Scottish Modernism and Its Contexts 1918-1959: Literature, National Identity and Cultural Exchange

Scottish Modernism and Its Contexts 1918-1959: Literature, National Identity and Cultural Exchange

Scottish Modernism and Its Contexts 1918-1959: Literature, National Identity and Cultural Exchange

Scottish Modernism and Its Contexts 1918-1959: Literature, National Identity and Cultural Exchange

Synopsis

Margery Palmer McCulloch sees Scottish Modernism as both interacting with the intellectual and artistic ideas of European Modernism and responding to the social, political, and cultural contexts of Scotland. She builds her argument through close readings of the new poetry and criticism of the 1920s and the interaction of politics and literature in the 1930s. She concentrates on the reimagining of the Highlands, women writers' response to the changing world of the Modernist period, and the continuing impact of Modernism in the poetry of the 1940s and 1950s. She discusses Hugh MacDiarmid, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Neil M. Gunn, the Muirs and the Carswells, Marion Angus, Naomi Mitchison, Nan Shepherd, Nancy Brysson Morrison, William Soutar, Sydney Goodsir Smith, and Robert Garioch, among others.

Excerpt

There cannot be a revival in the real sense of the word […] unless these
potentialities are in accord with the newest tendencies of human thought.

C. M. Grieve, Scottish Chapbook (1923)

In a review article in the Athenaeum in 1919 T. S. Eliot posed the question ‘Was there a Scottish literature?’, rapidly concluding that there was not, since Scotland had neither a single language nor a sufficiently unfragmented literary history to entitle it to claim what he called a distinctive ‘Scotch literature’. If Eliot were alive today, his question might well be ‘Was there a Scottish modernism?’; and many academic scholars and critics – Scottish as well as non-Scottish – would probably join him in doubting that there was any such thing. A perusal of critical studies of modernism in the past twenty to thirty years, including the most recent, will rarely reveal a listing of ‘Hugh MacDiarmid’ in their indexes, while the potential Scottish modernist territory as a whole remains unexplored. Similarly, studies of early twentieth-century writing in Scotland seldom have the word ‘modernism’ in their indexes. On the surface, then, it might appear that there was no manifestation of literary modernism worthy of discussion in that part of the United Kingdom which in the early twentieth century was still called North Britain.

This study starts from the dual premise that there was and still is a varied and distinctive Scottish literature interacting with both traditional and international influences; and that there was in the post-1918 period a Scottish literary modernism drawing on artistic influences from European modernism and rooted in the desire to recover a self-determining identity for Scotland both culturally and politically. The book’s purpose is therefore a positive one which seeks to situate Scottish culture in the modernist context of the early twentieth century by expanding the existing limited and potentially inward-looking idea of an interwar ‘Scottish Renaissance’ movement to include its international significance as a Scottish manifestation of modernism. In addition, and in common with what is happening currently in other areas of modernist studies, the conventional boundaries of modernism will be extended in order to consider a late or transitional Scottish modernism, especially in poetry, in the 1940s and 1950s. While the primary aim of the study is therefore to further . . .

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