Joyce and Art

Joyce is a most interesting figure in literature to consider--there seems to be much of the mythos about him--a powerful intellectual who had run the gamut of schools and pulled out all stops when it came to his writing: arrogant, willful, and self-involved.  But, here is a different impression:

from Ulysses and Us
Declan Kiberd

How was the bourgeoisie trumped by the middle class? Joyce hated being called a middle-class writer. For him this was the greatest of all insults, to which he responded jocosely by saying that 'nobody in my books has any money'. But he maintained at all times a strictly bourgeois distinction between his art and his life: for instance, he might write four-letter words, but he would on no account utter them. This distinction was lost by many in the years after his death in 1941, so that what had once been permitted only in the imagination might now be enacted by individuals intent on proving how free they were. By substituting the search for sensations for the making of art, these people confused art and life--but Joyce knew that real art required hard work. Among the bohemians he had noticed a culture-worship that rejected the idea of an art devoted to everyday life. Hence his famous put-down of the young man who wished to kiss the hand the wrote Ulysses: 'No, that hand has done a lot of other things as well.'


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