Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Overanalyzing Art

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

People have been defining art as “good” or “bad”, “proper” or “improper” , or simply worthy or not since the first art was sketched on a cave wall. In the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, Stephen Dedulas continues the trend of passing judgment on art and beauty. However, art is merely an expression and beyond that it cannot be judged. Yet many people still look for formulas that can explain art in clean cut, single way. And although there may be art that is timeless and magnificent, art is anything that brings joy to the artist. And anyone who limits themselves to only the art that fits with their specific formula is missing out on so much other art that the world has to offer.

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce, Stephen Dedulas takes a philosophical approach toward art. As the novel progresses, Stephen searches for a definition and meaning in beauty. He comes to understand that art is, “to press out again, from the gross of the earth or what it brings forth, from the 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” (Joyce 185). Stephen provides an idealistic explanation of art in which he connects the naturalistic world with the spirit of the artist in order to create something that is truly beautiful. Although Stephen does admit that what is beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to another, he explains that the beauty of an object can be appreciated in terms of its "integras" (wholeness), its "consonantia" (harmony), and its "claritas/ Quidditas" (radiance). Stephen explains these are the three essential levels to understanding beauty. The first step is to, “apprehend its wholeness” (189) and therefore separate it from the rest of its surrounding. The next step is to assess the art as if to break it apart and analyze it. Finally, “the esthetic...
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