James Joyce was a genius with languages, the kind of person who, if he were alive today, would probably always win at Scrabble. He was one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, but even he learned a thing or two while in school. His novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man details the coming of age of Stephen Dedalus, someone who has a lot in common with Joyce. Our first summer reading, “My Expectation” (pages 3–4 in the CUA Primer), is a short excerpt from that novel, in which we observe Stephen in study hall in Ireland musing about his geography textbook and about quite a number of other things that he connects to it. Don’t worry if there are details in the reading that you don’t quite understand. Part of what the novel does is to throw you right into Stephen’s experience, with you trying to figure things out about his world at the same time he is. Later today, we will post a video of a scholar of English literature discussing the passage, but for now, see what you think about it.
The title of the CUA Primer, In a Sense All Things, comes from something that Aristotle said about the mind’s ability to take in all kinds of things throughout the universe. That is to say, there is a sense in which our minds give us the ability to connect to everything else. In “My Expectation,” Stephen reacts to the connection he feels to the larger universe. What kind of reaction does he have? How have you reacted to the feeling that you are part of something much bigger than yourself?
(Incoming first-year CUA students, please login with your Cardinal Mail account below and let us know in the comments section your thoughts on these questions or about other ideas you have in reaction to reading the piece. We would love to hear what you think!)