This Day In Literary History
On December 29th, 1916, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the classic first novel by James Joyce, was published in the United States.
It was the first publication of the novel in book form; it had previously been published in a serialized format in Ezra Pound's literary magazine, The Egoist, from 1914-15.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was a complete rewrite of Stephen Hero, an earlier novel Joyce had been working on from 1904-05. Frustrated, Joyce abandoned it, but an incomplete first draft of Stephen Hero would be published posthumously in 1944.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man introduced Joyce's dazzling stream of consciousness narrative style and trademark experimental grammar, which included the use of dashes in place of quotation marks.
An autobiographical novel, it told the story of the physical, intellectual, philosophical, political, and spiritual coming-of-age of its main character, Stephen Dedalus, named after the first Christian martyr who had conflicts with the established religion of his homeland.
His surname, Dedalus, refers to the architect of ancient Greek myth who became trapped in a labyrinth of his own design. Stephen Dedalus begins to question the Catholic doctrine he was raised to believe in. He soon rebels against the Church and renounces his religion.
In Dedalus' native Ireland, the Church exerts a tremendous amount of influence on and power over all aspects of secular life, including the government. Whether one is on the political left or right, or in the middle, one cannot escape the suffocating influence of the Catholic Church.
Realizing this, Stephen Dedalus refuses to commit himself to any political party or beliefs. Knowing that there is no future for him in Ireland, he leaves the country and moves abroad to pursue his artistic calling.
In a 1907 lecture, Joyce discussed the issues that Dedalus faces in the novel:
The Irishman, finding himself in another environment, outside Ireland, very often knows how to make his worth felt. The economic and intellectual conditions of his homeland do not permit the individual to develop.
The spirit of the country has been weakened by centuries of useless struggle and broken treaties. Individual initiative has been paralyzed by the influence and admonitions of the church, while the body has been shackled by peelers, duty officers and soldiers. No self-respecting person wants to stay in Ireland. Instead he will run from it, as if from a country that has been subjected to a visitation by an angry Jove.
A seminal early novel that established the literary style and personal philosophy of one of the world's greatest writers, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a must read for anyone interested in James Joyce or great novels.
Its main character, Stephen Dedalus, would reappear as one of the main characters in Joyce's controversial epic masterpiece, Ulysses.
Ironically, nearly 100 years after the novel was written, the Catholic Church finally lost its power over Ireland when it was discovered that hundreds of priests had molested thousands of children over the past several decades - crimes known and covered up by the Church.
Quote Of The Day
"Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end." - James Joyce
Today's video features a complete reading of James Joyce's classic novel, Finnegan's Wake. Enjoy!