Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

James Joyce
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)


A girl stood before him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird. Her long slender bare legs were delicate as a crane's and pure save where an emerald trail of seaweed had fashioned itself as a sign upon the flesh. Her thighs, fuller and soft-hued as ivory, were bared almost to the hips, where the white fringes of her drawers were like feathering of soft white down. Her slate-blue skirts were kilted boldly about her waist and dovetailed behind her. Her bosom was as a bird's, soft and slight, slight and soft as the breast of some dark-plumaged dove. But her long fair hair was girlish: and girlish, and touched with the wonder of mortal beauty, her face.

She was alone and still, gazing out to sea; and when she felt his presence and the worship of his eyes her eyes turned to him in quiet sufferance of his gaze, without shame or wantonness. Long, long she suffered his gaze and then quietly withdrew her eyes from his and bent them towards the stream, gently stirring the water with her foot hither and thither. The first faint noise of gently moving water broke the silence, low and faint and whispering, faint as the bells of sleep; hither and thither, hither and thither; and a faint flame trembled on her cheek.

- Heavenly God! cried Stephen's soul, in an outburst of profane joy.

– James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, section IV.

Online Text:

Project Gutenberg edition (full text)

Critical Responses:

"The author shows us he has art, strength and originality, but this MS wants time and trouble spent on it, to make it a more finished piece of work, to shape it more carefully as the product of the craftsmanship, mind and imagination of an artist." - Edward Garnett.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1977)
directed by Joseph Strick
screenplay by Judith Rascoe
starring Bosco Hogan, T. P. McKenna & John Gielgud


Stephen Dedalus: You have asked me what I would do and what I would not do. I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve in that which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use-silence, exile, and cunning.

Stephen Dedalus: When the soul of man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.

Stephen Dedalus: Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Critical Responses:

"A delicate, brooding adaptation of Joyce's slim novel. The well-chosen cast struggles and mostly succeeds with the dialogue, largely taken directly from Joyce's words. In effect, this movie is the book come to life - as exactly as 90 minutes of film will allow.

Standouts include Stephen's father and a rousing interpretation of the famous description of Hell from John Gielgud." - Internet Movie Database.


Alan P said...

356Tutorial, 4-5pm, Group:Alan, Sophie, James, Maha

The story is dense because it casually draws on many contextual concepts such as politics and Irish social history. the narrative tends to ramble but remains to the point. Relating to modernist phiosophy it deals with problems faced by everday people without biase. It is an intellectual piece as it follows the mental development of a young boy into an intellectual. This is demonstrated by few details on Stephens friends and family except his father who play a large part in his intellectual awakening. Reflecting his upbringing in revolutionary Ireland, issues such as Catholicism and its interpretation in the modern world are regularly debated in the dialogue. At times the narrative ca be hectic and heavy. It is clear that this story is a rejection of the cultural norms of the Ireland that Stephen(Joyce) grew up in.

Jenny said...

356 tutorial 4-5pm thurs group:Laura, Bonnie and Jenny

Portrait of the Artist by James Joyce became a compendium of his semi-autobiographical writings during his lifetime. The book begins with a seemingly classic bildungsroman theme, as Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s fictional counterpart goes on a quest to find his inner self which continues as a journey through adolescence with the struggles he faces between religion and his budding sexuality. The young Stephen who as a small schoolboy wins interest from the reader when he calls for justice after being wrongly pandered. He gains sympathy as well with his keen insights into the life of an Irish schoolboy away at boarding school. However, as the novel progresses, Stephen loses his schoolboy charm, which is replaced by his tedious self-absorbed attitude, obsessing over the prospects of damnation and the base pleasure of prostitution. The story is without a clear sense of resolution until the end. The book started off well, and we all agreed it seemed like a promising story, but in the end we were disappointed in Stephen’s gratingly introspective narration, as well as surprised by Joyce’s negative characterisation of his younger self.

The Writers Group said...

I think you're a bit harsh on poor Stephen - he does have rather a hard row to hoe, what with the improvident father and needy family, oppressive priests, and Gaelic revolutionaries all trying to woo him simultaneously. What he perhaps lacks is what the later Joyce has in spades: a lively sense of humour.

Dan said...

356 Tutotial, Monday 4 - 5pm
Group: Karrie, Vibeke, Dan

Some could argue that Joyce's 'The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' is primarily a tale of a boy coming of age. The opening of the novel begins in the mind of the protagonist - Stephen, as a young child, using words like "Moo-cow" and baby "tuckoo". The novel then shifts and continues onward, portraying selected significant moments in Stephen's life - almost like a series of portraits.

As Stephen grows up he learns about women and religion, trying to find himself as a person and eventually, as an artist. To evoke this progression, Joyce was one of the first author's to use the 'stream of consciousness' narrative technique; a stylistic form that for many was hard to penetrate.

