This volume presents a collection of original and interconnected essays which aim to chart Elizabeth Gaskell’s literary imagination by focusing on diverse aspects of her short stories. It includes the papers read at the conference on «Elizabeth Gaskell and the art of the short story», organized by the Centre for Victorian and Edwardian Studies (CUSVE, «G. d’Annunzio» University, Pescara, 2010), to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth. While offering fresh insights into Gaskell’s shorter fiction, this collection provides an introduction to the many issues that absorbed her literary attention. Most importantly, by considering the growing significance of some neglected aspects of her works and the cultural and ideological context in which she lived, the contributions collectively delineate Gaskell’s artistic tensions, ethical sensibility and social commitment in a rapidly changing world. In their overall critical design, the contributors intend to shed light on the complex web of dialogic suggestions underlying her fiction, while at the same time revealing the extraordinary and multifaceted inventiveness of one of the most important Victorian writers.