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The Reverend Stephen Dedalus, S.J.: Sacramental Structure in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 49, Number 1, Fall 2011
pp. 27-40 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0102



This article explores Joyce's anachronistic approach to the bildungsroman in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man through a study of the novel's structure. Throughout the first four chapters of A Portrait, Joyce uses the Catholic sacraments as a model of arrangement to chart Stephen's development towards the artist's vocation. Tracing explicit and implicit references to the sacraments in the novel, I argue that Stephen undergoes—either figuratively or literally—baptism, reconciliation, communion, and confirmation before being offered the opportunity to receive holy orders. Once he rejects the priesthood, a new model of arrangement emerges, one that subverts the teleology of both the conventional bildungsroman and the sacraments themselves.

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