NEW BOOK: Irish Materialisms – The Nonhuman and the Making of Colonial Ireland, 1690–1830

Colleen Taylor | Oxford University Press

Irish Materialisms: The Nonhuman and the Making of Colonial Ireland, 1690–1830 is the first book to apply recent trends in new materialist criticism to Ireland. It radically shifts familiar colonial stereotypes of the feminized, racialized cottier according to the Irish peasantry’s subversive entanglement with nonhuman materiality. Each of the chapters engages a focused case study of an everyday object in colonial Ireland (coins, flax, spinning wheels, mud, and pigs) to examine how each object’s unique materiality contributed to the colonial ideology of British paternalism and afforded creative Irish expression. Coins helped to reformulate post-Union nationalist subjectivity around the endurance of material memory. Flax facilitated a paternalistic model of an Irish character that was feminine and capable of whitening. Spinning wheels engineered the idea of an active, turning, resistant mind inside an ostensibly compliant Irish tenant. Mud cabins articulate an Irish creative response to a destroyed, deforested landscape. Pigs afforded Irish writers a nonhuman language of national loss and colonial resistance. The main argument of Irish Materialisms is its methodology: of reading literature through the agency of materiality and nonhuman narrative in order to gain a more egalitarian and varied understanding of colonial experience. Irish Materialisms proves that new materialism holds powerful postcolonial potential. Through an intimate understanding of the materiality Irish peasants handled on a daily basis, this book presents a new portrait of Irish character that reflects greater empowerment, resistance, and expression in the oppressed Irish than has previously been recognized.

Colleen Taylor is Assistant Professor of English and Irish Studies at Boston College in Massachusetts, USA. She has been the recipient of research fellowships from the Keough-Naughton Institute at the University of Notre Dame, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Irish Research Council. Taylor has taught English and Irish Studies at Notre Dame, University College Cork, and Boston College and has published articles in Eighteenth-Century FictionEire-IrelandTulsa StudiesPersuasions, and the Palgrave Encyclopedia of Romantic-Era Women’s Writing. Her research specializes in eighteenth-century studies, Ireland, new materialism, and the environmental humanities.