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Global Legacies of the Great Irish Famine

Transnational and Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Marguerite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack, Lindsay Janssen and Ruud van den Beuken

The 150th anniversary of Ireland’s Great Famine in the 1990s generated a significant increase in scholarship on the history of the crisis and its social and cultural aftermath. Two decades later, interest in the Irish Famine – both scholarly and popular – has soared once again. A key event in Irish cultural memory, the crisis still crops up regularly in public discourse within Ireland and among the Irish diaspora. This volume, containing essays by distinguished scholars such as Peter Gray, Margaret Kelleher and Chris Morash, offers new perspectives on the Famine and its contexts. Addressing the challenges and opportunities for Irish Famine studies today, the book presents a stimulating dialogue between a wide range of disciplinary approaches to the Famine and its legacies.
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Melissa Fegan: Waking the Bones: The Return of the Famine Dead in Contemporary Irish Literature


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Waking the Bones: The Return of the Famine Dead in Contemporary Irish Literature

Recent novels and plays about the Famine suggest that cosmopolitan and consumerist Ireland is a fragile palimpsest easily razed to disclose the history of dispossession, marginalization, betrayal and social fracture it is founded on. Irish culture is a shallow grave, prone to exhumations and resurfacings, and anxious placatory reburials. Rebels and patriots may be recovered and laid to rest with ceremony and pride, or employed to bolster ideological positions;1 but the literal and metaphorical inhumation of Famine victims can arouse dangerous memories and contemporary resonances. Nina Witoszek and Pat Sheeran describe the 1984 interment in consecrated ground of the remains of a woman who died during the Famine and was denied a decent burial because she was an unmarried mother, as ‘an act of atonement and reconciliation during a time of great public disquiet at the treatment of unmarried mothers in Ireland – the Kerry Babies, the Ann Lovett case, etc.’, but suggest the desired resolution was not achieved: ‘The Galway priest may have exhumed more than he bargained for’.2 In Nuala O’Faolain’s novel My Dream of You (2001), the village of Mellary commemorates the 200th anniversary of 1798 (a year late, in 1999, so the guest of honour, an IRA man, can be released from Long Kesh), but the owner of the supermarket will not allow the Famine Commemoration Committee to erect a plaque on the wall...

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