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An Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century.
Joyce is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark novel which perfected his stream of consciousness technique and combined nearly every literary device available in a modern re-telling of The Odyssey. Other major works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His complete oeuvre includes three books of poetry, a play, occasional journalism, and his published letters.
Though most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce's fictional universe does not extend beyond Dublin, and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there; Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city. Shortly after the publication of Ulysses he elucidated this preoccupation somewhat, saying, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.
Joyce's work has been subject to intense scrutiny by scholars of all types. He has also been an important influence on writers and scholars as diverse as Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Flann O'Brien, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Phillip Norbert Årp, Salman Rushdie, Robert Anton Wilson, John Updike, and Joseph Campbell. Ulysses has been called "a demonstration and summation of the entire [Modernist] movement".
Some scholars, most notably Vladimir Nabokov, have mixed feelings on his work, often championing some of his fiction while condemning other works. In Nabokov's opinion, Ulysses was brilliant, Finnegans Wake horrible—an attitude Jorge Luis Borges shared. In recent years, literary theory has embraced Joyce's innovation and ambition.
Joyce's influence is also evident in fields other than literature. The sentence "Three quarks for Muster Mark!" in Joyce's Finnegans Wake is the source of the word "quark", the name of one of the elementary particles, proposed by the physicist, Murray Gell-Mann in 1963. The French philosopher Jacques Derrida has written a book on the use of language in Ulysses, and the American philosopher Donald Davidson has written similarly on Finnegans Wake in comparison with Lewis Carroll. Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan used Joyce's writings to explain his concept of the sinthome. According to Lacan, Joyce's writing is the supplementary cord which kept Joyce from psychosis.
The work and life of Joyce is celebrated annually on 16 June, Bloomsday, in Dublin and in an increasing number of cities worldwide.
In 1999, Time Magazine named Joyce one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, and stated; "Joyce ... revolutionised 20th century fiction". In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses No. 1, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man No. 3, and Finnegans Wake No. 77, on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Copyright restrictions on Joyce's work, which applied for 70 years since his death, expire at the end of 2011, and it is expected that this event will lead to freer commentary on and use of his oeuvre.[