Scottish eccentrics : the tradition of otherness in Scottish poetry from Hogg to MacDiarmid
This study attempts to modify the received opinion that Scottish poetry of the nineteenth-century failed to build on the achievements of the century (and centuries) before. Rather it suggests that a number of significant poets emerged in the period who represent an ongoing clearly Scottish tradition, characterised by protean identities and eccentricity, which leads on to MacDiarmid and the 'Scottish Renaissance' of the twentieth century. The work of the poets in question is thus seen as marked by recurring linguistic, stylistic and thematic eccentricities which are often radical and subversive. The poets themselves, it is suggested, share a condition of estrangement from the official culture of their time either within Scotland (Hogg, Geddes, MacDiarmid) or in their English exile (Smith, Davidson and Thomson). They can be hardly associated with established tradition, but rather they belong to what I define as tradition of 'otherness' - other from mainstream literary and cultural society, and characterised by eccentric forms and themes. The Introduction examines the notions of 'eccentricity' and 'otherness' in relation to the selected poets. Chapter 1, after outlining existing critical theories on nineteenth-century Scottish literature, reinforces the thesis that the dominant voices in Scottish poetry are radical and eccentric by looking retrospectively at some of the eighteenth-century 'eccentrics'. Chapter 2 focuses on the work of Hogg and Byron, the former as the original nineteenth-century eccentric, evincing strong links with later poets, and the latter because of the striking affinities between his work and personality and those of contemporary and later Scottish poets. Chapter 3 focuses on Alexander Smith and attempts to rescue his most interesting poetry from the simplistic categorising of his work as 'Spasmodic'. Chapter 4 on James Thomson ('B.V.') explores the innovative and pre-modernist aura of his opera omnia. Chapter 5 concentrates on John Davidson, particularly on his diverse styles and unorthodox ideas, which also look forward to MacDiarmid.