Giacomo Joyce remains the most enigmatic of Joyce’s texts. With the exception of some poems, Giacomo is the only work by Joyce set explicitly in Trieste and due to its inherent contradictions and allusiveness, it presents notable problems for textual analysis. For example, we still do not know the date of composition (presumably between 1912-14), the young female student it was based upon (Amalia Popper, Emma Cuzzi ? someone unknown? or, what is most likely, a composite of several persons), Joyce’s intentions (is this a final text? Was it preparatory to a more extensive work or the distillation of a longer work of prose which no longer survives? Was Joyce intending to return to this text at some later date?), the exact interrelation of the various segments and the concept of the text as a whole (was it modelled upon some external source such as Dante’s Vita Nuova or Shakespeare’s Sonnets? Is there some sort of coding in the text?).
The manuscript would remain with Stanislaus after Joyce’s departure from Trieste in 1920 and only became known after Ellmann included portions in the first edition of his biography of Joyce. Stanislaus’ widow gave the text to Ellmann as a gift but due to Ellmann’s scruples regarding the person he considered to be the prime model, Amalia Popper, the text was not published until after her death in 1967.
In any case, Giacomo marks a clear turning-point in Joyce’s writing, both in terms of style and approach and Joyce would return to it often in later years, incorporating many of the individual segments in his other writings, especially in the last two chapters of Portrait, in the ‘Proteus’, ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ and ‘Circe’ episodes of Ulysses and even in Finnegans Wake, though in a much more indirect manner.