Born: February 2, 1882, in Dublin, Ireland
Died: January 13, 1941, in Zurich, Switzerland
James Joyce, the oldest of fifteen children in his family, was born to Mary Jane Murray and civil servant John Stanislaus Joyce in 1882. The family was poor and Joyce was educated at Jesuit schools, such as the University College in Dublin. At University College Joyce contributed literary essays to the college magazine. While there he also broke with the church after being raised as a Roman Catholic.
He and Nora Barnacle (a former chambermaid whom he eventually married) left Dublin in 1904. They lived in Trieste, in Paris and in Zurich, along with their two children Giorgio and Lucia. They were barely supported by gifts from patrons, and Joyce's income as a language instructor. Beginning in 1907, Joyce suffered severe eye problems leading to near blindness. Over the years he endured ten serious operations, but they did not stop him from producing some of the most influential literature of the first half of the twentieth century. His first book, Chamber Music, published in 1907, was a collection of love poems. In 1914 he published his second work, a collection of short stories entitled Dubliners. Other early works include the largely autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and the play Exiles, published in 1916 and 1918 respectively.
It was the 1922 publication of his next work, Ulysses, however, which brought Joyce international fame. In this text based on the themes of Homer's Odyssey, Joyce further developed his characteristic use of symbols and 'stream of consciousness' writing which he had used in his earlier book Portrait. This technique, which involved 'recording' all the thoughts and feelings of a character, was a significant development for realist fiction and character portrayal. The book follows a day in the life of two characters who eventually meet. Ulysses received a widely varied and at times violent reception; while some felt the book depicted a rather squalid existence in Dublin, others felt the book explored fundamental human feelings and experiences.
Joyce continued writing and published two more collections of verse (Pomes Penyeach and Collected Poems) before his last and most complex work, Finnegan's Wake, was published in 1939. He furthered his experimentation with language in this book, attempting to represent in fiction a cyclical theory of history. Joyce died in 1941 in Zurich, where after living in Paris for twenty years, he had moved when Germans invaded France during World War II.