The Fiction of James Joyce (MSON) (Literature Elective; US)

Spring; Grades 11–12
Taught by: Porter-Gaud
Prerequisite: English 9 and 10 or the equivalent

James Joyce created the most beautiful literature of the twentieth century, prose that has thrilled and at times confounded readers for generations. Simply put, Ulysses, his 1922 masterpiece, changed the landscape for the novel as a whole. This course will unpack the mystery and loveliness of two Joyce novels, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, giving students the close-reading tools to appreciate and make sense of Joyce’s particular literary power, to scale the edifice of Ulysses to see it for what it truly is: a marvel of stylistic achievement, a testament to the ways in which language shapes us as we shape it, and, at its core, a gorgeous love story and an exploration of the everyday heroism that we often overlook.

In particular, we will explore how Joyce tried to render the authentic human experience through language: how Joyce wanted literature to look and feel more like life than like “art,” how he wanted literature to mirror the texture of the actual thinking and feeling mind. To that end, while the course will give students an intensive look at arguably the greatest literary mind since Shakespeare, it will also have us—teacher and student alike—consider what it means to inhabit fully our hearts, minds, and selves in the modern world.


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