The Female and the Species

The Animal in Irish Women’s Writing

by Maureen O'Connor (Author)
©2010 Monographs X, 193 Pages
Series: Reimagining Ireland, Volume 19


Describing the Irish as ‘female’ and ‘bestial’ is a practice dating back to the twelfth century, while for women, inside and outside of Ireland, their association with children, animals and other ‘savages’ has had a long history. A link among systems of oppression has been asserted in recent decades by some feminists, but linking women’s rights with animal advocacy can be controversial. This strategy responds to the fact that women’s inferiority has been alleged and justified by appropriating them to nature, an appropriation that colonialism has also practiced on its racial and cultural others. Nineteenth-century feminists braved such associations, for instance, often asserting vegetarianism as a form of rebellion against the dominant culture. Vegetarianism and animal advocacy have uniquely Irish implications. This study examines a tradition of Irish women writers deploying the ‘natural’ as a gesture of resistance to paternalist regulation of female energies and as a self-consciously elaborated stage for the performance of Irish identity. They call into question the violent dislocations and disavowals required by figurative practices, particularly when utilizing Irish topography, an already ‘unnatural’ cultural construct shaped by conflict and suffering.


X, 193
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2011 (January)
Somerville and Ross Sacrificial Logic Politics Feminism
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2010. X, 193 pp.

Biographical notes

Maureen O'Connor (Author)

The Author: Maureen O’Connor lectures in the Department of English Language and Literature at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland. She is the co-editor of Wild Colonial Girl: Essays on Edna O’Brien, Edna O’Brien: New Critical Perspectives and Ireland and India: Colonies, Culture, and Empire. She has published widely on Irish writers, including Oscar Wilde, Maria Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), Frances Power Cobbe and Edna O’Brien. She is revising a manuscript on Oscar Wilde’s literary matrilineage and is working on an ecocritical study of the fiction of Edna O’Brien.


Title: The Female and the Species