Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Nico Israel

Committee Members

Richard Kaye

Tanya Agathocleous

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | Buddhist Studies | Catholic Studies | Comparative Philosophy | Epistemology | History of Philosophy | History of Religion | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | Intellectual History | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Literature in English, British Isles | Modern Languages | Modern Literature | New Religious Movements | Philosophy of Mind | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Reading and Language | Rhetoric and Composition


Stephen Hero, The Light of Asia, Genetic Criticism, History of Psychology, History of Buddhism, Epistemology


This dissertation traces the history of the references to Buddhism in Stephen Hero, James Joyce’s first and unpublished novel, through the author’s previous writing, his sources, and his context, in order to determine how—if at all—the tradition bore upon his earliest depiction of consciousness. Acknowledging that Joyce habitually revisited and refined earlier ideas and prose, it attends to previous essays, notebooks, book reviews, conversations, letters, epiphanies, poems, and autobiographical prose; to available material, bibliographical, and biographical evidence about the specific volumes and performances to which Joyce had access; to language and paratext—including advertisements, introductions, and appended essays—in those volumes; and to cultures that supported the publication of those volumes—including those of William Archer, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, George Bernard Shaw, and other dramatic critics of Ibsen; of publisher William Heinemann, his peers, and his backbone-of-Orientalist-scholarship mentor Nicholas Trübner; of the Theosophically inclined Dublin and London literati; and of cultural artists like Richard Wagner, Sarah Bernhardt, Rudyard Kipling, Gustave Flaubert, and, especially, Edwin Arnold, who all participated in the transformation of Buddhism as it encountered the West by placing sexuality at the center of the tradition and popularizing this sexualized Buddhism during a time of censorship in England and Ireland. It attempts to trace as materially as possible and through Joyce’s own references to Buddhism how Joyce’s writing up to and through Stephen Hero was deeply influenced by this sexually-inflected Buddhism, such that a Gautama interpreted by Flaubert, Harold Fielding Hall, Henry Steel Olcott, Bernhardt, Kipling, Wagner, and again, especially, Arnold served as a model for Joyce’s autobiographical protagonist in his first attempt at a novel.

In the dissertation, I argue that the impersonality that Arnold, Wagner, Ibsen, Edmund Gosse, Olcott, Fielding Hall, and Flaubert emphasized before Joyce—and the more explicit calls for the annihilation of the ego in those among these who wrote about Buddhism—pressed Joyce to create gradually more ironical distance between himself and his autobiographical hero from “A Portrait” to Stephen Hero to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to Ulysses such that, in that latter novel, Joyce shifts focus away from Stephen, to a protagonist whom, as I argue in Appendix 5, he models on the Buddha. In the Afterword, I discuss at greater length how English-language novels representing the conscious experience like Joyce’s were inflected by and modelled after the interpretations of Buddhism that proliferated in the last two decades of the nineteenth century; and how the Buddhism presented in these influential “psychological” novels informs the modernized Buddhism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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