Joyce's Eyeglasses

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus breaks his glasses on the school’s cinder path. For this he is unfairly reprimanded, leaving him “burning with shame” in front of his classmates. Stephen’s fuzzy perception of the schoolyard without corrective lenses—“the fellows seemed to him smaller and farther away . . . and the soft grey sky so high up”—evokes Joyce’s lifelong issues with his eyesight. From 1907 Joyce experienced bouts of iritis and would eventually develop glaucoma, cataracts, and nebulae. He underwent a series of painful surgeries and by the end of his life was blind in one eye with greatly reduced vision in the other.

James Joyce’s Eyeglasses
Courtesy of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York