James Hogg’s Unconventional National Tale

NEIL SYME

The Scottish Studies Research Group at Stirling has settled into a regular fortnightly routine, and the standard of presentations thus far is inspiringly high. At our last meeting on 1 June, Dr Barbara Leonardi presented a compelling paper based on an article that will see publication later this month in Studies in Scottish Literature, entitled ‘James Hogg’s The Brownie of Bodsbeck: An Unconventional National Tale’. On a personal level, having known her for about five years, it was nice to finally see Dr Leonardi present her work!

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Dr Barbara Leonardi

Barbara is an Early Career Researcher working on the Stirling/South Carolina Research Edition of the Collected Works of James Hogg, and her presentation argued that Hogg’s thematic choices in the short novel The Brownie of Bodsbeck work to subvert the traditional national tale. As Barbara explained, the conventional national tale follows Edmund Burke’s conception that the bourgeois family should form a neat and instructive representation of the nation, and in this case, the British Empire. In this conception, peasants and women are figured as the infants of Burke’s family-nation. Walter Scott notably employs this marriage plot in Waverley, as an ideological reconciliation of Scotland and England. In Barbara’s reading, Hogg challenges this paradigm through numerous subversive choices of theme, event and character. Brotherhood becomes a central trope in place of romantic love, with Katharine’s Lowland father forming a bond with a Highland soldier. At the same time, Katharine herself doesn’t engage in marriage with the potential ‘hero’ of the novel, and takes no lover, further disrupting the key symbolic relationship of the national tale. Katharine is the agent and moral locus of the text, helping the Covenanters and thus transgressing an unjust law in defence of human rights.

s048Barbara went on to discuss the dialogue of the text, analysing the apparent dichotomy between Catherine’s faultless English and her peasant background, and the broad Scots of her father. While some reviewers were uncomfortable with this clash of voices, in Barbara’s reading this amounts to a Bakhtinian approach to ‘multivocality’ through which Hogg rejects the centre/periphery division of the imperial ethos and suggests a new, inclusive Britishness based on the validity of working class, rather than bourgeois, ethical values. In this way, Katherine becomes ‘a meritorious symbol for the Scottish nation’, and further exemplifies the way Hogg was thinking ahead of his times. Barbara’s compelling paper will be accessible online after its publication later this month

Typically for these Scottish Studies Research Group meetings, the presentation provoked a lively informal discussion of Hogg, the national tale, covenanting history, publishing and editorial factors in relation to Hogg’s work, and the emasculation of an Episcopalian priest (this latter point occurs in the text)! These discussions have become a real high point of the group’s meetings, often ranging across disciplines (this week literature, publishing, history…) and giving a real sense of interconnectivity between researchers. If you’re working in the field of Scottish studies, no matter the stage of your research, at Stirling or elsewhere, please do come along to the next meeting or get in touch via email; discussions are informal, welcoming, and usually inspiring. The date of the next meeting is to be confirmed, but will be publicised via the Twitter account of the Centre for Scottish Studies (@stirscotstudies). We hope to see you there.

Poetry & Song in Victorian Dundee

DUNCAN HOTCHKISS

The May Day bank holiday was the date for the second meeting of the Scottish Studies Research Group at Stirling, and fittingly we had the pleasure of listening to Erin Farley talk about her research on popular and working-class poetry and song in Victorian Dundee. The city is known for its pride in its political traditions, from radical and liberal nineteenth-century identities through to labour and working-class strains into the early twentieth-century – historical legacies which continue to inform popular political discourse in Dundee (and beyond). In a week which saw the Dandy photo-shopping its way into the Scottish political limelight, and Dundee United FC relegated by their city rivals Dundee FC, Pathfoot A7 took on a strong Dundonian flavour for the evening (alas, without any ‘pehs’).

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Erin opened by giving us some background to her research, undertaken in collaboration with Dundee Central Library and the University of Stirling. Her project is focused on a wide range of material – poetry, ballads, maps and photographs, newspaper stories, tales and songs – in the Lamb Collection in Dundee’s local history department. Over 450 boxes make up the collection which was left to the city by Alexander Crawford Lamb (1843-97), who was, in another nod to Dundee’s well-known political identities, the son of a Temperance hotelier. The poetry-enthusiast Lamb was later to become proprietor of his own hotel on Reform Street, which became a centre of writing and reading culture in the city.

Another important figure in the poetic and song cultures of Dundee was George Gilfillan (1813-1878), who championed working-class poetry in the city. Erin’s talk explored how the political content of these poems was conditioned by specific publishing environments, as Gilfillan would be reluctant to print anything that was deemed too radical or politically dangerous. In this model of poetic patronage, ‘untaught’ and ‘natural’ working-class poetic ability was encouraged so long as it pertained to Victorian narratives of moral improvement and respectability.

