Simply Joyce

by Margot Norris
Simply Joyce


James Joyce’s name is often associated with his “difficult” masterpiece, Ulysses. But for many people, the Irish writer, as well as his funny and deeply human writings, remain unknown or extremely difficult. In Simply Joyce, scholar Margot Norris offers a thoroughly accessible introduction to both Joyce the man and all of his remarkable works, illuminating a singular literary personality and providing an entry point into one of the most imaginative writers of the 20th century.


Generally considered one of the greatest modern writers, James Joyce (1882–1941) grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but spent his adult life in the European cities of Trieste, Zurich, and Paris. Yet, while he left his native country behind, he never stopped writing about it. He published his well-known short story collection, Dubliners, in 1914 and the coming-of-age novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man two years later. In 1922 came Ulysses, the book that would make Joyce famous and infamous at the same time: extremely controversial in its time, Ulysses was banned in the U.K. and the U.S. and led to a landmark obscenity case in 1933.

In Simply Joyce, author Margot Norris strips the mystery from Joyce's ground-breaking books by offering a clear introduction to why and how they were produced. Along the way, she offers insights into Joyce’s life and creative inspirations by exploring his stories and novels in depth. Beginning with the more accessible early works and proceeding through Ulysses and the even more challenging Finnegans Wake—Joyce’s final work that was published two years before his death—Norris provides a clear and easily understandable overview of this seminal writer.

Both Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist are included on almost every list of the greatest novels of all time. Simply Joyce shows why this is so and, for those who have never had the pleasure of discovering Joyce’s works, it will serve as a riveting introduction and a jumping-off point into the extraordinary linguistic world of one of the most influential writers of the previous century.

About the author

Margot Norris, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine prior to her retirement in 2011, specializes in early twentieth century literature, with a particular focus on the work of James Joyce. She served as president of the International James Joyce Foundation from 2004 to 2008, and is the author of numerous publications on Joyce. Her books include The Decentered Universe of “Finnegans Wake” (1976), Joyce’s Web: The Social Unraveling of Modernism (1992), and Virgin and Veteran Readings of “Ulysses” (2011).

About the series

Simply Charly's Great Lives series offers brief, but authoritative introductions to the world's most influential people—scientists, artists, writers, economists, and other historical figures whose contributions have had a meaningful and enduring impact on our society. Each book, presented in an engaging, accessible and entertaining fashion, offers an illuminating look at their works, ideas and personal lives, and the legacies they left behind.

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"Simply Joyce is a perfect introduction to the complex work of one of the foremost writers of the twentieth century. Margot Norris, who has devoted her professional life to opening Joyce’s canon to all levels of readers, has produced a lucid, erudite, and entertaining overview that will engage those who have heretofore been intimidated by Joyce’s reputation and will revive in others a recollection of the pleasures that have derived from his writing. Although Norris offers a compact overview, it is by no means reductive or simplistic. Rather, in deft but accessible language, she lays out the marvelous range of possible responses to Joyce’s work. Her book is a wonderful gift to all readers who love Joyce’s writing."

—Michael Patrick Gillespie, Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Humanities in an Urban Environment at Florida International University

"This new book by Margot Norris, one of the world’s leading James Joyce scholars, is a remarkably thorough and yet concise introduction to Joyce and his four major works. Norris’s commentaries on Joyce’s language are particularly useful, and as she works her way from Dubliners to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake, she calls attention to crucial elements of each book, including their experiments with literary form and the values they embody."

—Patrick A. McCarthy, Professor of English, University of Miami and editor of the James Joyce Literary Supplement

"In Simply Joyce, Margot Norris, a world-renowned Joyce scholar, provides a succinct, enticing and informative overview of Joyce’s works. Her dexterous accounts of his challenging texts underscore how they openly invite us to immerse ourselves in them and interpret them. She comprehensively introduces readers to the intricacies of all of Joyce’s writings, including his fiction, poetry and his single surviving play, Exiles, at once taking stock of their fundamental structures and crisply commenting on them. Norris’s engaging primer never shirks the difficulty of Joyce’s masterpieces. But she triumphantly shows that the pleasures of reading Joyce are open to everyone, both novices and scholars alike."

Anne Fogarty, Professor of James Joyce Studies, University College Dublin, Ireland

"Simply Joyce is a smart, sensible, clear, and useful introduction to the revolutionary and innovative—but also controversial and challenging—20-century masterworks by James Joyce."

—Vincent J. Cheng, Shirley Sutton Thomas Professor of English, University of Utah and author of Joyce, Race, and Empire and other studies




Biography, Literary criticism



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Simply Charly


August 12, 2016

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