Born in Dublin, he was educated at two Jesuit schools, Clongowes Wood College in Kildare and Belvedere College in Dublin, which left a lasting mark on his sensibility even after he had abandoned youthful thoughts of becoming a priest and decided instead to study modern languages at University College, Dublin. While an undergraduate he cultivated the acquaintance of Yeats, Synge, Lady Gregory and George William Russell (A.E.) and others fostering the Irish cultural renaissance but, eager to escape his depressed family circumstances and dissatisfied with the narrowness of Irish cultural life, he went to Paris after graduating in 1902. His mother's terminal illness obliged him to return to Dublin the following year. During this visit he met Nora Barnacle, who became his permanent companion (they finally married in 1931) in a life of exile, wandering and poverty dictated by his unwavering dedication to his art. They left Ireland together in 1904 and eventually settled in Trieste, where he taught English at the Berlitz School and made friends with the novelist Italo Svevo. He moved to Zurich during World War I and to Paris in 1920. During the 1930s he was increasingly beset by family worries - his daughter Lucia was diagnosed schizophrenic in 1932 - and by health problems, chiefly his deteriorating eyesight. The outbreak of World War II forced him to return to Zurich, where he died after an operation on a duodenal ulcer.
Apprentice work included an essay on ‘Ibsen's New Drama’, published by the The Fortnightly Review while he was still an undergraduate in 1900, and a volume of poetry, Chamber Music (1907). His first significant work was Dubliners (1914), a collection of scrupulously naturalistic short stories, whose very title announced a central if paradoxical feature of Joyce's mature work: for all his Continental wanderings and cosmopolitan sensibility, the subject of his art would always remain the city he had resolutely left behind him. The objections by the original publishers which transferred its place of publication from Dublin to London also anticipated his lifelong problems with censorship. A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man, begun as Stephen Hero in 1904, was serialized in The Egoist from February 1914 to September 1915 and published in volume form in 1916. An autobiographical novel which follows his own life from infancy until his first departure for Paris, it used the technique of dtream of consciousness which he had first encountered in Edouard Dujardin's novel Les Lauriers sont coupés (1888). Joyce's connection with Ezra Pound, the dominating influence on The Egoist, and with Harriet Shaw Weaver, its editor, gave him valuable sustenance in future years.
Joyce subsequently wrote an unsuccessful play, Exiles (published in 1918; performed in Munich in 1919), and a slight volume of verses, Pomes Penyeach (1927), but these were mere asides during the creation of the two great works which occupied his remaining life. Ulysses, begun in 1914 and finished in 1921, used the character of Stephen Dedalus and the technique of stream of consciousness from the Portrait, while subduing both to a more radically ambitious purpose: nothing less than to recreate a day in the life of Dublin in painstaking detail while also locating it in the widest possible context of history and myth. The novel was serialized in The Little Review from April 1918 until December 1920, when a prosecution for obscenity cut short its progress, and was first published in volume form in Paris by Harriet Shaw Weaver's Egoist Press on 2 February 1922, his 40th birthday. It was banned in the USA until 1933 and in Britain until 1937. Finnegans Wake, begun in 1923, was serialized in 12 parts as Work in Progress between 1928 and 1937 and published complete in 1939. Its radical experimentalism which dissolves narrative into dream and the English language into polyglot puns has given it an exaggerated reputation for inaccessibility, yet it takes its place with Ulysses, not just as a central text of modernism, but as a work which can outlive fluctuating critical judgements of modernism. Both novels remain a living challenge to scholars, critics, readers and writers.
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