James Joyce

About James Joyce

James Joyce (photo Bernice Abbott)


James Joyce, one of the most recognized and seminal figures of the Modernist movement, was born in Dublin on February 2, 1882. He was the oldest of Mary and John Joyce’s the ten children. Despite a secured government occupation, John Joyce’s poor financial management forced the Joyce family to move to several different homes during Joyce’s childhood as his family continued to lose affluence. Joyce was educated in Jesuit schools, a source of pride for him, first at Clongowes Wood College, then at Belvedere College, and finally at University College, Dublin, where he concentrated in modern language.

Joyce never took to the strong feelings of political fervor and nationalism that characterized his peers. Instead, he was interested in the idea of an aloof artist and became convinced that the only way to achieve his literary ambitions was through self-exile. In December 1902, Joyce left Ireland for the first time and headed to Paris. But in April of 1903 he was recalled to Ireland to visit his ailing mother. He returned to Europe shortly after, but not before meeting his future wife, Nora Barnacle, in 1904 (the two would finally marry in 1931). After this visit, Joyce only visited Ireland four more times in his life. After 1912 he was never to return. He would spend the next years living between Trieste and Zurich, where he would write for Italian newspapers and give lectures on English literature. It was also here that the writing that would secure his famous was completed. In 1920, he moved to Paris, but after the outbreak of World War II he and Nora fled to Zurich, Switzerland, where he would remain for the rest of his life. Joyce died of a perforated ulcer on January 13, 1941.

Although he wrote mainly in continental Europe, Joyce’s writing remained firmly grounded in his home city of Dublin. When he was 18, Joyce published his first work, an essay on the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and his first books, such as Moods and Chamber Music, collections of poetry, are overshadowed by his later writing. Dubliners, published in 1914, Joyce’s first major work, is a collection of short stories that he wrote to portray what he saw as Dublin’s inhabitants’ various forms of paralysis. In 1917, Joyce’s first completed novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, appeared in book form. Begun several years earlier and originally titled Stephen Hero, Portrait is a semi-autobiographical künstlerroman, or a story about the development of an artist. The work Joyce is most famous for, Ulysses, was published in 1922. The novel, taking place entirely on June 16, 1904 (now known as Bloomsday), is a dissection of the mind of Leopold Bloom as he wanders about Dublin. Joyce’s final work, Finnegan’s Wake, which took him seventeen years to write, is his most impressive and difficult work. In it, Joyce reached the fullest expression of his stream-of-conscious style through equivocal and seemingly nonsensical sentences.

Works Cited

“James Joyce 1882-1941.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume B. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2006. Print.

Miller, Tim. “And A Very Good Time It Was: A Short Life of James Joyce.” Six Galley Press.

A close look at The Dubliners: Araby

The Aesthetics of Stephen Dedalus

Joyce’s major works:

The Dubliners (1914)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
Ulysses (1922)
Finnegans Wake (1939)

For a short, but comprehensive biography of Joyce, see Joyce Biography