Literary Theory

Animals in Irish Literature and Culture by Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Borbála Faragó

By Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Borbála Faragó

Animals in Irish Literature and tradition spans the early glossy interval to the current, exploring colonial, post-colonial, and globalized manifestations of eire as nation and country in addition to the human animal and non-human animal migrations that problem quite a few literal and cultural borders.

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By praising the landowners for their improvements, the poet emphasizes the hierarchical structures underpinning this scene, so that we see its wildness as part of the human design. Typically, these poems would feature a hunting scene that added interest and variety to the text. Joseph Atkinson in ‘Killarny: a Poem’ (1769) presents the pleasures of the chase as an integral part of the timeless landscape of Killarney, but although the excitement of the hunt can be traced in the texture of the poem’s language, at its climax the perspective moves closer to that of the animal, and the terror the stag is experiencing becomes palpable for the reader: See, the Stag trembles – for his conscious fate; – Where is there rest!

As Peter Heymans recounts: Lucy Collins 15 The end of the eighteenth century witnessed a general loss of taxonomic stability, whereby the universal and static character of social, political and biological laws was increasingly disputed. 7 This linking of scientific and political thought is an important development, signalling the interdisciplinary nature of ethical arguments. Many poems from the mid-eighteenth century onward seek to reflect on the larger moral framework for their representation of animal life by linking it to debates on slavery and on the rights of women.

A writer in the Freeman’s Journal in June 1764 describes the differences between bull-baiting practices in England and Ireland, noting both the excessive violence and long duration of the Irish practice. See Kelly, Sport, 222–3. These differences may indicate the specific standpoint of the visitor, and the period of observation, rather than the severity of the violence, however. For contemporary comments on the English context, see Von Uffenbach (1934) London in 1710: From the Travels of Zacharias Conrad Von Uffenbach (London: Faber and Faber), 59.

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