A selection of academic titles that focus on short story analysis, theory, criticism and writing.
At the end of the page, you can also find a selection of specialist journals and websites that look at short story writing with an academic perspective.
Can you recommend an academic title or journal that looks into short fiction?
If so, let us know and we’ll add it to our list.
The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing, David Morley. This book introduces aspiring writers and teachers alike to the practice and art of creative writing and creative reading, and offers a fresh approach to the discipline. David Morley explores where creative writing comes from, the various forms and camouflages it has taken, and why we teach and learn the arts of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction.
Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction, Damon Knight. A readable and well-structured ‘no nonsense’ guide containing annotated examples of a short story, things to avoid and a variety of exercises.
Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings, Linda Anderson and Derek Neale, eds. A thorough text covering the creative process, fiction, poetry and life writing, with lengthy excerpts from well-known writers for detailed study and writing activities.
The Creative Writing Coursebook, Julia Bell and Paul Magrs, eds. Compiled by lecturers from the University of East Anglia Creative Writing programme, this is an excellent book with detailed discussions of the various elements of story writing.
Creative Writing Guidebook, Graeme Harper, ed. This slim book contains a collection of genre-specific workshops designed by writers of those particular forms, and engages in a higher level of academic enquiry than many similar books on the market.
The Creative Writing Handbook, John Singleton and Mary Luckhurst, eds. Amazon reviewer: “The book is about poetry and prose writing and is absolutely stuffed full of ideas to get you writing and then help you work at it. The writers used as examples are many, mainly contemporary and well chosen. There is also loads of original insight from them on the craft of writing.”
The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students, Tom Kealey. Aimed at the Ameican market, this book is packed with advice on choosing a graduate/postgraduate degree programme. Detailed information is provided about fifty graduate Creative Writing programmes in the United States, as well as information about international programmes.
Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide, Lois Tyson. A readable introduction to contemporary critical theories including feminism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, new criticism, new historicism, postcolonial criticism.
Cultural Theory: The Key Concepts, Andrew Edgar and Peter Sedgwick. A comprehensive guide to cultural theory.
Doing a Literature Review, Chris Hart. Everything you need to know when writing a literature review.
The Handbook of Creative Writing, Steven Earnshaw, ed. Contributors are all experts in their fields: poets, novelists, dramatists, agents, publishers, editors, tutors, critics and academics. Anyone with an interest in creative writing will find this book invaluable in developing their own creative writing projects and as a way into new areas of writing activity. ‘The only book to combine the theory and practice of writing with detailed advice on the business of writing and living as a writer.’
The Handbook to Literary Research, Delia da Sousa Correa and W.R. Owens, eds. This guide explains a variety of research techniques and methodologies, and offers a critical survey of literary theories.
Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle. A readable introduction to the academic study of literature, with suggestions for further reading.
An Introduction to Narratology, Monika Fludernik. A practical guide to using narratological theory in the analysis of literature.
The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story, Frank O’Connor. First published in 1962, this book examines the work of the main players in literary short fiction until that time, including Checkov, Turgenev, Joyce, Kipling, Lawrence, and Hemingway.
The Modernist Short Story: A Study in Theory and Practice, Dominic Head. This book places the short story at the centre of modernist and postmodernist innovation.
The New Short Story Theories, Charles E. May. The first edition of May’s Short Story Theories (1976) opened with an essay entitled, “The Short Story: An Underrated Art.”
The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes. It was written in French and later translated into English. Barthes sets out some of his ideas about literary theory.
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them, Francine Prose. Aimed primarily at those engaged with the novel form, this book will be equally useful for short story writers with its detailed analysis of technique.
Reading the Short Story by Prof. Charles May
Reclaiming the Short Story by literary editor Alexander Linklater
The Short Story: The Reality of Artifice, Charles May. A critical guide tracing the development of the short story form from its roots to present-day trends.
Theory After ‘Theory’, Derek Attridge and Jane Elliott, eds. This collection of essays looks at some of the up and coming literary theorists and considers which of them may be the successors to such notable figures as Derrida and Foucault.
Wordsmithery, Jayne Steel, ed. Containing essays by writers and academics, this workbook uses a selection of well-known contemporary texts to explore the craft of fiction.
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters, Christopher Vogler. Although this book primarily uses film to illustrate plot formation, it is useful to see the different purposes of archetypal characters within a story.
Writing Fiction, Linda Anderson and Derek Neale. Using their experience and expertise as teachers as well as authors, Linda Anderson and Derek Neale guide aspiring writers through such key aspects of writing as: how to stimulate creativity; keeping a writer’s notebook; character creation; setting point of view structure; and showing and telling.
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, Janet Burroway. It comprehensively covers all the essentials of good prose writing with examples (in full) of some very good short stories. Now a classic text for writing tutors and aspiring fiction writers.
Writing Fiction: Creative and Critical Approaches, Amanda Boulter. Drawing on the work of both classic and contemporary writers, as well as literary theorists, this slim text engages in a critical discussion of fiction writing.
Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, Rust Hills. A practical guide to short story writing.
Writing Short Stories, Ailsa Cox. With an expansive bibliography by well-known short story writers, this book examines key elements of the short story form, as distinct from other forms of fiction, and offers a variety of activities to help writers develop their craft.
Academic Journals & Websites: