Joyce's Comic Portrait

Roy Gottfried

Foreword by Zack Bowen, Series Editor
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"An overall argument that is strong and sound and important to our understanding of Joyce’s comic project."--Claire A. Culleton, Kent State University

In the first book-length study of the comedic in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Roy Gottfried argues that, far from being a solemn work, Joyce’s early masterpiece is covertly but determinedly comic. Specifically, he looks at the Portrait’s narrative structure, the protagonist Stephen’s conscious disavowal of humor, and Joyce’s comic use of word-play, vulgarity, and gendered language to establish the work’s doubled nature.

In Portrait of the Artist, Gottfried argues, Stephen attempts to put all humor away from him, perceiving it as a temptation to abandon his sense of high seriousness and mission. Routinely, however, the comedic intrudes, creating a shadow or a double that challenges the very nature of "portraiture."

Central to Gottfried’s argument and method is a comparison of Portrait and the earlier Stephen Hero, in which Gottfried demonstrates how Joyce deliberately edited the more overtly comic Stephen Hero to create a Portrait in which the comedic is diffused and backgrounded but never erased, existing always just beyond or behind the text.

Gottfried also looks at Joyce’s early theorizing about the comic, the development of his prose style across time, and the comedic influence of popular culture on Portrait. Challenging long-held assumptions in Joyce scholarship, Joyce’s Comic Portrait is an original and lively contribution of interest to students and scholars alike.

Roy Gottfried is professor of English at Vanderbilt University and author of Joyce’s Iritis and the Irritated Text: The Dis-lexic Ulysses (UPF, 1995), winner of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Book Award.

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"Gottfried offers an alternative reading of Portrait that provides a comic counterpoint to the prevailing interpretation of the book as a sombre study in the development of Stephen Dedalus… In doing so, Gottfried explores the complexity of Stephen Dedalus, fleshing out a more eclectic, inclusive 'portrait' that also serves to illuminate aspects of his subsequent role in Ulysses." - Modern Language Review
--Modern Language Review

"It is difficult if not impossible to think anymore of Joyce's early masterpiece as a humorless work of high seriousness, an aberration in Joyce's otherwise comic literary trajectory. Gottfried successfully makes the case that 'there is comedy in Portrait, far more of it than has been recognized,' and 'that the comedy more nearly resembles the humor in all of Joyce's other works.'" - English Literature in Transition
--English Literature in Transition

"Reveals, on the "fringes" of Stephen's consciousness, elements of humor and humanity central to Joyce's oeuvre." - Modern Fiction Studies
--Modern Fiction Studies

"A closely written and well argues study of this important novel. " - Irish Studies Review
--Irish Studies Review

" Gottfried has produced a bold imaginative book with an original and well - researched thesis."
--Years of Work in English Studies

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