by Jim Cripps

	   		  James Joyce
		Godfather to 20th Century Storytelling
  {Or, The Immense James Joyce, and a LittleThing Called Ulysses}

Tolstoy, Hemingway, Steinbeck. Authors respected, revered and read by millions 
of people, but not heartily referred to as shapers of writing style. Charles 
Dickens, another author read by a large number of lithophytes, and often 
imitated, had a genre created on the basis of his flowery, picture-perfect 
style of writing. Along with Tolstoy's grand narration and the elegant, 
aristocratic Victorianism of the day, bookstore shelves at the latter part of 
the 19th century and on into the first quarter of the 20th, were stocked with 
what was soon becoming old, contrived reading fare. Few people recognized the 
need for a new voice in literature, and even fewer tried to change it. The one 
person most vocal for change succeeded in creating a new narrative style, one 
that has endured for the past 75 years. The call for a new direction came from 
James Joyce, the visionary for the modern novel, and a liberator for/of free 
thought. He was to become the godfather of 20th Century Literature.

The catalyst for a new style now seems to have come all at once. Embodying 
heavy religious symbolism, epiphany of the characters, and a new literary form 
coined as the stream-of-consciousness, the new writing style appeared, taking 
the reader from the first person narrative to the thoughts of the character. 
This leads to the perception of hearing the mind of the character at work. But 
no, this was not at all sudden inspiration, nor was the evolving grammatical 
style of Joyce, one that would lead him to drop all quotations and replace them 
with the em-dash to signify oratory. These techniques were admired (and sometimes 
embraced) by his coterie, a group consisting of young and old authors, most of 
who were ahead of him in publishing success. And what of prosperity? It was not 
necessarily profit or popularity that Joyce wanted, and certainly with writing 
dark passages, monologues brooding on religion and self-will, or the harsh 
socially imposed restrictions of personal behavior, he could not have expected 
much from his audience. Attention Joyce got, but not from the purchasing public. 
His readers were critics, one and all. And it was only after his work was touted 
as obscene and immoral did he garner a lay following.

What did his peers see in his work, and what did his critics loathe about it? 
Much would have to do with his growing years in Dublin, Ireland, living in a 
strict family and surrounded by an eclectic group of people. Ireland would be 
the stage for his novels, and Joyce's acquaintances would show up regularly to 
breathe life into his words. Upon opening his first novel, Dubliners (1907), 
(early) readers would have read about uncommon topics all blended together, such 
as love, erotic fantasies, hate sex, religion, and death and its circumstances. 
A far cry from the single-minded books of the day; it was an accurate account of 
life's chaotic rhythm. This was Joyce's vie of the world, how everything should 
be dealt with, including thoughts, problems and incidental events though they 
may not seem connected. This was his underlying style, garnered from his Catholic 
schooling where French 19th Century Realism and Symbolism was taught (Levin). 
There is also his structure, (Joyce called it his lattice work), which he took 
from Henrik Ibsen, a playwright that Joyce idolized during his college years. It 
could also be said that a hereditary trait played a role in the make-up of Joyce, 
for his paternal grandfather was a writer of the Aesthetics (a movement that 
glorified the beautiful).

The Aesthetic and Victorian movements perplexed Joyce. He wanted to bring real 
life and literature together (Gray). It was a predicament that stayed with Joyce 
in his youth, but though writing, it would help him come to terms with his 
grandfather's death by stroke, and his father's similar death later on. That was 
an emotional blow for Joyce, but he carried on like a young college man, and 
graduated with a Modern Languages degree in five languages. He showed great skill 
at essay writing in school, yet forsook formal writing and left for Paris to 
study medicine. Never feeling at ease in France, Joyce longed for a Dublin that 
would not bear to have him anymore. In his hometown he felt confined and 
restricted,

		When the Irishman is found outside of Ireland in another 
		environment, he very often becomes a respected man. The 
		economic and intellectual conditions that prevail in his 
		own country do not permit him the development of 
		individuality…. No one who has any self-respect stays in 
		Ireland, but flees afar as though from a country that has 
		undergone the visitation of an angered Jove (In Bloom).

The French Ministry of Education would not recognize Joyce's Dublin degree, 
which would have allowed him to accept a chair, or at least teach, at some 
college. So now he had to eke out a living on his reviews for the Dublin Daily 
Express, and others (Costello 199). In 1903, he had to return home, leave a 
carefree life behind, to visit his dying mother.

© Jim Cripps, 1998-2004 ± 838