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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of James Joyce, Novelist, Short Story Writer & Poet

james-joyceJames Augustine Aloysius Joyce, Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet, is born in 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin on February 2, 1882. He contributes to the modernist avant-garde and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century.

Joyce is one of the ten children of Mary Jane “May” Murray and John Stanislaus Joyce, a professional singer and later rate-collector from a bourgeois Catholic family. He attends Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school, until 1891, when his father’s financial worries mean they can no longer afford to send him there. He is temporarily home-schooled and spends a short time at a Christian Brothers school, before starting at Belvedere College, a Jesuit day school run by his old Clongowes headmaster, Father John Conmee.

Much of Joyce’s childhood is influenced by his charismatic, but increasingly alcohol-dependent and difficult father, whose ongoing financial troubles led to regular domestic upheaval. However, John Joyce’s passions, eccentricities, as well as his gift as a singer are celebrated in his son’s work. The death of the Irish Home Rule movement leader Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891 is a watershed moment in Joyce’s life, and was the subject of an inflammatory argument during a Christmas dinner, in which John Joyce and his friend John Kelly passionately defend Parnell from the accusations of the pious Elizabeth Conway. Joyce recreates the scene in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, portraying Kelly’s character, Mr. Casey, crying loudly with a “sob of pain,” “Poor Parnell! … My dead king!”

Joyce attends University College Dublin in 1899-1902, where he studies modern languages, with Latin and logic. In 1902 he goes to Paris with an intent of studying medicine but discovers, on arrival, that he does not have the necessary qualifications. He constantly struggles for money, relying on irregular work as a teacher, bank employee, cinema-owner and tweed-importer, and on patrons and supporters such as Harriet Shaw Weaver and Ezra Pound.

Joyce returns to Ireland in 1903 after his mother falls ill. She dies in August 1903. He refuses to take the sacraments or kneel at her deathbed, and the guilt he later feels is depicted in Ulysses when the ghost of Stephen’s mother returns to haunt him. On June 16, 1904, he meets Nora Barnacle, the woman with whom he spends the rest of his life. By autumn, he is convinced of the impossibility of remaining in Ireland and persuades Nora to travel with him. They arrive in Paris on October 9, 1904. He would not return to Ireland to live. He cultivates a sense of himself as an exile, living in Trieste, Zürich, Rome and Paris.

Joyce’s first publication in 1907 is the poetry collection Chamber Music. When he sends Pound a revised first chapter of Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, along with the manuscript of his short story collection Dubliners, Pound arranges for Portrait to be published serially in the modernist magazine The Egoist between 1914 and 1915. His short story collection, Dubliners, had been delayed by years of arguments with printers over its contents, but is also published in 1914.

Joyce then begins work on Ulysses, an experimental account of a single day in Dublin. The novel is serialised between 1918 and 1920, but full publication is delayed due to problems with American obscenity laws. The work is finally published in book form by his friend Sylvia Beach in Paris in 1922. His play Exiles is first performed in German in 1919, and English in 1926. His last novel, Finnegans Wake (1939), is an innovative language experiment that contains over 40 languages and a huge variety of popular and arcane references.

On January 11, 1941, Joyce undergoes surgery in Zürich for a perforated duodenal ulcer. He falls into a coma the following day. He awakes at 2:00 AM on January 13, 1941, and asks a nurse to call his wife and son, before losing consciousness again. They are en-route when he dies 15 minutes later, less than a month short of his 59th birthday. He is buried in the Fluntern Cemetery, Zürich.

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The Death of James Augustine Aloysius Joyce

james-joyceJames Augustine Aloysius Joyce, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century, dies in Zurich following surgery for a perforated ulcer on January 13, 1941.

Joyce is born on February 2, 1882, in the wealthy Rathgar suburb of Dublin. The family is initially well off as Dublin merchants with bloodlines that connected them to old Irish nobility in the country. James’ father, John Joyce, is a fierce Irish Catholic patriot and his political and religious influences are most evident in Joyce’s two key works A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses.

