Boggy Geography and an Irish Moose: Thomas Molyneux's New World Neighborhood

Killian Quigley
  • The Eighteenth Century, January 2017, Johns Hopkins University Press
  • DOI: 10.1353/ecy.2017.0033

Bogs, "Moose," and an Anglo-Irish New World

What is it about?

This paper describes a late seventeenth-century attempt, by the Anglo-Irish writer Thomas Molyneux, to explain the identity and origin of the giant deer, or Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus). In so doing, Molyneux ventures a hypothesis that Ireland was more closely related to the New World than to the Old. That hypothesis depends for its force on the Irish bogs that, as they were drained, were relinquishing giant deer remains in increasing quantities. Molyneux's research represents a fascinating and significant (if ultimately wrong-headed) approach to thinking about place, national identity, and -- as he wrote -- "neighbourhood" through similarities in flora and fauna.

Why is it important?

This work helps us recognise the diverse ways that writers and philosophers have long tried to make sense of apparent similarities between flora and fauna in far-flung places. It's also an example of how those (perceived) similarities can have consequences for how people regard themselves, and their communities. This is of particular importance in a context like late seventeenth-century Ireland. Ultimately, the paper urges us to take bogs -- and bones -- seriously as powerful agents in the narratives that organise our worlds, and our selves.

Perspectives

Killian Quigley

Who isn't intrigued by Irish moose?

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/ecy.2017.0033

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