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The Honorable Life And Death Of James Joyce

2071 words - 8 pages

The Honorable Life and Death of James Joyce

       The coat of arms which James Joyce inherited from his family bears the motto,

"Mors aut honorabilis vita," meaning, "An honorable life or death." But was

Joyce loyal to the creed of his more noble ancestors? Many would argue that he

was not. After a Catholic education all the way through his undergraduate degree

he denounced Catholicism. In the middle of a time of growing nationalism in

which the role of bard was elevated to national importance Joyce abandoned his

native Ireland in search of less constrictive lands. But the one thing to which

Joyce remained true throughout his entire life was art. In repeated

confrontations and against great pressure he remained true to what he felt was

the only real morality in an artist's life, his truth in art.


"James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, in Rathgar, a

fairly prosperous souther suburb of Dublin." (Kershner) The Joyces are thought

to have a noble background, which is borne out by the existence of a coat of

arms. But living as a Catholic in Ireland at the time of his birth severely

limited his family in their ascension of the social ladder. He was the eldest

survivor of twelve children (only eight lived to adulthood), and the son of a

"disastrous father" (Kershner), but at the age of six he escaped his perhaps

less than desirable home life. He was sent to Clongowes Wood college, a Jesuit

school which was said to be the best preparatory school in Ireland. While the

rigorous Catholicism of the Jesuits did not follow him for the rest of his life,

their rigorous education did.


In 1893 Joyce began attending Jesuit Belvedere College. It was at this time that

he began to read such authors as Meredith, Hardy, Ibsen, and Yeats. Although he

won several awards nationwide and within his school for his academic

achievements and perceived moral character his readings had begun to broaden his

mind and a more worldly Joyce started to develop a contempt for both the society

of Ireland and the Catholic Church itself. More importantly "from Yeats in

particular he learned to see the wold of art as an autonomous sphere removed

from the pragmatic world of everyday experience, and to see the figure of the

artist as part prophet, part priest, [and] the potential savior of his race."



After Jesuit Belvedere he continued his education at the Royal University of

Dublin, commonly known as University College. This college was formed as the

Catholic answer to Trinity College which was commonly attended by the Protestant

Ascendancy, but the strict control of the Jesuits "offered a conservative and

intellectually undemanding curriculum." (Kershner) In an era of increasing

modern thought, the Jesuits either...

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