Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes. ("And he turned his mind to unknown arts.")

—Ovid, Epigraph to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man[2]

At the request of its editors, Joyce submitted a work of philosophical fiction entitled "A Portrait of the Artist" to the Irish literary magazine Dana on 7 January 1904.[3] Dana's editor, W. K. Magee, rejected it, telling Joyce, "I can't print what I can't understand."[4] On his 22nd birthday, 2 February 1904, Joyce began a realist autobiographical novel, Stephen Hero, which incorporated aspects of the aesthetic philosophy expounded in A Portrait.[5] He worked on the book until mid-1905 and brought the manuscript with him when he moved to Trieste that year. Though his main attention turned to the stories that made up Dubliners, Joyce continued work on Stephen Hero. At 914 manuscript pages, Joyce considered the book about half-finished, having completed 25 of its 63 intended chapters.[6] In September 1907, however, he abandoned this work, and began a complete revision of the text and its structure, producing what became A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.[7] By 1909 the work had taken shape and Joyce showed some of the draft chapters to Ettore Schmitz, one of his language students, as an exercise. Schmitz, himself a respected writer, was impressed and with his encouragement Joyce continued work on the book.

In 1911 Joyce flew into a fit of rage over the continued refusals by publishers to print Dubliners and threw the manuscript of Portrait into the fire. It was saved by a "family fire brigade" including of his sister Eileen.[8] [7][a] Chamber Music, a book of Joyce's poems, was published in 1907.[9]

Joyce showed, in his own words, "a scrupulous meanness" in his use of materials for the novel. He recycled the two earlier attempts at explaining his aesthetics and youth, A Portrait of the Artist and Stephen Hero, as well as his notebooks from Trieste concerning the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas expounded in the book in five carefully paced chapters.[10]

Stephen Hero is written from the point of view of an omniscient third-person narrator, but in Portrait Joyce adopts the free indirect style, a change that reflects the moving of the narrative centre of consciousness firmly and uniquely onto Stephen. Persons and events take their significance from Stephen, and are perceived from his point of view.[11] Characters and places are no longer mentioned simply because the young Joyce had known them. Salient details are carefully chosen and fitted into the aesthetic pattern of the novel.[12]

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