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Reckless Brevity: The International Short Story

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

A short story can be a slice of life, but it can also hint at what Milan Kundera calls ‘the existential enquiry’. It can provide the writer with an opportunity of offering not just a slice but a portion that can hint at so much more. Each week we will concentrate on a story by a major writer of the last century, how they bite off more than most stories chew on and how they achieve the "reckless brevity" one critic proposed when commenting on Kundera's work.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. Jacklighting, Anne Beattie

2. Do Stay, Giraffe, Wolfgang Borchert

3. Ceil, Harold Brodkey

4. Communist, Richard Ford

5. Mother, Natalia Ginzburg

6. The Challenge, Mario Vargas Llosa

7. A Set of Variations on a Borrowed Theme, Frank O’Connor

8. The Saint, V. S. Pritchett

9. Rain, Merce Rodoreda

10. Big Black Good Man, Richard Wright

Teaching method(s)

Lecture and class discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Identify the styles of different short story writers;

  • Discuss their individual approaches;

  • Distinguish between different short story writers’ styles and interests;

  • Explain the significance of the contemporary short story even if it seems to ‘lack’ many of the storytelling skills of the classically told tale.


Core Readings


  • Halpern, Daniel. 1986. The Penguin Book of International Short Stories 1945-1985, London: Penguin. (All the stories can be found in this collection.) Also known as The Art of the Tale 


  • Wood, James. 2008. How Fiction Works, London.

  • Leitch, Vincent B. 2001. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. London: Norton.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.