Bogland is a preeminent motif in Irish literature, art, and environmental science. In the late seventeenth century, the doctor and antiquarian Thomas Molyneux attempted to account for the plentiful, bog-borne bones and antlers of the extinct quadruped we now recognize as the giant deer, or Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus). Molyneux's "A Discourse Concerning the Large Horns Frequently Found under Ground in Ireland," published in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions in 1695, claimed that the creature was a moose, and that it helped prove a "sort of Intercourse" between prehistoric Ireland and the New World. At the very moment that Anglo-Irish natural history established itself in relation to British and European networks – Molyneux had helped found the Dublin Philosophical Society in 1683 – the "Irish Moose Deer" seemed to disaffiliate Ireland from those networks, and from the Old World in general. Molyneux's specimens bear the imprint of the new science, inspired by the Royal Society and the Philosophical Society at Oxford, but come to represent Irish exceptionalism, as well as Irish membership in some kind of New World "Neighbourhood." The "Discourse" testifies, at once, to scientific literature's power to imagine Ireland as rationalized and improved by Protestant empiricism, and to bogs' epistemological undecidability. New formations, neither Old World nor New, neither English, nor Irish, nor Anglo-Irish, issue from Molyneux's bogs, prefiguring the narrative possibilities of bogland for writers later in the eighteenth century, and beyond.


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