Essay on The Feminization and Colonization of Ireland by the English

Essay on The Feminization and Colonization of Ireland by the English

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Tudor England viewed Ireland with both fascination and revulsion. While the English regarded the Irish landscape as sublimely beautiful, they also saw it as untamed and uncultured and recognized its inherent threat as a launching base for England’s enemies. The land was seen as unchanging – people live and die, but the land continues to be used. This stability was challenged though by the very instability of its people, who were continuously changing – though from the English view, not towards civility. Never fully conquered, though England had lain territorial claim to Ireland for centuries, the Irish landscape was viewed as ‘in some places wilde and very uncivil.’ Yet, the need to extend English power through physical space made Ireland’s land irresistible. Seen as not simply an affront to the natural order of society, the English perception of Ireland’s femininity allowed for the language of conquest and colonization to be justified. Attempts to bring the land and the people under English rule were an effort to impose the divisions of gender and culture onto Ireland’s landscape as English territory. Consequently, the juxtaposition of these two feelings of enthrallment and loathing that the English held towards the land were mirrored by the same feelings towards Irish women.
As the English attempted to extend their power throughout Ireland in the sixteenth century, the internal migration of the Gaelic and Anglo-Irish populations as well as the introduction of institutions and ideas transformed the landscape on a large scale. As a response to this colonial experience, the negotiation for Irish identity would manifest itself in both the personal geography of the body as well as the national landscape. While European ...


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...derstanding how the colonial discourse molded both the Irish landscape and her people allows for recognition of how colonialism continuously shaped not only Ireland, but England as well. As the variations of the refrain of Epithalamion – ‘The woods shall to me answer and my Eccho ring’ – suggest, the Irish woods sometimes returned answers of their own and not necessarily of England’s making. The very woods, which so obscured Ireland from English vision, would become the very bulkhead of the English navy that would allow England to be ‘lordes of all the seas and ere long of all the world.’ Through cultivation of Ireland, England would flourish. The intersection of geography and gender in Ireland demonstrates the way in which both land and people who were subjected to colonization had colonial practices inscribed both physically and psychologically on them.

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