James Joyce 1882–1941
(Full name James Augustine Aloysius Joyce) Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, dramatist, memoirist, and critic.
Joyce is considered one of the most prominent literary figures of the first half of the twentieth century. His experiments in prose contributed to a redefinition of the form of the modern novel. As a poet, Joyce's contribution has been regarded as much less noteworthy than that of his fiction, and some critics describe him as a "minor" poet.
Joyce was born in a suburb of Dublin to middle-class parents. He was educated by Jesuits and underwent the same emotional hardship and intellectual discipline as Stephen Dedalus, the hero of his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In 1902 Joyce graduated from University College after earning a degree in Romance languages. He then left Ireland and studied at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. His mother's serious illness caused his return to Dublin in 1903. Following his mother's death in 1904, Joyce moved permanently to the continent with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. Settling in Trieste, a city located in the Austro-Hungarian empire, he struggled to support himself and his family by working as an English-language instructor at a Berlitz school.
Two months before the birth of his daughter Lucia in 1907, a collection of Joyce's poems, Chamber Music, was published. He would continue throughout his life to write poetry, but would make little effort to develop his technique beyond the form of these early poems that he had begun before he left Dublin. His first major success, the short fiction collection Dubliners, depicts middleand lower middle-class Dublin life. While composing these short stories, Joyce was also writing a novel, Stephen Hero, which he abandoned to turn his attention to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
With the onset of World War I, Joyce moved to Zurich, Switzerland, in 1915. He used the next four years to complete most of his novel Ulysses, which was published in 1922. In 1920 Joyce moved to Paris. Following the international renown accorded Ulysses, Joyce gained the financial patronship of Harriet Shaw and was able to devote himself exclusively to writing. He spent nearly all of his remaining years composing his final work, Finnegans Wake. Joyce's final years were darkened by the worsening insanity of his
daughter Lucia and by several surgical attempts to save his failing eyesight. After the publication of Finnegans Wake in 1939, Joyce fled Paris and the approaching turmoil of the Second World War. He died in Zurich of a perforated ulcer.
Joyce's first book of verse, Chamber Music, was started during his youth as a college student in Dublin in the late 1890s and published after he had moved to the continent in 1907. A wide range of influences—from Victorian love ballads, Irish songs, and the poetry of William Butler Yeats, Paul Verlaine, and Horace—can be detected in the poems comprising the volume. Most of the poems are brief, simple, and unambiguous. In 1927 Joyce published his second book of poetry, Pomes Penyeach, a collection of thirteen lyric poems. He composed most of them over a period of eleven years, between 1913 to 1924, though one poem, "Tilly," dates back to 1903. With little stylistic variation, they are noteworthy for their distinct rhythm and diction as well as their autobiographical content.
Upon its publication, Chamber Music received mixed critical attention. Critics recognized the lyrical qualities of the poems, but faulted them for a lack of innovation and emotion. However, as Joyce's reputation grew, some commentators have reassessed the verses comprising Chamber Music. Later critics have examined Joyce's use of biblical and classical allusions in the poems. Other commentators have analyzed the thematic and stylistic connections between the poems and Joyce's later fiction. His second collection, Pomes Penyeach, received more praise upon publication than his first volume, and many critics view these later poems as more direct, distinctive, and expressive than those of Chamber Music.