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THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES - BIOGRAPHY (continued)
He also continued work on a novel he had started in Ireland. The first, brief version of what we know as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man had been curtly rejected in 1904, before Joyce left Ireland. "I can't print what I can't understand," wrote the British editor who refused it. Undaunted, Joyce expanded the story to nearly one thousand pages. It now bore the title Stephen Hero, and was a conventional Bildungsroman-a novel about a young man's moral and psychological development. Other examples of such novels might include D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (1913) or Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh (1903). (Some critics would be more specific and call Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist Kunstlerromane-novels about the development of young artists.)
Then, dissatisfied, Joyce decided to recast his novel into a shorter, more original form. The final version of Portrait of the Artist was stalled by British censorship and it was not until 1914 that Joyce, with the help of Yeats and the American poet Ezra Pound, was able to get it printed in serial form in a "little review," The Egoist. Dubliners, long delayed by printers' boycotts because of its supposed offensiveness, also appeared the same year. In 1916 Portrait of the Artist was published in book form in England and the United States, thanks only to the efforts of Harriet Weaver, editor of The Egoist, and Joyce's faithful financial and moral supporter.
When Portrait of the Artist did appear, critical reaction was mixed. It was called "garbage" and "brilliant but nasty," among other things. Some readers objected to the graphic physical description, the irreverent treatment of religious matters, the obscurity of its symbolism, and its experimental style. But it was also praised by others as the most exciting English prose of the new century. Joyce, who had fled to neutral Switzerland at the outbreak of World War I, was hailed as "a new writer with a new form" who had broken with the tradition of the English novel.
What sets Portrait of the Artist apart from other confessional novels about the development of a creative young man, like D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers and Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh is that the action takes place mainly in the mind of the central character. To portray that mind, Joyce began to develop a technique called the interior monologue, or stream of consciousness, in which he quoted directly the random, unshaped thoughts of his hero. Joyce used this technique sparingly in Portrait of the Artist; he exploited it more fully in his later novels.
Portrait of the Artist also differs from more conventional novels because it doesn't show Stephen Dedalus' development in a straightforward chronological progression. Nor do you see it through easily understood flashbacks to the past. Instead Joyce presents a series of episodes that at first may seem unconnected but which in fact are held together by use of language, images, and symbols. Joyce's language changes as Stephen moves from infancy to manhood. The boy who is "nicens little baby tuckoo" becomes the proud young artist who writes in his diary brave promises about forging "the uncreated conscience of my race." Images and symbols are repeated to reveal Stephen's innermost feelings. For example, a rose, or rose color, represents a yearning for romantic love and beauty; the color yellow a revulsion from sordid reality; and birds or flight, an aspiration to creative freedom (and, less often, the threat of punishment and loss of freedom). Such images often relate to larger motifs drawn from religion, philosophy, and myth. Joyce framed his novel in a superstructure of myth (see the section on the Daedalus myth) to relate his hero's personal experience to a universal story of creativity, daring, pride, and self-discovery.
This constellation of words, images, and ideas gives Portrait of the Artist a complex texture that offers you far more than a surface telling of Stephen Dedalus' story ever could. It's not easy to explore all the layers of the novel. Joyce removes familiar guideposts. Cause and effect is lost; scenes melt into one another, and the passage of time is not specified. Joyce doesn't explain the many references to places, ideas, and historical events that fill Stephen's mind. It's up to you to make the connections. But if you do, you'll find the effort worthwhile. You'll be participating with Stephen Dedalus in his journey of self-discovery.
After Portrait of the Artist, Joyce went even further in transforming the novel in his later works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Both are virtually plotless and try to reflect the inner workings of the mind in language that demands much from the reader. Stephen Dedalus appears again, though in a secondary role, as a struggling young writer in Ulysses. This epic novel connects one day's wanderings of Leopold Bloom, a Jewish Dubliner, with the twenty-year wanderings of the ancient Greek hero Ulysses recounted in Homer's Odyssey. Ulysses is in some ways a continuation of Portrait of the Artist.
Again, no English publisher would print Ulysses because of its sexual explicitness and earthy language. It was printed privately in Paris in 1922. Although its early chapters were published serially in the United States, further publication was banned and it was not legally available in the United States again until 1933, when a historic decision written by United States District Judge John Woolsey ruled that it was not obscene.
By then Joyce was living in Paris, an international celebrity and the acknowledged master of the modern literary movement. But even his warmest admirers cooled when Finnegans Wake was published in 1939. He was disheartened by the hostile reactions to the extremely obscure language and references in what he felt was his masterwork, the depiction of a cosmic world, built from the dreams of one man in the course of a night's sleep.
Joyce was also increasingly depressed by his failing eyesight, as well as his daughter Lucia's mental illness. His reliance on alcohol increased. Once again a world war sent him into exile in neutral Switzerland. Joyce died in Zurich in 1941.
James Joyce had lived to write. He became a priest of art, as he (Stephen) had promised in Portrait of the Artist. Because of his original use of language to tell a story that simultaneously combined mankind's great myths, individual human psychology, and the details of everyday life, Joyce is now held by many to be the most influential prose writer of this century. His influence was felt by many others, including Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, and Samuel Beckett. He has left his mark on any writer who uses the stream-ofconsciousness technique (see the section on Style), or employs language in a fresh and punning way. And for many writers, like the Anglo-American poet T. S. Eliot, his use of myth to give shape to the chaos of modern life had "the importance of a scientific discovery."