A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A Portrait of the Artist as a
Young Man
James Joyce
Born in 1882 in Dublin, and educated at two Jesuit
Clongowes Wood College in Kildare
Belvedere College in Dublin
After graduating he lived in poverty in Paris writing
Married Nora Barnacle in 1931
By May of 1916, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young
Man was published.
From 1915-1919 Joyce, his wife Nora and their two
children, Georgio and Lucia, lived in Zurich while
Joyce worked on the first twelve episodes of
After World War I ended, they lived in Paris for the
next 20 years. Once World War II began they were
forced to exile themselves to Zurich.
Joyce died in 1941 in Zurich following surgery on an
James Joyce was one of the most important
influences on the development of the 20th-century
novel. Edmund Wilson called him “the great poet
of a new phase of human consciousness.”
With the publication of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
became recognized as one of the most important modernists shaping the
future of literature.
Modernism is a style of writing that writers and other artists used with trends
such as symbolism, expressionism, imagism, and surrealism.
Modernist writers rejected 19th century realism, and remained disengaged
from mainstream thought and values, and to present their readers with
complex new forms.
Important Elements of Joyce’s style
When reading Portrait you are taken into the conscious and unconscious
thoughts that run endlessly through a character’s mind, and these may
include memories of the past suddenly interrupted by fantasies about the
future fused with some elements of the present.
Stream of Consciousness: the intermingled flow of a character’s thoughts,
feelings and perceptions. In Portrait the stream of consciousness was
presented through interior monologue: Stephen’s inner thoughts to the reader
with no interpretation by the narrator.
Epiphany: This term originated in the Christian religion to define a moment
when God is clearly revealed. Joyce used it to denote secular revelation in
day-to-day life. There are many epiphanies in Portrait, sudden revelations
which change Stephen’s life.
Motif: an idea, image, or element which is found in many literary works.
Leitmotif: is a motif which occurs repeatedly within a single work. Joyce uses a
number of recurring motifs in connection with various situations. Pay attention
to the following motifs and leitmotifs as you read: eyes and the fear of
blindness; water (in all its forms); roses; cows; the colors white, red, yellow and
green; birds; flight; cold and warmth.
In Portrait Joyce’s style changes with Stephen’s age. When your reading you
will recognize Stephen’s progression of age through his Joyce’s sentence
structure and Stephen’s thoughts.
Point of View
Portrait is written in third-person omniscient. Although Joyce is telling us
Stephen’s story, we often feel “inside Stephen’s head.”
For the most part, we see only what Stephen sees and we know only what he
We are just far enough outside of Stephen that we are free to pass judgment
on him and wonder what he will do next.
A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is made up of important episodes in
Stephen’s life.
– Chapter One: Stephen’s childhood; first hints of disillusionment with his
country, church, and family.
– Chapter Two: Stephen’s adolescence; sexual awakening; further
disillusionment, especially with his father.
– Chapter Three: Stephen is 16. His remorse over his sexual activities leads
him to try to re-connect with the church.
– Chapter Four: The now-pious Stephen, in his late teens, realizes he is living
in an inauthentic way and sees his calling not as a priest of the church but
as “a priest of the imagination.”
– Chapter Five: As a young university student, Stephen develops his artistic
theories and realizes he must leave Ireland, which is stifling him.
Background Information
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man contains many references and allusions
to historical events, places, mythology, other works and philosophies of
literature, and rituals and tenets of the Catholic church.
Irish History
Irish Catholicism
The Daedalus Myth
Irish History
Problems between Britain and Ireland began in about 607, when the
English crown confiscated land in Ireland – the home of Gaelic Catholics- and
sponsored British Protestant settlement there.
Rebellions by Irish Catholics led to further losses of property, power, and rights.
Irish Catholics suffered from an economic depression. Several Irish peasants
where forced to tenant-farm small plots of lands making just enough to be
able to feed their families.
Several million Irish starved to death due to the potato blight which
devastated the potato crops in the 1840’s.
Between 1841-1851 many Irish who could afford to emigrate, went to United
States and Canada.
In the late 1870’s an agricultural depression occurred between the nationalists
Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt, who headed the Land League
and campaigned successfully for agricultural reform.
