James Joyce

Ulysses was the first novel to become a celebrity in the mass media age. Its reputation was ‘enhanced’ by its alleged scurrility, its banning in the Anglophone world in both serial and book form, its having engendered legal proceedings centred on obscenity and copyright, and its notoriety as a wilfully difficult text. James Joyce wrote a novel that aspire ...

Literary biography is an often derided genre. Writers, in particular, tend to be suspicious, if not openly hostile, toward what they are apt to regard as a secondary or parasitic form. And there are valid reasons for this wariness. The assumption behind a biography is, reasonably enough, that the writer’s life informs the work, but establishing the precise relevance of the life to the work is a treacherous business. Because it is possible to argue that anything a creative writer experiences is at least potentially significant, there is no obvious line between a legitimate and a trivial, or even a prurient, interest in the details of a writer’s personal life. 

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If James Joyce had ever visited Australia it is unlikely that he would have come up with anything like D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo. For one thing, as with most Irishmen, his interest in landscape was negligible; for another, his sense of play and his myopia would not have allowed him to romanticise the great Australian bush, much Jess the suburban sprawl. He might have felt somewhat at ease in the ‘Loo or the Rocks area, in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy or Little Dorritt Street in Carlton, or perhaps by the Yarra at Burnley. But why fantasise?

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