James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds and Modernist Writing

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James Joyce's 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' and Flann O'Brien's 'At Swim-Two-Birds' and Modernist Writing The Twentieth Century found literature with a considerably different attitude and frame-of-mind than had the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Two hundred years is, of course, a long time to allow change within genres, but after the fairly gradual progression of the novel as a form, its change in the hands of modernism happened rapidly in comparison. Explaining how texts within the framework of modernist writing are “different” require laying out from what they are different, how, and why. A direct cause of, and coinciding with, literature’s abruptly changing face was the Industrial Revolution and its subsequent…show more content…
Two of the writers who embraced and propelled this change, James Joyce and Flann O’Brien, while enjoying totally different popularities and successes with their work, provided two of the most extreme examples of this break from realism. At Swim-Two-Birds and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man both in their own ways and to varying degrees, skillfully use a combination of techniques to become two books that are decidedly self-referential through their commentaries upon art and literature. Important to this idea of the self-referential novel is the drawing upon tradition—literary and cultural. Both Joyce and O’Brien relied on fictional conventions to build their stories, even if at times that reliance came about simply in order to turn over those conventions and create something entirely new. This is not to say either Joyce or O’Brien wholly rejected the concepts of the realist novel, but rather they changed the way that that reality was rendered. In many ways both novels are just as “real” as any realist novel; they simply present a different view of that reality, or a more true-to-life way of depicting it. Gone is the omniscient narrator, gone is the linear plot. In their place are highly stylistic and conscientiously built stories driven not necessarily by the world around the characters, but by the characters themselves. Rather than characters interacting with what the world has to give to

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