James Joyce was an Irish novelist, poet, and literary critic. Born in Ireland in 1882, he was one of the most prominent fiction writers of the 19th century. With works including Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), and Ulysses (1922), Joyce's use of different literary styles and techniques propelled him into the spotlight.
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was the eldest surviving child among four sons and six daughters of John Stanislaus Joyce, from Cork, and May Joyce, from Dublin. His mother also had several miscarriages, the first before James was born.
John Stanislaus had a position in the Collector of Rates office. He never had any other settled employment. He lost his place and retired with a modest allowance at only forty-two years of age. By then, the family had eight children and was sinking into poverty at an accelerating rate.
While the family was still prosperous, in 1888, Joyce was sent to Clongowes Wood College, the Jesuit boarding school in Co. Kildare. Despite his precocious intellect, his passage through the school was less blameless and self-absorbed than that of Stephen Dedalus, his high-minded fictional counterpart in his first novel, A portrait of the artist as a young man.
Despite the chaotic family life imposed by his father's unpredictable finances, he excelled at the Jesuit Belvedere College. Joyce spent five years and a term there, from 1893 until 1898, and soon established himself as an unusually gifted student, winning prizes and exhibitions in all four grades of the intermediate examination system. In Mr. George Dempsey's class in preparatory grade, he read Lamb's Adventures of Ulysses and wrote an essay on Homer's protagonist as his "favorite hero."
James Joyce later claimed that by the summer of 1898, when he graduated with disappointing results in his senior year of high school, he had left not only English but also the church.
Joyce took easily to the demands of the modern language curriculum in English, French, and Italian, which he was officially studying. He read widely outside his course, as he had already begun to do while still at school, and fell increasingly under the spell of such great modernists as Henrik Ibsen, Gabriele d'Annunzio, and Gerhart Hauptmann. These years include his in-depth acquaintance with European literature and his growing confidence in his own vocation as a literary artist.
When Joyce was barely eighteen, his review of Ibsen's most recent play, When we dead awaken (1899), was published in the Fortnightly Review. Ibsen himself saw Joyce's piece and thanked him, through the good offices of his translator, William Archer.
The turning point in his writing career became the composition of an autobiographical essay entitled A portrait of the artist on 7 January 1904. Although rejected for publication in the first issue of Dana by W. K. Magee, it became the spur to begin writing an expanded, novel-length version, which — at the suggestion of Stanislaus — he called Stephen Hero.
In 1904, James Joyce also met his future wife Nora Barnacle and they moved to Europe. He briefly worked in Pula and then moved to Trieste in Austria-Hungary, working as an English instructor.
In Trieste, he published his books of poems, Chamber Music, and his short story collection Dubliners. Furthermore, Joyce began serially publishing A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in The Egoist magazine. During most of World War I, the poet lived in Zürich and worked on Ulysses.
After the war, he briefly returned to Trieste and then moved to Paris in 1920, which became his primary residence until 1940, almost to his death.
Ulysses was first published in Paris in 1922. Its publication in Great Britain and the United States was banned because of its alleged obscenity. It is all the more striking that now Ulysses frequently ranks high in lists of great books of literature, and the academic literature analyzing his work is extensive and ongoing.
Joyce was diagnosed with a perforated duodenal ulcer, and despite a successful operation, he died on 13 January 1941, just twenty days short of his fifty-ninth birthday.
James Joyce was buried two days later in Fluntern cemetery.
Though he frequently traveled during his life, he usually wrote of his hometown of Dublin, which was recognized by his alma mater University College Dublin, which named the prestigious James Joyce Award after him.