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The Short Story: A Very Short Introduction

Andrew Kahn

Publication Date - February 2022

ISBN: 9780198754633

176 pages
6.9 x 4.4 inches

In Stock


What defines a modern short story is much more than a question of length. Despite the efforts of early pioneers like Edgar Allan Poe, the genre was originally synonymous with the anecdote or tale and seen more as entertainment than art. However it has become far more than that, and this Very Short Introduction considers afresh the form's ongoing innovations in plot construction, capacity for psychological insight, and ability to offer intensely concentrated perceptions.

This book charts the rise of the short story from its original appearance in magazines and newspapers, largely in the United States and Great Britain. For much of the nineteenth century, tales were written for the press, and the form's history is marked by engagement with popular fiction. From the later nineteenth century, the short story earned a reputation for its skillful use of plot design and character study distinct from the novel. After the First World War it found outlets in high-brow publications, and single-author collections, as well as anthologies, were regularly published. Exploring the form's techniques and themes, Andrew Kahn considers the continuity and variation in key structures and techniques such as the beginning, the creation of voice, the ironic turn or plot twist, and how writers manage endings. Throughout he draws on examples from an international and flourishing corpus of work, with close analysis of classic and lesser-known stories by American, Canadian, Irish, Australian, Russian, and French masters such as James Baldwin, Grace Paley, Alice Munro, Elizabeth Taylor, William Trevor, Helen Garner, Chekhov, and Guy de Maupassant.

Very Short Introductions: Brilliant, Sharp, Inspiring

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


  • Provides a clear analysis of the techniques and themes common to the international genre of short stories
  • Examines the rise of the short story, as facilitated by the explansion of global press
  • Draws on a diverse array of examples to illustrate common thematic threads, and form
  • Considers the ways in which the genre has been constantly innovated and expanded
  • Part of the Very Short Introductions series - over ten million copies sold worldwide

About the Author(s)

Andrew Kahn, Professor of Russian Literature, University of Oxford

Andrew Kahn is a Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Oxford. His publications include books on Alexander Pushkin and Osip Mandelstam. He has edited a number of books for Oxford World's Classics series, including Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time (2013); Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades and Other Stories (2009); and Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (2015). He is also a Fellow of the British Academy.

Table of Contents

    1. The Rise of the Short Story
    2. Openings
    3. Voices
    4. Place
    5. The Plot Thickens...and Thins
    6. Ironies and Reversals
    7. Chekhov's Heirs
    8. Endings
    References, Further Reading, Secondary Literature