Joyce, Dubliners and Ulysses - Studentville

Joyce, Dubliners and Ulysses

Trattazione in lingua inglese di Joyce e della sue opere


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James Joyce was the first and the most important amongst the great experimentalists of the 20th century. He was born in Dublin from a good family in decline and was educated in his native town. He specialised in languages and graduated in 1902. He took no part in the Irish literary revival, which accompanied Irish political nationalism because, as one can clearly infer from his novels, he felt the Irish environment frustrating, and provincial. He decided to cut himself free from his family, country end religion by escaping from Ireland into permanent self-exile. He live in Paris, Trieste (where he met Italo Svevo) and Zurich.
He continued to write about Dublin, the town that he recreated and described by using his memory, which remained for him the centre of the world.
In a visit to Ireland he met Nora Barnacle, with whom he spent the rest of his life; they had a son and a daughter. His friendship with Yeats and Pound greatly encouraged Joyce's career and reputation. In 1917 an attack of glaucoma caused him to become totally blind. He was also troubled by his daughter’s mental illness.
His famous novel Ulysses was first published in Paris in 1922 and in the UK in the 1936. Soon it became one of the literary scandals of the century. In Paris, Joyce rapidly became one of the most distinguished writers: in the stimulating atmosphere of the intellectual capital of the post-war Europe he felt free to experiment new narrative techniques. The reactions to his works are diverse: ranging from praise to shock.
In the 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, Joyce returned to Zurich, where he died in the 1941.
The importance of Joyce is that he had renewed the literature. His books are very different from the tradition. Joyce uses the technique of the manipulation of time and he doesn't respect the chronological order; he uses the association of ideas and flashback. In his stories there isn't only one point of view, but he expresses the points of view of many characters. He became famous with his neologism and his "exploration" of the language, but he always uses the same theme: the dryness of his time.


Dublin, Joyce's city of birth is represented as the symbol of the entire world, like a dead background. The theme of death is common in his novels: the last is "The dead" and the last word is "dead".
His novels were written between 1903 and 1914, and were published in 1915. They are divided into four parts, like the human life:

– 3 stories about children

– 4 stories about young boys

– 4 stories about adults

– 3 stories about public life

The last story is a sort of summing up of the themes of each story.

Dubliners are chronicles of spiritual, political and social paralysis of a city. The fifteen novels of Dubliners reflect an Ireland disappointed, annoyed and displeased. Captives of boredom, soul and feelings become dry, the characters of these stories apparently banal, try to escape from the immobility of their country.
The common elements of the stories are:

The themes:

– Paralysis;
– Concreteness of reality opposed to the need of spirituality.
– Money like the symbol of a repressed wish.
– The negative Irishman, drunk and violent.
– The hope of escape and the feeling of suffocation; isn’t present in the later novels, because the adults have lost any hope.
– The East, connected with the escaping theme. The East is far from reality and from everyday life.

The movement:

The travel, often useless, of the character to find something. All the characters escape or try to escape from Dublin in search of an "Eden", which they can't find.

The epifany:

Is the discovery of reality (from the Magi), the moment of revelation. Joyce is often negative when the main characters discover something www. Many small things contribute to this factor.

The music:

A vital form of art in many parts of the world (for example in Italy), but not in Ireland. It's a way to escape and helps the memory and the stream of consciousness.

The irishness:

Being Irish, oppressed by traditions, morality and customs.

The window:

There are two sorts of people: who looks out of the window and who looks through the window into the house. Outside the life passes; the one who looks out from the windows doesn't live really, but he looks the other people living. It's a symbol of apathy, of the people, who don't take part in social life.


It’s the story of Bloom and his friend's Dedalus (Joyce projection, often used in his books) wandering, through Dublin on June 16th, 1904, projected against the background of the journey of Ulysses. Ulysses represents the prototype of the complete man: son, father and husband. Bloom is an anti-hero, like Eliot said, used by Joyce as a constant reminder of the decadence of our modern age. Other people say that Bloom is a hero, with positive qualities, such as sympathy, generosity and faith in human progress. Joyce shows us Bloom’s life from many angles, from the interior monologue to a "mini-drama".

Bloom day is projected against the story of Ulysses, and each scene in the book is related to a specific episode of the Odyssey. In the first part of the book Dedalus, come back home from Paris, set off to find his friend and "spiritual father" Bloom, who is in search of a "spiritual son". When the two friends meet, Bloom "adopt" Dedalus and offers to take him home and give him shelter. At home Molly Bloom waits for them, like Penelope, thinking of her past and present life, with a mental, interior monologue. This "river of words" called "stream of consciousness" ends with the words "yes", like a total, non-judgemental, acceptance of life.

Ulysses caused a great scandal when it was published in Paris for his technical innovations and for his explicit language. It was banned for a long time in England and in the U.S. The sexual frankness of Leopold Bloom, an unsuccessful middle-aged married man, and of his wife Molly, is a necessary part in the complete rendering of their mental life.

Joyce has shown all human history in one day, one set of events, past and present, significant and insignificant, trivial and heroic, familiar and exotic; it’s just a matter of points of view, and author has none and all of them.

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