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The Irish Short Story

Traditions and Trends

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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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Early Readings, Early Writings: Samuel Beckett’s Student Library and His First Short Stories

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Samuel Beckett is a versatile figure. For the average reader, he is the playwright who wrote Waiting for Godot. For English literature students, his work additionally consists of innovative narrative fiction in the form of novels and short prose. Researchers analyse his activity as a poet, art critic, essayist and (self-)translator. A small segment of the literary audience is interested in Samuel Beckett the student and university lecturer at Trinity College Dublin. This remote – yet all the more fascinating – period in Beckett’s life was formative, offering clues about the origin of his later ideas and techniques.

This essay will discuss a selection of Beckett’s short stories alongside a contextual interpretation of his readings during his period at the university. The literary corpus read by Beckett before obtaining his MA at Trinity will be placed alongside his earliest works of short fiction (spanning the years 1929 to 1932): ‘Assumption’, ‘Sedendo et Quiescendo’, ‘Walking Out’, ‘The Smeraldina’s Billet Doux’ and ‘Text’. These narrative experiments are a long way from his later masterpieces. Nevertheless, what connects them is an idiosyncratic view on complexity that Beckett developed from his readings. Teaching his seminar on French literature at Trinity, Beckett indirectly formulated a programme centred on the idea of complexity which would also apply to his own compositions.

In order to discuss Beckett’s first narrative efforts based on what he was reading at the time, several important archival resources will be used. These include the reading lists in...

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