Frederick Douglass and Ireland, 1845: The "Vertiginous Twist[s]" of an Irish Encounter

Thumbnail Image
Coughlan, Elizabeth Ann
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University College Cork
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Frederick Douglas was a reader of and writer on the nineteenth-century political and social texts and contexts of oppression, which he experienced at home and witnesed while in Ireland and Britain, 1845-47. This thesis is unique in its identification of several surprising lacunae in the research and critical evaluation of Frederick Douglass’ activities of reading and writing and the texts and contexts that supported these activities. This thesis takes Douglass’ relationship with Ireland and the Irish as its starting point, and offers several moments in the transnational space engendered by Douglass’ readerly and writerly experience of the transatlantic axes of Ireland, Britain and America. This thesis draws upon archival research to recover information regarding Douglass’ trip and subjects his reading and writing on Ireland and the Irish to the critical rigours of narratolgical, cultural and discourse analysis. One lacuna is Douglass’ favourite and neglected school primer, the Columbian Orator, which Douglass signified upon across his autobiographical project. The speech by the Irish patriot and exile, Arthur O’Connor, included in the Orator, is crucial to Douglass’ understanding and expression of justice and equality. Genette’s narratological analysis gives theoretical traction to the ways in which, in his autobiographical representations of his British trip, Douglass recalibrates his autobiographies to reflect his changing perspectives on his life and work. Contrary to popular assumptions, Douglass did, in two letters to Garrison address and comment on Irish poverty. This thesis interrogates the strategic anglophilia of these letters. While the World’s Temperance Convention (WTC) refused to discuss African- American slavery, analysis of Douglass’ speech in Covent Garden and of the paratextual apparatus of the published proceedings of the WTC demonstrates the impossibility of separating these closely interrelated reform causes. When a newly discovered poem from Waterford that admonished the city for its disregard for Douglass’ message is juxtaposed with an uncomfortable moment in Cork, we understand that Douglass became a pawn to bolster sectarian rivalries between nationalist and establishment factions. Though Douglass believed imperial politics was the best vehicle for modernity, he recognised that it had failed Ireland: consequently, in Thoughts and Recollections of a Trip to Ireland (1886), he advocates for Home Rule for Ireland.
Frederick Douglass , Arthur O'Connor , Frederick Douglass and Ireland , Frederick Douglass and the Irish , Theobald Mathew , William Lloyd Garrison , Paratexts , Temperance , Transatlantic , Transnational , Frederick Douglass and Waterford , African American autobiography , Columbian orator , Signifying monkey , World's temperance conference
Coughlan, E.A. 2015. Frederick Douglass and Ireland, 1845: The "Vertiginous Twist[s]" of an Irish Encounter. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
Link to publisher’s version