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Edna O'Brien

'New Critical Perspectives'

Series:

Edited By Maureen O'Connor, Kathryn Laing and Sinead Mooney

The essays collected in Edna O’Brien: New Critical Perspectives illustrate the range, complexity and interest of O’Brien as a fiction writer and dramatist. Together they contribute to a broader appreciation of her work and to an evolution of new critical approaches, as well as igniting greater interest in the many unexplored areas of her considerable oeuvre.

The contributors who include new and established scholars in the field of O’Brien criticism, are Rebecca Pelan, Maureen O’Connor, Michelle Woods, Bertrand Cardin, Ann Norton, Eve Stoddard, Michael Harris, Loredana Salis, Shirley Peterson, Patricia Coughlan, Sinéad Mooney, and Mary Burke.

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Introduction

Introduction

Extract

Kathryn Laing

Sinéad Mooney

Maureen O’Connor

[Edna O’Brien’s] auspicious literary debut with The Country Girls marked the beginning of a career that now encompasses a body of work including fifteen novels, six short-story collections, plays, television and motion-picture screenplays, poems, children’s books, and non-fiction ranging from essays and reviews to a biography of James Joyce (1999). She always seems to have a novel and poems in progress and continues to write short stories, many published in the New Yorker. In all her work O’Brien continues to shock, puzzle, delight, and scandalize her readers as she ventures into new territory.

So ends Robert Hosmer’s recent entry in the Dictionary of Literary Biography on ‘Ireland’s best known female writer’ (16). It would be fair to say that O’Brien is best known as a writer of fiction. She is known particularly for the autobiographical nature of her work, and for her exploration of ‘the agonies of love and loss that attend women’s experiences’ (16); the construction of female sexuality and the consequences of this for women within a specifically Irish context, and within broader contexts too. These issues have been particularly the focus of her short fiction but, as critics have noted, her latest trilogy (House of Splendid Isolation [1994], Down by the River [1996], and ←1 | 2→Wild Decembers [1999]) has shown a significant shift in her fiction, reworking familiar themes within a sharply-defined political framework. In her forthcoming novel, The Light of...

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