A major theme in Erin’s work is the significance of place in poetry and song, both in terms of content and as sites of performance and dissemination. Shops which printed and sold cheap broadsides were central to Dundee’s vibrant culture of poetry and song, and operated as focal points for the urban community and also for the rural communities of the surrounding countryside. At the changing of seasonal work patterns and during fair days, rural workers (usually young males) would come into the city and visit the broadside shops to pick up cheap songs and speeches to arm themselves with material for a busy day of (markedly in-Temperate) socialising. These local traditions found their way into the content of poems and songs, which Erin brought to life by playing an archive recording of a Dundee street song about a rural worker’s encounter with the city’s liquor trade, and a disastrous attempt at courting which found the young man awaken (alone) at the foot of a tenement close. The young man returned on foot to the countryside chagrined and vowing never to return to the city again, a nineteenth-century ‘walk of shame’ which, interestingly, placed the shame upon the spurned young man rather than upon the woman in the song.

Place was also significant in the political lives of poems and songs, a good example of this being the city’s Magdalen Green – the focal point for political protest in Victorian Dundee. The square’s topography lent itself to speeches and rallies, such as those held by Dundee weavers in the aftermath of the Peterloo massacre of 1819, to raise money for the families of those killed by the military in Manchester.

George Kinloch statue Dundee[4]

Statue of George Kinloch, Dundee

A local laird named George Kinloch made a speech at Dundee’s Peterloo rally which the authorities deemed rather too inflammatory, who then intended to exile Kinloch to Australia. Kinloch to France, returning to the city in 1832 to become Dundee’s first MP after the Reform Act, only to die shortly after. Kinloch’s place in Dundee’s popular political folklore was thus secured, and the poems and songs in the Lamb Collection attest to Kinloch and Magdalen Green’s symbolic centrality to the ongoing reform movements in the city.

Erin illuminated her presentation with numerous lively examples of Dundee’s Victorian poetry and song. The legacy of Burns was a strong theme to emerge, his songs being regularly re-worked to fit local issues. Erin finished with an engaging reading of one of Dundee’s most well known poets, James Young Geddes, who cast a doubtful eye upon the city’s pride in its radical traditions:

       Here are the people that sing “A man’s a man for a’ that”;

       Here are the people that shout “The rank is but the guinea’s stamp” —

       See how they are crane-ing their necks for honours. 

       See how avaricious they are for gew-gaws, how their souls are athirst for trumpery titles.

James Young Geddes, ‘The Glory has Departed’

A lively discussion followed Erin’s presentation, where we talked about the use of Scots and the Dundee dialect, and explored different aspects of gendered civic identities in the Dundee case and in other Scottish towns and cities. We hope to follow up this meeting by having a Scottish Studies Research Group day-trip to the City of Discovery, to find out from Desperate Dan himself what really happened with THAT Dandy picture with Nicola Sturgeon.

Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday the 18th of May, at 5pm, Room A7, where we will hear from second-year PhD candidate John Ritchie from the division of Communications, Media and Culture, and his research on “Sir Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe: Being Scottish in Early Sound Cinema”. We invite all members of the Stirling research community with an interest in Scottish topics to attend what promises to be another entertaining and stimulating Scottish Studies Research Group event.

 

 

New Scottish Studies Research Group

ERIN FARLEY

Last week saw the first meeting of the Stirling Scottish Studies Research Group – intended as a friendly space for people working on Scottish-related topics to share their research, ideas and questions. At each meeting, a Stirling researcher will give an informal talk on their recent work, followed by group discussion. We aim to become an interdisciplinary support network, where we can share skills and knowledge and keep up to date with each other’s work.

Our first speaker was my fellow first-year PhD candidate, Félix Flores Varona, whose work centres on the Cuban national hero, journalist, poet and political theorist José Martí, and his relationships with various Scottish writers. This research is part of a wider view of Martí’s relationship with the culture of the British Isles – Félix’s Masters thesis focused on Irish connections, and he will follow the Scottish research with a study of Martí’s English interests.

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José Martí (1853-1895)

Though his name may be unfamiliar to Scottish literature researchers, Martí’s detailed writings detailing his visit to Abbotsford – as yet unpublished – have proved invaluable to scholars of Walter Scott. Martí was not the only cultural link between nineteenth-century Cuba and Scotland. As Félix explained, other Cuban writers had translated Scott and Stevenson, and worked Scottish historical legends into their writing – but Martí was particularly prolific in his journalism, translation and criticism of Scottish authors.

Among the many writers Martí discussed were Margaret Oliphant, Henry Drummond (local to Stirling), and Gorbals author Alan Pinkerton (born 1819.) Pinkerton’s authorship has been disputed – he was accused of using ghostwriters – and his role as the founder of spy agency the Pinkertons has overshadowed his literary reputation. Ironically, during the Cuban War of Independence, the United States government had Martí investigated – by the Pinkertons.

Jose-Marti stamp

Cuban stamp celebrating Martí, 1995

Martí is remembered as an all-round cultural figure: as well as his prolific journalism and political work, he is hailed as a key founder of modernism in Latin America. This range of roles and writing styles means that Félix is having to familiarise himself with a range of disciplines, shifting from literary criticism to theories of translation and histories of journalism. The necessity of cross-disciplinary research is familiar to most members of the research group, and the more experienced researchers were able to offer Félix guidance on how to go about this.

