Portrait of An Artist, James Joyce – Astrology Musings

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James Joyce is the Irish colossus of English literature.

Novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, critic, linguist, singer… he was a man of many parts.

Brought up in a traditionally Catholic household, he rejected much of what that tradition stood for, becoming a leading member of the writing Avant-Garde, yet he never left the old Catholic world completely.

Widely travelled

He spent most of later years abroad, travelling to Italy, France and finally dying Switzerland; he may have left his native Dublin but it continued to dominate his thoughts, strongly influence his writing.

According to the birth data, he had Capricorn rising, an indication of a hard working approach to life. His ruler, Saturn, is in Taurus in house 5 of creativity, which is ruled by and making a difficult square to Venus in Aquarius in house 2 of personal security. He clearly put a lot of effort in to his creative art but it was always, especially early on, a financial struggle.

The Aquarian paradox

James Joyce was a Sun Aquarian, natives who typically have a certain rebellious or unusual streak about them, though who also, paradoxically, often adhere to certain aspects of conservatism all their life.

This may be due to the attribution of the traditional ruling planet of Aquarius, Saturn, in his more positive aspect. Uranus too has become associated with the fixed air sign.

Joyce had Venus conjunct his Sun in house 2. Here is his attraction to the artistic process and beauty in an Aquarian forward thinking manner.

Neptune inspires

His Sun is also closely square Neptune in Taurus, along with Jupiter in house 5. Joyce had a very fine tenor voice, and Neptune’s strong link to the Sun from Taurus, a sign which rules the throat, may be indicative of this, plus his abilities at creative writing and poetry.

His Mercury just into Pisces in house 3 hints at a fine imagination, especially as the ruler of house 3, Jupiter, is in conjunction with Neptune and trine Uranus from house 9.

Here is the extraordinary writing potential, which is at once imaginative, inspirational but also off beat.

Works like ‘Portrait’, ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ are testimony to this. Mercury is also the ruler of house 9 of the higher mind, where Uranus is found. He was something of a linguist too.

However, this Mercury is also trine Mars in Gemini. Here is the sharp intellect too, which gave him the ability to be a fine critic.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

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Book Review: Musings on ‘A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man’ – James Joyce

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Of course, much has been written about this novel since it was first published in 1916. To call ‘A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man’ (Penguin – this publication) a landmark, would be grossly understating its impact.

So I’m not attempting to go into great depth, all that has already been done. I merely want to convey my own recollections of first reading it, way back in school.

For me, it was this book and D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Sons and Lovers’ that first truly opened my eyes to what we sometimes call serious literature. Both of them are, in their own way, semi-autobiographies and broke the mould of novel writing.

Story Teller

Naturally though, Lawrence and Joyce wrote in very different ways. I think Joyce wrote more intuitively, in a way which conjured up for me a wholly different milieu of imagery. He is a natural narrator, a story teller like many of his countrymen.

For example, when he describes Stephen Dedalus’ childhood, I get drawn into that world through the use of evocative child-like language; I become that child. I can remember endless classroom discussions about this part of the book.

Living Imagery

And the world of Dublin in the late 19th century, was a very different world from that of the industrial Nottingham area, where Lawrence sets his book.

Although Joyce was to reject almost everything about his upbringing, his beliefs, his writing is nevertheless suffused with that imagery, bringing it alive, like new music as some describe.

So what are we to make of the criticism of those who first rejected his manuscript? The book is, when compared to more classic literature, without doubt somewhat formless and unconventional.

Like God

Yet, those of an artistic nature tend to be like this, especially over the last hundred years or so. I think Joyce, whose approach was understood and encouraged by none other than Ezra Pound, was simply bold enough to open up the taps of his creativity. The artist himself almost becomes like God, a creator in his own right, a bit like the Daedalus of legend, who built wings for himself and his son so that they could fly.

Joyce’s upbringing within the strict bounds of Catholicism, his training for the priesthood, was in retrospect the perfect grounding for such free artistry, once it was released from its captivity.

Ironically, Joyce’s world never seems to lose the colour of his Catholic upbringing, even though he ultimately rejected it. With Lawrence, the harsh, English Protestant world, seems altogether more grim, enlightened by the writer’s love of nature.

Native Genius

Joyce’s innate creativity, held back for so long, could only emerge later like a succession of Michelangelo masterpieces, hewn by the craft and intelligence of a native genius.

Unlike his other classics, Finnegan’s Wake and Ulysses, I have successfully completed reading his first great novel.

Even so, one day I intend to finish the former two, although I suspect I will read ‘Portrait’ again before I do that.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019