James Joyce’s novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was first published in instalments between 1914 and 1915 in the modernist magazine, The Egoist. The magazine was edited by Harriet Shaw Weaver, who also acted as publisher, patron and friend to Joyce throughout his career. This is the first instalment of the novel, published on 2 February (Joyce’s 32nd birthday).
Portrait was subsequently printed as a complete book in 1916 in the US, and in 1917 in the UK.
What is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man about?
follows the intellectual, moral and spiritual development of a young Catholic Irishman, Stephen Dedalus, and his struggle against the restrictions his culture imposes. Portrait
can be placed in the tradition of the bildungsroman
– novels that trace the personal development of the protagonist, usually from childhood through to adulthood. Joyce contrasts the rebellion and the experimentation of adolescence with the sombre influence of Stephen’s Catholic education. For example, his startled enjoyment of a sexual experience in chapter 2 is followed by the famous ‘Hellfire sermon’ in chapter 3 which leaves him fearing for his soul.
In many respects, the novel represents Joyce’s own artistic development, and Stephen plays out fictionalised versions of many of his author’s experiences: the episode surrounding the death of the disgraced Irish home-rule leader Charles Stuart Parnell has many similarities with the arguments this event caused in the Joyce household.