Chapter 1
Life and Contexts


This chapter provides a brief account of Joyce’s life and literary career, giving details both of his personal circumstances and the development of his reputation as a writer. It draws substantially on the biographies of Joyce mentioned in the ‘Further Reading’ section for its account. Readers of Joyce are particularly fortunate in being able to consult Ellmann’s now classic James Joyce (1983), which offers an extensive and influential reading of his life and work. Because no single account of Joyce’s life can claim to offer an absolutely authoritative interpretation of its multitudinous detail, readers in search of supplementary information about particular aspects of his biography should consult the works listed in ‘Further Reading.’ This section also locates Joyce in cultural, historical and political contexts which are of particular significance to his writing and for the criticism they have generated. For this reason, the narrative of Joyce’s life is punctuated by subsections dealing with issues such as the historical and political situation of late nineteenth-century Ireland, Irish political nationalism and the rise of the physical force tradition, the Irish cultural revival, and the literary and cultural ‘scandal’ of Ulysses. The accompanying chronology provides a clear sequence of events for reference purposes.


James Aloysius Joyce was born in Rathgar, Dublin on 2 February 1882. He was the eldest son of John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Murray.

Joyce’s father was one of the most important influences upon his son’s life. His personality, sayings and dispositions are diffused throughout Joyce’s work, whether thinly disguised as Simon Dedalus in A Portrait of


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James Joyce: A Critical Guide


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