Remigration in Irish and Irish Diaspora Famine Fiction, 1860-1870.

Author: Marguérite Corporaal

The author would like to express her gratitude to the European Research Council for funding the research that has shaped this article.

Desolation: A Story of the Irish Famine (1869) presents a forlorn Irish immigrant who has settled in Missouri and laments “[e]arth’s barriers […] and ocean’s billows” that have arisen between him and “all that once was home.”[1] Although this poem voices a strong desire to return to the “happy home of other days,” very few emigrants of the Famine generation were in the position to remigrate to their native country.[2] In contrast with these historical realities, homecoming emigrants are recurrent figures in Irish, Irish-American, and Irish-Canadian works of fiction written between 1860 and 1870 that recall the Great Hunger.

This essay will argue that these returning natives feature in three specific narrative templates, or “conventional schematic formats,” which “help us mentally string past events into coherent, culturally meaningful historical narratives.”[3] These templates can be analyzed as responses to the social upheaval caused by the Famine and as expressions of the nostalgia for a lost homeland that informed the transatlantic diaspora. The fact that similar narrative schemata are used in fiction written on both sides of the Atlantic validates the common assumption that diasporic societies share a cultural legacy with the country of origin and can therefore be viewed as extended communities of that homeland.[4] While Irish and Irish North-American Famine fiction share a specific set of transcultural narrative templates which feature the physical return of the emigrant to Ireland, some works of transatlantic fiction written after the mid-1860s also incorporate a plot line which interprets return in a symbolical sense. Thus responding to the changing status of Irish immigrants in the New World, these texts also suggest the emergence of a specific diasporic memory of the Famine which evolves in distinct ways.  


A “little paradise of a place”: The Emigrant’s Return and the Restoration of Idyllic Ireland

Today the Famine is generally acknowledged as an important watershed in Irish history which affected many levels of society.[5] This sense of irreparable change is notably absent from Irish and Irish North-American works of Famine fiction written in the immediate aftermath of the sorrowful events until the mid-1860s. While these texts represent the Ireland from which their emigrant characters depart as a nation devastated by blight and starvation, nevertheless the expatriates’ return to their native soil forms the prelude to the restoration of an idyllic homeland unscathed by the Famine atrocities of the past.

This template, in which the remigrant’s arrival represents an overture to a recovered Irish home, can be found, for instance, in Thomas O’Neill Russell’s novel The Struggles of Dick Massey; or, the Battles of a Boy, written and published in Ireland in 1860. The Famine-stricken country from which the protagonist’s tenant farmer, Tom Nolan, and his fellow villagers, the Conroys, set forth has turned into an uninhabitable nation. The infertile, blighted fields and the excessive rents demanded by “tyrant landlord or sneaking rent-noticers, or prying agents or blustering tithe men” have led to the excessive outpour of a population “flying away from the beautous isle as though it were the hot-bed, the birth-place of some cursed plague that fastened with deadly gripe upon its victims.”[6] Despite the fact that the American West offers ample opportunities for prosperity, Tom and Norah remain emotionally attached to the old land. They feel that the “fair and goodly land” in “the fertile valley of the Wabash” is not “half so goodly or so fair as Ireland.”[7]


