Whether he’s writing about John Smith or John C. Calhoun, about the Union’s siege of Charleston in the Civil War or the shipwrecked birth of America, Joseph Kelly looks for the human story, fully painting the figures who make history happen. Always he aims to write about complex ideas and history in lively, readable prose. His interests range from the obscenity trial of James Joyce’s Ulysses to U. S. Southern history. Currently, he’s tackling the maroons, mutineers, and pirates who pioneered the idea of America. His Marooned: Shipwreck, Jamestown, and the Epic Story of the First Americans was published by Bloomsbury Press in Fall 2018.
In addition to several critical and biographical articles on James Joyce, Kelly’s first book, Our Joyce: From Outcast to Icon, uses extensive archival research to uncover the manipulations of this monumental figure of modern literature by liberals and conservatives in the American culture wars. His popular introductory books on short stories, poems, essays, and plays, W. W. Norton & Company’s Seagull Readers, have sold well over 100,000 copies and are entering their 4th edition. His latest offering from Overlook Press, America’s Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March toward Civil War, “brings a literary sensibility to the craft of history writing,” according to the eminent Lincoln scholar, Orville Vernon Burton.
Kelly earned his Ph. D. in literature with a minor in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 1992. Since then, he has been teaching a variety of courses at the College of Charleston, most recently Irish nationalism and culture, urban geography, and composition. He is the Co-Director of the College of Charleston’s Commission on Diversity, a Faculty Administrative Fellow in the President’s office, and a recent recipient of the Charleston’s Distinguished Service Award and Leo I. Higden Outstanding Leadership Award.