James Joyce On Beauty

In his novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce uses the main character, Stephen Dedalus to explore many themes associated with an artist who is becoming his own individual and encountering the real world. One such theme that is studied is that of beauty. Dedalus is an aspiring poet and so, he gives his thoughts on the three things that are needed for beauty. Those three being wholeness, harmony, and radiance.

Wholeness is apprehending an object with its context. Here, space and time play a factor, as does the sound that may accompany an object and the surroundings in which an object is found. The object is viewed as complete by understanding all which is brought by the immediate perception of the individual.

Harmony refers to analyzing that perception. Observing and seeing the different parts that make up the whole. How each thing harmonizes with the other in order to present a complete picture. If one thing is changed, then the picture is changed.

Radiance is the whatness of the thing. The purpose of the object. How clearly it is represented or created. It is the artist’s imagination brought to light.

Together the three, wholeness, harmony and radiance, create beauty according to Joyce. I tend to agree with Joyce’s interpretation of beauty. Individually a scene may not make sense at first or may not be considered good, but when combined with other scenes something truly good can be created. After which, the individual scenes can be viewed as special and important, once the large picture has been established. The point of this picture is of extreme importance, the radiance, perhaps the most difficult thing to create as an artist, the recreation of what is in your imagination. Without such a recreation the picture feels hollow but if one is able to transfer what is in the imagination to paper, then it is like an intuition, it just feels right. It is in that feeling that you understand the beauty of the piece that your viewing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s