While Tom and Norah reminisce about their country of birth, their former harrowing experiences of plague and oppression in Ireland are committed to oblivion. The picture sketched of Ireland upon the couple’s remigration similarly pushes the agonizing realities of destitution to the background. When Tom and Norah return, Ireland still suffers from large-scale deprivation, but the rural community in which they resettle holds out the promise of a recovery of rural bliss for the nation at large. Tom’s former landlord, the empathic Dick Massey, and his beloved, Clara Hutchinson, have taken great pains to improve the conditions of the tenants in Kilfarney, “[i]n spite of sickness and famine.”[8] As a result, while the surrounding areas bear the traces of eviction and excessive mortality—the “depopulated” sites and “roofless skeletons of cabins” symbolically express the phantom of starvation that haunts rural existence—Kilfarney itself has been transformed into “a green oasis amid the surrounding desert of desolation.”[9] This image of a bucolic haven amidst wasteland is endorsed by the fact that the grounds constitute the characteristic pastoral “locus amoenus.”[10] The estate radiates beauty and what Donna Pott terms “pastoral harmony,” as it is populated  with “trim and whitewashed” cottages inhabited by “swarms of rosy children, and also men and women that don’t seem to have suffered from either hunger or sickness.”[11] This typical pastoral retreat, one that appears impervious to the “[d]ark mist of famine and disease, which had overspread all the rest of the surrounding country,” dispels the horrors that afflict the rest of the nation. It thereby displaces the trauma of starvation both from the geographical site to which Tom and Norah return, and from what Monika Fludernik has called narrative “experientiality:” the central consciousness of the text that is conveyed through narrative voice and narrative focalization and that shapes the readers’ experience of the narrated events.[12] While the trauma of deserted Famine wastelands is thus comfortably pushed to the background of the narrative, the idea of remigration to an idyllic Ireland unspoiled by the miseries of famine is underlined by the fact that, back in Ireland, Tom and Norah gain a plot of land of their own on which they can establish a pastoral homestead. They obtain a “neatly thatched cottage with whitewashed walls,” and the adjoining fields are fertile and rich: “It is a beautiful place, all flowers and fragrance.”[13]

As a common narrative pattern that also recurs in other Irish and Irish North-American Famine novels, this template of return can be perceived as a transnational narrative scheme that illustrates how the shared cultural legacy of the Great Hunger was reconfigured in similar narrative patterns on both sides of the Atlantic. In most of these narratives, however, the country has not yet recovered from the joint afflictions of plague and hunger when these remigrating characters land in Ireland. Rather, the pastoral “motif of transformation,” which in these narratives concerns the revitalization of the Irish land and its people, is embedded within the tale of diaspora: it is the wealth acquired by these Irish emigrants in North America that helps reestablish the motherland as a paradisiacal dwelling place.[14] In Bessy Conway (1862), a novel which Irish immigrant Mary Anne Sadlier wrote after she and her husband had settled in New York, the eponymous heroine who has worked as a servant girl in New York but travels back to her birthplace finds that the miseries attendant upon the Famine have affected her relatives. Her parents are severely afflicted by the blight and can no longer meet their obligations to the landlord. While “[w]hat money Denis had had was long since gone, [and] no corn or wheat was ripening in his fields,” Bessy’s sister Ellen perishes with disease and the “terrible fangs of hunger” are fastening “on her vitals.”[15] Unable to forward the rent, Bessy’s family is about to be evicted, when suddenly Bessy appears on the scene and takes care of the arrears through the savings she has made. As a result, her parents and siblings can continue to reside in the cottage, the comfort of which is enhanced by the bountiful dinner that Bessy manages to put on the table because of her flourishing fortunes: “the flitches of bacon were again pendant from the snow-white rafters.”[16]

The sense of a retrieved home is underscored by the fact that after many days of destitution the house is warmed once more by “a fire blazing on the well-swept hearth that suggested the idea of a grand pyramidal turf-stack somewhere in the immediate vicinity.”[17] The nineteenth-century, Irish domestic hearth was viewed as the center around which domestic life revolved, thereby symbolizing not only “family continuity and […] hospitality towards the stranger,” but also “a sense of warm security.”[18] Moreover, in depictions of the high rates of mortality caused by famine and its related fevers, writers would use the image of the extinguished or deserted fireplace as an emblem of social disintegration. For example, in A. Shafto Adaire’s The Winter of 1846-7 in Antrim (1847) the mass starvation among the rural population is cast in terms of once “happy hearths whose lights are quenched.”[19] By laying stress on the cleaned and blazing hearth, this passage suggests the recuperation of a domestic happiness marked by family reunification and prosperity.

Similarly, David Power Connyngham’s Frank O’Donnell (1861) stages the main protagonist’s success in recovering an Edenic home in motherland Erin as a result of the wealth he has acquired in the American West. While Frank had initially thought that his famine-induced pauperism had forever shattered his prospects of setting up a family residence “hallowed” by a “fireside” and his beloved Alice’s “loving, greeting smiles,” his ability to create this nuptial haven becomes increasingly feasible in America, where everything he “touched seemed to turn into gold.”[20] Returning to Ireland a rich man, Frank has sufficient means to wed Alice, and he can buy her the cottage that she “loves so dearly” and that is “richly furnished with Turkey carpets, rich papers, costly furniture, and splendid drawings and paintings.”[21] Despite the fact that Frank and Alice’s home is very near the graves of Frank’s parents, the scars of the Famine past do not overshadow a happy resettlement in his native community.

