Date of Completion


Thesis Advisor(s)


Honors Major



Literature in English, British Isles


Irish novelist Edna O’Brien suffered a tumultuous early reception; her first six novels were banned in Ireland, and critics complained that her writing was sensational and gratuitous. Yet by the time Ireland’s economic boom arrived on the island, many contemporary critics suddenly applaud the novelist’s writing. Is this significant change in critical reception based on O’Brien’s development as an author? Or was O’Brien writing stories that were ahead of her time and are only now accepted by contemporary critics? My paper considers the writing and critical reception of Edna O’Brien by placing her life and career alongside three waves of Irish feminism. I argue that the changing critical opinion of Edna O’Brien’s writing is based on her interrogation of the problems affecting women in Irish society during the past forty years. It was not until recently that O’Brien had an Irish audience that was willing to hear her critique of a repressive Ireland, and it is this audience that is finally able to reflect upon the sacrifices made by early Irish feminists, including Edna O’Brien. In my analysis of O’Brien’s writing within the third-wave of Irish feminism, I offer the first investigation of O’Brien’s relationship with both her late ex-husband and her son, authors Ernest and Carlo Gébler respectively. By examining all three family members’ texts, I construct a literary dialog between the Gébler family, revealing the potential motivation behind each family member’s writing.