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Literature in modern Scotland

 

Literature in modern Scotland

A bust of Hugh MacDiarmid in South Gyle, Edinburgh, the major figure in the Scottish Literary Renaissance

Literature in modern Scotland is literature written in Scotland, or by Scottish writers, since the beginning of the twentieth century. It includes literature written in English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots in forms including poetry, novels, drama and the short story.

In the early twentieth century there was a new surge of activity in Scottish literature, influenced by Scottish Gaelic Renaissance was largely due to the work of Sorley Maclean. The generation of poets that grew up in the postwar period included Douglas Dunn, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead. The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of a new generation of Scottish poets that became leading figures on the UK stage, including Don Paterson, Robert Crawford, Carol Ann Duffy, Kathleen Jamie and Jackie Kay.

Among the most important novels of the early twentieth century was William McIlvanney. From the 1980s Scottish literature enjoyed another major revival, with figures including Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner, Janice Galloway, A. L. Kennedy, Iain Banks, Candia McWilliam, Frank Kuppner and Andrew O'Hagan. In genre fiction Iain Banks, writing as Iain M. Banks, produced ground-breaking science fiction and Scottish crime fiction has been a major area of growth with the success of novelists including Frederic Lindsay, Quintin Jardine, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Christopher Brookmyre, and particularly Ian Rankin and his Inspector Rebus novels.[1] The most successful author of Scottish origins in recent years has been J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.[2]

David Greig investigated European themes.

Contents

  • Poetry 1
  • Novels 2
  • Drama 3
  • Notes 4

Poetry

Scott Makar

In the early twentieth century there was a new surge of activity in Scottish literature, influenced by Scots Makar (the official national poet), appointed by the inaugural Scottish government in 2004.[3]

The parallel revitalisation of Gaelic poetry, known as the Derick Thomson (Ruaraidh MacThòmais, 1921–2012) and Iain Crichton Smith (Iain Mac a' Ghobhainn, 1928–98). They all focused on the issues of exile, the fate of the Gaelic language and bi-culturalism.[4]

The generation of poets that grew up in the postwar period included Douglas Dunn (b. 1942), whose work has often seen a coming to terms with class and national identity within the formal structures of poetry and commenting on contemporary events, as in Barbarians (1979) and Northlight (1988). His most personal work is contained in the collection of Elegies (1985), which deal with the death of his first wife from cancer.[5] Tom Leonard (b. 1944), works in the Glaswegian dialect, pioneering the working class voice in Scottish poetry, although what has been described as his finest work "A priest came on at Merkland Street" is in English.[6] Like his friend Leonard, Aonghas MacNeacail (Angus Nicolson, b. 1942), amongst the most prominent post-war Gaelic poets, was influenced by new American poetry, particularly the Black Mountain School.[7] Liz Lochhead (b. 1947) also explored the lives of working-class people of Glasgow, but added an appreciation of female voices within a sometimes male dominated society.[5] The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of a new generation of Scottish poets that became leading figures on the UK stage, including Don Paterson (b. 1953), Robert Crawford (b. 1959), Carol Ann Duffy (b. 1955), Kathleen Jamie (b. 1962) and Jackie Kay (b. 1961).[1] Dundonians Paterson and Crawford have both produced esoteric work, which includes Paterson's ironically self-aware verse and Crawford's a metaphorically colourful re-imagining of Scottish history.[5] Kathleen Jamie has explored female aspirations, drawing on her experiences growing up in rural Renfrewshire and Jackie Kay has drawn on her experiences as a black child adopted by a working class Glasgow family.[5] Glasgow-born Duffy was named as Poet Laureate in May 2009, the first woman, the first Scot and the first openly gay poet to take the post.[8]

Novels

Among the most important novels of the early twentieth century was realist work that broke with the Kailyard tradition to depict modern Scottish society, using Scots language and disregarding nostalgia.[9] Also important was the work of John Buchan (1875–1940), who played a major role in the creation of the modern thriller with The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) and Greenmantle (1916). His prolific output included the historical novel Witchwood (1927), set in seventeenth-century Scotland, and the posthumously published Sick Heart River (1941), a study of physiological breakdown in the wilderness of Canada (of which Buchan was governor-general from 1936 until his death). His work was an important link between the tradition of Scot and Stevenson and the Scottish Renaissance.[2]

The first edition of John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), which played a major role in the creation of the modern thriller

