James Joyce

Portrait of James Joyce
Joyce in Zurich, c. 1918

James Joyce signature.svg

James Augustine[1] Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century. Joyce is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, most famously stream of consciousness. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His other writings include three books of poetry, a play, his published letters and occasional journalism.

Joyce was born in Dublin into a middle-class family. A brilliant student, he briefly attended the Christian Brothers-run O'Connell School before excelling at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, despite the chaotic family life imposed by his father's alcoholism and unpredictable finances. He went on to attend University College Dublin.

In 1904, in his early twenties, Joyce emigrated to continental Europe with his partner (and later wife) Nora Barnacle. They lived in Trieste, Paris, and Zurich. Although most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce's fictional universe centres on Dublin and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there. Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city. Shortly after the publication of Ulysses, he elucidated this preoccupation somewhat, saying, "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal."[2]

Early life

Joyce's birth and baptismal certificate

On 2 February 1882, Joyce was born at 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin, Ireland.[3] Joyce's father was John Stanislaus Joyce and his mother was Mary Jane "May" Murray. He was the eldest of ten surviving siblings; two died of typhoid. James was baptised according to the Rites of the Catholic Church in the nearby St Joseph's Church in Terenure on 5 February 1882 by Rev. John O'Mulloy. Joyce's godparents were Philip and Ellen McCann.

John Stanislaus Joyce's family came from Fermoy in County Cork, and had owned a small salt and lime works. Joyce's paternal grandfather, James Augustine Joyce, married Ellen O'Connell, daughter of John O'Connell, a Cork Alderman who owned a drapery business and other properties in Cork City. Ellen's family claimed kinship with Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator".[4] The Joyce family's purported ancestor, Seán Mór Seoighe (fl. 1680) was a stonemason from Connemara.[5]

Joyce aged six, 1888

In 1887, his father was appointed rate collector by Dublin Corporation; the family subsequently moved to the fashionable adjacent small town of Bray, 12 miles (19 km) from Dublin. Around this time Joyce was attacked by a dog, leading to his lifelong cynophobia. He suffered from astraphobia; a superstitious aunt had described thunderstorms as a sign of God's wrath.[6]

In 1891 Joyce wrote a poem on the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. His father was angry at the treatment of Parnell by the Catholic Church, the Irish Home Rule Party and the British Liberal Party and the resulting collaborative failure to secure Home Rule for Ireland. The Irish Party had dropped Parnell from leadership. But the Vatican's role in allying with the British Conservative Party to prevent Home Rule left a lasting impression on the young Joyce.[7] The elder Joyce had the poem printed and even sent a part to the Vatican Library. In November, John Joyce was entered in Stubbs' Gazette (a publisher of bankruptcies) and suspended from work. In 1893, John Joyce was dismissed with a pension, beginning the family's slide into poverty caused mainly by his drinking and financial mismanagement.[8]

Joyce had begun his education at Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school near Clane, County Kildare, in 1888 but had to leave in 1892 when his father could no longer pay the fees. Joyce then studied at home and briefly at the Christian Brothers O'Connell School on North Richmond Street, Dublin, before he was offered a place in the Jesuits' Dublin school, Belvedere College, in 1893. This came about because of a chance meeting his father had with a Jesuit priest called John Conmee who knew the family and Joyce was given a reduction in fees to attend Belvedere.[9] In 1895, Joyce, now aged 13, was elected to join the Sodality of Our Lady by his peers at Belvedere.[10] The philosophy of Thomas Aquinas continued to have a strong influence on him for most of his life.[11]

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