Have You Been Using ‘Epiphany’ Wrong?

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In a piece for the New Yorker titled “Laptop U,” Gregory Nagy, a professor of classical Greek literature at Harvard, told Nathan Heller—almost in passing:

I had this real revelation—I’m not saying ‘epiphany,’ because people use that word wrong, because an epiphany should be when a really miraculous superhuman personality appears, so this is just a revelation, not an epiphany.

Huh. So far I’ve used that word twice in my posts—in “Writing Is Meditation” and in “Where James Joyce Fails, Neil Gaiman Prevails“—and I assure you no spiritual apparition, holy or unholy, showed up to pass some profound heavenly wisdom onto me. If any, I probably would have fainted or would have been incapable of seeing it.

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Where James Joyce Fails, Neil Gaiman Prevails

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A James Joyce art doll

A James Joyce art doll by MEDIODESCOCIDO. Some rights reserved.

A lot of people are probably going to hate me for this, but let’s have at it anyway:

No writer is perfect. Not even James Joyce.

I’ve been struggling to finish Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” for a while now. To be precise, it was the 5th of December, 2012, when my Modernism Professor assigned it as a compulsory read. (I neither finished the course nor obtained a degree in English Literature; I had to get real and find employment.)

It’s not that “Portrait” is extremely difficult, it’s just— incredibly boring. I can never bring myself to care about Stephen Dedalus, let alone what happens to him—there has not been one single event in Joyce’s bildungsroman that triggered my interest to know more. It’s like reading into the life of someone unknown, to whom I have no connection whatsoever.

There’s one other reason I have such a difficult time enjoying the novel: Continue reading