Introduction to European Culture

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INTRODUCTION TO EUROPEAN CULTURE

Gas from a burner

I. Influence on the work

James Joyce is born on February 2nd, 1882 in Rathgar, a suburb of the South of Dublin, in a catholic family. The exuberant and unstable personality of his father, John Joyce, alternately medical student, champion of rowing, singer, comedian, politics fanatic, secretary, worker and tax inspector, big drinker, contrasts with her mother, Mary Jane Murray, especially worried to stay up her lodging house and her thirteen children. This family sees its financial difficulties deteriorating during the years. Between bankruptcy and redundancy, John Joyce obliges his family to move about fifteen times in a few years: with the father’s actions they have lost so many degrees in the social scale and continued to decrease. It is on this bottom of social decline that is made Joyce’s education. In 1888, James’ father sends him to the Jesuit middle school of Clongowes Wood and Joyce soon excels at religious education, English composition, mathematics, in the running and cricket. From this moment, and in spite of the big interest that he shows to the religion, the anticlerical jokes of his father bring him to ask themselves questions, which he brings back to us in Dedalus, on the order and the justice that embody his Jesuit teachers. The end of year 1891 is marked by new financial difficulties for John Joyce, which entails the retreat of James de Clongowes Wood. After two years, studying alone, James enters because of a favour the middle school Belvedere of Dublin, where he obtains remarkable results. At the same time, the double break with his family and with the religious education is going to become clearer and develop the young Joyce in the direction of a bigger and bigger responsibility in front of the transgression that announces as inevitable. When he was fourteen, at the same time as an unformulated questioning of its religious faith, he asserts its faith in the art. James is engaged in numerous readings and not only texts’ classic, which are so many discoveries in charge of teachings: Erckmann-Chatrian, Thomas Hardy, Meredith and especially Ibsen. During his sixteen, while he is going to enter University College of Dublin, the break with the Catholicism is consumed inside, otherwise publicly. Joyce penetrates into the literary world on the occasion of the reading, in 1900, in front of the Company of literature and history, an entitled essay the Drama and the life. Afterward, this essay can look as a manifesto; it contains a presentation of intention and method. It separates peremptorily the drama, with its intrigues pretexts to talk, that it is Greek or Shakespearean, from the literature as practice sending back to the unchanging frames of the human nature, but taking support on an individual experience which commits the real-life experience and the language of the writer. At the university, he confirms his opening on Europe, in particular towards Italy, the language of which he masters now. He reads and studies in depth Dante, D’Annunzio, Giordano Bruno, but also Thomas Mann, Tolstoï, Dostoïevski, Flaubert, Nietzsche: all the authors we can read in this period. In 1902, he obtains his diploma of Bachelor of Arts; Dublin is then an intellectual center, and the literary life is there very active, maintained by W.B. Yeats, G. Moore, J. Synge, Standish O' Grady, George Russell and lady Gregory. To make sure that every situation will allow him to express itself freely, Joyce decides to begin studies of medicine. Repeater's post would be necessary for him to meet the spending of these new studies. He takes pretext of a refusal of his application to proclaim that we join forces against him to silence him and, in 1902, he chooses to study in Paris. This shy exile is only a try before the total intellectual and spiritual exile that takes away him definitively from Ireland and from his "aborigines" (except for some rare visits, the last one in...
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