For our next meeting, which will take place on Monday 2 May, in Pathfoot A7 at 6pm, I will be talking about the early stages of my own research into popular poetry and song communities in nineteenth-century Dundee, work which has so far incorporated literary, historical and folklore methods. We invite all members of the Stirling research community with an interest in Scottish topics to attend, and we look forward to the future conversations this group may open up.

Scottish Literature at Stirling

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A few pics of recent events and guest speakers from the Scottish literary scene.

Clockwise from top left: our Professor of Poetry, Kathleen Jamie, after teaching a Master’s seminar on Scottish poetry and landscape; poet and artist Harry Giles, speaking to undergraduates studying literature in Scots and non-standard Englishes; Janice Galloway and a long queue of fans after her guest lecture on the second-year ‘Writing and Identity’ module; small-group teaching on the MLitt in Modern Scottish Writing.

Nobody’s Dream: Stories of Scottish Devolution

SCOTT HAMES

The Guardian’s Scotland blog today features a 30m podcast on Scottish devolution from a research workshop supported by the Centre for Scottish Studies.

Scottish Parliament 1

There is no grand narrative underpinning the most important constitutional process of our times. Partly for this reason, the meaning of devolution is unsettled and up for grabs.

The podcast – entitled ‘Nobody’s Dream’ – explores the difficulty of making a cohesive story out of Scottish devolution, and the competing narratives and perspectives brought to the question by writers, historians, parliamentarians and constitutional experts.

It emerges from an inter-disciplinary research workshop supported by the British Academy, entitled  ‘Narrating Scottish Devolution’. This examines the idea of ‘cultural devolution’ – the notion that writers and artists made Holyrood possible – and in the podcast you’ll hear workshop participants revisit a side of the story which is less about taxation powers than the management of national feeling.

Special thanks to the Scottish Political Archive and to participants in the workshop.

Workshop: Narrating Scottish Devolution (31 August 2015)

Monday 31 August, University of Stirling

Narrating Scottish Devolution is a research project exploring the different ways in which devolution has been explained, understood and made culturally meaningful in Scotland. We are particularly interested in the idea of ‘cultural devolution’ — the notion that Scottish writers and artists paved the way for the politicians — and its influence in post-1999 governance and literary culture.

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A draft programme for the second and final workshop in the series follows below. A small number of places are available for interested students and members of the public who wish to attend; please email scott.hames[at]stir.ac.uk to arrange.

For full details of the project, which is supported by the British Academy, see the link above.

Cultural Devolution as Paradigm & Practice (1999- present)

9.30 Tea/Coffee

10.00 Introductory: Recalling Workshop 1 and interim developments – Scott Hames

10.20 SESSION 1: Before and After 1999: Devolution, Change and Continuity

Kathleen Jamie, David McCrone, Gerry Hassan

12.00 Lunch

1.00 SESSION 2: Cultural Devolution as Policy Frame

Paul Cairney, Gerry Mooney, Adam Tomkins

2.40 Tea/Coffee

3.00 SESSION 3: Devolved Cultural Politics and Artistic Production

Stefanie Lehner, Neil Mulholland, Aaron Kelly

4.40-5.30 CONCLUDING ROUNDTABLE
Future research directions and questions

Workshop: Scottish Emigrant Literatures in the Long Nineteenth Century (14 March 2015)

Saturday 14 March 2015, University of Stirling

This workshop is funded by the Division of Literature and Languages, University of Stirling. Registration is free but numbers are limited: participants should contact Kirstie Blair at kirstie.blair@stir.ac.uk to reserve a place.

Draft Programme

9-10am Coffee

10-12 Session 1

Kirstie Blair (University of Stirling), ‘Emigrant Poetry and the Scottish Popular Press in the Victorian Period’

Mary Ellis Gibson (University of Glasgow), ‘John Leyden: Poetry, Patronage and Linguistic Cosmopolitanism in India’

Jason R. Rudy (University of Maryland), ‘Sounding the Scottish Diaspora’

12-1 Lunch

1-2:15 Session 2

Marjory Harper (University of Aberdeen), ‘Adventure or Exile? The Scottish Emigrant in Fiction’

Honor Rieley (University of Oxford), ‘Superfluous Persons or Empire Builders?: Debating Emigration in the Scottish Romantic Novel and the Periodical Press’

2:15-2:45 Coffee

2:45 – 4 Session 3

Julia Reid (University of Leeds), ‘“O, why left I my hame?”: Robert Louis Stevenson and Scottish Emigration Narratives’

Lesley C. Robinson (Northumbria University), ‘“The arrival of the mail!”: Emigrant correspondence between Scotland and Asia’

4-5 Session 4

Concluding remarks by Tanya Agathocleous (Hunter College, CUNY) and general discussion.

Participants are invited to join the speakers for drinks and dinner in Bridge of Allan after the close of the workshop.