The Rise of Scottish Literature
In the last two decades of the twentieth century self-reflexive scrutiny of the discipline of ‘English Literature’ and ‘English Studies’ became a strongly marked feature in academic study. Within the framework of literary theory, this practice has sought to identify the ideological intent lying behind the rise of English as a subject in the nineteenth century, and its eventual supplanting of the classical humanities as the central arena in which literary criticism was conducted.1 It is fairly obvious that canons, or selections of writers and texts for study on courses and in critical writing, are both inclusive and exclusive, and seek to narrate a cultural ‘story’. A narrative foregrounded in the ‘English’ label is that of one particular nation among others in the British Isles, and yet English courses have long continued to include such ‘non-English’ writers as James Joyce, Dylan Thomas and Muriel Spark.
Might it be, then, that ‘English’ refers primarily to a lingua franca? And if this is the case, what is to be done, for example, with writing in Scots? Is this a different language from English or merely a ‘dialect’ of it? If it is the former, then presumably the need exists for a subject of ‘Scots Literature’? If it is the latter, then why have this dialect and its rich creative literature, along with many other dialects of English, been largely excluded from the study of English literature? In other words, in recent years scholars have worried over the dominant canonical logic lying behind English Literature and its comfortable narrowness, and one of the