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Before reading scholarly books and articles on Joyce--most of which deal with fairly specific aspects of the topic--it may be useful for you to read a few short background articles on Joyce or on the specific work by Joyce you are doing research on. The following resources contain introductory or background articles about Joyce, Irish literature, Modernism, the novel as a literary form, etc.
Literature Resource Center
Detroit: The Gale Group. Contains over 400 articles and documents on Joyce, including the full text of James Joyce Revisited (Twayne’s English Authors Series), the booklet on Joyce in the British Writers Series, and the article by Bernard Benstock about him in Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 36: British Novelists, 1890-1929: Modernists.
Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature
A shorter but updated version of the Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (below).
The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature.
Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Note: The Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (abridged and updated in 2000) is available online and in the SSHL stacks (PR 8706 .C66 2000 7th floor)
An Irish Literary Dictionary and Glossary.
Wall, Richard. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire: C. Smythe, 2001.
Critical Companion to James Joyce: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work
Fargnoli, A. Nicholas. Revised Edition. (Facts on File Library of World Literature). NY: Checkmark Books, 2006.
A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Writers.
Ed. Anne M. Brady and Brian Cleeve. Mullingar, Ireland: Lilliput Press, 1985.
A Dictionary of Irish Literature.
Robert Hogan, Editor-in-Chief. Revised, expanded edition. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1996. 2 vols.