Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Flack, Leah

Second Advisor

McMahon, Timothy

Third Advisor

Rivero, Albert J.


Attempts to reintegrate nineteenth-century novels into the narrative of Irish literary history have been greatly hampered by their long neglect and persistent critical narratives that regard the literary output of this era as either an ingenuous or inartistic failure to establish an authentic literary tradition. Through four case studies, this dissertation explores how national romance and picaresque novels of the mid to late nineteenth-century made significant contributions to the development of the novel form within the Irish literary tradition through stylistic dexterity and cultural subtlety that has long gone unrecognized. To illustrate this, I first analyze Sheridan Le Fanu’s The Fortunes of Torlogh O’Brien: A Tale of the Wars of King James (1847) and Rosa Mulholland’s Marcella Grace (1886), two national romances with significant departures from the colonial and gendered allegorical frameworks typically associated with the genre. In the second section, I explore Charles Lever’s Charles O’Malley the Irish Dragoon (1842) and William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. (1844) as novels that demonstrate the picaresque genre’s potential to meaningfully engage with Ireland’s history of colonial representation through subtle forms of carnivalesque inversion and satire. To accentuate innovations within these novels that reflect earnest engagement with Irish polemics, I contextualize my inquiry through considerations of trends in genre development and comparisons with contemporaneous works of British fiction. Both these genres are highly reflective of Ireland’s perplexing and volatile social, political, and cultural position in the nineteenth-century. The national romance form allowed Irish artists to create literary heuristics for understanding causes and possible solutions to enduring socio-economic problems through allegory. By contrast, the picaresque reflects a frustration over failed attempts to encapsulate or solve such problems and a longing to establish more liberating modes of expression through variety, diversion, and digression. Though these genres appear in many national literatures, a study of the way Irish authors refashioned conventional plot structures to better interact with the complexities of the Irish socio-political situation reveals how nineteenth-century novels framed questions of national identity for subsequent generations.