The Roman Catholic Church In James Joyce's Poetry

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The Roman Catholic Church was an important and prominent aspect of Irish life in the early twentieth century. Where most of Western Europe had become secularized during the nineteenth century, Ireland remained steadfast in its faith, be it Roman Catholic or Protestant. However, at the time, more than ninety percent of the Irish population was Roman Catholic with the numbers of Protestants belonging to the Church of Ireland or Presbyterian and Methodist Churches falling from eight percent in the second half of the nineteenth century to less than three percent in 1981 (Inglis 63). As a result of the growth of the Roman Catholic Church, much of Irish politics and society was infused with starkly Catholic tones—so much that individual citizens…show more content…
The best known presentation of Catholic conventions in Joyce’s writings is the “Ithaca” chapter of Ulysses, in which the entire action between Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom is presented in the question-answer format of a catechism. Dedalus—Joyce’s literary self in Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Stephen Hero, the earlier draft of Portrait—voices the consciousness of Joyce and his own moral dilemmas with regards to his faith. Young Dedalus comes from an avid Roman Catholic family and, in Portrait, begins to question the meanings of his faith and the Church; he grows eventually into the Dedalus of Ulysses who puts as much of his family and their traditions as possible, including their faith, behind him and replaces it with his indulgence in the arts and worldly pleasures. In the later pages of Stephen Hero, Stephen Dedalus contemplates his life as being torn between his passion as an artist and his consciousness as a Catholic: He desired for himself the life of an artist. Well! And he feared that…show more content…
The word literally means “apparition” (Fargnoli and Gillespie 66). The critically accepted genesis of the Joycean epiphany occurs in Stephen Hero within the mind of Dedalus following an artificially constructed epiphany: A young lady was standing on the steps of one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis. A young gentleman was leaning on the rusty railings of the area. Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely. The Young Lady — (drawing discreetly) . . . O, yes . . . I was . . . at the . . . cha . . . pel . . . The Young Gentleman — (inaudibly) . . . I . . . (again inaudibly) . . . I The Young Lady— (softly) . . . O . . . but you’re . . . ve . . . ry . . . wick . . . ed . . . This triviality made him think of collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies. By an epiphany he meant a

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