A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man belongs to a handful of genres. Not only is it a paradigmatic example of Modernism, but it is also a coming-of-age novel that describes the development of Stephen Dedalus over the course of many years. The novel is sometimes considered a Künstlerroman, a specific type of Bildungsroman that chronicles the evolution of an artist. The novel's structure supports this interpretation, as each of the five chapters reflect Stephen's age and emotional state, from the simple descriptions of his childhood to the flowery abstraction of the final chapters. In the broadest terms, Portrait can also be called literary fiction, since Joyce not only proclaimed himself to be erudite but also reached many readers who agreed; his many allusions and wide range of styles support this categorization.
Finally, given the resemblance of the plot to Joyce's own life, this work is often identified as an autobiographical novel. Many of the entries in Stephen's diary resemble entries in Joyce's notebooks. Stephen's paralytic self-consciousness mirrors Joyce's preoccupation with artistic achievement. And Stephen's rejection of the strictness of religion in favor of the freedom of art aligns with Joyce's rebellion against the Irish Catholicism of his youth.