Biography  |  Bibliography  |  Articles  |  Quotes  |  Links  

James Joyce - Biography

James Joyce (February 2, 1882 - January 13, 1941) was one of the most preeminent Irish authors of the twentieth century. He is known for his literary innovation such as a strictly focused narrative and indirect style. Although not strictly originally, James Joyce brought the aforementioned writing methods were to an unparalleled height.

In 1882, James Joyce was born in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. Dublin figured predominately in Joyce’s writings. Through this subject, Joyce felt as though he could get to the heart of a universal urban experience. In 1887, his father became a tax collector and moved the Joyce family to a more fashionable family. By 1893, Joyce’s father had lost his position. The family would eventual become impoverished.

At the age of 9, James Joyce composed “Et Tu Healy.” This poem represented the anger that Joyce’s father felt over Charles Stewart Parnell loss of acclaim and failure to obtain Irish Home Rule.

Joyce studied at Clongowes Wood College from 1888 until 1892. When the family’s financial state devolved, Joyce had to leave the school. After a brief time at Christian Brothers School, Joyce was enrolled at Belvedere College in 1893. In 1898, Joyce began studying Italian, English and French at University College Dublin. At this time, Joyce also began his entry into the artistic life of Dublin. His literary reviews appeared in Fortnightly Review. His review of Henrik Ibsen received a positive personal response from Ibsen himself. In addition to his reviews, he also wrote some pieces of drama that have since been lost.

James Joyce matriculated from University College of Dublin in 1903. After moving to Paris, Joyce planned on studying medicine. Unfortunately, the lectures were conducted in a technical French that Joyce’s education had not prepared him for. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, Joyce returned to Ireland. Despite his mother’s attempts to get him to return to Catholic Church, Joyce remained unmoved even after her death.

In Dublin, he continued reviewing books. He supplemented his income with singing and teaching. In 1904, he was awarded a bronze medal at Feis Ceoil, a festival of Irish dance and music. Throughout this period, James Joyce would binge drink.

Many critics believe that his life in Dublin provided the fuel for all of his later creative endeavors.

1904 was also the year James Joyce eloped with Nora Barnacle. The young couple would move to Zurich. The move to Zurich was precipitated by the false promise of employment at the Berlitz Language School. Taking sympathy on the young man, the school suggested that he travel to Trieste. Again there were no open positions for James Joyce, but the director of the Berlitz School at Trieste was able to secure Joyce a position in Pola. Joyce and his wife were able to stay in Pola with the financial security the job offered from 1904 until 1905. Unfortunately, he was expelled with other aliens from Austro-Hungary.

The director at the Berlitz School at Trieste (Almidano Artifoni) was able to intervene and was finally able to provide James Joyce a teaching position in Trieste. Joyce would keep this position for most of a decade. From 1906 until 1907, James Joyce worked at a bank in Rome. Joyce eventually returned to Trieste. He continued to drink and borrow money at this time.

In 1914, Dubliners was published. The fifteen stories in this collection were structured in a standard way/ However, the language and atmosphere that Joyce used presaged his later more innovated works.

1914 was also the year that Joyce began the writing process for Ulysses. This novel relates the events of Dublin on the sixteenth of June nineteen-hundred and four. This date was personally significant since it was the date Joyce first took his wife. An element of chance pervades the book as the point of view shifts between hundreds of citizens of Dublin. However, this chance is an illusion. Joyce has orchestrated the many desperate voices in his book. At times, Joyce even talked of the complicated plan as “the only way of ensuring one’s immortality.”

T.S. Eliot would express (and Joyce would confirm) that the structure was based on the Odyssey. The text would garner James Joyce fame. But Joyce’s fans fetishized the text in such a way that irritated the writer.

Selections of Ulysses published in the American journalLittle Review would cause a controversy. Joyce relayed the private erotic fantasies and the toilet habits of one of the characters, which provoked a reactionary stance in some censors. On the grounds of obscenity, American authorities seized issues of the journal that contained the excerpts. Joyce project in Ulysses was to present an unmitigated vision of lived reality. A passage from the end of the novel illustrates the patience required in reading the language of Joyce that seeks to be concrete:

and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Samuel Beckett, Sal Bellow, Albert Camus, William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Tony Morrison would retrofit stylistic elements from Ulysses into some of their most successful works.

By 1915, most of the students who had attended the Berlitz School had been drafted into the Austro-Hungarian. Influential students petitioned the imperial government so that Joyce could actually leave the Austro-Hungary. He was granted a visa on the condition that he did not join the British war effort. James Joyce relocated to Zurich. In Zurich, Joyce made the acquaintance of Ezra Pound. He also met Harriet Shaw Weaver, a publisher. Weaver would become Joyce’s patron, allowing him to focus on his writing.

1916 was the year that A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This book which relied heavily on Joyce’s autobiographical experience was written with complexity and objectivity. This novel did very poorly financially; however, many avant-garde writers admired this book.

In 1920, Ezra Pound convince Joyce to come to Paris. Joyce would stay in the city for twenty years. During the period, Joyce would write Finnegan’s Wake, a work that would occupy most of his mental energies. Finnegan’s Wake tried to capture the sleeping life of those who lived in Dublin. True to a modernist sensibility Joyce played with puns that worked across languages and sentences that stretched the limits of transparency. The complexity of this book drives most casual readers away from it.

In 1940, Joyce fled to Zurich escaping the Nazi invasion and occupation of the city. In the Swiss city, Joyce would die after complications from a surgery on a perforated ulcer.

The writings of James Joyce include Chamber Music, Dubliners, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Exiles, Finnegan’s Wake.

James Joyce was an Irish Author. (February 2, 1882 - January 13, 1941)