Scottish Writing in English
With Scottish literature in Scots we have a fairly obvious marker of a cultural, at least geographic, distinction. However, from the seventeenth century at least there is the complicating phenomenon of the Ulster-Scots language out of which has developed a very worthwhile literature on the island of Ireland. We might also consider the fact that William Wordsworth, when first encountering the poetry of Robert Burns, claimed that this was a language very familiar to him because of the kinship of his native Cumbrian ‘English’. The fact remains, however, that since the eighteenth century to the present a far greater quantity of creative literature published by Scottish people either in or furth (outside) of Scotland has been written in English. Very often this literature has been as interested in Scottish subject-matter as any other writing in Scots or Gaelic, and has been frequently accepted into the Scottish literary canon. As we have seen, however, some writing in English by Scottish people has seemed to some critics either indifferent to, or even worse to be a perversion of, the national interest in some sense. This brings us to pose some large questions: must Scottish literature always speak to Scotland specifically, as opposed to ‘merely’ the world at large, and must it do so in some properly pro-Scottish fashion?