“The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution”

Vike Martina Plock

in Joyce, Medicine, and Modernity

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780813034232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038803 | DOI:
“The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution”

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James Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, decided to follow a certain European literary tradition in constructing his novel in the form of the bildungsroman or künstlerroman. However, in spite of appearances, A Portrait shares with Dubliners a keen interest in diagnostics and social analysis. Joyce's examination of Stephen Dedalus's formative years results in an optimistic final score, seeing Stephen actively renounce the restrictive conditions of the Irish social order in favor of artistic nonconformity and continental liberalism. Stephen is able to cast off his ties to Irish Catholicism and, at the end of the novel, the spiritual freedom suggested by intellectualism and artistic creativity replaces the moralistic essence of his Catholic upbringing. In this chapter, Stephen's character formation, his spiritual and emotional stasis, and his reinvention as an egocentric aesthete are the response to a powerful medico-moral discourse that produced strictly determined recommendations on the normative development of teenage sexuality.

Keywords: James Joyce; bildungsroman; künstlerroman; Stephen Dedalus; liberalism; Irish Catholicism; spiritual freedom; intellectualism; character formation; teenage sexuality

Chapter.  10069 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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