“Single Out the Devalued”: The figure of the nonhuman animal in Eavan Boland’s poetry

Thumbnail Image
O'Connor, Maureen
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Associação Brasileira de Estudos Irlandeses and University of São Paulo
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Boland has argued that “good nature poets are always subversive” and, though she did not identify as a nature poet, she compares her praxis to theirs: “their lexicon is the overlooked and the disregarded…. They single out the devalued and make a deep, metaphorical relation between it and some devalued parts of perception.” Boland’s engagement with the “natural” rarely provides a focus for analyses of her work, which predominantly attend to the poet’s own frequently identified preoccupations: her relationship to history, especially Irish history, and her role as an Irish woman writing within and against a largely male-dominated tradition. However, both of these issues of ambivalent and insecure identification and situatedness are implicitly connected to cultural constructions of the “natural.” This essay traces Boland’s negotiation with a legacy of Irish women’s silence by considering the appearance of the nonhuman animal in her verse, which evolves from traditional metaphor to a figure that challenges representational norms and expectations, thereby transvaluing the signifying power of silence and questioning the status of language itself, particularly as a uniquely human construct.
Irish women’s writing , Irish poetry , Ecofeminism , New materialism , Animal studies , Eavan Boland
O’Connor, M. (2021). “Single Out the Devalued”: The Figure of the Nonhuman Animal in Eavan Boland’s Poetry. ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, 23(2), pp. 35-49. https://doi.org/10.37389/abei.v23i2.197751