The Person of the Artist

"The Person of the Artist." Originally published as "Impersonal/Personal." Review of Letters of James Joyce, edited by Stuart Gilbert (New York: Viking, 1957). Griffin 6 (June 1957): 4-13. Also published as "The Person of the Artist" in Encounter, August 1957: 73-78.


It is one of our strict modern feelings about literature that the mind which makes the work of art ought to be defined only by the work of art itself–that there is something illicit and low, or at least un-literary, about inquiring into the personality of the man whose name is signed to the work. This is quite wrong. No curiosity is more legitimate n that which directs itself upon the connection between the “impersonal” creative mind and the “actual” and “human” person. No question is more justified, or more beautiful, than that which asks how the ordinary human being transcends himself in art. Between Bergotte read by the young Marcel at Combray and Bergotte met at luncheon at the Swarms’ there is a shocking difference which we do right to contemplate. And we should fail in humanity if we didn’t wonder how it came about that the despicable Monsieur Biche of Madame Verdurin’s parties developed into the splendid Elstir.

Online: - full text in Encounter [pdf]