The Scottish Tradition in Literature

The Scottish Tradition in Literature

The Scottish Tradition in Literature

The Scottish Tradition in Literature

Excerpt

Before we begin, may I assure my readers that in speaking of a Scottish tradition in literature I have no subversive aims, no reactionary or revolutionary intentions? Scottish literature is part of our European heritage; and though the perspective in which I am going to expound some of its inherent moral and aesthetic values is perhaps an unfamiliar one, I am not surreptitiously attempting to separate things that are better joined, or to erect an invisible barrier that would isolate Scottish literature itself from the larger world to which it inseparably belongs.

In the study of literature, we can concentrate on single writers and their work, or we can view literature itself in relation to the whole cultural trend, the thought, the moral, æsthetic and intellectual climate of the particular period to which it belongs. The first of these two ways of studying literature may throw light on the creative process and of the work of art as such; the second may give us a better understanding of literature as an expression of its own day and age.

Though I recognise the advantages of both these methods of study, I set out from the somewhat different premise that literature is not written in a vacuum, but grows out of the life of the community, and must therefore be studied as a product of that particular community in which it originated. From one country to another, the climate differs as much intellectually as meteorologically: terms like, for example, "romantic" and "classical," "realism" and "symbolism," "wit," "irony," "humour," and "satire," have different connotations, if not actually different denotations, in Italy, France, Germany, England and Scotland. To the horizontal dimension of contemporary moral, æsthetic and intellectual climate we must add, therefore, the vertical dimension of place and heritage, and must do the literature that we are studying the honour of recognising that it has both "a local habitation and a name. . . . . . ."

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