James Joyce Short Fiction Analysis
In August, 1904, James Joyce wrote to his friend C. P. Curran: “I am writing a series of epicleti. I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemeplegia or paralysis which many consider a city.” This note announces, in effect, a transformation of the short story as a form. The note’s pretentious jargon reveals the attitude of the young Joyce’s artistic demeanor. In addition, it calls attention to some of the main technical and thematic characteristics of a volume that had to wait a further ten years for a publisher to consider it acceptable.
There is still some scholarly debate over the term “epicleti,” whose etymology remains obscure. It is clear, however, that Joyce’s use of the term shows him to be in pursuit of an aesthetic method. This self-conscious search for a method reveals Joyce as a preeminently twentieth century modernist author. As with his eminent contemporaries and advocates T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, to write was to articulate a theory of writing. Moreover, the search was successfully concluded, as the closing chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man records. It culminated in the “epiphany,” which means “showing forth” and which describes not only Joyce’s method but also his objectives in using one.
Joyce used the term “epiphany” to describe some of his own early artistic efforts in prose. These sketches sometimes resemble prose poems, calibrating moments of...
(The entire section is 3867 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of James Joyce Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!