Held together by words : the bull calves and the Scottish fiction of Naomi Mitchison (1930s-1960s)
Naomi Mitchison (1897-1999) was an accomplished Scottish author noted for her historical fiction. Her literary career was prolific and lengthy, moving through several phases. From the early 1930s through the 1960s, Mitchison wrote primarily Scottish works. Whether in setting, characterisation, or concern, her literature during these years was for the Scottish people. In this reader’s estimation, Mitchison’s greatest contribution to the Scottish literary world was her ability to write engaging story while constructively recreating strong national mythos and setting forth models of healthy, loyal communities. Mitchison first is artist; therefore, any social agenda she embraces finds expression in art (whether these concerns be socialism, feminism, education, the arts, agricultural practices, or fishing, to name a few). This thesis will trace the themes in her earlier and later periods of the Scottish phase of her literary art, with The Bull Calves as focal point not only of this study, but also of the Scottish period of her writing. Exploration of the early works (1930s-40s) and the later works (1950s-60s and the later Early in Orcadia) will highlight themes that recur throughout her literary career. While not new to her particularly Scottish works, recurring themes take on new significance in light of Mitchison’s political involvement with the Labour Party and her local Community of Carradale. Mikhail Bakhtin’s study of narratology acknowledges the inherent political nature of language, and how the lexical range of characters within a text signifies particular class, occupation, religious and/or political propensity. When examining The Bull Calves, Bakhtinian method will be applied to the text, illustrating Mitchison’s utilisation of the facets of language to refract meaning within the text.