These transcultural templates of return can be perceived as subversions of the chronotope of progress characteristic of narratives of migration. While Bakhtin’s chronotope aptly describes the interactive temporal-spatial dynamics in literature, many scholars have proposed a more extensive application of his terminology to processes of migration which entail a simultaneous shift in time and space.[22] Emigration implicates a spatial displacement from the homeland, but the movement to territories outside the motherland at the same time “implies temporal change.”[23] While the emigrants’ transfer to their new countries is marked by a literal passage of time, their settlement in diaspora also signifies the entrance of a new temporal phase in their lives. As Esther Peeren claims, “space is temporal in that movement in space is always also movement in time,” which in her view legitimizes an extension of the chronotope, as a literary concept of time-space, “into a cultural concept” that suitably describes the experience of diaspora.[24] While in most narratives of relocation one may discern a linear development on both levels of time and space—as the journey to a new country marks progress in time—in the works of Famine fiction explored above, the characters’ homecoming n involves a reversed pattern; that is, the return in space from host to native settings additionally involves a symbolical movement backward in time, as the Ireland in which they land resembles a pre-Famine society.

Why does this transcultural plot line of remigration to an idyllic Erin occupy such a prominent place in Irish and Irish diaspora Famine fiction until the mid-1860s? The stock character of the remigrant in the novels written in Ireland, Frank O’Donnell and The Struggles of Dick Massey, can be read as a nostalgic response to the radically altered social conditions of a post-Famine society.[25] However, the centrality of the return motif in fiction from both sides of the Atlantic may be further explained by the conditions of colonization to which the Emerald Isle was subject. As Oona Frawley asserts, the development of a postcolonial consciousness runs parallel to “processes by which cultures must imaginatively repossess land and customs.”[26] This notion of reappropriation of the land features prominently in the narrative endings of these texts, both in a literal and a symbolical sense. Sadlier’s Bessy Conway and Conyngham’s Frank O’Donnell literally reclaim the land that representatives of the colonial power have taken away from their families. Bessy takes repossession of her parents’ land and home when she manages to put an end to her family’s eviction by representatives of England’s colonial rule: the officials working for the English landlord Herbert. Frank likewise manages to retrieve the house and grounds of Glenn Cottage where he grew up, and from which he and his family had previously been expelled by “magistrate and sub-sheriff” Mr. Ellis and “a large military and police force.”[27] These all-powerful men represent a class of landlords such as Lord Clearall who “unthinkingly follow the advice and example of political economists” making colonial policies.[28] Therefore, Frank’s success in purchasing back the house in the Incumbered Estates’ Court, where Clearall’s property is sold by auction, implies a retrieval of territory from imperial ownership. The fact that Frank’s acquirement of Glen Cottage helps him to realize his childhood dream of a family home “made cheerful” by a “fireside”; that Bessy has the family hearth swept clean can furthermore be viewed as conscious responses to imperial discourses which associated the Irish peasantry with uncivilized domestic habits.[29] For instance, in The Present State of Ireland and Its Remedy (1847), Mrs. Maberly pleads for improvements in “the domestic conditions of the Irish peasantry,” who, in her view, live in squalor, because the woman who manage the households are “brawling, idle, dirty creatures” requiring English examples of “tidiness […] cleanliness […] and industry.”[30] Sadlier’s and Conyngham’s translation of recuperated homes in terms of neat fireplaces around which social life is centered therefore seems to voice an alternative domestic discourse which challenges imperial bias.    

