A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce
1914-1915

Named by the Modern Library the third greatest English-language novel of the 20h century, James Joyce’s  semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story has been enormously impactful. First serialized in The Egoist, A Portrait… is Joyce’s first novel and established the modernist and subjectivist stream-of-consciousness he would become famous for.

“Stephen Hero” he was called in an earlier, unfinished attempt at the story; here he is Stephen Dedalus, a young man butting against the religious and cultural traditions of his Irish Catholic family and undergoing a profound intellectual awakening as he comes into his adulthood. Sparse in dialogue until the book nears its conclusion, A Portrait.. is heavy on interior monologue, on psychological reflection, on the exploration of a character through language and form rather than narrative. It’s a style that Joyce mastered and popularized, and which would influence novelists and poets for decades to come.

James Joyce revolutionized fiction. Psychology over plot-development; stream of consciousness; the breaking of grammatical norms. He’s a writer, not a story-teller; and because of that, he can be tedious and hard to penetrate much of the time. But if you want to see someone playing with the craft of literature, with language and text and the complexity of human reflection – read James Joyce.

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