Reading contemporary short stories from the 21st Century

Key facts

  • Cost: £100
  • Credits: 5


  • The short story exults in its shortness” Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Steven Millhauser says, “It wants to be shorter still. It wants to be a single word. … if it could utter that syllable, the entire universe would blaze up out of it with a roar. That is the outrageous ambition of the short story, that is its deepest faith, that is the greatness of its smallness.”  But how can short stories, in just a few short pages, capture the teeming multitude of characters and tales present in today’s world? How does a form that grew to prominence in the 19th century, was stripped back to minimal intensity in the 20th century, survive and thrive in the hectic, diverse and digital 2000s, 2010s and 2020s?  

    This brief course explores 5 notable short stories over the course of the 21st century so far to find out. Through a series of talks and discussions, it provides an in-depth analysis of a selection of recent texts to help chart the diversity of styles, structures, themes and techniques since the turn of the century. Students will discuss the recent social and literary context of these stories, their exploration of identity in the present day, as well as their abiding historical connections. In particular, this course will look in detail at recent short stories by the following writers:  

    • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
    • Haruki Murakami   
    • George Saunders
    • Claire Keegan
    • Jennifer Egan

     Over a series of talks and collective close-readings, our expert tutor will explain: 

    • key distinctive literary features of short story writing in the 21st Century through close textual analysis of a range of notable examples by the writers above 
    • their internal exploration of themes such as identity, place and trauma 
    • their social background and literary context  

    You will also have the chance to discuss and reflect on what you learn with other students and the tutor in seminars. 

    Choose this course if you want to learn: 

    • more about short story as a literary mode and the rewards of close reading 
    • more about how these texts are written, received and influence others 
    • more about the broader social context of these texts

Who is this course for?

Anyone new to studying literature and interested in: 

  • short story as a form and mode of writing 
  • contemporary 21st century literature 


10 credits at SCQF 7 / Level 1 

Can contribute towards the attainment of Certificate or Diploma in Higher Education 


Short 7 minute or 750 word presentation (100% of final grade) 

Mode of study

This 5-week course will be delivered via 2-hour seminars led by a tutor.

Course materials will be provided via our online learning platform Moodle 


  • Can begin your study of literature at university level  
  • contribute towards a Certificate or Diploma in Higher Education 
  • can inform your personal reading list and introduce you to some literary classics  

Find out more

The University holds open days throughout the year where you can meet with staff to discuss our short course provision. Find out more about University of Glasgow open days