Joyce, James, 1882-1941Alternative names
James Joyce's father, John Stanislaus Joyce, was a Cork man who had inherited enough property to ensure a comfortable living from rents, but his alcoholism led to a seemingly endless series of disasters which drove the family to abject poverty by the time young Joyce was mature. His mother, Mary Jane Murray, died of cancer soon after Joyce graduated from university; Joyce's autobiographical counterpart Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus, is haunted by her memory. Young James was his father's favorite; he in turn seemed to forgive his father's weaknesses. Many of James Joyce's fictional characters and stories are indebted to his father's humorous stories of Dublin and its pubs.
After graduation Joyce went to Paris to study medicine, but he had neither the funds to matriculate nor to pay for adequate food and lodging. He made little progress in his medical studies because he used his time to read widely in literature in preparation for his serious commitment to art. He returned to Dublin to be with his dying mother, and for some time was at loose ends. In 1904, perhaps on June 16, the day that Ulysses takes place, Joyce eloped with a chamber maid from Galway named Nora Barnacle, eventually accepting a position as a teacher of English at the Berlitz School in Trieste. There two children were born to the couple, Giorgio in 1906 and Lucia in 1907. (Joyce and Nora were not to be formally wed until 1931.)
Joyce's published work began to appear in 1907 with his slim volume of verse Chamber Music. A number of his Dubliners stories first appeared in the Irish Homestead while George Russell (AE) was editor. After considerable trouble with publishers fearing censorship, Joyce finally saw Dubliners appear as a collection of stories in 1914. It was soon followed by A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916, and his career as a writer was launched. He had captured the attention and admiration of other writers, including the influential Ezra Pound.
In 1918 he published Exiles. What secured for Joyce the attention and respect of the literati was the appearance in periodical form of Ulysses, for it was apparent that no literary work remotely like it had ever been published. It is often said that Joyce reinvented each genre as he wrote in it, but as yet there seemed to be no genre into which Ulysses could fit. In 1922 Ulysses was published by Sylvia Beach of the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare & Co. Ulysses, which reconstructs a day in the life of a modern-day Jew in Dublin, patterned after the adventures of an epic hero of Greece, was itself written by a wanderer; the book was begun in Zurich and finished in Paris by an author who spoke to his family in Italian, who in 1941 would be laid to rest in a Swiss cemetery.
Joyce had a love-hate relationship with his native city, but in his entire literary career he never really wrote about any other place. He often said that if Dublin were destroyed he could recreate it from memory, street by street and shop by shop. However, after his elopement in 1904 he never lived there again, and visited infrequently. In 1915 he took his family from Trieste to Zurich in anticipation of the outbreak of war, returning to live in Trieste briefly at the end of World War I. In 1920, at the urging of Pound, he moved with his family to Paris.
Soon after the publication of Ulysses, Joyce began work on his final literary work Finnegans Wake, by far his most experimental and perplexing. Though it was not published as a unified entity until 1939, sections of it appeared in periodical form under its provisional title Work in Progress. During these years Joyce suffered from ocular problems and other medical difficulties. He underwent surgery eleven times and was often quite blind. Shortly after the publication of Finnegans Wake, World War II broke out in Europe and the Joyces left Paris for the south of France while awaiting permission to again enter Switzerland. Three weeks after their arrival in Zurich, Joyce underwent surgery for peritonitis, caused by a perforated duodenal ulcer. He lapsed into a coma and died early on January 13, 1941. He is buried in Fluntern Cemetery in Zurich beneath a statue of him by the American sculptor Milton Hebald.
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