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Impressionist Features in a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Author WangXiaoHui
Tutor DuanXiaoYing
School Hebei Normal
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords impressionism Stephen growth wholeness
Type Master's thesis
Year 2007
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James Joyce is celebrated as one of the great literary pioneers of the twentieth century. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is Joyce’s first novel, which displays many literary devices and styles. This thesis proposes to study his Impressionist features in the novel in order to show his innovative nature in his fictional art. Impressionism is a universal trend of thought in art and literature, which is popular from the second half of the 19th to the early of the 20th century. It concentrates on the description of transitory mental impressions, stresses on the employment of the colors and lights and pursues the effect of unity. Chapter one details the description of sensations in the text. Joyce adopts impressionism to describe transitory subjective impressions in order to present the interior reality of the protagonist. It provides a new way to explore the interior reality for the stream of consciousness novels. Also in the novel, it plays an important role in Stephen’s growth. Chapter two discusses its narrative skills, which are closely related to Joyce’s“impersonality”. The novel overturns the traditional narrative method. Joyce uses the cinematic montage and internal focalization to realize the limited narration which is the principal tenet of the impressionist works. Chapter three is concerned with the wholeness of the book. The employment of stream of consciousness, montage and free association, makes the arrangement of the overall structure fragmentary. Yet the story is a well-knitted unity from Stephen’s spiritual world and from the development of his consciousness. Also, the overall structure forms rhythmic unity. In addition, the fragmentary details indicate some certain kind of inner unity. Chapter four focuses on the imagery, which is strongly influenced by the impressionism. Like beautiful scenes, their appearance provides a fresh way to understand the text for the reader. The Impressionist features employed in the text not only functions as an approach to explore the form, content and theme from the aesthetic angel, but also makes the reader take an active part in rearranging these fragments, represent the novel and perceive the beauty of the novel.

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