Artistic Escape as Joyce’s Notion of Love and Hatred

Senguttuvan & Laxmi Dhar Dwivedi

VIT University, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India

Volume 8, Number 1, 2016 I Full Text PDF


It is a known fact that, like T.S. Eliot, James Joyce’s intentions to cleanse the absurdities of his native country have greatly echoed in his writings. He resolutely believed that the refinement could be possible only through his departure. However, taking the rationale behind his exit to settle in European soil into account, we can as well detect that it is the result of his bitterness towards his country because he felt many times that he was not given due attention by his contemporary writer community and religious society. Even though he had visited his hometown a few times, he stayed as an escaped artist until his last breath. It is interesting that in his works we find his idea of making an artistic escape as a consequence of his love or hate liaison with his country and its people. This article bases its argument in these research grounds and possibly explores how the writer ultimately builds up a great liking for an alienation which he believed to fetch him prominence and recognition of his very own existence in the physical and artistic world.

Keywords: exile, escape, alienation, longing, artist, love, hatred

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home” (Joyce, 1990)


It could be awful for many readers to read that James Joyce, the writer who craved to give a complete picture of his city Dublin, lived a large amount of his life outside his native country. Joyce’s traveling in Europe has, in fact, made a great impact on the European countries; Many pubs, coffee houses, streets, avenues and squares in Paris, Dublin, Zurich and Trieste have been named him.

During the time of Joyce or even before, it was a practice that people from Ireland moved to other places looking for employment due to the financial depression brought by the British imperial power. The countrymen were suppressed even as the nation was in the brink of tasting freedom from the English. His time taught him the adverse shape of his surroundings. This led him take a giant step into the other parts of Europe. In spirit, he really, on no account, departs his country and all his three novels were composed on the continent deal with Dublin.


Exile – the dominant theme

In 1998, Dr. A. Joseph Dorairaj, in his hermeneutical study on James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man observes: “The theme of exile constitutes the obverse of the flight out of the labyrinth. What enables the re-enactment of the foundational event of the mythical forebear is the hermeneutical character of all foundational events, which, like speech-acts, allow themselves to be re-enacted in various possible ways even while being situated within the same tradition, thanks to the triple distanciation. Joyce’s rich mythopoeic imagination underlies the entire hermeneutical operation of the re-enactment of the mythical event from a given horizon of inquiry.”

Unlike many other twentieth century modern writers who conventionally treat the notion of exile as the central theme to stir up interest or attention, Joyce, rather sees it as a necessity for the exiles to live. It was seen by him as a distinctive biographical model of artistic modernism as well. Many of the works, during his time, celebrated the concept of exile as a key ingredient of high modernism. John G. Cawelti in his 2010 essay Eliot, Joyce, and Exile speaks of the notion of artistic escape that Joyce and Eliot depicted in their works. He says (2010) that some of these were voluntary as in the case of Ezra Pound, Eliot and American expatriates of the 1920s; others had to leave their country for the reason that they were chased out by the calamities of wars, revolutions and discriminations. Here the essayist observes the two great minds as the significant exemplars in the facet of their artistic escape venture: “Eliot left America in 1914 to study at Oxford. The First World War made him an exile because he could not return to America during the war. However, after the war he stayed on voluntarily and returned to America only for visits. He eventually transformed himself into what must have been his own idealized vision of an Englishman. As he once put it, a “classist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion.” The Waste Land (1922) was the major work he created as his exile began. Joyce’s exile began in 1904 and was both voluntary and involuntary. He voluntarily left Ireland for Italy, but was forced by World War I to leave Italy for Switzerland. It was during this time that he was working on Ulysses. After the war, he lived in Paris until he was again forced to flee to Switzerland. Ulysses, published in the same year as Eliot’s The Waste Land, examines many aspects of exile. One of its protagonists, Stephen Dedalus, had gone to Paris to what he felt to be repressive influence of his native country, Ireland; the other, Leopold Bloom, an Irish Jew, is in many ways an exile in his own country” (Cawelti, 2010).

Joyce’s concept of exile is operated internally among his characters. They exit or strive to exit their native land for many numbers of reasons though not physically but psychologically. Even though their country does not explicitly order them to leave, they feel that they have been betrayed; hence, no other way, rather to go away. Joyce, from his childhood, had been an ardent supporter of the escalation of the deprived state of his nation and he eyed for exile as a means of departure. According to him, the country capital had turned so uninviting owing to the unfair treatment and actions by the governmental, societal and Catholic establishments.

“The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses, where we ran the gantlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness.” (Joyce, 1967). 

The characters too think of permanent settlement somewhere and not revisiting their home country. They viewed their departure as their single opportunity to make a decent living in a different place…Full Text PDF

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