James Joyce died on this date (January 13) in 1941. Joyce is known as a pioneer of modern literature and language, and his novel Ulysses is still regarded as one of the most influential works of the 20th century.
Joyce’s most famous work is Ulysses, a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. Leopold Bloom spends one day–June 16–walking through Dublin, narrating his internal and external world in great detail. Readers hear everything, from what Leopold eats at Davy Byrne’s Pub (gorgonzola sandwich with a glass of Burgundy) to his sexual thoughts about his wife Molly.
The novel is known for its mythological structure, stream of consciousness, satire, and bawdy language. The book has called obscene; it was not published in the US until 1933, more than a decade after its original publication in Europe.
Joyce used language creatively, mixing ancient words, slang, rhyme and Irish to say what he needed to say in a new way.
The Oxford English Dictionary quotes Joyce’s work 2311 times; he is the 147th most quoted author in the OED.
baw-ways, adj. Hanging crooked
peloothered, adj. Drunk, intoxicated
smahan, n. A drop (to drink); a taste or nip
Joyce looms large in the literature canon, but also in the imagination of fans worldwide. June 16, the date Ulysses takes place is called Bloom’s Day, and is celebrated in cities around the word. Joyce fans gather for readings and re-enactions of the novel. Pubs are involved.
Read it yourself
Joyce lived an unconventional life, wrote in exile, and was part of the modernist movement in Paris. Joyce worked closely with both Ezra Pound and Samuel Beckett, and struggled for acceptance with both scholars and publishers.
Read more in the Oxford International Biography entry on James Joyce.
Joyce said: “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.”
Read and decide for yourself! The library has Joyce’s fiction, as well as titles about Joyce’s work and life.
Free e-books from Project Gutenberg by James Joyce (scroll down to Joyce or search in sidebar)