The invention of Scottish literature during the long eighteenth century
"The invention of Scottish Literature During the Long Eighteenth Century" examines the limited place in the canon traditionally allowed to creative writing in Scotland during this period and the overarching reading of creative impediment applied to it in the light of Scotland's fraught and not easily to be homogenised national history and identity. It interrogates the dominant mode of what it terms the Scottish literary critical tradition and funds this tradition to have many shortcomings as a result of its prioritising of literary and cultural holism. In examining the Scots poetry revival of the eighteenth century the thesis challenges the traditional identification of a populist and beset mode, and finds eighteenth-century poetry in Scots to be actually much more catholic in its literary connections. These more catholic "British" connections are reappraised alongside the distinctively Scottish accents of the poets Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns. The poetry of James Thomson, it is also argued, fits more easily into a heterogeneous Scottish identity than is sometimes thought and the work of Thomson is connected with the poets in Scots to show a network of influence and allegiance which is more coherent than has been traditionally allowed. Similarly, the primitivist agenda of the Scottish Enlightenment in creative literature is examined to demonstrate the way in which this provides license for reclaiming elements of the historically fraught or "backward" Scottish identity (thus an essentially conservative, patriotic element within the Scottish Enlightenment cultural voice is emphasised.). Also, with the writers of poetry in Scots, as well as with Thomson, and with those whose work comes under the intellectual sponsorship of Enlightenment primitivism such as Tobias Smollett, James Macpherson, James Beattie and others we chart a movement from the age of Augustanism and neoclassicism to that of sensibility and proto-Romanticism. From Burns' work to that of Walter Scott, John Galt and James Hogg we highlight Scottish writers making creative capital from the difficult and fractured Scottish identity and seeing this identity, as, in part, reflecting cultural tensions and fractures which are more widely coined furth of their own country. The connecting threads of the thesis are those narratives in Scottish literature of the period which show the retrieval and analysis of seemingly lost or receding elements of Scottish identity. Creative innovation and re-energisation rather than surrender and loss are what the thesis finally diagnoses in Scottish literature of the long eighteenth century.