Tracing the Curve of an Emotion: Joyce’s Early “Portrait” Essay
This chapter reads Joyce’s generically and formally ambiguous narrative essay “A Portrait of the Artist” to show that the utopianism of its overall tendency and teleology—and of its hybrid form—marks it out as quintessentially early modernist. Attention to the piece within a wider argument about non-fiction allows us to consider the ways in which Joyce’s essay is actually a more radical, more modernist work than what we have of the novel that is closely related to it, Stephen Hero. Its form will be considered alongside examples of manifesto—another example of modernist non-fiction—to allow us to see the potential gains in classing this as a work in its own right, rather than as an avant-texte to another work. Indeed, the chapter shows that the goal the essay propounds—of liberation and emancipation in the widest sense—remains active and determining for Joyce’s entire oeuvre of writing.