Ulysses, James Joyce began work his final novel, Finnegans Wake. Over the course of the final twenty years of his life, both Joyce's health and Lucia's mental state began to deteriorate quite rapidly. Joyce began to suffer from acute loss of vision, insomuch that he was forced to dictate much of Finnegans Wake and was required to undergo over a dozen ocular surgeries. During the same time frame, Lucia was diagnosed with a chronic case of schizophrenia and eventually was institutionalized.

While the circumstances certainly slowed the writing of Finnegans Wake, Joyce trudged through the writing process. The work was released in increments under the title Work in Progress; the official name of the work was not released until near its completion. Finnegans Wake was finally published in its entirety in 1939 and received extremely mixed reviews due to its highly experimental nature. The work was the apex of Joyce's unconventional writing style, making wide use of multi-level and multi-lingual puns along with extremely lengthy and cryptic stream-of-consciousness tangents, creating "a compendium of linguistic comedy of almost impenetrable denseness" (Wallace,72).

In late 1940, Joyce fled to Zürich upon the advent of the Nazi occupation of France. Shortly thereafter, on January 11, 1941, he underwent surgery for an ulcer (Atherton, 1). Although the surgery was a success, Joyce relapsed the next day, slipping into a coma and eventually dying. He was buried at the Fluntern Cemetery in his current residence of Zürich (Harmon, 6). Joyce is remembered today as one of the most prolific and innovative writers to ever wield the English language. His unparalleled creativity not only aided the development of the Modernist Movement but created a new breed of English prose. In doing so, Joyce successfully touched the hearts and minds of a million through the ballpoint of a pen.