A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, ranked the third greatest novel in the English language for the 20th century, by Modern Library.
Stephen Dedalus is essentially the alter-ego of Joyce, and this tale is of his coming of age, where the realizations both intellectual and spiritual are detailed. It is set against the framework of Irish Catholicism of his childhood. Dedalus, embarks on a journey to nurture his artistic ambitions. This is a third-person narrative without much dialogue, and progresses in complexity of language with each chapter, a reflection of the maturing and development of Dedalus' consciousness. Some scenes are longer than others, particularly when the state of mind of Dedalus is meant to be captured.
It is set in Dublin, and deals with issues such as independence from religion, and specifically from the Catholic Church. The use of the name Dedalus is an allusion to the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, where Daedalus is an architect and inventor who becomes trapped in a labyrinth of his own construction and fashions wings for escape out of feathers and wax.
James Joyce, born in the mid 1800s, was both novelist and poet and was famous for his use of stream-of-consciousness style writing in Ulysses. He is considered one of the preeminent modern avant-garde writers, also famous for the Dubliners and Finnegan's Wake. He once stated that all his writing was essentially about the city of Dublin, for if he could get to the heart of Dublin, he could get to the heart of any city in the world.
Perhaps James Joyce’s most personal work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
depicts the intellectual awakening of one of literature’s most
memorable young heroes, Stephen Dedalus. Through a series of brilliant
epiphanies that parallel the development of his own aesthetic
consciousness, Joyce evokes Stephen’s youth, from his impressionable
years as the youngest student at the Clongowed Wood school to the deep
religious conflict he experiences at a day school in Dublin, and finally
to his college studies, where he challenges the conventions of his
upbringing and his understanding of faith and intellectual freedom.
Joyce’s highly autobiographical novel was first published in the United
States in 1916 to immediate acclaim. Ezra Pound accurately predicted
that Joyce’s book would “remain a permanent part of English literature,”
while H. G. Wells dubbed it “by far the most important living and
convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing.”
A remarkably rich study of a developing young mind, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man made an indelible mark on literature and confirmed Joyce’s reputation as one of the world’s greatest and lasting writers. Download and start listening now!