Abstract

This essay explores the traces of a blues aesthetic in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Rather than suggest that blues songs directly informed A Portrait, I instead argue that Joyce's novel can be linked aesthetically and ideologically to the blues and, in particular, that the image of the train plays a significant role in both. Blues songs are filled with images of the railroad, which offered access to employment, altered the demographics of urban and rural communities, and transported people, culture, and ideas like never before. In addition, railroads offered the promise of escape—often as a form of free transportation for disenfranchised African-Americans—at the same time that they radically altered people's perception of time. For all of these and other reasons, the train is a central motif in blues music, and the presence of the railroad in A Portrait invites an analysis of the ways in which this motif functions in Joyce's novel as part of a larger connection to the blues.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6036
Print ISSN
0021-4183
Pages
pp. 477-494
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-06
Open Access
No
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