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The Irish Short Story

Traditions and Trends


Edited By 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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From Tale to Short Story: The Motif of the Stolen Child in Le Fanu’s Short Fiction


Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873) is best known as a writer of the fantastic, and the short stories collected in In a Glass Darkly (1872), which includes the famous ‘Carmilla’, have paved the way for the genre of the psychological ghost short story à la James. This collection of weird stories by Le Fanu was nevertheless preceded by numerous other short texts of fiction. Most of his short fiction was published in the Dublin University Magazine and in British reviews such as All the Year Round, Temple Bar, Belgravia or Dark Blue; some tales were immediately published in book form, such as his Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery (1851). Le Fanu’s early Father Purcell tales, published in the Dublin University Magazine from 1838 to 1850 were gathered posthumously in 1888 under the title of The Purcell Papers.

In his seminal Dover collections of Le Fanu’s short fiction, Best Ghost Stories (1964) and Ghost Stories and Mysteries (1975), Bleiber puts forward the variety and plasticity of Le Fanu’s sources of inspiration. One of these is the oral storytelling tradition with which Le Fanu was remarkably familiar, despite his Protestant upbringing and distance from a cultural tradition that belonged to Gaelic and Catholic Ireland. Indeed, in many of his stories, from ‘The Ghost and the Bonesetter’ (1838) to ‘Laura Silver Bell’ (1872), Le Fanu taps into Irish legendary lore, sometimes staging an intradiegetic seanchaí, and often using well known motifs of Irish folklore linked to the ‘good people’,...

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