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Professor Aileen Douglas delivers her Inaugural Lecture "Fabulous Histories: Animals in Literature" on 7th November.

About Fabulous Histories: Animals in Literature

This lecture drew attention to the prominence of animals in eighteenth-century writing. It was particularly interested in how writers across the eighteenth century developed innovative literary forms to represent non-human creatures, and to explore related moral and epistemological issues.

In the context of global exploration and colonisation, Europeans were exposed to a dazzling range of previously unknown life-forms, and the friable boundary between humans and other creatures became a fruitful, and sometimes vexed, area of representation in the early novel. At home, as pet-keeping became notably fashionable, and an object of moral scrutiny, animal biographies and autobiographies made it possible to think of an animal’s point of view. New forms of didactic literature instructed children through delight, using story and talking animals to discourage cruelty and promote empathy. Meanwhile, the extent to which creatures from other species can ever be truly recognized and known by human beings was a significant subject in poetry. 

About Professor Aileen Douglas

Aileen Douglas is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at Trinity. Having studied English and History as an undergraduate at Trinity, she undertook postgraduate work in the United States. Her M.A. was awarded by the University of Delaware and her PhD by Princeton University. She taught at Washington University in St. Louis for several years before returning to the School of English at Trinity in 1993. A Fellow of TCD since 2000, she has served as Dean of Undergraduate Studies/Senior Lecturer (2008-11) and Head of the School of English (2016-9). Aileen was President of the Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society (2017-2022) and has given invited lectures in the United States, the U.K., France, Italy and Japan, among others.

Aileen’s research is particularly focussed on canon formation and the transmission of literary texts; issues of gender and writing by women; and the human body and literary representation. Her first monograph, Uneasy Sensations: Smollett and the Body (Chicago University Press), explored how the Scottish writer represented physical experience in his novels. More recently, Work in Hand: Script, Print, and Writing, 1690-1840 (Oxford University Press) examined the relationships between manual writing and print at a time of technological change. Currently, Aileen is working on a monograph, The Story of the Child, that examines when and why child characters began to appear in fiction in English.

About Inaugural Lectures

It is the tradition in that newly appointed Professors in Trinity are invited to give an Inaugural Lecture. The lecture represents the official recognition of their appointment to Professor and the lecture itself provides an opportunity to showcase their achievements in research, innovation, engagement and teaching activities before an audience of members of the University community, invited stakeholders and the general public. An inaugural lecture is a significant event in an academic staff member’s career.

Aileen Douglas, Prof of Eighteenth-Century Studies

(L-R) Gail McElroy, Dean of Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Aileen Douglas, Prof of Eighteenth-Century Studies,
Linda Doyle, The Provost of Trinity College Dublin and Jarlath Killeen, Head of School of English