This article proposes that the popularly held model of ‘Gothic’ writings emergence in the Eighteenth Century is too partial: it tends to privilege prose fiction written in England in the latter part of the century. As a corrective, the article looks at poetry written in Scotland across the century, seeking not origins for ‘the Gothic’ as a transhistorical literary mode of expression, but emergent treatments of the supernatural that fed back into the literature of the period. It argues that poetry in eighteenth-century Scotland develops well-established indigenous supernatural tropes, especially that of the ‘ghaist’ or ghost.
Supernatural beliefs have been vital to Scottish cultural development. In the early modern period, the Kirk played an all-important role in parish life, schooling the Scots on how to interpret the invisible world. Theologians and philosophers mused about the nature of God’s providence and the wiles of the Devil. Folk tradition peopled the landscape with fairies and nature spirits. The witch trials displayed the very real consequences of belief systems that would later be reframed as fantastical. This book analyses the Scottish supernatural between about 1500 and 1800. Drawing together an international range of scholars with expertise in history, ethnology and literary studies, it explores the diverse ways in which Scots understood and experienced magical beings and extraordinary events. There are chapters on trance experiences, spirit-guides, angels, preaching on the supernatural, political prophecies, providence, astrology, Second Sight and the Enlightenment’s encounter with the paganism of classical antiquity. The book’s historical material is framed by two literary chapters: one on the ‘elrich’ supernatural in the poetry of the early sixteenth century, and one on the political supernatural in the poetry of the eighteenth century. Overall, the book examines the cultural function of supernatural beliefs, and assesses how these beliefs evolved amid the upheaval of the Reformation, political and religious revolution, the emergence of the Enlightenment and the beginnings of romanticism.
James Robertson‘s well-deserved reputation as a historical novelist has obscured the role that the Gothic plays in his work. Manifesting itself in distinctively Scottish fashion, Robertson‘s Gothicism is tied to the ‘broader national culture’ in general and to post-devolutionary Scotland in particular. Not only does his transformation of the Gothic into the historical novels uncanny other resist the modern novels tendency towards increasing privatisation. It also results in work that diverges from much post-devolutionary Scottish fiction in that his stories and novels are, by virtue of the density of their Scottishness, deeply connected to the local and to folk culture.
Thomas Percy’s The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry , first published in 1765, was a seminal text in English literature. 1
A comprehensive three-volume set of British ballads, it was one of the most significant collections of the century, and its influence was felt on British editors and writers for generations afterwards. The backdrop for this literary endeavour was a culture war in English and Scottish literature which was part of the long-standing antagonism between the two nations. This antipathy had
humankind. 3 Darren Oldridge similarly stresses the protective role of early modern angels, concluding that stories of angels must have been ‘deeply comforting’. 4 Certainly, songs and visual imagery underlined the idea of the angel as a protector, and stories circulated of angels defending human beings. However, angels were also punishers; they stood ready to avenge humanity’s sins at the Last Judgement. Moreover, angels served as God’s messengers. In early modern stories, this meant that they most commonly appeared to foretell death and destruction. In Scotland
Monstrous marriage, maternity, and the politics of embodiment
Carol Margaret Davison
I T SEEMS FITTING , GIVEN Scotland’s featured role in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the site of the female monster’s creation, that two 3,000-year-old ‘Frankenstein bog bodies’, as they were dubbed by the press – one male, one female – were recently discovered on the island of South Uist off Scotland’s west coast. Rearticulated from the bones of as many as six unrelated corpses and buried in a symbolic foetal position as if in preparation for rebirth into the next world, these composite mummies, whose purpose remains shrouded in
Antiquity held an important place in the Scottish Enlightenment. Throughout the eighteenth century, classical languages and literature were deeply embedded in the curricula of Scotland’s universities. Printing presses, such as the Foulis Press in Glasgow, responded to the demand for classical texts and competed to produce the finest editions of Greek and Roman masterpieces. 1 Immersion in the classics inspired many of the literati to publish histories of the laws, governments and customs of ancient nations. 2 This chapter explores an important dimension of
The sun had clos’d the winter-day ,
The Curlers quat their roaring play,
And hunger’d Maukin taen her way
To kail-yards green,
While faithless snaws ilk step betray
Whare she has been. 1
The loss of light begins and ends this chapter. It proposes that the use and embodiment of the supernatural in eighteenth-century Scottish verse holds to the key term and opaque conjunction ‘as if’. It proposes that the idea of the supernatural allowed people in eighteenth-century Scotland to wrestle with the idea of a new and elusive descriptor
controversial. This chapter is concerned with a third type of prophecy: sayings attributed to figures from Europe’s past, enlisted to make claims about Europe’s future. Most scholars have reserved the term ‘political prophecy’ for these pronouncements, following Rupert Taylor in his 1911 catalogue of them. 2 Several collections of these prophecies circulated in early modern Britain. Attributed to seers like Robert Nixon and Mother Shipton, they exhorted people to embrace political causes. 3
Scotland had the most famous compilation. Constructed in the sixteenth century
For early modern Scots, the doctrine of providence – the claim that God actively governed his Creation – expressed basic truths about the universe. God was both creator and maintainer, legislator and executive. He defined the goal or end of human existence, while intervening in the daily lives of his creatures. He oversaw the affairs of princes and armies, and was also responsible for the most mundane of occurrences. As Scottish preachers reminded their congregations, Matthew’s gospel taught that even the most insignificant sparrow ‘shall not fall on the ground