A novel written in Joyce's characteristic free indirect speech style, A Portrait is a major example of the Künstlerroman (an artist's Bildungsroman) in English literature. Joyce's novel traces the intellectual and religio-philosophical awakening of young Stephen Dedalus as he begins to question and rebel against the Catholic and Irish conventions with which he has been raised. He finally leaves for abroad to pursue his ambitions as an artist. The work is an early example of some of Joyce's modernist techniques that would later be represented in a more developed manner by Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. The novel, which has had a "huge influence on novelists across the world", was ranked by Modern Library as the third greatest English-language novel of the 20th century.
The book is set in Joyce's native Ireland, partly in Dublin. It deals with various Irish issues of the time such as the quest for autonomy and the role of the Catholic Church. A particular personage, who is also mentioned in Dubliners and Ulysses, and alluded to in Finnegans Wake, is the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell.
The myth of Daedalus and Icarus features prominently in the novel. In Greek mythology, Daedalus is an architect and inventor who becomes trapped in a labyrinth of his own construction. Later, he finds himself on an island and fashions wings of feathers and wax for his son (Icarus) and for himself, so that they can escape. As they fly away Icarus grows bolder and flies higher, until, finally, he flies too close to the sun, which causes the wax to melt and Icarus to fall into the sea.
Stephen's name is an allusion to Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Stephen Dedalus, like Saint Stephen, has conflicts with the established religion. The Divine Comedy is also echoed in the name Stephen gives his aunt – Dante. Dante is so-called because of the way 'The Auntie' sounds with her Cork accent. The epigraph is from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes ("And he sets his mind to unknown arts").
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, first serialised in the magazine The Egoist from 1914 to 1915, and published first in book format in 1916 by B. W. Huebsch, New York. The first British edition was published by the Egoist Press in February 1917. The story describes the formative years of the life of Stephen Dedalus, a fictional alter ego of Joyce and an allusion to the consummate craftsman of Greek mythology, Daedalus.
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About the Author
Joyce was born to a middle class family in Dublin, where he excelled as a student at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, then at University College Dublin. In his early twenties he emigrated permanently to continental Europe, living in Trieste, Paris and Zurich. Though most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce's fictional universe does not extend beyond Dublin, and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there; Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city. Shortly after the publication of Ulysses he elucidated this preoccupation somewhat, saying, "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal."
Date of Birth:February 2, 1882
Date of Death:January 13, 1941
Place of Birth:Dublin, Ireland
Place of Death:Zurich, Switzerland
Education:B.A., University College, Dublin, 1902