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James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Originally written as Stephen Hero, Joyce substantially rewrote this story of a young man’s growing up in Dublin to produce the book we now know. His book, of course, stands very much on its own but it also a precursor to Ulysses, with its linguistic games, its concerns with Irish and world history, religion and politics, its use of stream of consciousness and its non-linear narration. It is essentially autobiographical – the story of a young man who, like Joyce, comes to feel alienated from the stultifying Irish society in which he lives, and moves away to become an artist.

The original conception of Stephen Hero was as a fairly conventional Bildungsroman but, in 1907, Joyce completely rewrote it to produce five chapters which, while chronological, each focus on one stage in his attempt to become an artist. The forces he faces are fairly traditional ones – bullying, religion, sex, family, guilt, the need to find his own aesthetic path – but Joyce brilliantly portrays how Stephen Dedalus deals with them and ends up an artist – I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use – silence, exile, and cunning.

Publishing history

First published 1916 by B W Huebsch (first book publication – previously published serially in The Egoist)