Richard Murphy’s The God Who Eats Corn: A Colonizer’s Critique of British Imperialism in Ireland and Africa
Keywords:Irish Nationalism, Postcolonialism, British Imperialism, Rhodesia, Colonizer, Colonial Identity
With the passing of Richard Murphy in 2018, Ireland lost its last poet of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy. Yet his poetry often displays the poet’s sense of unease with his background and features attempts to reconcile Ireland’s colonial history with feelings of guilt and self-consciousness as an inheritor to the gains of the British imperialist project. A dedicatory poem to his aging father who had retired to what was then known as Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe), ‘The God Who Eats Corn’ draws parallels between Irish and African colonial experiences. Yet far from celebrating the ‘civilizing’ mission of British imperialism, Murphy deftly challenges and questions the legitimacy of his family legacy. I argue that rather than reinforcing the poet’s image as representative of the Ascendancy class, ‘The God Who Eats Corn’ reveals sympathies with the subject peoples of British imperialism and aligns Murphy with a nationalist narrative of history and conception of ‘native’ identity. For this reason, the poem should be considered a landmark of modern Irish poetics in its articulation of trans-racial anti-colonial solidarity.
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