Contemporary Irish poetry is producing a tradition of memorial to the Famine years of the 1840s. Countering purist versions of Irish identity as Catholic, indigenous, and rural, this body of work is provoked by Famine memory to explore Irishness as diasporic and widely transnational. This article thus reflects on the political and social responsibilities implied by such poetry’s inscription of history as exemplary cultural memory, with particular attention to transnational connection and environmental justice. Famine memory is inscribed iconographically as “postmemory” (to adapt Marianne Hirsch’s term), by which cultural memory constrained in a traumatic return to the past in present identity and within the island’s boundaries can open to its transnational diaspora, expanding from a rehearsal of historical grievance to an exploration of contemporary responsibility.
Famine Memory and Contemporary Irish Poetry
Marian Eide is associate professor of English and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas A&M University. She is author of Ethical Joyce as well as a dozen articles on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature. She is currently revising a book manuscript concerned with violence and aesthetics.