The Looms of History in George Mackay Brown's Literary Landscape
J. Linden Bicket
In 1948, George Mackay Brown produced his first ever publication, the small tourist guidebook, Let's See the Orkney Islands (Brown, 1949). Twenty-one years later the author, now indisputably a part of the twentieth century 'Scottish Cultural Renaissance' published his literary manifesto: An Orkney Tapestry (1969). This descendant of his original guidebook is a rich fusion of poetry, prose, drama, ballad, and personal polemic, which weaves together the rich and imaginatively recreated history of the Orcadians with their relationship with the land, ancestors, and patron saint, Magnus. Fittingly, the disparate strands of Orkney's often fractured and multifaceted past are drawn together by virtue of the metaphor of spinning.
Despite the 'mingled weave' of Orcadian identity, Brown's view of the estates of Orkney as being 'stitched together in a single garment' (Brown, 1972, pp.76-77) is harmonious and all encompassing, even when speaking of the brutality of Viking raids alongside the redeeming power of St Magnus's martyrdom and sacrifice. His fascination with the seamless garment, an image from St John's gospel, permeates the work, and in fact the use of the metaphor of weaving to produce a harmonious view of Orkney society spans several of his later works, including The Loom of Light (1984), and Time in a Red Coat (1984).
This paper reappraises Brown's use of spinning metaphor to construct an Orcadian landscape as centre of his poetic and fictional world, rather than a group of islands that are marginal both to Scotland and to Britain. It questions whether the metaphorical fabric that creates An Orkney Tapestry is innovative, or constraining.
Keywords: George Mackay Brown, Orkney, Orkneyinga Saga, St. Magnus, Hagiography
Reforming Rhetoric: The Immodest Proposals of David Lyndsay
Alexander J. Cuthbert
The poetry of David Lyndsay (c.1486-1555) articulates a concern for the 'commoun weill' through the employment of an array of tropes, genre forms and conventions. Yet, belying Lyndsay's adaptation of form and the rhetorically playful addresses to his reader are the vehement complaints of a humanist reformer, with the repeated calls to 'lait us haif the bukis necessare/to commoun weill and our salvatioun' articulating the desire to hear the word of God once again reinstalled into the language of the people.
This paper will explore how David Lyndsay uses the modesty topos to more than merely literary ends, allowing his proposals for social reform to find a receptive audience in king, cleric and commoner alike. Lyndsay's earliest poetry is primarily occupied with his pedagogical concern for the young monarch's development, with the figure of the archetypal Christian king serving as a prototype. The later poetry, however, turns its focus from the monarch to the Scottish nation, advocating the need for extensive social reform of all three estates. The overtly didactic nature of Lyndsay's work has meant that some readers have too readily overlooked the quality and the diversity of his poetic abilities. This discussion of how Lyndsay employs the modesty topos provides a flavour of the complexities on display in his poetic rhetoric.
Keywords: David Lyndsay, Ane Dialog, James V, rhetoric, modesty topos, social reform
What is left in between: Trainspotting, from Novel to Film
E. Guillermo Iglesias Díaz
When comparing a filmic text with the literary source it comes from, the conclusion often underlines the excellence and complexity of the written text as opposed to its simplification in the film adaptation. Specialists in the matter note how comparisons between both means of expression tend to focus on questions related to plot and characters. This fact favours an unfair judgement to the detriment of the filmic adaptation as in most occasions it is impossible to include every character and episode in the book. Accordingly, theorists propose an analysis of both cultural artefacts attending exclusively to their own idiosyncrasy as texts though, conscious as they are of the impossibility to refrain from comparisons, they insist on the necessity of analysing the narrative modes and their transposition from the source text, leaving aside questions related to the contents.
This paper focuses on Danny Boyle's adaptation of Irvine Welsh's controversial novel Trainspotting and the implicit "translation" process in it, paying attention not only to what was left out of the original story - the film could have never been possible if some of the harshest episodes in the written text were to be included in the cinematographic version - but also to the discursive articulation of the film.
Keywords: Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh, Danny Boyle, post-colonial theory
Motion and Agency in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island
Christy di Frances
Although Robert Louis Stevenson's writing has inevitably been associated with a strong concept of 'adventure,' the author's actual definition of this term and the aesthetic implications of it for his work remain both problematic and under-explored. Close reading, however, prompts further questions as it reveals Stevenson positioning himself to re-imagine the traditional role and function of literary adventure. This paper employs Treasure Island as a case study for examining a fundamental aspect of Stevenson's treatment of adventure: motion within the romance bildungsroman. Interestingly, there exists a strong critical predilection toward envisioning Stevenson's protagonists as static characters, but in fact this is contentious. Besides their inevitable movement from youth to age, Stevenson's protagonists typically progress from innocence to experience, as well as from situations of dynastic degeneration to renewal of family lines - all transitions with obvious didactic implications. Based upon a detailed investigation of these didactic repercussions of motion for Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island - one of the author's most famous bildungsroman protagonists - I argue that, for Stevenson, movement is critically importance to the achievement of a heroic ideal (however complex and problematic this concept proves to be in his work). Indeed, Treasure Island demonstrates how the employment of agency and the reliance upon ethical motion are not only consistent traits of Stevenson's adventure protagonists, but a defining aspect of their quests.
