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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Representing the Irish body in England and France : the crisis of pauperism rebellion and international exchange, 1844-1855 Mewburn, Charity


This thesis examines the representation of Ireland in images and texts produced in Britain and France between 1839 and 1855. I argue that in this period, Ireland functioned as a crucial site for the negotiation and transformation of the relationship between the two nations. Chapter One examines a popular middle-class British publication of 1845, Maxwell's History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.. .and Emmett's Insurrection. Through an analysis of George Cruikshank's illustrations to this work, I explore the ways that a predominant image of the Irish was linked to British anxieties concerning a potential political alliance between the French and the Irish based on what was represented as a "natural" religio-racial connection between the two nations. Developing this transnational focus, I argue that French concern with Ireland exacerbated such constructions. Chapter Two examines liberal and leftleaning French publications that took up representations of the Irish between 1839 to 1846 in order to critique Britain's role as a modern industrial nation. In Chapter Three I analyze how "Irishness" in the French press between 1845 and 1847, and in satires by artists like Cham and Paul Gavarni, served both as a warning against French adoption of the English economic model of laissez-faire capitalism, and as a commentary on domestic working class poverty. Chapter Four explores how the Irish were taken up both visually and textually in the French press to be momentarily transformed into active agents of radical change in the year of France's revolution of 1848. My final chapter concludes with an analysis of French artist Gustave Courbet's figure of an Irishwoman as a complex marker of both pauperism and potential revolution in a contentious painting displayed strategically outside Paris' 1855 Exposition universelle. In the course of this analysis "Ireland" is shown to raise a range of issues concerning relations between France and Britain. While images of Irishness evoked the mobility and exchange that characterized an early moment of free trade, those same images could simultaneously arouse anxieties in both Britain and France around industrialization, the "advancement" of civil liberties, the growing pauperization of populations, and the threat to both nations of calls for republican reform.

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