Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

David Galef

Committee Member

Janet Cutler


O'Brien, Flann,--1911-1966--Criticism and interpretation, O'Brien, Flann,--1911-1966--Third policeman, O'Brien, Flann,--1911-1966--At swim-two-birds, O'Brien, Flann,--1911-1966--Béal boċt--English


Brian O’Nolan’s novels At Swim-Two-Birds, The Poor Mouth, and The Third Policeman present worlds where character actions are largely inconsequential. This discussion will focus on reflexive metanarrative elements, criticism of the Irish revivalist movements and authorship and creation as a means to survive these worlds. O’Nolan’s novels will be shown to be largely optimistic in their confrontation of nihilistic concerns. Much of his writing is comedic and playful even when dealing with serious topics. Repetition through both language and story structure are key components of the futility O’Nolan constructs for his characters and readers. This thesis examines the interplay between futility and creativity in O’Nolan’s works.



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