chapter  4
15 Pages

The Metropolitan Consciousness of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In the slipstream of continental theoretical approaches to literature such as structuralism, deconstruction, and poststructuralism, the general trend in Joyce criticism in the past two decades has been away from the New Critical presumption of organic unity, away from symbolic interpretation, and away from biography. The critical landscape readers now find themselves engaging is one characterized by a “a close analysis of style, a re-examination of the social and political context of Joyce’s work, an intense theoretical examination of the implications of Joyce’s writing project, and a questioning of previous interpretations of the entire modernist movement.”1 As complex as the Joyce “system” has become, however, readers of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man still respond imaginatively to the enduring human drama of the novel: the realistic portrayal of the young Stephen Dedalus’ struggle for “Life” against the oppressive cultures of home, church, and state, and of his transfiguration by the search for a transcendent idea of beauty.2