Joyce: undeserving of my former loathing

24 Feb

In my Irish literature class we recently began reading short stories from James Joyce’s Dubliners and excerpts from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

I have to admit that in my freshman year as part of ENG 150, we were all forced to read this novel. As a snarky know-it-all 18-year-old I instantly dismissed this work. Joyce’s stream of consciousness often forced me to in fact lose consciousness.

Now that I am better educated I am able to pick up on his basic themes, motifs and symbols. Never before would I have realized Joyce’s consistent equating of all females (even prostitutes) with the Blessed Virgin, or his inner conflict about Irish Nationalism.

Who else but a talented writer could describe his self-reflective protagonist in an hour of sin and desperation in these terms:

A cold lucid indifference reigned in his soul. At his first violent sin he had felt a wave of vitality pass out of him and had feared to find his body or his soul maimed by the excess. Instead the vital wave had carried him on its bosom out of himself and back again then it receded: and no part of body or soul had been mained, but a dark peace had been established between them (Joyce 73).

This writing is much different than what I have experienced (and loathed) in Ulysess, but maybe now I could even cultivate a better appreciation for that work.

I managed to obtain this photo from This is a photo of Joyce in his 20’s. Even here he looks a little tired! Poor guy.

3 Responses to “Joyce: undeserving of my former loathing”

  1. AAS February 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    I agree with your statement about Ulysses and as you know I was in your class for the reading of that novel. Maybe I will give Joyce a second look when I have time.

  2. Madeleine February 27, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    I confess I’ve never read any James Joyce (I seem to have gone through my schooling with a bunch of anti-canon English teachers), but it’s nice to read about your rapprochement with Joyce. Maybe over summer break, I should give it a try.

  3. mraczkowski March 9, 2010 at 2:41 am #

    I think you should give Ulysses a second try too! I was a cynic at first, but it really is a tremendous work. I enjoyed it even more than Portrait because he emphasized the importance of self-actualization and finding God in life rather than church. I found it much easier to sympathize with than his conflicts with nationality/religion. I agree though, he takes some getting used to.

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