The Scottish Renaissance increasingly concentrated on the novel, particularly after the 1930s when Hugh MacDiarmid was living in isolation in Shetland and its leadership moved to novelist prohibition America, and a critique of modern war in Private Angelo (1946). Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the pseudonym of James Leslie Mitchell, produced one of the most important realisations of the ideas of the Scottish Renaissance in his trilogy A Scots Quair (Sunset Song, 1932, Cloud Howe, 1933 and Grey Granite, 1934), which mixed different Scots dialects with the narrative voice.[2] Other works that investigated the working class included James Barke's (1905–58), Major Operation (1936) and The Land of the Leal (1939) and J. F. Hendry's (1912–86) Fernie Brae (1947).[2]

World War II had a greater impact on the novel than in poetry. It ended the careers of some novelists and delayed the start of others.[2] Many major Scottish post-war novelists, such as William McIlvanney's (b. 1936) Docherty (1975).[2]

Ian Rankin with the final volume in his Inspector Rebus series in 2007

From the 1980s Scottish literature enjoyed another major revival, particularly associated with a group of Glasgow writers focused around meetings in the house of critic, poet and teacher Philip Hobsbaum (1932–2005). Also important in the movement was Peter Kravitz, editor of Polygon Books.[1] These included Alasdair Gray (b. 1934), whose epic Lanark (1981) built on the working class novel to explore realistic and fantastic narratives. James Kelman’s (b. 1946) The Busconductor Hines (1984) and A Disaffection (1989) were among the first novels to fully utilise a working class Scots voice as the main narrator.[2] In the 1990s major, prize winning, Scottish novels that emerged from this movement included Gray's Poor Things (1992), which investigated the capitalist and imperial origins of Scotland in an inverted version of the Frankenstein myth,[2] Irvine Welsh's (b. 1958), Trainspotting (1993), which dealt with the drug addiction in 1980s Leith, Edinburgh, Alan Warner’s (b. 1964) Morvern Callar (1995), dealing with death and authorship and Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late (1994), a stream of consciousness novel dealing with a life of petty crime.[1] These works were linked by a reaction to Thatcherism that was sometimes overtly political, and explored marginal areas of experience using vivid vernacular language (including expletives and Scots dialect).[1]

Other notable authors to gain prominence in this period included Janice Galloway (b. 1956) with work such as The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989) and Foreign Parts (1994); A. L. Kennedy (b. 1965) with Looking for the Possible Dance (1993) and So I Am Glad (1995); Iain Banks (1954–2013) with The Crow Road (1992) and Complicity (1993); Candia McWilliam (b. 1955) with Debatable land (1994); Frank Kuppner (b. 1951) with Something Very Like Murder (1994); and Andrew O'Hagan (b. 1968) with Our Fathers (1999).[2] In genre fiction Iain Banks, writing as Iain M. Banks, produced ground-breaking science fiction.[2] Scottish crime fiction, known as Tartan Noir,[12] has been a major area of growth with the success of novelists including Frederic Lindsay (1933–2013), Quintin Jardine (b. 1945), Val McDermid (b. 1955), Denise Mina (b. 1966), Christopher Brookmyre (b. 1968), and particularly the success of Edinburgh's Ian Rankin (b. 1960) and his Inspector Rebus novels.[1] The most successful author of Scottish origins in recent years has been J. K. Rowling (b. 1965), author of the Harry Potter children's fantasy novels.[2]

Drama

J. M. Barrie (1860–1937) was amongst the most successful of Scottish literary exports, spending most of his career in England. His Peter Pan (1904), which began life as a play, is one best known stories in English. Barrie is often linked to the Kailyard movement and his early plays such as Quality Street (1901) and The Admirable Crichton (1902) deal with temporary inversions of the normal social order. His later works, such as Dear Brutus (1917) and Mary Rose (1920), focused on historical themes.[13] After Barrie the most successful Scottish playwrights of the early twentieth century were John Brandane and James Bridie, the pseudonyms, respectively, of doctors John Macintyre (1869–1947) and Osborne Mavor (1888–1951). Brandane's plays were often humorous explorations of the clash between modernity and tradition in Highland society, as in The Glen is Mine (1925).[10] Bridie emerged as a prolific playwright and a major figure in developing modern Scottish drama. As well as drawing on his medical experience, as in The Anatomist (1930), his plays included middle class satires such as The Sunlight Sonata (1928) and often called on biblical characters such as devils and angels, as in Mr. Bolfry (1943).[14] He was a member of the Scottish National Players (1924–43), who performed several of his plays and which aimed to produce a Scottish national theatre, but his view that they should become a professional company meant he resigned from the board.[15] He was a founder and first president of the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre (1943), a member of the body that became the Scottish Arts Council and was its first President (1947). He founded the College of Drama within the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, Glasgow (1951).[14]

