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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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Bridging Tradition and Modernity: George Moore’s Short Story Cycle The Untilled Field


In his preface to the 1914 edition of The Untilled Field (1903), George Moore called the book ‘a landmark in Anglo-Irish literature, a new departure’.1 In a letter to Edmund Gosse, on the other hand, he described it as ‘a frontier book, between the new and the old style’.2 Although The Untilled Field is often regarded as a turning point in the development of the modern Irish short story, Moore’s appraisal of the transitional dimension of the volume appears to be the more accurate one. As Heather Ingman argues, The Untilled Field combines traditional and new techniques, as a result of which it may be more appropriate to see it as a transitional volume.3 With The Untilled Field generally considered a precursor of James Joyce’s Dubliners (1914), criticism has focused on Moore’s contribution to the birth of the modern short story. As a result, relatively little attention has been paid to the origins of Moore’s book. Moore, who wanted to contribute to the Gaelic Revival but had not mastered Irish, wrote The Untilled Field with the purpose of having it translated into Irish for students. Several of the stories were published in The New Ireland Review – in English and Irish versions – and in English and American magazines. Six of the stories were published in Gaelic translations in Dublin, under the title An t-Úr-Ghort, in 1902. The ← 85 | 86 → London publication of The Untilled Field followed in 1903.4 The Untilled Field is known to have been modelled on...

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