Contemporary media depiction's of famine and disaster display a striking prevalence of female images. The Feminization of Famine is a unique study of the tradition of female representations in famine literature, from nineteenth-century accounts of the Irish famine to the present day. It examines the many novels and short stories written about the Irish famine over the last hundred and fifty years, from the novels of William Carleton, Anthony Trollope and Maria Edgeworth throughto the writings of Liam O'Flaherty and John Banville. These literary works are read in the context of a rich variety of other sources, including contemporary eye-witness accounts of the 'Great Irish Famine', women's memoirs and journalistic writings, and famine historiography.The recurring motifs used to depict famine are highlighted - the prevalence of images of mother and child, the scrutiny of women's starved bodies, efforts to express the 'inexpressible'.
The author investigates the effect of famine representations and their crucial role in shaping viewers and readers' interpretation of the famine. During this period of commemoration of the Great Irish Famine, The Feminization of Famine provides a significant critique of how famine has been represented and suggests important parallels with the current presentation of emergency and disaster.