Edna O'Brien at MFA's 10th Anniversary

Press Release Details

University Communications For Immediate Release
Drew Wilson, Director of Media Relations January 08, 2014
412.578.2095 (phone)
412.260.6807 (cell)
412.578.2080 (fax)
agwilson@carlow.edu

Carlow University’s MFA Program Celebrates 10thAnniversary with Reading from Edna O’Brien 

The “Doyenne” of Irish Literature Will Be in Pittsburgh on Saturday, April 5, 2014 for a Reading 

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Carlow University is pleased to welcome acclaimed Irish novelist, memoirist, and poet, Edna O’Brien to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its master of fine arts (MFA) in creative writing program on Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rosemary Heyl Theatre, in Antonian Hall on the Carlow campus.

“Edna O’Brien is an international icon,” said Ellie Wymard, PhD, director of the MFA program at Carlow.

O’Brien, who has been called the doyenne of Irish literature, published her first novel, The Country Girls, in 1960 to much acclaim and controversy.  The novel is credited with breaking the silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II, but it also was banned – and even burned – in Ireland, which, for O’Brien, still hurts.

"They used to ban my books, but now when I go there, people are courteous to my face, though rather slanderous behind my back,” she told George Plimpton for his 1986 book, Writers at Work.  “Then again, Ireland has changed. There are a lot of young people who are irreligious, or less religious. Ironically, they wouldn't be interested in my early books – they would think them gauche. They are aping English and American mores. If I went to a dance hall in Dublin now I would feel as alien as in a disco in Oklahoma."

Born in 1930 in Twamgraney, County Clare, O’Brien’s family was extremely religious and she believes their strict Catholic beliefs stifled her imagination. Her parents sent her to a convent, where the types of literature allowed within its confines was limited.  The first book O'Brien ever bought was Introducing James Joyce by T.S. Eliot. She has said that Joyce's Portrait of the Artist made her realize that she wanted to be surrounded by literature for the rest of her life, and the publication of Country Girls, made that a certainty.

Overcoming her oppressed adolescence, O’Brien was anything but oppressed during the “Swinging 60s,” where she threw parties in London that were attended by Marianne Faithfull, Sean Connery, Princess Margaret, and Jane Fonda, among others.  She was wooed by Richard Burton, Marlon Brando, and Robert Mitchum, and Paul McCartney walked her home late one evening.

The author of more than 30 novels, short story collections, non-fiction books, dramas, and poetry collections, O’Brien published a memoir of her life, titled Country Girl, in 2012. 

Scottish novelist Andrew O’Hagan believes O’Brien “changed the nature of Irish fiction; she brought the woman's experience and sex and internal lives of those people on to the page, and she did it with style, and she made those concerns international."

Carlow University’s MFA program in creative writing, which can be completed in five semesters, provides the convenience of a low-residency program with boundless opportunities in which students work with internationally-renowned writers in the United States and Ireland. Each year, students complete two residencies. In January, students spend 11 days in Pittsburgh, a city known for its world-class teaching and research institutes. In June, students experience the magnificent setting and rich literary tradition of Ireland during an 11-day residency at Trinity College Dublin.

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Editor’s Note:  To arrange interviews in advance of Edna O’Brien’s April visit to Pittsburgh, please contact Drew Wilson via e-mail at agwilson@carlow.edu or via phone at (412) 578-2095.

RESERVE SEATS for the April 5, 2014, event: Please visit this form to reserve your seat for this event. General admission is $15. $5 for students. Free for Carlow students.


About Carlow University

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1929. Offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, Carlow University is a comprehensive master's institution dedicated to learner-centered education at the collegiate levels and at the elementary school level in the Campus School of Carlow University.