General advice for the Individual Paper
General advice for the final essay
The second assignment invites you to relate the course content to some theoretical questions. To do this successfully, you should relate some - but not necessarily all! - of the texts and authors covered to one of the three questions set for the assignment. You need to demonstrate (i) your familiarity and engagement with some of the research literature on the topic of your choice, and (ii) your familiarity and engagement with relevant Scottish texts and authors that you will select and use to illustrate or challenge the claims made in the research literature.
1. The first question considers the nature of a national literature. TS Eliot claims in his 1919 book review of Gregory Smith's volume on Scottish Literature that ... such a thing as 'Scottish Literature' does not exist. His book review is a brief articulation - by one of the most influential poets and cultural critics of the early 20th century - of his views of what a national literature should be, and why Scotland's literature does not meet those criteria. Alan Riach's response revisits Eliot's essay from the perspective of the current century and challenges Eliot's earlier views. By considering both perspectives, I am hoping you will be prompted to consider how a 'national' literature can be conceived, and that you will argue whether or not Scottish literature can usefully be considered a separate subject. I obviously have my views, but I don't necessarily expect you to share them.
2. The second question addresses the use of Scots as a literary language. The use of Scots has been a constant feature of the past 500 years of poetic, dramatic and fictional writing - but the nature and function of Scots has changed substantially over those 500 years. This essay invites you to look at a range of historical writing in Scots and comment on the character, range and limitations of the langauge as a literary medium.
3. Much of the discussion of non-hegemonic national literatures has focused on their resistance to imperial 'hegemonic' literatures - and some would see the nationalist focus as a distraction from other issues that should concern writers and readers - issues like economic oppression, racial discrimination, gender inequality, etc. These issues do not respect national borders. So, first of all, does it make sense to see Scottish Literature as resisting the hegemony of imperialism? Secondly, does it make sense to think of internationally acclaimed authors like Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Muriel Spark as narrowly 'Scottish' writers? Does their work resist or participate in hegemony? And finally, is the focus on the 'Scottishness' of Scottish Literature a distraction from broader concerns that the literature addresses? Or is it a valuable exercise to focus on the Scottishness of Scottish Literature?
Over the final weeks of the course, some of these issues will come up, directly or indirectly, in the lectures. I'll also keep posting on moodle some articles and references that address these questions.
This guidance is given in the hope that it will help you to structure your discussions - but it should not impose on you a particular perspective or constrain your own working out of an argument in support of your own position. I'm also hoping you will enjoy the activity. Good luck!