Chapter 2


This chapter provides a descriptive account of, and critical commentary upon, the body of Joyce’s work. Although space and consideration is given to representative work from each of the volumes Joyce published during his lifetime, the discussion pays particular attention to the four prose works upon which Joyce’s literary reputation rests. While conforming throughout to the chronological order of Joyce’s publications, this section nonetheless seeks to establish a number of thematic and stylistic connections between his works. Because any overview of Joyce’s literary production must take account of the difficulties he faced actually seeing his work into print, brief attention is given to his struggle against the censorious pressure of publisher and printer: these issues are amplified in the discussions of Joyce’s biography and critical reputation in Parts I and 3. The generally perceived ‘difficulty’ of Joyce’s mature prose work has always been a complicating factor in its critical reception; in an effort to ease comprehension, the discussion of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake is divided into discrete sections corresponding to particular episodes or narrative movements of the works concerned. This arrangement of textual materials also assists the identification of a cluster of common novelistic themes that will become the explicit concern of Part 3.

Chamber Music (1907)

Although Joyce’s international reputation was made as a novelist, his name first appeared to the public in the guise of a poet. His first published work was Chamber Music, a slim collection of lyric verse. It contained thirty-six poems individually identified by roman numerals in a verse sequence exploring the progress of a doomed love affair which, in their


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James Joyce: A Critical Guide


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