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In twenty succinct chapters, the study paints a complete portrait of the short story - its history, culture, aesthetics and economics. European innovators such as Chekhov, Flaubert and Kafka are compared to British practitioners such as Joyce, Mansfield and Carter as well as writers in the American tradition, from Hawthorne and Poe to Barthelme and Carver. For the first time attention is paid to experimental, postcolonial and popular fiction, while developments in Anglo-American, Hispanic and Arabic literature are also explored. Critical approaches to the short story are debated and reassessed, while discussion of the short story is related to contemporary critical theory. In what promises to be essential reading for students and academics, the study sets out to prove that the short story remains vital to the emerging culture of the twenty-first century.