Edna O'Brien and the Art of Fiction

Maureen O'Connor

200 pages
ISBN 9781684483358
Contemporary Irish Writers

Since the appearance of her first novel, The Country Girls, in 1960 - a book that undermined the nation's ideal of innocent and pious Irish girlhood­ - Edna O'Brien has provoked controversy in her native Ireland and abroad. Indeed, several of her early novels were condemned by church authorities and banned by the Irish government for their frank portrayals of sexual matters and the inner lives of women. Now an internationally acclaimed writer, O'Brien must be critically reassessed for a twenty-first century audience. Edna O'Brien and the Art of Fiction provides an urgent retrospective consideration of one of the English-speaking world's best-selling and most prolific contemporary authors. Drawing on O'Brien's fiction as well as archival material, and applying new theoretical approaches - including ecocritical and feminist new materialist readings - this study considers the pioneering and enduring ways O'Brien represents women's experience, family relationships, the natural world, sex, creativity, and death, and her work's long anticipation of contemporary movements such as #metoo.

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"[A] landmark book - a turning point - for future conversations." - James Joyce Literary Supplement, 2024

"Edna O'Brien and the Art of Fiction does a lot of heavy lifting for one single-authored volume. O'Connor's sophisticated, meticulously researched assessment of Ireland's most eminent living practitioner of the art of fiction opens up new and enabling routes across an overdetermined terrain that has rendered critical engagement with O'Brien's oeuvre strangely difficult. . . . O'Connor's study clears the way for a new generation of Edna O'Brien scholarship." - Estudios Irlandeses, 2024

"O'Connor's close readings, coupled with a deft use of theory, nimbly move between texts in O'Brien's oeuvre, highlighting recurring images and preoccupations, resulting in a valuable critical account that firmly illustrates O'Brien's mastery as a writer."- Irish University Review, May 2023

"O'Connor offers sophisticated analyses of O'Brien's fiction, a passionate portrait of O'Brien as an artist, and engages with how O'Brien and her works have been (mis)perceived over the years. This text is essential for anyone writing on O'Brien's fiction." - Irish Literary Supplement, Spring 2023

"In what amounts to a powerful work of restorative justice, [O'Connor] establishes once and for all the high and deliberate guiding intelligence that animates O'Brien's work." -Theo Dorgan, author of Orpheus

"This is a scholarly, sensitive, balanced exploration of the work of a great writer. It is beautifully written and very accessible. Maureen O'Connor has left no stone unturned in her painstaking research and the result is a wonderful book, indispensable for anyone with an interest in Edna O'Brien or contemporary Irish literature." -Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, author of Little Red and Other Stories

"Readable yet theoretically sophisticated, this welcome new study offers an authoritative look at one of Ireland's greatest - and historically most underappreciated - writers. . . . Both a history of O'Brien criticism and an examination of her work, O'Connor's exciting study offers a forceful defense of O'Brien's craft and an unapologetic critique of the social forces hampering the reception and interpretation of her canon." -Kathleen Costello-Sullivan, author of Trauma and Recovery in the Twenty-first Century Irish Novel

"O'Connor makes a scholarly and at the same time impassioned case for O'Brien as a serious, creative artist thoroughly cognizant of what she is about and decades ahead of her fellow Irish in her analysis of political, social, and environmental ills." -Heather Ingman, author of Irish Women's Fiction: From Edgeworth to Enright

About the author:

Maureen O'Connor lectures in English at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. She is the author of The Female and the Species: The Animal in Irish Women's Writing and co-editor of Edna O'Brien: New Critical Perspectives, Wild Colonial Girl: Essays on Edna O'Brien, and Ireland and India: Colonies, Culture, and Empire.

Distributed by Rutgers University Press

Cloth: $120.00, 9781684483365; EPUB: $29.95, 9781684483372


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