Event—Adult Education

Contemporary Irish Writers: Reshaping the Short Story


Edna O’Brien by photographer James Davies, 2013. Source: Literature Wales via Flickr.

Class Description

Examine the short stories of prominent Irish writers, including Maeve Binchy, Frank O’Connor, and Edna O’Brien. Many of these stories illustrate family relationships trying to adapt to change under the strain of long-held conventions and customs. Others challenge gender relations and class status and provide fresh insights into developments in women's and men's emotional lives.

We will approach these stories with an emphasis on the Irish contexts that locate the characters in the physical world and in relation to questions of nationality, language, gender, class, and religion. We will emphasize the historical and cultural periods of the stories’ plots, and ask who is narrating the story and whether the narrative voice is clear, muddied, or even unidentified for a while.

Joseph Heininger, Professor of English at Dominican University, has published on Seamus Heaney’s Dante. His most recent article, “Representing Contemporary Life and Searching for the Sacred in Dennis O’Driscoll’s Poetry,” appeared in Christianity and Literature in 2023.

Materials List


  • Anne Enright, ed, The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story. Granta, 2011. ISBN: 9781847082558 (Order from the Newberry Bookshop here!)
  • Edna O'Brien, The Love Object. Little Brown, 2015. ISBN: 9780316378260 (Please Note: This book is out of print, but copies are available at the Chicago Public Library. You can also find used copies for sale at online stores like AbeBooks.)
  • Other Instructor-Distributed Materials

First Reading

  • Please read two stories in the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story: Clare Boylan's “Villa Marta” and Edna O'Brien's “Sister Imelda.”

Cost and Registration

6 Sessions, $245 ($220 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

We now offer our classes at three different price options: Regular ($245), Community Supported ($230), and Sponsor ($260). Following the models of other institutions, we want to ensure that our classes are accessible to a wider audience while continuing to support our instructors. You may choose the price that best fits your situation when registering through Learning Stream.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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