Biography of Irish Author James Joyce Part 1

About the famous Irish writer James Joyce, biography and history of the author of Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake.


JAMES JOYCE (1882-1941)

Alternately praised as the greatest master of English since Milton and condemned as a purveyor of "latrine literature," James Joyce remains one of the most controversial writers of the 20th century.

Born in Dublin on Feb. 2, 1882, James was the eldest and favorite child of John and Mary Jane Joyce. The precocious boy was enrolled in the prestigious Clongowes Wood College--considered "the Eton of Ireland"--but was forced to drop out when his father lost his lucrative position as city tax collector. Plagued by heavy drinking and an inability to handle money, John Joyce was hard pressed to support his 10 children.

James finally was able to return to school two years later, when Belvedere College agreed to waive tuition. From there he went on to University College, Dublin, where he studied languages and literature and became fascinated with what he called epiphanies--moments when objects or persons reveal their essential nature. His concern with these heightened moments of experience added a unique vividness and clarity of vision to his writing. Although Joyce's study habits were erratic and his life-style generally dissolute, he managed to pass his final exams with second-class honors and obtain his B.A. in 1902.

After graduation Joyce entertained the idea of becoming a doctor. He studied briefly in Dublin, then impetuously decided to continue his medical education in Paris. Unfortunately, he had underestimated both his academic qualifications and his funds. At loose ends, he returned home in 1903 upon receiving news of his mother's impending death. Back in Dublin, he embarked upon a semiautobiographical novel of monumental size entitled Stephen Hero, and also executed a series of short stories depicting Dublin life as restrictive and corrupt. These stories were later compiled into Dubliners.

In 1904 Joyce fell in love with a young, unschooled chambermaid named Nora Barnacle and persuaded her to run away with him without benefit of marriage. Having renounced both his bourgeois upbringing and the Catholic Church, Joyce felt he must leave Ireland in order to avoid suffocation as a writer. He secured a teaching position in Trieste (then in Austria-Hungary), where he was barely able to support Nora and their two children. In Trieste he reworked and condensed Stephen Hero and retitled it A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In an effort to sell his Dubliners stories, he made a brief return trip to Ireland in 1909, but potential publishers looked askance at his incorporation of real names and places into his writing and balked at his use of profanity.

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