Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Joyce, James (1882–1941)
Author:
Moore, Andy J.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

James Joyce, Irish poet and novelist, was born in Dublin and educated at Irish Jesuit colleges. Unhappy with the intellectual atmosphere in Dublin, he left Ireland in 1902 determined to pursue a literary career. He first wrote a collection of short stories entitled Dubliners (1914), followed this with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), and catapulted onto the literary scene with his second novel, Ulysses (1922), a tour de force of the early modernist period. He has profoundly influenced twentieth-century fiction since then. Other important works include two volumes of poetry and Finnegans Wake (1939).

Ulysses and Finnegans Wake reverberate with lines from Whitman's poetry. In Ulysses readers find these echoes and phrases from "Song of Myself": "I have heard the melodious harp / On the streets of Cork playing to us . . ."; "I see everything, I sympathise with everything . . ."; "the yankee yawp"; "Do I contradict myself? . . . then I contradict myself" (Ulysses 18). In Finnegans Wake Whitman is referred to as "old Whiteman self" (Wake 263) and "the soul of everyelsesbody rolled into its olesoleself" (Wake 329). Joyce's character Leopold Bloom in Ulysses also reveals a fascinating parallel to the mystical speaker in "Song of Myself." Both are representative of an Everyman responding to the creative energy of the universe, identifying completely with all life, flowing freely through time and space. Joyce's brother Stanislaus records that the title of an early collection of Joyce lyrics, Shine and Dark, was borrowed from Whitman's line in "Song of Myself," "Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river" (section 21).

Biographers reveal that Joyce had a portrait of Whitman and copies of Leaves of Grass and Democratic Vistas in his library. Joyce seemed to have found a kindred spirit in Whitman's democratic themes and free flow of language.

Bibliography

Chase, Richard. Walt Whitman Reconsidered. New York: William Sloane, 1955.

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. New York: Oxford UP, 1959.

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. 1939. New York: Penguin, 1976.

———. Ulysses. 1922. New York: Modern Library, 1946.

Joyce, Stanislaus. My Brother's Keeper: James Joyce's Early Years. Ed. Richard Ellmann. New York: Viking, 1958.

Summerhayes, Don. "Joyce's Ulysses and Whitman's 'Self': A Query." Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 4 (1963): 216–224.


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