Poet Biographies

Biography of James Joyce 

James Joyce Portrait

James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland February of 1882. He was the oldest of ten surviving children born to parents John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Murray. In 1887, Joyce’s father was made a rate collector for the Dublin Corporation. This change of employment instigated a move to the town of Bray, just outside of Dublin.


James Joyce

Early Life and Education 

The young boy’s education began at Clongowes Wood College in 1888. He was faced to leave in 1892 when his father was no longer able to afford the tuition. It is known that one of Joyce’s earliest pieces was written in 1891, in reaction to the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. He studied at home for a time before enrolling in the Belvedere College.  Three years later he was studying English, French, and Italian at University College Dublin. 

Joyce was very active in the arts scene while at university. In 1900 a review he wrote was published in The Fortnightly Review. This was his first published work. He also wrote articles and two plays during this period. Those he befriend in school made their way, in many instances, in his later works. These included some of his closest associates, such as Oliver St. John Gogarty. He graduated in 1902 and went to Paris to study medicine. This professional choice did not last long and he returned to England claiming ill-health. 

Soon after, his mother succumbed to cancer. Her death only increased the amount of time Joyce spent drinking. The poet managed to make a living for himself by publishing book reviews and taking on various teaching jobs. In 1904 Joyce tried for the first time to have A Portrait of the Artist published. It was later rewritten at A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. The following months were spent in Dublin where he continued to drink. He met and began a relationship with Nora Barnacle. The two moved to Zürich, Switzerland, and then Trieste, Italy in the latter part of 1904. 


Italy and Switzerland 

While in Italy Nora gave birth to the couple’s first child, George. Their residence in the city did not last long and soon Joyce moved the family to Rome where he found work as a bank clerk. Again, he was unhappy, returning to Trieste in 1907. It was around this time that his daughter Lucia was born. In 1909 Joyce returned to Dublin along with his son. It was his intention to visit with his father and to have his collection of stories, Dubliners, published.  This work was deeply inspired by Irish nationalism and the search for the Irish identity. Each story is centered around a certain character’s epiphany or sudden understanding. These usually revolved around something personal. The work was not published until 1914. 


Financial Difficulties and Literary Successes 

Upon returning to Trieste Joyce wrote poetry, such as ‘Gas from a Burner.’ During these years Joyce was still desperate to support his family. He spent time trying to work as a cinema magnate, planning to import Irish tweed to Italy, and borrowing money to keep his family from becoming homeless. The only income he was receiving came from the teaching position he maintained, along with his private lessons. 

Joyce moved to Zürich at the start of the first world war. Here he became interested in socialism. It was his goal, after moving yet again to Paris, to finish his great novel Ulysses. The book was finally finished in October of 1921 and published by Shakespeare and Company in 1922.

 Luckily, this period also saw his reputation growing into that of an avant-garde writer. The good news came alongside the bad as his eyes began to deteriorate. He had a number of procedures throughout his life to try to correct them, often having to wear an eyepatch. Upon the Nazi occupation of France Joyce moved to Zürich again. 


Later Life and Death 

In 1941, after undergoing surgery for a perforated duodenal ulcer, Joyce fell into a coma. He woke once two days later to ask for his wife, before dying fifteen minutes later. He was fifty-eight years old. After his funeral, he was buried in Fluntern Cemetery in Zürich. 

Since his death, Joyce’s work has come to influence writers such as Samuel Beckett and John Updike. Ulysses is considered one of the major works of the Modernist movement. His life and work are celebrated every year in June on Bloomsbury day. 

Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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