Sunday, November 9, 2014

James Joyce Biography

James Joyce (1882-1941)

v     James Joyce is one of the most famous writers of the modernist avant-garde.

v     His most famous works are the novels Ulysses, Finnegan's Wake, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

v      He also wrote Dubliners, a collection of short stories, as well as three books of poetry, and one play.

v     James Joyce was very musical, with an award winning voice, and also played the guitar and piano. Music was a very strong influence in his writing.

v     The famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, after reading Ulysses, concluded that James Joyce, like his daughter Lucia, was schizophrenic, "She and her father are like two people heading to the bottom of a river, except that Joyce was diving and Lucia was sinking."

Personal Life:

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a middle class home. He was the eldest of twelve children, two dying of typhoid. His father worked, but was an alcoholic, a vice which James inherited. James had lifelong difficulty with his eyes, requiring dozens of operations. He also suffered from fear of dogs, after being attacked at the age of five, and fear of thunder, which an aunt explained was God's anger. Despite having a chaotic family life, he was a brilliant student, winning various awards.

Joyce went to university to study English lit, French, and Italian. He began publishing critical revues, for example to the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. In 1902, Joyce went to Paris to study medicine, but found it too difficult, and returned to Ireland when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

In 1904, James left Ireland for good, living in Trieste with his life partner Nora Barnacle. Trieste is now in Italy, but at his time was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He made a living teaching English. He also persuaded several of his brothers and sisters to leave Dublin, and come live with him. Joyce refused invitations to return to Dublin, even from the famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

Although he rarely returned to Dublin, his stories all take place there, and his characters closely resemble his family, friends, and his enemies from his youth in Dublin. Mentally, he could never leave the city, 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."

In 1915, as World War I started, Joyce was helped by his wealthy students to get a travel passport so he and his family could flee to Zurich, Switzerland. He met several other famous writers and artists, including the poet Ezra Pound, and Harriet Shaw Weaver, a wealthy feminist who became James's patron. She gave him enough money to quit teaching and write full time for the rest of his life.

After the war, James tried living back in Trieste, but found the city had changed, and his brother Stanislaus was angry at him, having spent most of the war in a prison camp. So James went to Paris on a one week holiday that lasted over twenty years.

James Joyce fled from Paris to Zurich during WW II, to avoid the Nazis. He died there in hospital from an ulcer (vred). His body was buried in Zurich, and never moved to Ireland, despite Nora's offer. The Irish government refused to grant it.

James came from a Catholic family, but rejected Catholicism at a young age. He later wrote,
"My mind rejects the whole present social order and Christianity—home, the recognised virtues, classes of life, and religious doctrines. [...] Six years ago I left the Catholic church, hating it most fervently. I found it impossible for me to remain in it on account of the impulses of my nature. I made secret war upon it when I was a student and declined to accept the positions it offered me. By doing this I made myself a beggar but I retained my pride. Now I make open war upon it by what I write and say and do."

James displayed his lack of faith in extreme ways, refusing to kneel and pray at his mother's bedside as she lay dying. He also refused a Catholic service at his own funeral. Despite all this, he still regularly attended mass (omša) all his life.

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