Novels such as The Struggles of Dick Massey and Bessy Conway moreover symbolically reclaim land in reiterating the common identification of Ireland with an Arcadian landscape that expresses an unspoilt, pre-colonial Irishness in Irish colonial literature.[31] In Bessy Conway, moreover, the reclamation of land that is metaphorically expressed through a regenerated environment of “green fields […] covered with their spring carpet dotted over with white daisies and yellow buttercups” can be interpreted as an expression of diasporic nostalgia.[32] The fecund fields can be pitted against the antagonistic urban settings in New York— “these great Babylons of the West”—where, unlike Bessy, many Irish immigrants are led astray by the temptations of materialism and Protestantism. Sadlier’s novel thus imagines a bucolic homeland which contrasts with a host nation in which the Irish hold a problematic status and tend to lose their ethnic uniqueness.[33]


“I couldn't live there now”: Return as Disillusionment

Recently, memory studies has increasingly explored the convergences of time and space in the dynamics of remembrance. Dylan Trigg’s research into the aesthetics of decay has engaged with the interactions between time and space in recollection, and, moreover, has specifically addressed the issue of return to familiar spaces after the passage of time, pointing to the intertwined sensations of recognition, disorientation and alienation that arise in this process. Travelling back to a place of the past may further trigger the memories of bygone days that belong to that setting, but also inevitably summon up feelings of estrangement as the spaces that are revisited have inevitably changed over time.[34] The returning individual will be confronted with recognizable traces of things that have become lost, marking the site of return as a spectral place imbued by simultaneous absence and presence. These spectral spaces subsequently evoke an uncanny “sense of fragmentation and isolation” that “disrupts” the returned spectator’s “sense of being unified in place.”[35]

Trigg’s exposition of processes of spatial return sheds an interesting light on the second template of return that will be discussed in this article, one that describes the return of the native Irishman to a country that—subject to the joint visitations of mass starvation, eviction and depopulation—has changed beyond recognition and can therefore no longer provide a sense of home. This plot line of an emigrant’s return that is marked by loss and alienation is particularly inherent to Famine fiction written since the mid-1860s, and builds upon Gothic traditions in earlier nineteenth-century Irish literature.

At first glance, The Dalys of Dalystown (1866), written by Dillon O’Brien almost twenty years after his migration to the United States, appears to repeat the template which stages the Irish remigrant’s recuperation of a pastoral home. Henry Daly, who is the son of a landlord and who in the 1820s sought better opportunities in America after his family was forced to give up their heavily encumbered estate, decides to return to Ireland as soon as news about the Famine reaches him. Not only does he wish to take stock of the conditions of his former tenants: first and foremost he wants to buy back his childhood mansion and its surrounding land, now that the property is for sale and he has gained sufficient means to become its owner once again. Despite having established a successful farming career in America, Henry cannot forget Dalystown even if it has been “desecrated” by misfortune; and upon reacquiring the estate, Henry considerably improves the conditions of the suffering tenantry.[36] The narrative’s ending, in which Henry’s fulfilled promise to “wall round my property with the smiling cottages of a tenantry whose interests and mine shall be as one,” suggests the creation of a harmonious Edenic estate as of yore, a point further supported by cottier Anthony Kelly’s remark that, with the arrival of Daly, he finds “something unchanged in Ireland.” [37]

Henry’s recourse to Dalystown, however, is also fraught with feelings of disorientation and disillusionment. He finds the once vigorous tenants “that remain […] in a very wretched condition,” and the place itself bears the signs of degradation.[38] When he sees his former home “Henry Daly could have shouted, in very joy”; a closer inspection of his house, however, reveals “the look of neglect and desolation which the place wore” and fills him “with a sudden, indescribable gloom” such that “his whole soul vibrated with thoughts of the past—of things and beings that could never be restored.”[39]

This sense that the past as it was cannot be recuperated and that the scars inflicted by the intermediate era may alienate a person from his former home are also foregrounded in the scene which describes Henry’s entrance into the mansion. Finding the rooms “cold” and “desolate” and empty of furniture, Henry can no longer “picture it to [himself] as it was of old,” a feeling compounded by “a deserted hearth,” the grate of which “had been torn from its setting and carried away, leaving a dark, cave-like opening, while the top slab of the marble mantle piece, lay broken in two across the hearth.”[40] The broken hearth accentuates the feelings of despondency and alienation that Henry is oppressed by, leaving him not with delight but with sadness as he beholds the place for which he had “sighed” many an hour.[41] Henry’s disenchantment evokes the uncanny. Sigmund Freud’s concept of the uncanny (or unheimlich), which in Nicholas Royle’s words signifies an unsettling “commingling of the familiar and unfamiliar” and which may take the form of “something strange and unfamiliar unexpectedly arising in a familiar context,” corresponds exactly to Henry Daly’s emotions.[42] The dwelling of his childhood, which in some respects resembles the place of his memories, is at the same time most unheimlich. Its rooms are marked by a notable absence of objects and atmospheres that used to belong there but have disappeared under the strains of the Famine era.