Parnell led the movement for Home Rule – self-government by an
independent Irish parliament. With Catholic leverage in British parliament,
Parnell was able to force Britain to accept Home Rule for Ireland. Before the
bill was actually passed, however, Parnell’s enemies exposed an adulterous
affair Parnell was involved in with Kitty O’Shea, a married woman. (she is
referred several times in the book) The Catholic church denounced Parnell,
and Parnell’s own supporters deserted him. Parnell died of pneumonia shortly
Davitt joined the Fenian movement in 1865 and was imprisoned three times by
the English for his revolutionary activities. He was especially Influenced by the
theories of Henry George. Davitt broke with Parnell over the question of land
nationalization, but remained an important irish leader and was instrumental in
bringing the Parnell and anti-Parnell factions together in the united Irish
League (1898).
Irish Catholicism
Like the majority of Irish, James Joyce was raised in the Roman Catholic
Church. Like Stephen in A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce
eventually rejected the church. The novel is interlaced with references to
Catholicism, and in order to understand Stephen’s torment and guilt, it is
helpful to know some of the basic tenets of the religion he finally abandoned.
– Jesuit: Jesuit priests- members of the order of the Society of Jesus- enjoyed
considerable prestige within the church and in Irish society because of
their reputation for rigid standards in religious, intellectual, and
philosophical areas. Stephen’s father wants him to be schooled by “the
best,” so Stephen attends Jesuit schools.
– Mortal Sin: a serious, willful transgression against the law of God. This
sinning can only be forgiven if the sinner is remorseful and promises to
repent and not repeat the sin. A person that doesn’t confess his sin soul is
deprived of God’s grace and the consequences are Hell. Father Arnell
gives a frightening description of the tortures of Hell in Chapter Three.
The Holy Trinity: The principles of the Roman Catholic faith are based on the
belief in the existence of the Holy Trinity as one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God is the creator of the universe, and will judge human beings for their sings,
with the power to deny them entrance to Heaven.
Eucharist (or Communion): Communion is given to Roman Catholics following
confession of sins as a sign of God’s grace.
Easter Duty: Confession and Communion, required at least once a year, at
Easter, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Sacrilege: an action or thought that degrades the scared. Stephen discusses
sacrilege with Cranly in the last chapter.
Seven Deadly Sins: Stephen feels at one point that he is guilt of all of these
sins, and even one of them is considered fatal to spiritual progress: Pride,
covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth.
Heresy: Freethinkers were condemned as heretics because their belief varies
from that of the church. Stephen becomes a freethinker by the end of the
The Daedalus Myth
Daedalus is the hero of the Greek
myth. According to the myth,
Daedalus was a craftsman and
inventor who made a hollow wooden
cow so that Queen Pasiphae could
fulfill her desire to couple with a bull. To
contain the half-bull, half-human
monster, Daedalus built the Minotaur’s
Labyrinth on Crete. When Daedalus
later displeased King Minos, the king
confined both Daedalus and his son,
Icarus, to the labyrinth. Daedalus
made wings out of wax and feathers,
and he and Icarus flew away. Icarus
flew too close to the sun, however,
and his wax wings melted. He plunged
into the sea and drowned, and
Daedalus escaped safely to Sicily.
– In addition to sharing his name with the mythical hero, Stephen shares the
feelings of being trapped in a maze of his own making. He must fly over
the obstacles of church, family, and country to escape over the sea to
Europe in order to feel truly free.
– Just as the mythical Daedalus was renowned for three cunning
achievements – the cow, the labyrinth, and the wings- Stephen tells
Cranly he plans to use “silence, exile, and cunning” to defend the free
expression of his art. Like Daedalus, he will be a craftsman and inventor,
but his materials will be words and imagination.
– The Greek “daidolos” is often translated as “cunningly wrought.” In the last
line of the novel, the April 27 diary entry, Stephen writes “Old father, old
artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.” Artifice is a synonym for
cunning, and Stephen seems to see Daedalus as his spiritual father and
Read Poem and Annotate
Icaro Volero sopra fiumi, laghi, mari e monti; Oltre le nubi tra cieli
infiniti. Senza confini e catene alle mani, Volero oggi e domani.
Volero dove il sole riscalda ogni cuore, dove la luna e le stelle vegliano
notti senza dolore.
Volero nella luce di un Dio infinito, dove la fede ha un solo colore e la
gente non muore.
Con le ali dell’amore, io posso volare.
Read Poem and Annotate… Easier to Understand in English?
Icarus I will fly over rivers, lakes, oceans &
mountains; Beyond the clouds of the infinite
sky. With no barriers or chains on my wrists*; I will fly
today and tomorrow.
I will fly where the sun warms every heart, where
the moon and the stars watch over the night so it
passes painlessly.
I will fly in the light of an infinite God Where faith
has just one colour and people never die.
With the wings of love, I can fly.

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