Voices from the 'Cauld East Countra' : representations of self in the poetry of Violet Jacob and Marion Angus
This dissertation examines the representation of self in the poetry of Violet Jacob (1863-1946) and Marion Angus (1865-1946), two Scottish poets who wrote primarily in Scots in the inter-war years. Until recently, many critics have dismissed the work of Jacob and Angus as 'minor' in its themes or significant only as it anticipates the Scots poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid. The general absence of their work from print, and the narrow range of their poems appearing in anthologies, support the impression that their poetry is limited in scope. This dissertation suggest that in fact their poetry makes a significant contribution to the development of Scottish poetry. Their work builds upon Scottish literary traditions, interpolating balladic form and language into their lyrics, and drawing upon the rich folksong and dramatic monologue traditions as models for representing voice and self. Folk belief, too, informs their work, providing a symbolic background for many poems. To indicate the depth to their work, the thesis considers their poetry in a range of broader, interrelated contexts. By situating their poetry within historical, sociological, and literary milieus, and by placing their poems within a continuum of Scottish writing, one can discern key tensions underlying and informing their work. As the predominance of first-person speakers in their poetry indicates, Jacob and Angus shared an interest in the psychology of the poetic self. Each poem offers a different representation of self, highlighting what the poetic self utters (or omits) in response to the world around it. Drawing upon a range of contemporaneous commentary and contemporary critical theory, the thesis analyzes how both poets portray the self in relation to its interior sense of time, its conception of space, and its interaction with other selves. The thesis falls into two parallel halves - the first devoted to an investigation of the self in Jacob's work, the second in Angus's. Key similarities and differences in each author's technique become evident in comparing their work.