James Bridie, one of the leading figures in Scottish theatre in the early twentieth century

The early twentieth century saw the emergence of a tradition of popular or working class theatre. Hundreds of amateur groups were established, particularly in the growing urban centres of the Lowlands. Many were offshoots of the Workers' Theatre Movement (WTM) and the Unity Theatre Society (UTS). Among the most important were the Fife Miner Players (1926–31), Glasgow Workers' Theatre Group (1937–41) and Glasgow Unity Theatre (1941–51), which lay the ground for modern popular theatre groups.[16] Important playwrights in the movement included former miner Joe Corrie (1894–1968), whose plays included In Time o' Strife (1927), based on the events of the general strike the year before.[17] The Scottish Repertory Theatre was the first Scottish company to encourage native playwrights. In the interwar period its aim was taken up by other amateur companies, particularly the Curtain Theatre, Glasgow,[16] who "discovered" the work of Robert McLellan (1907–85), including his first full length play Toom Byers (1936) and his best known work Jamie the Saxt (1936). A talented comic dramatist, his commitment to the use of Lallans limited his impact on the wider theatrical world.[18]

The shift to drama that focused on working class life in the post-war period gained momentum with Robert McLeish's The Gorbals Story (1946), which dealt with the immense social problems of urban Scotland.[19] Similarly, Cyrano de Bergerac The political and funding climate changed radically after the failure of the

The 1960s and 1970s also saw the flourishing of Scottish Gaelic drama. Key figures included Iain Crichton Smith, whose plays explored wide ranging themes. Often humorous, they also dealt with serious topics such as the betrayal of Christ in An Coileach (A Cockerel, 1966) of the Highland Clearances in A' Chùirt (The Court, 1966).[26] Iain Moireach's plays also used humour to deal with serious subjects, as in Feumaidh Sinn a Bhith Gàireachdainn (We Have to Laugh, 1969), which focused on threats to the Gaelic language. Other major figures included Tormod Calum Dòmhnallach (1927–2000), whose work included Anna Chaimbeul (Anna Campbell, 1977), which was influenced by Japanese Noh theatre. Fionnlagh MacLeòid's (Finley Macleod) work included Ceann Cropic (1967), which was strongly influenced by the theatre of the absurd. Similarly, Donaidh MacIlleathain (Donnie Maclean), made use of absurd dialogue in An Sgoil Dhubh (A Dark School, 1974). Many of these authors continued writing into the 1980s and even the 1990s, but this was something of a golden age for Gaelic drama that has not been matched.[27]

In the 1970s a large number of plays explored the nature of Scottish identity.[25] Historical dramas included Stewart Conn's (b. 1936) The Burning (1971) and Hector Macmillan's (b. 1929) The Rising (1973). Workplace dramas included Bill Bryden's (b. 1942) Willy Rough (1975) and Roddy McMillan's The Bevellers (1973). These plays opened the way for a new form of independent and politically committed community theatre. The trend was kicked off by 7:84 (1971–2008), with their 1973 production of John McGrath's (1935–2002) The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil. McGrath's work, such as The Game's a Bogey (1974), was socialist in intent and took the part of resurgent Scottish nationalism. Independent theatre companies that formed along the lines of this model included TAG (1967–),[2] Borderline Theatre Company (1974–) and Wildcat Stage Productions (1978–).[16]

Rehearsal room at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow

A Scottish theatrical renaissance has been perceived by Ian Brown as occurring between the opening of the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 1963 and the foundation of the Scottish Society of Playwrights in 1973.[23] The Theatres Act 1968 abolished the system of censorship of the stage by the Lord Chamberlain that had existed in Great Britain since 1737. This allowed much greater artistic freedom, but local authorities in Scotland still retained the ability to prosecute "obscene performances" under local by-laws and statutes.[24]