Key words: Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, Adventure
Strands of Politics in the Poetry of Sorley MacLean: Exploring the Symbol of the Skye Stallion in a Scottish and European Context
'An Cuilithionn', composed in 1939, is widely considered to be the Gaelic poet, Sorley MacLean's most important political poem. MacLean's vision of his poem was that it would radiate from Skye to the whole of Europe and for this reason the symbols which feature in the poem can be perceived from both a local and a universal perspective. At a time when Europe was on the cusp of WWII, poets were exploring complex issues relating to the dangers of Fascism and the symbols in the poem reflect MacLean's fear of Fascism and his hope that Communism would provide a more positive force which would transform society. This article seeks to explore one of the symbols in 'An Cuilithionn', the Skye Stallion, in relation to issues of politics, identity and myth.
I will use MacLean's correspondence with other Scottish writers in order to provide a brief overview of his political stance in relation to European politics so that 'An Cuilithionn' can be placed in its correct context. I will assess the importance of the Stallion from a Gaelic and Scottish literary perspective as well as from a Communist standpoint, tracing the nature of this symbol back through literature and myth in order to show how these individual threads weave together to create a vision of hope, energy and rebirth for Scotland and beyond. It is hoped that this article will add a new dimension to our understanding of how politics and literature interact within a Scottish and European context.
Keywords: Sorley Maclean, An Cuilithionn, Douglas Young, Skye, Modern Scottish Literary Renaissance, Scottish politics, Gaelic poetry, Socialism, Communism
The Very Heart of Beyond: Gaelic Nationalism and the Work of Fionn Mac Colla
The work of Fionn Mac Colla (Thomas Douglas Macdonald) examines the development of religious ideas and politics on Scottish society. He was primarily concerned with the representation of Scottish Gaelic and the cultural implications for Scotland with the erosion and re-establishment of Gaelic culture and identity in the industrializing modern era. These themes are most comprehensively explored in his best-known works, The Albannach (1932) and And The Cock Crew (1945).
J.L. Broom's claim that Mac Colla's obsession with Calvinism's influence over Scotland had 'reached such proportions as to have distorted his artistic priorities' demonstrates certain attitudes to, and critical reception of, Mac Colla and his work. This perception has encouraged inactive critical analysis despite Mac Colla's contribution to the developing 'Scottish Literary Renaissance' of the 1920s and 30s, which can be described as major, even if, at times, deserved critical reception has been thwarted. Although his fictional work concentrates on Gaelic communities in the central Highlands, Mac Colla spent 20 years living and teaching in the Hebrides. This paper will demonstrate that Mac Colla's work and themes are interwoven with his own experiences of the Gaelic community and will also examine the idea of a 'peripheral' Island experience with reference to the author.
Keywords: Fionn Mac Colla, Gaelic, Modern Scottish Literary Renaissance, Language, Sovereignty, Highlands.
The Banal Daily Drudge: Telling Stories in Scotland
My paper is concerned with how the notion of storytelling is used in Ali Smith's fiction and concentrates on how the concept of telling a story relates to Scottish fiction as a whole and how this is influenced an oral tradition.
The paper begins by discussing her narrative style in an attempt to show how her adoption of a third person narrative leads to a more focussed examination of the local. This will lead into a brief discussion of James Kelman's influence on Smith's narrative technique and I will show how she embraces a number of literary conventions as a means of exploring the local and ordinary. I will also look at how she exploits the page layout and typography to achieve this goal.
My paper will look at how writing from a local perspective can lead to a heightened sense of identity. Furthermore, by concentrating on the local, Smith's fiction leans towards a representation of the everyday that in turn results in a narrative that places its emphasis on storytelling and thus an oral tradition.
I will draw upon existing Scottish criticism while exploring more international theories of the local in order to demonstrate that Scottish writing and, in particular, the Scottish short story is fundamentally linked to an oral tradition, and that any account of the local or everyday is dependent on the reader or listener of the stories.
Keywords: Local, Oral tradition, Ali Smith, Scottish Short Story
Jackie Kay's Representation of 'The Broons': Scotland's Happy Family
Mª del Coral Calvo Maturana
This paper offers a stylistic analysis of four poems in which the contemporary Scottish writer Jackie Kay makes reference to 'The Broons'. These are 'Maw Broon Visits a Therapists' (1998a, p.46-47), 'Paw Broon on the Starr Report' (1998a, p.57), 'The Broons' Bairn's Black' (1998a, p.61), 'There's Trouble for Maw Broon' (2005, p.13-14). It also mentions the poem 'Maw Broon goes for colonic irrigation', which is unpublished. The essay compares Jackie Kay's representation of 'The Broons' in contrast to their characterisation in the comic strip. By placing the poetic voices in unexpected situations as well as joining drama and humour, the writer criticizes and balances old and new values or ideas in Scotland.
Key words: Jackie Kay, 'The Broons', Scotland, stylistics, culture