This haunting presence of a dead past that informs the scene can moreover be interpreted as a reconfiguration of the literary Gothic of the first part of the century, a tradition which, as Claire Connelly has pointed out, is characterized by an exploration of the boundaries between being and non-being and “between life and death.”[43] While in early nineteenth-century Irish Gothic novels the uncanny constitutes an integral feature of the Anglo-Irish mansion by conveying the Ascendancy’s estrangement from the indigenous Irish culture as well as the fear of a waning imperial power, in The Dalys of Dalystown the uncanniness of the big house does not epitomize the anxieties and sorrows of one specific class.[44] Rather, the specter that occupies Henry’s former abode symbolizes how all layers of society are affected by loss during the Famine.

While representing return in terms of disillusionment, O’Brien’s novel nevertheless ends with Henry Daly’s reintegration into the Dalystown community. By contrast, Charles Joseph Kickham’s Sally Cavanagh (1869) features the frustrated expectations of a returned native who feels mentally displaced from his former abode, and remigrates to transatlantic territories. Connor Shea, who made a good living in America, returns to his Famine-afflicted motherland to find that he no longer has a family home there. His wife Sally and his infants have been evicted from their cottage by landlord Oliver Grindem because they refused to embrace Protestantism. His five infants have succumbed to starvation and, consequently, Sally has become deranged with grief. As in The Dalys of Dalystown, the former abode is here associated with the uncanny. The sentiments of one of Connor’s closet friends, Brian Purcell, reveals its uncanniness: as Brian realizes, while Connor’s presence in the community instigates feelings of familiarity, these feelings are contrasted with a dramatic sense of infinite loss and change as Connor’s family residence will never be restored again to its completeness. The spectral memory of the once happy family circle haunts the present, for “it seems but yesterday, when he saw the manly peasant in the midst of his blooming children, while the radiant smile of Sally Cavanagh threw a glow of rosy light upon the picture. He can scarcely believe that the reality is not a hideous dream.”[45] Now that the homestead has lost its former warmth and security  the returned emigrant cannot resettle in his former community. When Captain Dawson tells Connor that he can have “a lease at his former rent” of land and a house, Connor declines, stating that “I couldn’t live there now.”[46] Even though Connor states that he hopes to “see ould Ireland again,” he returns to the “land of liberty” never to set foot again on the soil from which he has become estranged.[47]

As trauma theorist Dominick LaCapra maintains, a second step in working through a painful experience is “[m]ourning,” which “involves a different inflection of performativity: a relation to the past which involves recognizing its difference from the present.”[48] The two novels by O ’Brien and Kickham stage new Irelands which bear the marks of the Famine age in the form of lost lives and homes. Pervaded by a sense of absence these works of fiction not only acknowledge the dramatic upheaval which the Famine era entailed, but also suggest a more advanced stage in the processing of its trauma. Compared to the earlier texts, which deny these profound reconfigurations of a society shattered by mass starvation and which imagine an unspoilt, timeless place of return, these novels from the late 1860s—in what is perhaps a sign of their later composition and publications dates—exhibit alternative versions of return which demystify the homeland.


