Western plague literature, the Irish Famine and Anthony Trollope’s Castle Richmond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article places Castle Richmond, Anthony Trollope’s controversial Irish Famine novel, within the context of Western plague narratives as outlined by recent plague narrative scholars and by René Girard in his seminal 1974 essay “The Plague in Literature and Myth”. By demonstrating Castle Richmond’s conformity to a very particular cluster of attributes found in Western plague literature, this article helps expand our reading of Trollope’s novel, a work that is otherwise often seen as an incoherent failure. This article proposes that Trollope used Western plague discourse to structure and organise his response to Ireland’s Great Hunger. I contend here that we see in his novel’s construction the scaffolding of Judaic, Greco-Roman, Medieval and Renaissance plague narrative traditions, traditions that follow a predictable pattern of transgression, punishment, near social collapse, atonement achieved by expelling or sacrificing a scapegoat or scapegoats, followed by the restoration of an improved social order. This line of reasoning encapsulates Castle Richmond’s overt logical structure. Yet, this article goes on to argue that there are numerous ways in which Trollope undermines the logical “inevitability” and the “divine ordination” of the Famine which his use of Western plague discourse implies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-240
Number of pages26
JournalIrish Studies Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017


  • Akrasia
  • County Cork
  • Rene Girard
  • Sydney Godolphin Osborne
  • child sacrifice
  • pharmakos
  • scapegoat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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