Essay on Discourse in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Essay on Discourse in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

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Authoritative Discourse in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

 
In James Joyce's A Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man, the main character, Stephen Dedalus, struggles between his natural instincts, or what Bakhtin calls the "internally persuasive discourse" that "[is not] backed up by [an] authority at all", and his learned response, reinforced by the "authoritative discourse" of religion. To Stephen's "internally persuasive discourse", his natural sex drive is not 'wrong'. It is only after he succumbs to the "authoritative discourse" of religion that he learns that such a natural human drive is 'bad'. Thus, he learns that it is wrong to succumb to sex: he does not think that it is bad on his own. In this case, the "authoritative discourse" that considers sexual drive to be 'bad' becomes Stephen's "internally persuasive discourse". He learns that his natural urges are wrong and, as a result, he learns to deny them and pretend them to be nonexistent. This is how the "authoritative discourse" becomes Stephen's "internally persuasive discourse".

   

The evidence that Stephen relies on his senses is best shown by the description of how much he has to deny his senses in order to reach the "discourse" of religion.

 

Each of his senses was brought under a religious discipline. In order to mortify the sense of sight he made it his rule to walk in the street with downcast eyes, glancing neither to right nor left and never behind him. His eyes shunned every encounter with the eyes of women (162-3).

 

However, there is a natural impulse from which he cannot escape: and that is his sense of touch. He may try to deny it in all possible ways but he cannot wholly escape it. This sense of touch is what causes ...


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Epstein, Edmund L.  The Ordeal of Stephen Dedalus.  Carbondale and  Edwardsville:  Southern Illinois U P, 1971.

Givens, Seon, ed.  James Joyce:  Two Decades of Criticism. New York:  1948. 2nd ed.  1963.

Goldman, Arnold.  The Joyce Paradox:  Form and Freedom in his Fiction.  Evanston,  IL:  Northwestern U P,  1966.

Halper, Nathan.  The Early James Joyce.  Columbia Essays on  Modern Writers.   Ed.  George Stade.  New York:  Columbia U P, 1973.

Joyce, James.  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  The Portable James Joyce.  Ed.   Harry  Levin.  New  York:  Penguin, 1976.

Levin, Harry.  "The Artist." James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:   Text, Criticism, and Notes.  Ed.  Chester G. Anderson.  New York:  Penguin,  1968.  399-415.

Wright, David G.  Characters of Joyce.  Dublin:  Gill and Macmillan, 1983.

 

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