Dr Lucy Collins, one of the co-organisers of the symposium, and lecturer in UCD School of English, Drama and Film, will speak at the symposium about representations of the basking shark in Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poem sequence, ‘The Sun-fish’.
The complex relationship between human aspiration and the ocean has long been reflected in literature, where the dynamics of space and time unique to marine life can be explored in thought-provoking ways. In Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poem sequence ‘The Sun-fish’, multiple perspectives on the life of the basking shark – on its place in history and imagination – reveal the complex relationship between human and animal, as well as between land and sea. In this work the basking shark is both present and absent; at times coming into view, at times obscured by the surface of the sea and by the oblique nature of the poem itself. Traversing the spaces of history and memory in the representation of the shark hunt, the poem considers the role of woman both as observer and as participant in this most masculine of pursuits. This paper will explore how female perspectives subtly shape the poem sequence, especially in its interweaving of personal and historical narratives.