This study seeks to isolate, define, and assess the formal structures of “short story composites,” works made up of detachable but interrelated short stories. James Joyce’s Dubliners and William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses are representative examples.
Quote from abstract:
The composite retains a dual identity as a collection of autonomous short stories and as a larger whole, whereas the novel is a single entity. While the novel is more suited to an intensive portrayal of an individual or a few individuals, the composite’s briefer, self-contained sketches or episodes can encompass a number of characters. When these sketches or episodes are skill fully selected, arranged, and interrelated—particularly when the setting remains constant—a degree of breadth and generality is effected through form that can only be simulated by rhetoric in the novel. The short story composite is an important index to modern fiction in matter as well as in manner, since its form is a means to depict the individual man as a being shaped, defined, and limited by his shared social environment.
‘DUBLINERS’ AND ‘GO DOWN, MOSES’: THE SHORT STORY COMPOSITE by CREIGHTON, JOANNE VANISH, University of Michigan, Dissertations Publishing, 1969
This appears to be the first (English) dissertation on short story cycles! The quote doesn’t say much about the content of the thesis (which is concerned with an analyses of Joyce’s and Faulkner’s works in the context of the “story composite”, as it is called. But I picked the quote as introduction, because, as said, it is probably one of the earliest dissertations about the subject. And I thought it was quite precise, after all these years, especially that the form “is a means to depict the individual man as a being shaped, defined, and limited by his shared social environment”.
The author, Joanne Creighton, has an impressive biography with regard to women and education – worth cheking out.