Off-campus University of Miami users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your University of Miami CaneID and Password.

Non-University of Miami users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Patrick A. McCarthy

Second Committee Member

Pamela Hammons

Third Committee Member

Tim Watson

Fourth Committee Member

Heather Ingman


This dissertation examines how contemporary Irish women writers dismantle national conceptions linking Irish women to the hearth and home by offering an alternate version of women’s lived experience, which nationalist ideologies have simplified. I consider how these writers define “home”—the domestic, the familiar, the intimate—as complicated by sexuality, exile, and violence. Using Freud’s theory of the uncanny as a lens, I analyze how these writers question established social relations in order to uncover uneasy relationships to self, home, and homeland. In my project, postcolonial theory and transnational feminisms, coupled with trauma theory, facilitate the contextualization of the uncanny as a response to the hybrid identities, dislocations, and effects of violence on gender roles within the nation. The first two chapters examine Edna O’Brien’s later fiction, which unsettles conceptions of the nation by emphasizing the experiences of marginal figures, thereby questioning who belongs within the nation’s borders. The next two chapters on the fiction of Jennifer Johnston and Mary Beckett reveal how the crossing of the public into the private sphere exposes a paradoxical homespace that is both haven and prison for rich Anglo-Irish Dubliners and working-class Catholics in Belfast. The final chapter on Kate O’Riordan’s novels explores issues of exile, alienation, and trauma through a multi-generational lens, revealing how memories of “home” and fraught parent-child relationships at once hinder and facilitate identity formation. In the epilogue, I briefly discuss how contemporary Irish poetry could address the issues raised by the works of fiction examined in my project.


Edna O'Brien; Jennifer Johnston; Mary Beckett; Kate O'Riordan; contemporary Irish women's fiction; gender and national identity