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Edna O'Brien

'New Critical Perspectives'

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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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8 | ‘Caring Nothing for Sacrifice’: The Drama of Solitude in Edna O’Brien’s Iphigenia

8 |‘Caring Nothing for Sacrifice’: The Drama of Solitude in Edna O’Brien’s Iphigenia.

Extract

Loredana Salis

Iphigenia, after Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, is one of Edna O’Brien’s most recent theatrical works and her first adaptation of a Greek drama. The play was ‘found’ by Michael Grandage, the artistic director of Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, who approached O’Brien at a time when the Irish writer had reworked half of it already. A ‘devotee of the Greeks’, O’Brien had long been drawn to the story of Iphigenia because it is seldom performed, and because ‘it’s the genesis of all drama. It’s at one moment epic, but domestic’ (qtd in Lee).

The production opened at the Crucible Theatre in February 2003; it received good audiences, but never toured. There were mixed reviews, some of which queried O’Brien’s alterations and use of language (Billington), or found the main characters ‘tremendously under-powered’ (Pearson). Others praised it as a ‘powerful anti-war play [that] makes a point against what is lost in war’ (Paulin); but for the vast majority of critics, the play reiterated O’Brien’s feminist agenda. Peter Stothard of the Times wrote in the course of his review that ‘the Irish novelist has made a lifelong theme of weak and violent men who abuse women for specious causes’. Speaking of Iphigenia he maintained ←138 | 139→that the play ‘is … absolutely clear about what is right and [what is] wrong’. Similarly, the journalist Veronica Lee found herself ‘struck by how female-centred O’Brien’s adaptation is’, despite the author’s view that ‘rather than being female-centred [Iphigenia] is a more equal...

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