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James Joyce

A Miniature Portrait

Early Years

James Joyce born on February 2, 1882, in Rathgar, a fairly prosperous southern suburb of Dublin. Father, John Stanislaus Joyce, was from Cork, where the Joyce family had been merchants for some generations. They had married into the O'Connell family, who claimed a connection with the famous Daniel O'Connell, "the Liberator. John Joyce insisted that the family was of noble descent

Background of Repression

Irish Catholic tradition of legal and cultural repression Invasions by Vikings, Normans, British Anglo-Irish aristocracy controlled land Penal laws kept Catholics from social advancement and education Irish language was banned Emancipation Act of 1829 allowed the growth of a Catholic middle class Catholic peasantry and many middle class dreamed of an independent Ireland

The Influence of Politics


Political discussions were frequent in the Joyce home.

The famous Christmas Dinner scene in Portrait focuses on the fate of Charles Stewart Parnell.
Parnells goal was to achieve home rule for Ireland. His downfall was a divorce scandal in which he was named by the aggrieved husband as having had an adulterous affair with Kitty OShea. Public pressure pushed him out of politics. He died broken and without having completed his work.

Joyces Father

John Joyce moved from Cork to Dublin in his mid-twenties He was a man of some means, including property in Cork By forty he had lost his final job as tax collector and was never again regularly employed A man of considerable charm, a fine tenor and storyteller, an improvident spendthrift and drinker A friend described him as "a man of unparalleled vituperative power, a virtuoso in speech with unique control of the vernacular."

The strain of a pregnancy virtually every year following her marriage was hard on May Joyce, who died at forty-four James Joyce was the eldest surviving child; two of his siblings died of typhoid, a disease encouraged by the family's poverty Twelve children, of whom eight survived to adulthood

School Days
1888 James Joyce was sent to board and study at Clongowes Wood College before most of this pain and embarrassment Run by the influential Jesuit order The best preparatory school in Ireland (sons of the wealthier AngloIrish families were often sent to still better schools in England) Joyce spoke warmly of his experience there; unlike Stephen, whom we only see unjustly punished, Joyce received punishment that he admitted he deserved on several occasions, including once for bad language. Joyce was a good student at Clongowes despite his youth, and in some ways never abandoned the habits of thought with which the Jesuits inculcated him. But public events in Ireland were equally important to him, at least as they reached him through the talk of his parents and their friends.