Joyce and prose in the twentiethcentury

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JOYCE AND PROSE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The twentieth century has produced an astonishing variety of prose writings in all fields of human knowledge. A striking feature in the 20th century literature is for instance the emergence of the short-story as a major fictional genre, in answer to the demands of the reading public.
One of the most important writers of the century is the well noticed James Joyce that brought into the modern literature a new tendence. In his works we notice the absence of a well defined plot as it was traditionally conceived of in the past. In fact, realism has led him to represent life as it actually is: a continual flow of incidents, contradictions, ups and downs, ins and out and unforeseen events. Thus the so-called “closed plots”, in which events are unrealistically brought to a definite solution, are increasingly being replaced by the “opened plots”. Another central feature of modern fiction is the disappearance from it of “heroic characters” on the ground that everyday reality is made up of common, uninteresting, utterly unheroic people. The latter are dealt with regardless of the fact that readers may find their lives full and uninteresting. Thus what is important now is not so much what the character actually does, but rather the inner forces driving him to such behaviour, his alienation, and incapability of establishing true relationships with his fellow-beings.
The selfsame tendency to realism has led writers to encompass the whole range of human experiences into their fiction. The euphemistic hints at, or straightforward suppression of sexual relationships, for instance, so characteristic of pre-Victorian and Victorian literature, has been definitely abandoned in favour of frank and detailed handling of sexual problems and their far-reaching influence on human characters and behaviour. Also in the field of narrative technique the century has witnessed a veritable revolution. The unrealistic “omniscient” narrator has been replaced by the first-person narrator realistically commenting on his own experiences and thoughts. But the most astonishing innovation in the narrative technique is no doubt the technique of the so-called “stream of consciousness” novel, based on the internal monologue. The latter allows the writer to explore the depths of the human mind to the full, to express all passing shades and moods of feeling and thought with a penetration unprecedented in world literature.
Joyce is the unsurpassed master of the “stream of consciousness” novel. In his constant probing into the conscious and which becomes capable of expressing half-articulate thoughts, suddenly changing moods, free associations, shades of feeling in people awake, daydreaming, on the verge of sleep and Eden sleeping.
Joyce is the hereditary of writers like Flaubert, Svevo, James and Conrad, but also D’Annunzio. All these authors have a big influence on the way of thinking and mostly on the way of Joyce’s writing. As we approach Joyce as a writer, we have to emphasize a few preliminary facts. His work is a striking combination of realism and symbolism because when he described the details of life he always aimed to express the frustration of man and the disintegration of the modern world. He himself said of his work “… my intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis… and I have to present it as it really is in 4 of its aspects such as childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories in Dubliners are arranged in this order”.
These short stories are glimpsed of the Dublin life Joyce had known. By describing it’s dreariness in minute detail, faithfully reproducing settings, gestures, speech registers, and pitches, he expressed the intellectual, moral and spiritual stagnation paralysing his town. This stagnation had been the cause of his leaving Dublin, a city in which a talent like his could not have flourished. In Gabriel Conroy, the main male character in “The Dead”, he embodied the kind of man into which he would have grow had he remained in his native town.

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