The Joyce family is repeatedly forced to move to more modest residences due to their steadily diminishing wealth and income. John Joyce’s habitual unemployment as well as his drinking and spending habits make it difficult for the Joyces to retain their social standing. As a young man, Joyce is sent away to the renowned Clongowes School in 1888, a Jesuit institution regarded as the best preparatory school in Ireland. The Clongowes school figures prominently in Joyce’s work, specifically in the story of his recurring character Stephen Dedalus. Joyce earns high marks both at the Clongowes School and at Belvedere College in Dublin where he continues his education. At this point in his life, it seems evident that Joyce is to enter the priesthood, a decision that would please his parents. However, as Joyce makes contact with various members of the Irish Literary Renaissance, his interest in the priesthood wanes. Joyce becomes increasingly critical of Ireland and its conservative elements, especially the Church.

Against his mother’s wishes, Joyce leaves Ireland in 1902 to pursue a medical education in Paris and does not return until the following year upon receiving news of his mother’s debilitation and imminent death. After burying his mother, Joyce continues to stay in Ireland, working as a schoolteacher at a boys’ school, another autobiographical detail that recurs in the story of Stephen Dedalus. After barely spending a year in Dublin, Joyce returns to the Continent, drifting in and out of medical school in Paris before taking up residence in Zurich. It is during this period that Joyce begins writing professionally.

In 1905, Joyce completes a collection of eight stories entitled Dubliners, although it is not actually printed until 1913. During these frustrating and impoverished years, Joyce heavily relies upon the emotional support of Nora Barnacle, his unmarried Irish lover, as well as the financial support of his younger brother, Stanislaus Joyce. Both Nora and Stanislaus remain as protective, supporting figures for the duration of Joyce’s life. During the eight years between Dubliners‘ completion and publication, Joyce and Barnacle have two children, a son named Giorgio and a daughter named Lucia.

Joyce’s next major work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, appears in serialized form in 1914 and 1915. Joyce is “discovered” by Ezra Pound and the complete text is printed in New York in 1916, and in London in 1917. It is with the assistance of Pound, a prominent literary figure of the time, that Joyce comes into contact with Harriet Shaw Weaver, who serves as both editor and patron while Joyce writes Ulysses.

When Ulysses is published in Paris in 1922, many immediately hail the work as genius. With his inventive narrative style and engagement with multiple philosophical themes, Joyce has established himself as a leading Modernist. The novel charts the passage of one day, June, 16 1904, as depicted in the life of an Irish Jew named Leopold Bloom, who plays the role of a Ulysses by wandering through the streets of Dublin. Despite the fact that Joyce is writing in self-imposed exile, living in Paris, Zurich, and Trieste while writing Ulysses, the novel is noted for the incredible amount of accuracy and detail regarding the physical and geographical features of Dublin.

Similar in theme to Joyce’s previous works, Ulysses examines the relationship between the modern man and his myth and history, focusing on contemporary questions of Irish political and cultural independence, the effects of organized religion on the soul, and the cultural and moral decay produced by economic development and heightened urbanization. While Joyce is writing it, there is serious doubt as to whether Ulysses will be completed. Midway through his writing, Joyce undergoes the first of eleven eye operations to salvage his ever-worsening eyesight. At one point, a disappointed Joyce casts the bulk of his manuscript into the fire, but Nora Barnacle immediately rescues it.

While Ulysses is hailed by some, the novel is banned in both the United Kingdom and the United States on obscenity charges. It is not until 1934 that Random House wins a court battle that grants permission to print and distribute Ulysses in the United States. The novel is legalized in Britain two years later.

By this time, Joyce is approaching the end of his public career and has concluded work on his final novel, Finnegan’s Wake. Considered to be far more baffling and convoluted than Ulysses, Finnegan’s Wake is a critical failure. At the outbreak of World War II, Joyce remains in Paris until he is forced to move, first to Vichy, and then to Switzerland. On January 13, 1941, Joyce dies of a stomach ulcer at the age of 58 and is buried in Zurich’s Fluntern Cemetery.