The accessibility of Joyce's text is further disrupted by the extent to which the reader must have an awareness of the cultural, religious and political currents that defined Irish life in the early 20th century. Without an appreciation of the ferocity of Irish Catholicism, or the zeal with which British imperialism was loathed, one cannot understand the true extent of Stephen's struggles.

alex said...

As an aesthetic object, this novel is appealing on many levels, in its ingenious structure, its vivid Irishness, its invention and originality, however I found myself struggling to break past the overriding earnestness of Joyce and of the older Stephen. It is all tension and no release. In that sense it encapsulates the trials of youth: we as readers are led to empathise with Stephen, despite his quirks. Nevertheless Stephen’s sometimes infuriating introspection comes across mostly as indifference, a young man whose passion is language but who engages expressively strictly on his own terms: he seems to float above the petty conflicts of his peers. To me the peripheral characters are colourful but lack subtlety, to the point of being stereotypical, although Joyce certainly captures well the social politics of his youth. I particularly enjoyed the interaction between the zealous, slightly foolish Temple and the despicable, sneering Cranly.

David said...

356, 4-5PM Monday, Deuk-Woo(David) Kang
Portrait' Review
It is difficult in itself to simply review James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as it can be a very easy read but at the same time, infinitely daunting piece of literature. While each words and sentences flow rather poetically and one prose bleeds onto the next allowing the readers to be captured in the currents of the narrative, some of the word choices are rather obscure and sometimes quite specific to a more specific cultures. Now, this is not a problem if one belonged to or had experienced Joyce’s life, full of religious/cultural conflict in a specifically Irish backdrop, but to everyone else, the text is indeed confusing to say the least.

However, with all the complexities of the narrative such as Stephen’s aesthetics and religio-political conflicts removed, Portrait becomes a very simple text. At the very core of the book, there is a child that is growing up. It is about Joyce’s alter ego, Stephen, and his maturation and therefore is often packed full of his self absorptive thoughts and actions. To those particularly self-conscious or pretentious this may be quite irritable but in all honesty, who would not be proud of oneself; Stephen simply expresses it in his own ‘diary’. If we simply allow ourselves to be swept by the currents of Stephen’s life and by Joyce’s prose fluidity, the text can be a very interesting narrative with rich surrounding branches.

ps- For my first try of this, I was stupid enough to write at website and as you'd expect it bugged out and I had to start all over again but his time on microsoft word :D

Ryan & Will said...

ENGLISH 356 - Tutorial (Thursday, 4-5)

1916 - 'Dear Editor' (Literary Comment, The Shropshire Times)

James Joyce, rising Irish pen-smith, has crafted a work in 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' completely devoid of worthwhile attention by any man of sensible constitution in this time of European need. This is a novel formed under the pseudo-movement 'modernism' - which I for one give no weighting - and as such throws an alien and almost incomprehensible prose style in the face of the reader and reserves almost no reward for a show of dedication. However, I will concede, the novel does show flashes of inspiration, most notably those moments founded on religious institutions - a particularly fiery sermon sticks in the mind. Even so, unless your interests are shy and retiring young catholic boys I advise you to avoid this piece of inevitable pulp like the plague that has only recently affected our Irish 'friends'.

- suitably miffed in Shropshire.

Anonymous said...

356 Tutorial, Thurs 4-5: Emma-Jane and Ayesha

James Joyce's 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' is an emotionally evocative account of a young man's search for identity during adolescence and adulthood, teeming with the implications of a strict Irish Catholic upbringing. It is through the contextual background of Stephen Dedalus that readers are able to sense the angst of a young man struggling to decide whether or not to pursue a more religious or artistic way of life.

Joyce’s post-modern style and heavy use of self-consciousness streams of thought may be narrative techniques more akin to twenty-first century readers, and it is therefore conceivable that this book was so heavily scrutinised when it was first published.

Much of the appeal of this novel lies in the fact that Joyce’s writing style is based on vivid descriptions of everyday occurrences in a poignant and self-conscious style that enables the novel to take on almost poetic and lyrical qualities. This innovative and some-what avant-garde approach to the recollection of one man’s past is what makes ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ such a refreshing yet highly sentimental read.

Michael and Daniel said...

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man shows our hero's development, but is it a progression or a regression and how does this question complicate our reading of the novel as a buldingsroman? He certainly moves from innocence to experience, from a child to a teenager to a young man, and he knows a lot of stuff by the end, but he's far from being self-fulfilled. He goes through moments in his life, many of which illustrate his views, what he has learned, what has impacted on him at that time. These cover all the 'biggies': academic - from school to university, religion - where he's terrified into a short-lived saint hood, political - where he decides essentially not to get involved, and sexual - where he gets too involved. He arrives at new realizations and appreciations for things through experiences he describes as epiphanies (of the thoroughly secular variety). But by the end of the novel there is a sense that he hasn't really got anywhere, but that by leaving Ireland he'll be in a position to process all this, and make sense of it. This ties in Joyce closely with his character of Stephen and begs the question, to what extent the book needs to be read in light of Joyce's latter work and how his development mirrors and deviates from Stephen's. (Michael and Daniel)