A Portrait Of The artist. This is one of the most significant literary works of the 20th century, and one of the most innovative. Young Irish Catholic, Stephen Dedalus, rejects religion and national ties to develop unfettered as an artist. Strongly autobiographical, the novel is one of the founding texts of Modernism and the precursor of Ulysses. Its originality shocked contemporary readers on its publication in 1916, who found its treating of the minutiae of daily life indecorous, and its central character unappealing.