chapter  4
14 Pages

The Artist’s Amatory Aesthetics

While Stephen’s desire for freedom undermines his potential romances in Stephen Hero and Portrait, the attainment of his artistic agenda is ultimately more important to him than the real-world experience of love. Even if he is unsuccessful in easing his loneliness through the affection of his loved ones, Stephen’s rehearsals of love assist in the creation of an aesthetic system that is directly influenced by his amatory ideals. His poetry in Portrait is influenced by his attraction to E.C. (and finds its complement in his anticipated wreath of romantic verses in Stephen Hero), and his climactic epiphany in Portrait’s fourth chapter is predicated on a romanticized encounter with a girl whose symbolic beauty unites Stephen’s amatory and artistic longings. In that sense, Stephen’s desire to “forge in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race” could be seen as the composition of a love poem to Ireland, as the juxtaposition of this desire with his longing “to press in [his] arms the loveliness which has not yet come into the world” transforms his anticipated reclamation of his homeland into an amorous embrace (P 273).