Tropics of Youth in Woolf and Joyce

Jed Esty

in Unseasonable Youth

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199857968
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919581 | DOI:

Series: Modernist Literature and Culture

Tropics of Youth in Woolf and Joyce

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Chapter 5 compares Woolf's most obviously colonial novel, The Voyage Out (1915), to its near-contemporary, Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). This pairing of texts allows us to consider the unseasonable youth of an English girlhood and Irish boyhood in the same analytical frame, as differently refracted aspects of a formal and historical problem native to this epoch of colonial modernity. Stalled development, or colonial adolescence, serves in both cases as the vehicle for a gendered critique of imperial authority. Where Woolf twists the coming-of-age plot into a long and fatal denouement, Joyce seems to write the novel of youth as an endless, "elfin" prelude. Since Woolf and Joyce now occupy the very center of the twentieth-century novel canon, it is worth considering how foundational these two parallel texts of frozen youth were for writers who, having learned to invert and arrest the coming-of-age narrative during the Age of Empire, went on to conduct varied experiments in antidevelopmental and multiprotagonist fiction that have helped define not just their careers but the shape of literary fiction long after modernism.

Keywords: virginia woolf; james joyce; the voyage out; a portrait of the artist as a young man; semi-colonial; post-colonial; bildungsroman; modernism; adolescence

Chapter.  14715 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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