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The Irish Short Story

Traditions and Trends


Elke D'hoker and Stephanie Eggermont

Often hailed as a ‘national genre’, the short story has a long and distinguished tradition in Ireland and continues to fascinate readers and writers alike. Critical appreciation of the Irish short story, however, has laboured for too long under the normative conception of it as a realist form, used to depict quintessential truths about Ireland and Irish identity. This definition fails to do justice to the richness and variety of short stories published in Ireland since the 1850s. This collection aims to open up the critical debate on the Irish short story to the many different concerns, influences and innovations by which it has been formed. The essays gathered here consider the diverse national and international influences on the Irish short story and investigate its genealogy. They recover the short fiction of writers neglected in previous literary histories and highlight unexpected strands in the work of established writers. They scrutinize established traditions and use cutting-edge critical frameworks to discern new trends. Taken together, the essays contribute to a more encompassing and enabling view of the Irish short story as a hybrid, multivalent and highly flexible literary form, which is forever being reshaped to meet new insights, new influences and new realities.
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A World of Strangers? Cosmopolitanism in the Contemporary Irish Short Story


Zygmunt Bauman has argued that structures of community have altered fundamentally since the advent of the worldwide web. One of the most significant changes in our interpersonal ambit is that we now have regular contact with strangers.1 Such constant interaction would have been unthinkable before the invention of digital media and communications technology. Where in the past, exchanges with people we did not know and had never physically met might have been a rarity or even an impossibility, now in the era that Bauman pithily christens ‘liquid modernity’ we are multiply connected with countless strangers in the course of our everyday lives. Exchanges with distant Others and a shadowy network of virtual friends dominate digital conversations, chat-room postings and conversations on social media.

Yet, despite the seeming ease with which linking up with strangers and creating arrays of friends beyond our ken has become, social justice for asylum seekers and the difficulty of accommodating migrants in society are amongst the besetting issues of our times. Interactions with strangers and those seen as ethnically Other are at once an overriding challenge for current governments and facets of a quintessential fictional plot, not least in the realm of the short story. This essay seeks to explore how cross-cultural encounters are envisaged in a range of contemporary Irish narratives and to tease out how they are linked with the changing contours of the genre of the short story as it endeavours to incorporate and engage with the transnational, global...

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