From the first publication of Studies in Scottish Literature more than fifty years ago, through the creation of the ASLS in the 1970s, groups such as the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society (ECSSS) in the 1980s and the creation of a Scottish Literature discussion group at the MLA in 2000, the study of Scotland and its literatures has been spreading internationally. Recent developments such as the Society for Scottish Studies in Europe further bear out this trend.
The conference committee of the first World Congress of Scottish Literatures are confident that this is the right time to launch an International Association for the Study of Scottish Literatures (IASSL) which, like its Irish counterpart would exist to promote the teaching and study of Scottish literatures in tertiary education worldwide. Just as Scottish Studies has grown, so too there has been an expansion in national and global collaborations between universities, in terms of teaching, staff exchange and research projects. A global Association firmly aligns Scottish Literature’s future with this well-established international agenda.
What should the aims of such an Association be, and how should they be conducted ? First, it is vital to stress that there is no intention that the Association will seek to duplicate or set the agenda for colleagues in existing societies: it will extend and expand the reach of Scottish literature, not limit or restrict it. The partnership of the Congress with ASLS (publisher of Scottish Literary Review), ECSSS, IASIL, the Robert Burns World Federation, Scottish Historical Review, Studies in Scottish Literature and major world universities in Canada, the Czech Republic, New Zealand and the USA emphasizes the need to grow Scottish Studies through collaboration, engagement and exchange.
In providing a framework for the arrangement, organization, partnership and support of future World Congresses, IASSL will help to ensure that Scottish Literature’s status as a national literature is internationally recognized and promoted as widely as possible. IASSL will also provide a hub for raising concerns about Scottish literature related issues internationally, and will give a particular priority to themes: examples include international research projects, promoting the possibilities of exchange or joint Master’s or PhD programmes in Scottish literature and providing a web-based forum for students studying Scottish literature outwith a Scottish context to reflect on their experience. IASSL should also exemplify a core tradition of intellectual enquiry and practice which is both Scottish and international: that of the Enlightenment application of reason to knowledge in the context of material improvement.
Registered Scottish Charity
With this last priority in mind, the conference committee have registered IASSL as a Scottish charity, SC044410, for the purposes of the advancement of education, the arts, heritage and culture. Subscriptions from UK taxpayers can be gift aided to Scottish charities, providing a 28% uplift in income to IASSL. The Scottish registration of the charity does not imply that the office holders of the Association would all be based in Scotland, and indeed the Constitution which our Advisory Board have agreed prevents this from being possible; the Constitution has also been approved by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).
The Congress and associated activities in Scotland have widespread support in Scotland. Michael Russell MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Scottish Government, opened the first World Congress in July 2014. In 2011, Joan McAlpine MSP placed motion S4M-00598 before the Scottish Parliament in support of our global ambitions for Scottish Studies, and it received cross-party support.