Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lingyan Yang, Ph.D.


In this first comprehensive study of Deirdre Madden's novels, I examine her work through a variety of critical lenses, and position Madden within the contexts of Irish fiction and women's fiction. I consider Madden's significance as an Irish writer who situates herself among various traditions and themes: nature and place writing, mother-daughter relationships, the Irish "Troubles," expatriate experiences, art and the artist, and children's literature. Feminism provides the groundwork for many of my analyses, but I also discuss Madden's work ecocritically, historically, and aesthetically, exploring ideas concerning literary influence and intertextuality as well. I begin by outlining the primary problem that this study seeks to address--the lack of scholarship not only on Madden, but on modern Irish women fiction writers in general. I also sketch a brief history of Madden's career as a writer, a career that spans more than thirty years thus far. My purpose is not to examine Madden's novels one by one, but rather to fit her writing into existing traditions and argue for her place within these traditions, even, or especially, when she defies them. I include analyses of all eleven of Madden's novels within different scopes and contexts, thereby demonstrating that her work is sufficiently rich to reward multiple critical approaches. Although discussion of each novel appears in more than one section, I examine her children's books in a separate chapter. Drawing from an interview I conducted with Madden in June 2012, I also explore Madden's literary influences and elements of intertextuality within her writing. I conclude by suggesting subjects for future studies of Madden and raising questions that will still need to be addressed. In a broader context, I assert that the field of Irish studies in the United States must break away from its male-dominated history and include more women writers. In both a scholarly and pedagogical sense, Irish studies has made progress in terms of gender equity, but more needs to be done. Madden's work, along with the work of her female contemporaries, has been marginalized and under-appreciated, and thus this study is both necessary and timely.