Much like as in Magheramore”: Symbolical Returns                                         

Other works of fiction from this period that were written in the North-American diaspora re-envisage the template of return to a restored, Edenic home that one finds in earlier Famine narratives by projecting the idea of a pastoral dwelling on territories in the host land. These plot lines do not imagine an emigrant’s literal return to his or her native region. Creating the impression that Ireland no longer affords the idyllic home of its past, these texts shows that Irish men and women may find comfortable settlements in the New Word which are imbued with qualities that would traditionally be associated with Erin: green land and a closely knit rural community. By transferring images conventionally identified with pastoral Ireland to transatlantic spaces, these writings interpret return in symbolical rather than literal terms, as a regained sense of pre-Famine Irishness. The geographical settings where these little Irelands within America are established as “heterotopic” communities―that is, distinct exclusive communities which are embedded within “the very institution” of a society but at the same time form a “counter arrangement”—are situated at the frontier in the North-American West.[49] For example, in Peter McCorry’s The Lost Rosary; or, Our Irish Girls, Their Trials, Temptations, and Triumphs (1870), the two emigrating couples—Barney and Mary, and Tim and Alley—ultimately settle in frontier areas that resemble Ireland’s countryside. This is already prefigured in Barney’s letter to Mary which describes the cleared plots of land in the West as suitable for growing the same crops that are planted at home, albeit here without the threat of blight: “You just put up five or six sticks in a row, and nail thin ones across them, and the grapes run up them, before they become grapes, you know just like kidney beans at home, an’m sweet peas, an’ I’m told they pay well. Turnips an’ other things are much like as in Magheramore.”[50]

A similar promise of a symbolical return to a pastoral settlement reminiscent of Ireland awaits the eponymous hero of Canada West’s novel Tim Doolan, the Irish Emigrant (1869). When he and his family set up home in the Canadian backwoods they find a “hospitable Canadian welcome” which appears to replicate the stereotypical Irish generosity in that they are invited to share in, among other foods, the “rashers and eggs, the milk, the home-made bread, the buck-wheat cakes, the maple sugar of home manufacture―” which are laid out on the tables before them by fellow pioneers.[51] Moreover, the idea that Tim and his relatives find a frontier home which resembles Ireland is reinforced by their acquaintanceship with compatriots, “two or three families from their own neighbourhood,” from whom “they learned a good deal about the country, its productions, capabilities.”[52] As becomes clear from the abundance of provisions that are available, this microcosmic Ireland within Canadian borders is free from the taints of blight and hunger that have ravaged the homeland. 

In their representations of the North-American West as a region of opportunities for cultivation and sustenance, these two novels engage with transatlantic discourses of the frontier. Frederick Jackson Turner’s The Frontier in American History (1893) captured the traditions of the American West that identified pioneering with opportunity, stating that, with “natural gifts” such as “the best bottom lands, the finest timber tracts, the best salt-springs, [and] the richest ore beds,” the West offered “varied chances for advancement” and prosperity to those “who knew how to seize the opportunity.”[53] These discourses of opportunity also surface in Canadian representations of pioneer life from the second half of the nineteenth century. For example, Henry T. Newton’s Canada in 1864: A Hand-Book for Settlers (1864) emphasizes the plenitude of “products” and “abundance of […] harvests” that may be gained by the Canadian settler through careful tillage.[54]

These evident intersections between cultural legacies of rural Ireland and those of the countries of settlement that one finds in The Lost Rosary and Tim Doolan substantiate the statement recently made by Aleida Assmann and Sebastian Conrad that “[a]s migrants carry their heritage, memories and traumas with them, these are transferred and brought into new social constellations and political contexts.”[55] These dynamics between cultural traditions and images of rural Ireland and frontier myths illustrate the development of what Michael Rothberg calls “multidirectional memory”—that is, “dialogical interactions” between the memories of different social groups that result from intercultural contacts in the public space and that blur “borders of memory and identity.”[56] The existence of these dynamic transfers between Irish and North-American cultural legacies in fiction of the late 1860s and early 1870s demonstrates the malleability of diasporic identities whose ethnic configurations transform under the influence of increasing cultural exchanges with the host culture, thus substantiating Stuart Hall’s notion that “[c]ultural identity […]  is a matter of ‘becoming’ as well as of ‘being.’”[57] Additionally, these overlaps display the increasing engagement of the Irish immigrants with North-American culture in the second half of the 1860s following the rise of many Irish Americans and Irish Canadians in social esteem as well as the American Civil War in which Irish recruits had proven their loyalty to the Union.[58] This increasing engagement is well illustrated by William Halley’s remark in March 1860 that “as a proof of the political power our race is acquiring in that country, […], an Irishman, and a son of an Irishman, were elected Governor and Deputy Governor of California.”[59]

