James Joyce


“It has been said that more writers and artists have been influenced by James Joyce than any other author of the twentieth century; and he is mentioned in more works than any other writer except Shakespeare.” According to this quote from Allen B. Ruch, James Joyce is the second-most influential writer in the history of English literature. Upon deeper inspection of the validity of this comment, it seems that Joyce has, in fact, had a vast impact on numerous writers, works, and on English literature in general. While the list of Joyce’s works may be short- including only some poems, two plays, a book of short stories and three completed novels- there is nothing undersized about the level of influence they have had on the literary world. Joyce’s influence includes, but is not limited to, moving many authors to write, and inspiring several various characters.


James Joyce’s influence on English literature can be identified in many areas. Writers who have been influenced, one way or another, by him, are one very specific area of his wide persuasion. “Joycean” authors, as Ruch calls them, are authors who have been inspired in some way to write by Joyce. This group is surprisingly large, and includes such prolific authors as Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, and Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book upon which the movie Bladerunner is based. To quote an example from Philip K. Dick’s novel:



Again pressing the switch of the external bullhorn, Herb Asher yelled after the retreating figure, “You think James Joyce was crazy, is that what you think? Okay; then explain to me how come he mentions ‘talktapes’ which means audio tapes in a book he wrote starting in 1922 and which he completed in 1939, before there were tape recorders! You call that crazy? He also has them sitting around a TV set – in a book that started four years after World War I.


Dick refers to Joyce’s classic novel Finnegan’s Wake in this excerpt. This is just one of many examples of references to Joyce’s works found in the writings of many authors. Joyce’s life and works have also directly inspired many pieces of writing, including Joysprick, a non-fiction piece by Anthony Burgess.


While some authors choose to mention or give reference to Joyce’s works in their own, still more choose to involve him more ‘personally’ in their writing. In addition to being the inspiration for many authors to write, Joyce has been used as a character in various fictional novels and works. One example of such a novel is Masks of the Illuminati, “a work of anarchist philosophy disguised as an occult mystery.” This book has Joyce encounter Albert Einstein in a pub and proceed to solve a great riddle. Another example of an author’s use of Joyce as a character is Mr. Joyce is Leaving Paris, a play from Scottish playwright Tom Gallacher. Joyce is the main character in this play, which parallels the last days of Joyce’s existence with the life of Joyce’s character Stephen from his well-known novel, Ulysses.


Some authors choose to mention James Joyce’s works in their writing, while others use him as a character to enhance their stories. While this is not the full extent of James Joyce’s influence over the history of English literature, it does a fair amount to showcase his power. While his books may not be as famous as Shakespeare’s, he does seem almost to rival Shakespeare in his level of appearance in other authors’ works. James Joyce has contributed classic novels such as Finnegan’s Wake and Ulysses, and these accomplishments have brought him respect and reverence in the literary world. While the fact that he is mentioned in many other authors’ works and used as a character may not seem the most important of his influences or effects on English literature, it must say something to the effect that he is a greatly respected and appreciated author. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.