The Feminization of Famine: Expressions of the Inexpressible?

Overview

Contemporary depictions of famine and disaster are dominated by female images. The Feminization of Famine examines these representations, exploring, in particular, the literature arising from the Irish "Great Famine" of the 1840s and the Bengali famine of the 1940s. Kelleher illuminates recurring motifs: the prevalence of mother and child images, the scrutiny of women's starved bodies, and the reliance on the female figure to express the largely "inexpressible" reality of famine. Questioning what gives these ...
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Overview

Contemporary depictions of famine and disaster are dominated by female images. The Feminization of Famine examines these representations, exploring, in particular, the literature arising from the Irish "Great Famine" of the 1840s and the Bengali famine of the 1940s. Kelleher illuminates recurring motifs: the prevalence of mother and child images, the scrutiny of women's starved bodies, and the reliance on the female figure to express the largely "inexpressible" reality of famine. Questioning what gives these particularly feminine images their affective power and analyzing the responses they generate, this historical critique reveals striking parallels between these two "great" famines and current representations of similar natural disasters and catastrophes.

Kelleher begins with a critical reading of the novels and short stories written about the Irish famine over the last 150 years, from the novels of William Carleton and Anthony Trollope to the writings of Liam O'Flaherty and John Banville. She then moves on to unveil a lesser-known body of literature-works written by women. This literature is read in the context of a rich variety of other sources, including eyewitness accounts, memoirs, journalistic accounts, and famine historiography. Concluding with a reading of the twentieth-century accounts of the famine in Bengal, this book reveals how gendered representations have played a crucial role in defining notions of famine.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859180778
  • Publisher: Cork University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Pages: 258

Meet the Author

Margaret Kelleher is Lecturer in the Department of English at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction 1
1 'Appalling Spectacles': Nineteenth-Century Irish Famine Narratives 16
Contemporary Testimonies
William Carleton's The Black Prophet
Anthony Trollope's Castle Richmond
2 The Female Gaze: Nineteenth-Century Women's Famine Narratives 64
Women's Famine Fiction
Asenath Nicholson's Famine Annals
Women's Philanthropy
3 Impersonating the Past: Twentieth-Century Irish Famine Literature 109
Famine and the Revival
The Memories of an 'Outcast' Class
A Mother's 'Nature': O'Flaherty and Murphy
4 Literature of the Bengal Famine 162
The Historical Context
Literary Representations of Famine
Shakti, Sati, Savitri: the Fate of Female Figures
Famine as Female: the Fate of Kali
Postscript: Contemporary Images of Famine and Disaster 222
Bibliography 233
Index 251
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