James Joyce

A Literary Life

Morris Beja

“Beja knows Joyce’s writings. . . . Beja understands that Joyce’s domestic life provoked his work but didn’t write a word of it: nothing that happened gave him his styles, phrases, and cadences.” —New York Review of Books

“Finally, a biography of Joyce that keeps the stress on why his life is worth our attention: it was out of its details that he built his writings.” —Hugh Kenner

“Morris Beja’s James Joyce: A Literary Life is a concise, crisp, and fluent narrative that hovers close to the biographical sources as well as to Joyce’s literary works in a skillful interweaving of the two, quite exactly a ‘literary life.’ The author's own perspective on the life and the work holds the biography together without imposing strict judgments.” —Bernard Benstock

Morris Beja’s concise yet thorough biography of James Joyce fills a void in Joycean studies by offering students and general readers a short, readable account of the great writer’s life, concentrating on Joyce’s sense of himself as an artist and on the ways in which he drew upon his life in weaving his fictions.

James Joyce, arguably the most influential twentieth-century writer in any language, and certainly one of the major figures in world literature, led a fascinating life, triumphant and sad, constantly battling both self-created problems and those forced upon him. He began his life within an affluent family and saw it decline into poverty and debt. As a youth he was popular, yet found himself feeling increasingly isolated from his contemporaries. He gave himself to his art with fanatic devotion, but upon achieving the status of a notable force in literature, he had to endure agonies in his provate life—including a daughter with severe mental illness and a son without a career or sense of direction.

Beja demonstrates that the more we have learned about the smallest details of Joyce’s life, the more we have come to see correspondences between his life and his art. Beja traces these correspondences throughout the canon and chronicles the ways in which Joyce’s confidence in his art and his genius led to his triumph as a writer.

This insightful biography will interest students, general readers, and scholars seeking an accessible account of Joyce’s life and work.

Morris Beja is professor of English at The Ohio State University and executive secretary and past president of the International James Joyce Foundation. He is the author of several works of literary criticism, including Epiphany in the Modern Novel, and is coeditor of Coping with Joyce: Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium.

1992   150 pp.

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