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Abstract

With his frequent writing of sunlight and shadows in both A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN and ULYSSES, James Joyce depicts his young aspiring artist character, Stephen Dedalus, as focused on and informed by astronomical concepts and language. Stephen’s cosmic thoughts encourage a notion of artistry—which I term astro-artistry for Stephen’s aspirations towards cosmic duration and scale—that draws upon articulations of various simultaneously remembered personal, collective, and cosmic histories in order to establish a distinct notion of creation ex nihilo. This paper explores how astronomical motifs and language allow Stephen to create a sense of histories and artistic duration that etches out a way for Ulysses to embody a new—characteristically modernist—type of creation ex nihilo, generating an atemporal quality in combining, remembering, and drawing from countless pasts. Joyce’s juxtaposition of Stephen’s personal histories; literary histories that prove focal as inspirations for Stephen; and cosmic lifecycles reimagines the possibilities for scale, duration, and importance of human artistry.

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