‘A Morning Inspiration’ – James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a young Man

I thought it nigh impossible someone could adequately describe the spirit and unfettered freedom the instant upon waking in the morning just prior to awakening wholly, but I believe James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has done it.

Portrait is about the intellectual awakening of a young man Stephen Dedalus, an alter ego of the author James Joyce. I find it challenging reading as it uses techniques of the Modernist style (described as a self-conscious break from traditional ways of writing) that were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. As the wikipedia page describes it: ‘….dispensing with strict realism and making extensive use of free indirect speech that allows the reader to peer into Stephen’s developing consciousness‘. Joyce would fully embrace this style in his masterpiece Ulysses; a book I am still daunted to read if Portrait is anything to go by. Interestingly, I found To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf which also employs this stream of consciousness / modernist method a more satisfying read which I posted about here.

Despite my difficulty engaging with Portrait there are some spectacular passages which I noted down so I could come back to them. One of them is Joyce’s description about early morning inspiration. Without further or do ladies and gentlemen I present to you – James Joyce from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Portrait 1
Portrait 2

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Reading
24 comments on “‘A Morning Inspiration’ – James Joyce
  1. hanspostcard says:

    I have tried to read Ulysses a few times but haven’t gotten too far.. have to give it another try. I have heard the best book to start with- with Joyce is A Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man.

    • That seems to be not uncommon regarding Ulysses at least based on reader comments I have read. It takes a few tries they say. Yes, I have also read that Portrait is a good prelude of sorts. I’m working my way through the English classics currently, so it’s only a matter of time till I own Ulysses which is at my local bookshop.

  2. James Joyce is near the top of my list of favorite poets…His words are indescribable, thank you for the excerpt of Portrait.

  3. I have to get off my bum and start reading more stuff. I’m still stuck on Jane Austen… This posting has given me a bit of a kick.

    • I tried to read Jane Austin many years ago, but I found it high-snobbery bs, but I think my age and propensity for rebellion had more to do with my intolerance. I will undoubtedly try to read her again. What would you recommend I try with to start?
      I’m glad it’s given you are kick – hence your ‘kick-arse’ directive. I’m currently reading Robinson Crusoe and I found a confounding section about God and near-death which I just finished writing about. That’s due out Friday next week. I’m so thankful you told me about the scheduling option in WP. Talk about getting a kick-along. I’m very grateful.

      • I read Jane Austen at school and found it really boring. Once I grew up I tried again and laughed from beginning to end. I never realized in my youth how funny she is. That totally undercuts her apparent snobbery! Basically I’m extremely ill-read. Everyone says on the blogs that they read read read. I don’t. Sometimes I think it might be my body rejecting the reading glasses…?

      • Bruce, I find it hard to believe you might be extremely ill-read. Based on your stories I was certain you were very well-read. Could that just be you are being self effacing? Which Jane Austin book do you recommend first up? If you found them so funny throughout, I must read one.

      • Pride and Prejudice has the greatest opening sentence of all time and the irony continues from there! I read too fast and don’t do anything else until the book is finished. Perhaps I should take up quantum mechanics to slow things down!

      • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. Is that sarcastic or was it advantageous to the male in those times?
        I’m like you with books. As my Mum used to say to me ‘You get these fads’. I read compulsively when I had an e-reader (kindle), then that broke and I got into something else, something far less productive for my education I imagine. Funny you mention Quantum Mechanics , because I got sidetracked listening to mountains of podcasts about that subject. I even wrote about it here, postulating whether it was too early to throw out the Copenhagen classic interpretation. haha.

      • It’s sarcastic – or irony… I never had a kindle but have read novels on a PC which I prefer because the mouse does all the work and it’s big.

      • You really despise using your reading glasses don’t you! I understand reading books in the traditional form can be unwieldy for some.
        I couldn’t imagine reading a novel on a computer screen other than an ereader although I do use pdf book publications to copy and paste for my blog. God bless em’.
        I find reading books before going to bed as somewhat a great substitute for a tranquilizer which I would otherwise be taking.

      • I last 1 minute in bed before falling asleep (I’m talking about reading).

      • Haha. I see. I found Joyce the smoothest for settling into sleep, Defoe not so much (I’m talking about reading)

  4. badfinger20 says:

    You make me feel illiterate…you know that right? I need to expand my reading.

    • I hope I don’t by saying I didn’t understand Joyce to make is satisfying

      • badfinger20 says:

        I need to push myself and read more things out of my comfort zone. I mean music bios and history books are great…but I’ve only read about these books…never read these books if that makes sense.

      • I don’t think you need to push yourself at all. I don’t know you, but it’s obvious you are the learning type like me and that is all.

      • badfinger20 says:

        I like to learn new things. Authors I would like to read…Ernest Hemmingway, William Faukner, and James Joyce. I’ve read some Mark Twain…
        I feel like I would like them…I just have to do it.

      • Reading should be an easy pleasure, I have used it as tranquilizar to fall asleep. Hemingway’s ‘The Sun also Rises’ and his ‘old Man and the sea’ were just so great I just so felt appreciative of the ride.

      • badfinger20 says:

        Old Man and the Sea is the one I’d like to start with.

      • It’s wonderful, one of a kind

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