JOYCE, James

(1882 - 1941)
“Who ever anywhere will read these written words”

A colossus of Modernist literature, Joyce is renowned for his literary innovation and passion for the music of language.  Although born in Dublin he spent his creative life in continental Europe, and whilst still in his early 20's started writing the short stories which were to become Dubliners.  In a letter to Grant Richards  he said “My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country, and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis.”  The stories were, at the time, considered “objectionable” in that they referred to bodily functions, sexuality and the violation of priestly ethics.  Joyce wrote to Richards  “[there is a] special odor of corruption which, I hope, floats over my stories."  Finding a publisher prepared to brave the obscenity laws took him until 1914.  Whilst still trying to find a publisher for Dubliners, Joyce did succeed in having a small book of poetry, Chamber Music, published in 1907.  His first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, nearly fell victim to Joyce’s sense of frustration with his lack of success as he famously tried to consign it to the fire, only his sister’s swift intervention saving it.  At this low point in his life Joyce finally had a change of fortune.  W B Yeats had recommended Joyce’s work to Ezra Pound and in 1913 Joyce received a letter which began “Dear Sir, Mr. Yeats has been speaking to me of your writing.”  Subsequently Pound arranged for the serialization of A Portrait in The Egoist, which itself was to become England’s most important Modernist periodical.  Pound was also instrumental in introducing Joyce to both Harriet Shaw Weaver, his financial backer, and Sylvia Beach, owner of a small Parisian bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, which eventually published Joyce’s groundbreaking work Ulysses.  Joyce had begun work on Ulysses, at least conceptually, as early as 1906 and although it was originally intended as a short story to be included in Dubliners, from 1916 he refers in his letters to writing Ulysses.  Initially serialised in the American literary magazine Little Review between 1918 and 1920, it fell foul of the obscenity laws and caused the closure of the journal.  However Sylvia Beach had seen the genius in Ulysses, and wrote to her mother that she might be soon to publish “the most important book of the age”, and finally, in 1922, the book was released by The Shakespeare Press.  However it took another 12 years before The Bodley Head were able to publish it with impunity in the UK.  Finnegans Wake taking 16 years to write and published in 1939, is often considered to be the apogee of Joyce’s literary output, but it is Ulysses that epitomises the creative genius and stylistic artistry of Modernism’s premier author.

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 James JOYCE

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[TAYLOR, Elizabeth]



JOYCE, James


Chamber Music

JOYCE, James