This book deals with the contested, fabricated and vibrant subject of ‘Scottish literature’. All academic disciplines in recent decades, in the sciences as well as the arts, have come under scrutiny for being not so much ‘naturally occurring’ as ‘human constructs’. For many years, Scottish literature seen through the eyes of some was a nationalistically formulated and politically loaded project. To some extent this was true, but in the light of the new self-reflection that ‘English Literature’ (and all other canons of literature with a national element in their rubric) has undergone, Scottish literature in a sense suddenly finds itself on a level playing field. Even if Scottish literature is no more problematic as a concept than English literature, however, then it must also undergo the same self-reflexive scrutiny that English literature has recently been subjected to. A number of commentators have rightly diagnosed Scottish literature as a field of study which has been much slower to examine its own constructedness, and to be less immediately open to the theoretical approaches that have radicalised the foundations of literary study, generally, since the 1980s.
Chapter 1 of this book undertakes the task of uncovering and interrogating the canonical construction of Scottish literature. Paradoxically, as we shall see, many of the literary commentators who did much to establish Scottish literature as one for distinctive scholarly investigation tended to see it, at best, as representing a broken and compromised cultural tradition. This is the case in what