Edric Caldicott and Anne Fuchs state that cultural memory is an ever dynamic process adapting to the “emerging needs of an individual or a group.”[60] Their view is confirmed by the different manifestations of the return template in Irish and Irish North-American Famine fiction which can be analyzed as responses to the contexts in which these narratives enact the Famine past. Texts written in the immediate aftermath of the events identify return with restoration and revitalization, evoking an idyllic conclusion to Famine horrors that is called for by the conditions of ethnic oppression at home and in the host country, as well as by the quest for a distinct “Irishness” on both sides of the Atlantic. The shift to variations on the return motif that characterizes Famine fiction from the mid-1860s onwards appears to reflect the changing configurations of both past and present among Irish communities at home and in North America. Although the acutest memories of the Famine era may have worn off with the passage of time, and as awareness of its dramatic consequences became more poignant and the Irish in North-America moved from the margins to the centers of their host societies, post-Famine Ireland could be viewed as country which no longer offered a sense of home, while transatlantic territories could be imagined as new homes. The new homes on the North-American continent that these novels describe form sites of cultural hybridity where Ireland’s past and America’s present merge to suggest future possibilities for transatlantic identity formation.

[1] Desolation: A Story of the Irish Famine (London: Nisbet & Co., 1869), 7-8.

[2] See James Fisher, Communion of Immigrants: A History of Catholics in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 47. See also Kevin Kenny, The American Irish: A History (Harlow: Longman Pearson, 2000), 14.

[3] Eviatar Zerubavel, Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 7. For further reading on the concept of narrative templates, see James Wertsch, Voices of Collective Remembering (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

[4] See, for instance, Thomas Faist, The Volume and Dynamics of International Migration and Transnational Social Spaces (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), as well as Andreas Huyssen, “Diaspora and Nation: Migration into Other Pasts,” New German Critique 88 (2003): 147-164.

[5] Kevin Whelan, “The Cultural Effects of the Famine,” in The Cambridge Companion to Modern Irish Culture, eds. Joe Cleary and Claire Connolly (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 137. 

[6] Thomas O'Neill Russell [Reginald Tierney, pseud.], The Struggles of Dick Massey; or, the Battles of a Boy (Dublin: James Duffy, 1860), 71, 66.

[7] Ibid., 192, 180.

[8] Ibid., 400.

[9] Ibid.

[10] For a further discussion of this pastoral concept of a place of happiness, see Paul Alpers, What Is Pastoral? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 6.

[11] O’Neill Russell, The Struggles of Dick Massey, 401. For Pott on “pastoral harmony,” see Donna Pott, Contemporary Irish Poetry and the Pastoral Tradition (Columbia, MI: University of Missouri Press, 2012), 107.

[12] Monika Fludernik, Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), 30.

[13] O’Neill Russell, The Struggles of Dick Massey, 430.

[14] For the “motif of transformation,” see Pott, Contemporary Irish Poetry, 2.

[15] Mary Anne Sadlier, Bessy Conway; or, the Irish Girl in America (New York: D & J. Sadlier and Co., 1862), 263, 259.

[16] Ibid., 284.

[17] Ibid.

[18] See, for example, Claudia Kinmonth, Irish Rural Interiors in Art (Amherst: Yale University Press, 2006), 7, 2, 12; E. Estyn Evans, Irish Folk Ways (London: Routledge and Paul, 1957), 59.

[19] A. Shafto Adaire, The Winter of 1846-7 in Antrim; with Remarks on Outdoor Relief and Colonization (London: James Ridgway, 1847), 16. 

[20] David Power Connyngham, Frank O’Donnell (Dublin: James Duffy, 1861), 433, 496.

[21] Ibid., 497.

[22] Mikhail Bakhtin, “Forms of time and of the chronotope in the novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 84–258; 84.

[23] See Angelika Bammer, “Introduction,” Displacements: Cultural Identities in Question (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), xii; see also Thomas Faist, The Volume and Dynamics of International Migration and Transnational Social Spaces (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 46.

