A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the semi-autobiographical portrayal of James Joyce’s early upbringing as an Irish Catholic in late 19th century and early 20th century Dublin. In his first and still most widely read novel, James Joyce makes a strange peace with the traditional narrative of a young man’s self-discovery by respecting its substance while exploding its form, thereby inaugurating a literary revolution.
In an exuberantly inventive masterpiece of subjectivity, Joyce portrays his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, growing up in Dublin and struggling through religious and sexual guilt toward an aesthetic awakening. In part a vivid picture of Joyce’s own youthful evolution into one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, it is also a moment in the intellectual history of an age. The language of the novel changes throughout the book to correspond with the artistic development of Stephen Dedalus as he ages and matures. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a masterful depiction of the process of self-discovery that is indicative of the early stages of everyone’s life.
First serialized in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915 and published in book form in 1916 when Joyce was already at work on Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is exactly what its title says and much more.