J is for Joyce. From its chronicling of youthful days at Clongowes Wood school to the radical questioning of all convention and the desire “to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race,” James Joyce’s highly autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man portrays Stephen Dedalus in his Dublin upbringing. In doing so, it provides an oblique self-portrait of young Joyce himself. At its center lie questions of origin and source, authority and authorship, and the relationship of an artist to his family, culture, and race. Exuberantly inventive in style, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man subtly and beautifully orchestrates the patterns of quotation and repetition instrumental in its hero’s quest to create his own character, his own language, life and art: “to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use—silence, exile, and cunning.”
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