Now, as never before, his strange name seemed to him a prophecy. So
timeless seemed the grey warm air, so fluid and impersonal his own
mood, that all ages were as one to him. [...] Now, at the name of the
fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see
a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air. What
did it mean? Was it a quaint device opening a page of some medieval
book of prophecies and symbols, a hawklike man flying sunward above the
sea, a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been
following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the
artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the
earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being? (A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man, 192)

His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her
graveclothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom
and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a
living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.
(A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 193)

Some of its original readers, Virginia Woolf or T.S. Eliot, hailed
Joyce's work as "the most important expression which the present age has
found."[1] Others, like Bennett or Aldington, were repelled by it, seeing
it as "a tremendous libel on humanity."[2] Yet, no matter if they praised
it for being able "to come closer to life"[3] or loathed it for being
"indecent, obscene, scatological and licentious"[4], all agreed that
Joyce's work was remarkable, technically successful, an astonishing
literary phenomenon.
Of the English modernist novelists' works, Joyce's most strikingly
asserts itself as art, the art of fiction - art as a form of knowledge, art
as autonomous, art as a form of expression enjoying the advantage of a
medium of its own. Of all the English modernists' works, Joyce's is the
indubitable evidence that if there is any difference at all between realism
and modernism in literary terms, it does not reside so much in the sense
realism and modernism make of the real, but in the new status assigned to
literature. Thus Joyce's work may be seen as an unparalleled artistic
answer to the essential modernist questions relating to the essence of the
literary act.
What is the proper stuff of fiction?
"The proper stuff of fiction" does not exist; everything is a proper
stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of the brain
and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss. And if we can imagine
the art of fiction come alive and standing in our midst, she would
undoubtedly bid us break her and bully her, as well as honour her, for so
her youth is renewed and her sovereignty assured."[5]
How is the material that life provides to be made into art?
"Any method is right, every method is right, that expresses what we
wish to express, if we are writers; that brings us closer to the novelist's
intention, if we are readers."[6]
What Joyce demonstrates through his work is that, if fiction is to be
raised to the status of art, this can be done only through focus on the
potentialities of what gives the art of fiction its specificity in relation
to the other arts, that is language and technique. This does not mean that
Joyce's narrative strategy necessarily, and exclusively, implies the
adoption of completely new techniques, that is techniques that had not been
also used by his predecessors. Joyce's originality, much of the difficulty
presupposed by the reading of his texts being caused by it, resides in the
variety and the combination of techniques. For Joyce, each method is seen
as a pathway to knowledge. The more variations on a method he could
imagine, the deeper the meaning that began to surface. The less expected
the combination of methods, the richer the aspects of reality that were
likely to be revealed. By this strategy, Joyce did in no way attempt to
destroy the illusion of reality or to discard as useless the methods
employed to create this illusion. He rather tried to "heighten our
awareness of the techniques he so skilfully deploys by raising questions
about our strategies of interpretation."[7]
Understanding Joyce always means more than just reading his novels for