James Joyce, photograph by Camille-Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts About James Joyce


Born James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, he was an Irish novelist, literary critic, and poet. He influenced the modernist avant-garde movement and is regarded as an influential and important writer of the 20th century. He was known for his variety of literary styles, such as wordplay, stream of consciousness, attention to detail, character development, interior monologue, and transformation of a traditional plot. All these has influenced many writers, filmmakers, and other artists.

Joyce’s writings are still applauded, and he has influenced many modern authors. Joyce’s work and life serves as a testament of the ability of literature to provoke thought and arouse emotion. Future generations will remember his contributions to modernist literature.

Here are the top 10 facts about James Joyce

1. Joyce Was Born into a Middle-Class Family but Later Sunk into Poverty

Joyce was born on February 2, 1881, in Rathgar, Dublin, Ireland, to John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane. He had ten siblings and was the eldest. In 1887, Dublin Corporation appointed his father as rate collector, and the family moved to the fashionable small town of Bray.

Despite growing up in a middle-class family, in 1891, his family began to enter into poverty, worsened by his father’s drinking and financial mismanagement. His father was published on a blacklist of debtors and bankrupts in November 1891 and temporarily suspended from work. Unfortunately, he was dismissed with a reduced pension in January 1893.

2. James Joyce Began His Writing Career at 9

Photo by Ottocaro Weiss –Wikimedia

In 1891, at 9, he wrote the poem Et Tu, Healy on the death of Charles Stewart Parnell (an Irish nationalist politician) that his father printed and distributed to friends. The poem conveyed the feelings of the elder Joyce’s rage at Parnell’s apparent betrayal by the Irish Catholic Church, the Irish Parliamentary Party, and the British Liberal Party, culminating in a collaborative failure to secure Irish Home Rule in the British Parliament.

This feeling of betrayal, especially by the church, made a lasting impression on Joyce, which he expressed through his life and art. No complete version of the poem is available today, but fragments show Joyce comparing politicians of the time to characters such as Brutus and Caesar.

3. James Joyce Was an Irish Novelist and Poet

Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet regarded as one of the most influential and important writers of the 20th century. He is widely renowned for his unconventional and creative methods of literature.

Some of Joyce’s known works include the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. He has also written poems such as Chamber Music and Pomes Penyeach. Joyce’s other writings include three books of poetry, a play, occasional journalism, and a letter.

Also read:35 Greatest Irish Authors

4. Joyce’s Most Famous Work in the Novel Ulysses

Photograph of a first edition, 1st printing of the book Ulysses. Photo by Geoffrey Barker-Wikimedia

One of Joyce’s most famous works is Ulysses, a modernist novel published in Paris by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922. The novel incorporates a variety of literary styles, particularly stream of consciousness. The novel is considered one of the most important works of modernist literature and has been called “a demonstration and summation of the entire movement.”

Ulysses chronicles follow the experience of Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus over the course of a single day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland. It explores various city life aspects, dwelling on its squalor and monotony.

5. James Joyce Work Was Initially Banned in Many Countries

Did you know that Joyce work was initially banned in China under Mao due to his ideas as a member of the bourgeoisie. Dubliners was banned in Ireland for several years, and Ulysses was banned in the United States.

However, Ulysses and Finnegans later gained popularity and success in the countries they were once banned from, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. His work remains to be controversial and subject to censorship in some countries.

6. His Works Are Found in Various Museums and Study Centers

The National Library of Ireland keeps an extensive collection of Joycean material, such as notebooks and manuscripts. A joint venture between the library and University College Dublin, the Museum of Literature Ireland, the majority of whose exhibits are about Joyce and his work, has small permanent Joyce-related collections and borrows from its parent institutions.

There are centers dedicated to Joyce in Dublin, including the James Joyce Tower and Museum in Sandycove, the James Joyce Center in North Great George’s Street, and the Dublin Writers Museum. The University College London keeps the only significant research collection of Joyce’s work in the United Kingdom, including critical and background literature and first editions of all of Joyce’s major works.

Check out: Top 10 Intriguing Facts about National Museum of Ireland – Natural History

7. Joyce Had a Bad Eyesight

James Joyce. Photo outsourced from Wikimedia

Joyce’s bad eyesight started at six years old, and he received his first set of eyeglasses. In his 20s, his lousy eyesight worsened, leading to 12 eye surgeries over his lifetime. Due to his poor vision, he wore an eye patch for years, forcing him to write on large white sheets of paper using red crayons. His struggle saw him name his daughter Lucia after St. Lucia, the patron saint of the blind.

8. He Was Known to Have Some Irrational Fears

During his childhood, he was attacked by a dog, leading to his lifelong fear of dogs. The irrational fear continued when he developed a fear of thunderstorms, which he obtained through a mythical aunt who had defined them as a sign of God’s wrath.

9. James Joyce and Nora Barnacle got married after 27 years of living together

Joyce moved to London and obtained a long-term lease on a flat. After staying together with Nora Barnacle for twenty-seven years, they married at the Register Office in Kensington on July 4, 1931.

Joyce stayed in London for at least six months to establish his residency but returned to Paris when Lucia (his daughter) showed signs of mental illness.

10. Joyce Died a Month Before His 59th Birthday

On January 11, 1941, Joyce underwent surgery in Zurich for a perforated duodenal ulcer, and the following day he fell into a coma. On January 13, 1941, he died less than a month before his 59th birthday.

Joyce body was buried in the Fluntern Cemetery in Zürich. In 1966, he was moved to a more prominent “honour grave” with a portrait statue by American artist Milton Hebald. His wife Nora is buried by his side as well as their son Giorgio, who died in 1976.

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