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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the “Individuating Rhythm” of Modernity

From: ELH
Volume 75, Number 4, Winter 2008
pp. 767-785 | 10.1353/elh.0.0028



In this essay, I reexamine the relationship between Joyce’s novel and the Bildungsroman tradition and argue that the distinctive form of A Portrait is the result of Joyce’s attempts to adapt the genre to the demands of Irish modernity. Drawing in equal parts on the poetics of Mikhail Bakhtin and Henri Lefebvre’s sociological “rhythmanalysis,” I show how Stephen Dedalus’s peculiar developmental trajectory, caught between progressive and regressive elements, mirrors the situation of his country, which was similarly entangled in a web of contradictory conceptions of historical development.