This is my first blog post in a while. I am posting for a few related reasons.
I am not in the States currently. I am in Ireland, staying half an hour outside of Dublin in Maynooth in Co. Kildare. I am studying Modern Irish Literature and Creative Writing here at Maynooth University. While working on poetry and photography for my Senior Thesis in this creative writing class, I am also reading a lot of Irish literature both for my other class and pleasure:
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
- Wintering Out by Seamus Heaney
- Select Poems of William Butler Yeats
I just finished reading Portrait and I will be writing my final paper on the novel. For that paper I will also possibly be using these secondary sources:
- James Joyce’s non-fiction works
- Selected essays on James Joyce
- Dubliners by James Joyce
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill
- The Book of Kells ed. by Bernard Meehan
I have loved my time in Ireland. I have been here for almost half my time. I miss my friends and family, but I am also growing more accustomed to being here. I am learning to love the green but overcast country. I have explored Maynooth and Dublin; I have visited a farm in Co. Meath, Glendalough and Bray in Co. Wicklow, and various monestaries/friaries in Co. Kildare; and I will see Galway and the cliffs of Moher, the city of Cork, and possibly Kilkenny. I will conclude my trip by flying over to Edinburgh, Scotland after my studying has commenced.
Now, I will just share some scattered thoughts about James Joyce’s first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This novel, originally called Stephen Hero, narrates the life of Stephen Dedalus from his young childhood to his young manhood. Stephen Dedalus has two important namesakes:
- Stephen – St. Stephen who was the first martyr of the Christian Church
- Dedalus – Daedalus, who created the Minotaur’s labyrinth, and whose son, Icarus, died using the wings he fashioned – flying too close to the sun
The novel is a coming of age story, a bildungsroman. It shows the growing up of an artist, of Stephen Dedalus, a pretty near autobiographical James Joyce.
The most interesting aspect of this novel, the likely topic of my final paper, is the language of the novel itself. It evolves more drastically than in any other book I have read. There are five chapters in this novel. The reader moves from Stephen’s father telling him a quaint children’s story –
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…
His father told him that story: his father looked at him through the glass: he had a hairy face.
He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platte.
– to Stephen developing his own aesthetic philosophy –
— “We are right”– [Stephen] said — “and the others are wrong. To speak of these things and to try to understand their nature and, having understood it, to try and slowly and humbly and constantly to express, to press out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth, from sound and shape and colour which are the prison gates of our soul, an image of beauty we have come to understand – that is art. — ”
The third person narrator’s voice and diction changes alongside Stephen’s metamorphosis. I am interested in seeing the evolution in Stephen himself, the character, while studying the change in the very language of the outside narrator.
I will have more to say later.