[24] Esther Peeren, “Through the Lens of the Chronotope: Suggestions for a Spatio-Temporal Perspective on Diaspora,” in Diaspora and Memory, eds. Marie-Aude Baronian , Stephan Besser and Yolande Jansen (New York and Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006), 68. 

[25] See, for instance, Susannah Radstone, The Sexual Politics of Time: Confession, Nostalgia, Memory (London: Routledge, 2007), 115.

[26] Oona Frawley, “Toward a Theory of Cultural Memory in an Irish Postcolonial Context,” in Memory Ireland. Volume 1: History and Modernity, ed. Oona Frawley (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2011), 18-34, 31.

[27] Conyngham, Frank O’Donnell, 424.

[28] Ibid., 424.

[29] Ibid., 433.

[30] K. C. Maberly, The Present State of Ireland and Its Remedy (London: James Ridgway, 1847), 27, 29.

[31] See Oona Frawley, Irish Pastoral: Nostalgia and Twentieth-century Irish Literature (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2005), 2.

[32] Sadlier, Bessy Conway, 298. For “diasporic nostalgia,” see Huyssen, “Diaspora and Nation,” 150.

[33] Sadlier, Bessy Conway, 3. For further reading on the problems of acculturation and assimilation encountered by the Irish in America and Canada, see, for example, Kerby Miller, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New York and Oxford: Oxford Univesity Press, 1988).

[34] Dylan Trigg, The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia and the Absence of Reason (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), 55-56.

[35] Dylan Trigg, “The place of trauma: memory, hauntings, and the temporality of ruins,” Memory Studies 2, no. 1 (2009): 87-101, 98.

[36] Dillon O’Brien, The Dalys of Dalystown (St. Paul: Pioneer Printing Company, 1866), 474.

[37] Ibid., 526, 524.

[38] Ibid., 521.

[39] Ibid., 514.

[40] Ibid., 515-516.

[41] Ibid., 515.

[42] Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2003), 1.

[43] Claire Connelly, A Cultural History of the Irish Novel, 1790-1829 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 172.

[44] See Julia M. Wright, Ireland, India and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); and also Christina Morin, “Recognisably Irish? The Diasporic Fiction of Regina Maria Roche,” Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies 5 no. 2 (2012): 155-73.

[45] Charles Joseph Kickham, Sally Cavanagh; or the Untenanted Graves: A Tale of Tipperary (Dublin: W.B.Kelly, 1869), 198.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid., 202.

[48] Dominick LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 70.

[49] See Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics 16, No. 1 (Spring 1986): 22-27, 24.

[50] Peter McCorry, The Lost Rosary; or, Our Irish Girls, Their Trials, Temptations, and Triumphs, (Boston: Patrick Donahue, 1870), 81 (my emphasis).

[51] Canada West, Tim Doolan, The Irish Emigrant (London: S.W. Partridge, 1869), 322.

[52] Ibid., 322.

[53] Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 1996), 270.

[54] Henry T. Newton, Canada in 1864: A Hand-Book for Settlers (London: Sampson Low, 1864), 11.

[55] Aleida Assmann and Sebastian Conrad, introduction to Memory in a Global Age: Discourses, Practices and Trajectories (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 2.

[56] Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), 5, 11.

[57] Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” in Identity, Community, Culture, Difference, ed. Jonathan Rutherford (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990), 25.

[58] See Mary C. Kelly, The Shamrock and the Lily: The New York Irish and the Creation of a Transatlantic Identity (New York: Peter Lang, 2005), 132, 146-151; Thomas H. O’Connor, The Boston Irish: A Political History (Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky and Konecky, 1995), 95-128; Jay P. Dolan, The Irish Americans: A History (New York: Bloombury Press, 2010), 84-107.

[59] William Halley, Speech Delivered at the Dinner of St. Patrick’s Society, Toronto, on the 17th of March, 1860, in Response to the Sentiment of “The Irish Race at Home and Abroad” (Toronto: s.n., 1860), 7. 

[60] Edric Caldicott and Anne Fuchs, introduction to Cultural Memory: Essays on European Literature and History (Bern: Peter Lang, 2003), 12.