Join us for the inaugural lecture of Professor Melissa Fegan. This lecture will mark Melissa’s first public lecture since being appointed as Professor.
The Great Famine in Ireland (1845–1852) was one of the last major European subsistence crises, causing the deaths from starvation and disease of over one million people, the emigration of a million more, and a lasting demographic shift.
According to the census of 2022, the population of the island of Ireland has still not recovered to the levels of 1841. Margaret Kelleher has suggested that both historians and writers of fiction have struggled to approach the Famine and its aftermath without either ‘an excessive emphasis on victimisation’ (particularly due to British mismanagement of the relief effort in what was then part of the United Kingdom), or an uncritical assumption that ‘we are all descendants of survivors’ (ignoring the variety of experience, survival strategies, and their costs).
This lecture will consider the ways Irish literature, often drawing on folklore and historical accounts, has represented Famine survivors and the stratagems to which they were driven, including emigration, reliance on charity, stealing, sex-work, rioting, land-grabbing, abandoning family, friends or neighbours, religious conversion, murder and cannibalism. It will also reflect on the parallels drawn with other survivors, past and present.
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