The University of Wisconsin Press

Irish Studies / Literature & Criticism / Women's Studies

Wild Colonial Girl
Essays on Edna O'Brien
Edited by Lisa Colletta and Maureen O'Connor

Irish Studies in Literature and Culture

Michael Patrick Gillespie, Series Editor

"Language is an extraordinary thing. It is more extraordinary than any nuclear weapon."
—Edna O'Brien, in a 1995 interview with

Since the 1960 publication of her first novel, The Country Girls, award-winning Irish writer Edna O'Brien has been both celebrated and maligned. Praised for her lyrical prose and vivid female characters and attacked for her frank treatment of sexuality and alleged sensationalism, O'Brien and her work seem always to spawn controversy, including the past banning in Ireland of several of her works. O'Brien's attention to "women's" concerns such as sex, romance, marriage, and childbirth has often relegated her to critical neglect at best and, at worst, outright contempt. This essay collection promises to be a long overdue critical reevaluation and exciting rediscovery of her oeuvre.

Wild Colonial Girl situates O'Brien in Irish contexts that allow for an appraisal of her significant contribution to a specifically Irish women's literary tradition while attesting to the potency of writing against patriarchal conventions. Each chapter's clear and detailed readings of O'Brien's fiction build a convincing case for her literary, political, and cultural importance, providing an invaluable critical guide for an enriched appreciation of O'Brien and her work.

"Readers of Edna O'Brien's lyrical fiction can discover or revisit in Wild Colonial Girl the favorites—Kate and Baba, the mother and the Virgin Mary, Sister Imelda, ancient and modern Ireland, Breege and the Irish Revolutionary soldier—all in a search for selfhood amid sexual conflict, ambient guilt, and social paradoxes. Irish author Edna O'Brien has long merited this breakthrough scholarly study."
—Grace Eckley, editor of Newstead

Lisa Colletta is assistant professor of English at Babson College. She is the author of Dark Humor and Social Satire in the Modern British Novel and the editor of Kathleen and Christopher: Christopher Isherwood's Letters to His Mother. Maureen O'Connor teaches English at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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Of Related Interest:
the cover of Brooker's book is a photo of a statue of Joyce.Joyce's Critics
Transitions in Reading and Culture
Joseph Brooker

"I have not come across a book as useful and as discerning as this on the present state of Joyce criticism."
                                 —Robert Baker, University of Wisconsin–Madison

the cover of Colletta's book has a black and white photo of O'Brien, with her hand on her mouth, in surprise or shock. A light pattern of words is overprinted on her face.

August 2006
LC: 2005022818 PR
248 pp.  6 x 9

Book icon Paper $24.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-21634-4
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Wanda Balzano
Kristine Byron
Lisa Colletta
Danine Farquharson
Michael Patrick Gillespie
Sophia Hillan
Rebecca Pelan
Maureen O'Connor
Bernice Schrank
Helen Thompson


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Updated June 18, 2012

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