Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
The Irish short story has been read, debated and lectured about to generations of students. A study by Deborah Averill, The Irish Short Story from George Moore to Frank O'Connor, came out in 1982, while two important collections of essays have been devoted to the subject: The Irish Short Story, edited by Patrick Rafroidi and Terence Brown, published in 1979, and The Irish Short Story, edited by James Kilroy, published in 1984. In recent years there have been as well many studies of the short stories of individual authors like James Joyce, Mary Lavin, John McGahern, William Trevor, Bryan MacMahon and others. Irish practitioners of the art, notably Seán O'Faoláin and Frank O'Connor, have written influential studies of the form, and there have been volumes devoted to the Irish short story in particular contexts, such as Michael Storey's Representing the Troubles in Irish Short Fiction (2004). We think we know very well what the modern Irish short story is, to the extent that another overview may well seem redundant.
Yet for a form often regarded, particularly in relation to the novel, as the pre-eminent Irish prose form, this handful of studies is numerically small. Even in Ireland, short fiction has been relegated to the margins of critical discourse, the short stories of major short story writers like Elizabeth Bowen treated as minor or apprentice pieces in comparison with their novels.