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Rough BeastsThe Monstrous in Irish Fiction, 1800-2000$
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Jack Fennell

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620344

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620344.001.0001

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Harbingers of Hunger

Harbingers of Hunger

Famine, Cannibalism, and Hunger-Demons

(p.50) Chapter Three Harbingers of Hunger
Rough Beasts

Jack Fennell

Liverpool University Press

This chapter begins with a survey of literary depictions of the Great Famine of the late 1840’s, looking at the differences between what actually occurred and the recurring features of fictional Famine scenes: for example, there is often an assumption of cannibalism in Famine-set novels, though there is little historical data to support the idea that cannibalism actually occurred on an appreciable scale. Novelists of the time conceive of the desperation of the time as a ‘hunger demon,’ which possesses the deprived and drives them to monstrous acts; echoes of this concept can be seen in later Irish fiction, indicating the existence of a threshold beyond which the suffering victim of horror becomes its harbinger. The chapter proceeds from here to an analysis of Apocalyptic dread in Irish fiction.

Keywords:   Great Famine, apocalypse, cannibalism, desperation, hunger

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