|An Artist's rendition of James Joyce|
James Joyce was an Irish writer born in Dublin, on February 2nd, 1882. The young Joyce was the oldest son in a family his father once described as "sixteen or seventeen." He attended Clongowes Wood College very early on in his life. The school, being one of Ireland's leading primary education institutions, educated young boys in everything from poetry, philosophy, Latin, and even the Catholic scriptures.
Ireland's division between church and state hit close to home early on in Joyce's life. A moment which would forever leave a mark on him and his literary career was the real life inspiration behind the Christmas dinner scene in his first novel, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The holiday feast begins normal enough, but the family's discourse concerning the death of one of Ireland's leading political figures, Charles Stewart Parnell, escalates into a heated argument in which the young protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, witnesses his father, his uncle, and the family's governess torn apart by what each considers the right path for the Irish people's future.
Due to the political turmoil of his country, Joyce exiled himself from Ireland after graduating from the University College of Dublin in 1902, and spent the rest of his years living abroad in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris. Yet, despite his physical removal from Ireland, all of Joyce's contributions to literature are set in Ireland; inspired by the people and places he grew up with. His first collection of stories, Dubliners, deals with the moral and cultural life of his people, both in the public and private spheres. In his semi-autobiographical novel, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce chronicles his strong Catholic upbringing and his development from a young timid school boy to the passionate and ambitious writer that goes on to live and write the longest day in fiction, his monumental epic, Ulysses.
I have been studying James Joyce's work with Professor Jim McMichael at UCI for the past two years. Of all the authors I have encountered and immersed myself in during my four years in college, none have been as challenging or rewarding to me, both in my development as an individual and as a writer, as James Joyce. Joyce's attention to everday events, his experiments with style, narration, and his complete dismissal of conventions has demonstrated to me the unlimited potential and vast worth behind a great piece of writing; both in terms of what it can do for people reading it, and what it can do for those hoping to find it in themselves one day to write it. This is why James Joyce is my hero.