A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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A fairly well-received film version of Portrait was made in 1979 by Joseph Strick with Bosco Hogan playing the role of Stephen. The novel’s “sequel,” Ulysses, was also filmed by Strick in 1967 with considerably less success. There are at least two unabridged recordings of the novel, by David Case (Books On Tape, 1992) and Frederick Davidson (Blackstone Audio Books, 1995). In addition, there are a few abridged recordings, including ones by Jim Norton (Naxos Audio Books, 1995) and John Lynch (Durkin Hayes Audio, 1993).

Portrait is an example of the Bildungsroman, a novel that traces the development of its central character from youth to adulthood, of which there are many examples. One of the best-known English novels in this genre is Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860-1861). It tells the story of Phillip Pirrip, known as “Pip,” an orphan who moves from his humble village to the bustling city of London, shedding all the trappings of his humble origins as he is remade into a gentleman. Other frequently cited examples of the genre are Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh (1903) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprentice (1795-1796). While the subject of the development novel up to Joyce’s time was typically male, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847) provides an excellent example with a female character at its center.

Portrait also bears comparison with D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers (1913), an autobiographical fiction based upon the early life in working-class Nottinghamshire of one of Joyce’s English contemporaries. Finally, the very ambitious may want to dip into Ulysses (1922), which continues Stephen’s story from a point not long after the final moments of Portrait. As Ulysses opens, we meet a bitter and guilt-ridden Stephen whose artistic flight has been aborted. Recalled to Dublin at the time of his mother’s death, he now occupies an unsatisfying position as a schoolteacher.

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