James Joyce

James Joyce

One of the most influential writers of the 20th Century, James Joyce is one of Ireland's most important authors, whose works include Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake.

James Joyce was born in 1882, in the Dublin suburb of Rathgar. He was the eldest of ten surviving children in an educated middle class Catholic family. After moving to the fashionable Dublin area of Bray in 1887, the family's prosperity fell into decline, due to the father's alcoholism and they were declared bankrupt by 1893.

Initially Joyce enjoyed a prestigious education at a boarding school in County Kildare, until 1892, when his father could no longer afford the fees. Joyce was then schooled at the Christian Brother's school on North Richmond Street, Dublin, before being enrolled at the Jesuit Belvedere School in 1893, with the hope of joining the Order. However Joyce was later to renounce Catholicism. In 1898, Joyce enrolled at the recently established University College Dublin, where he studied English, French and Italian and took an active role in Dublin's theatrical and literary circles.

After graduating from UCD in 1903, Joyce headed to Paris to study medicine, but returned to Ireland after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. After her death Joyce began drinking heavily, scraping a living teaching and reviewing books. He had a draft of A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man turned down in 1904 and later in that same year met the woman he would later marry, - a young chambermaid from Connemara, in Co. Galway named Nora Barnacle. Their first date together was 16th June 1904, a date that would be later commemorated in Joyce's most famous work Ulysses.

Shortly after they met James and Nora eloped to Europe, where Joyce planned to teach English. The couple moved first to Zurich, then to Trieste where they remained for the next ten years. During World War One, Joyce moved back to Zurich, where he met Ezra Pound, who brought him into contact with his future publisher and patron Harriet Shaw Weaver. Joyce then moved to Paris in 1920, where he would live for the next 20 years until returning to Zurich to escape Nazi occupation in 1940. In 1941 Joyce underwent surgery on a perforated ulcer, but following complications died on 13th January. James Joyce is buried in Zurich's Fluntern Cemetery along with his wife Nora, whom he married in 1931 and their eldest son George.

Joyce's major works include Dubliners, published in 1914. This collection of short stories, were according to Joyce, ‘epiphanies' and a detailed analysis of Dublin society. The most famous story, The Dead was made into a film in1987, the last to be directed by John Huston. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) is a largely autobiographical, coming of age novel surrounding the main character Stephen Dedalus - Joyce's self-depiction. Joyce's final novel was Finnegan's Wake, (1939) which was published as a series in literary magazine Transition under the title Working Project.

Joyce's most famous novel, regarded as his masterpiece, is Ulysses (1922). The story revolves around a day in the life (16th June 1904 to be precise) of Leopold Bloom as he undertakes a meandering tour through the streets of Dublin stopping Davy Byrne's Pub, the National Library, and various other pubs dotted around Dublin's red light district. Ulysses is celebrated in Dublin, on 16th June with Bloomsday an event with a range of cultural activities from live recitals and street theatre bringing to life the characters from the novel, in full Edwardian costume.

At the time, Joyce's writings were both praised and derided for adopting stream of consciousness, internal monologue and other literary features that were new for the time. Joyce's subject matter also courted controversy, and were criticised as vulgar and obscene, leading to the banning of Ulysses in the US, the UK and Ireland, when it was first published. Nevertheless James Joyce is heralded as one of the most influential writers of his generation, a doyen of modernist literary thought and one of Ireland's most prominent literary sons.

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