[22] The

[19] (1992). Scottish playwrights were also increasingly preoccupied with wider European culture, as can be seen in Jo Clifford's (b. 1955) Loosing Venice (1985) and David Greig's (b. 1969) Europe (1995).[29]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q C. Craig, "Culture: modern times (1914–): the novel", in M. Lynch, ed., The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-19-211696-7, pp. 157–9.
  3. ^
  4. ^ J. MacDonald, "Gaelic literature" in M. Lynch, ed., The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-19-211696-7, pp. 255–7.
  5. ^ a b c d "Scottish poetry" in S. Cushman, C. Cavanagh, J. Ramazani and P. Rouzer, eds, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition (Princeton University Press, 2012), ISBN 1400841429, pp. 1276–9.
  6. ^ G. Carruthers, Scottish Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), ISBN 074863309X, pp. 67–9.
  7. ^ R. Crawford, Scotland's Books: A History of Scottish Literature] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), ISBN 019538623X, p. 653.
  8. ^
  9. ^ C. Craig, "Culture: age of industry (1843–1914): literature", in M. Lynch, ed., The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-19-211696-7, pp. 149–51.
  10. ^ a b R. Crawford, Scotland's Books: a History of Scottish Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), ISBN 0-19-538623-X, p. 587.
  11. ^ P. Barnaby and T. Hubbard, "The international reception and impact of Scottish literature of the period since 1918", in I. Brown, ed., The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature: Modern transformations: new identities (from 1918) (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), ISBN 0748624821, p. 32.
  12. ^ P. Clandfied, "Putting the 'black' into 'tartan noir'" in Julie H. Kim, ed., Race and Religion in the Postcolonial British Detective Story: Ten Essays (McFarland, 2005), ISBN 0786421754, p. 221.
  13. ^ R. Crawford, Scotland's Books: A History of Scottish Literature] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), ISBN 019538623X, pp. 510–12.
  14. ^ a b G. H. Cody and E. Sprinchorn, ed., The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama (Columbia University Press, 2007), ISBN 0231144229, p. 199.
  15. ^ C. Craig and R. Stevens, Twentieth Century Scottish Drama (Canongate Books, 2010), ISBN 1847674747, p. 209.
  16. ^ a b c M. Banham, The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), ISBN 0521434378, p. 971.
  17. ^ J. MacDonald, "Theatre in Scotland" in B. Kershaw and P. Thomson, The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), ISBN 0521651328, p. 203.
  18. ^ J. MacDonald, "Theatre in Scotland" in B. Kershaw and P. Thomson, The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), ISBN 0521651328, p. 204.
  19. ^ a b J. MacDonald, "Theatre in Scotland" in B. Kershaw and P. Thomson, The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), ISBN 0521651328, p. 208.
  20. ^ N. Holdsworth, "Case study: Ena Lamont Stewart's Men Should Weep 1947", in B. Kershaw and P. Thomson, The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), ISBN 0521651328, p. 228.
  21. ^ C. Harvie, No Gods and Precious Few Heroes: Twentieth-century Scotland (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), ISBN 0748609997, pp. 136–8.
  22. ^ W. Shrum, Fringe and Fortune: The Role of Critics in High and Popular Art (Princeton University Press, 1996), ISBN 0691026572, pp. 63–7.
  23. ^ I. Brown, "Processes and interactive events: theatre and Scottish devolution", in S. Blandford, ed., Theatre and Performance in Small Nations (Bristol: Interlect, 2013), p. 36.
  24. ^ R. Davidson and G. Davis, The Sexual State: Sexuality and Scottish Governance 1950–80 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), ISBN 074864945X.
  25. ^ I. Brown, "Processes and interactive events: theatre and Scottish devolution", in S. Blandford, ed., Theatre and Performance in Small Nations (Bristol: Interlect, 2013), p. 37.
  26. ^ I. Brown, "Processes and interactive events: theatre and Scottish devolution", in S. Blandford, ed., Theatre and Performance in Small Nations (Bristol: Interlect, 2013), pp. 37–8.
  27. ^ M. Mcleod and M. Watson, "In the shadow of the bard: the Gaelic short story, novel and drama", in I. Brown, ed., The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature: Modern transformations: new identities (from 1918) (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), ISBN 0748624821, p. 282.
  28. ^ J. MacDonald, "Theatre in Scotland" in B. Kershaw and P. Thomson, The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), ISBN 0521651328, pp. 218–19.
  29. ^ J. MacDonald, "Theatre in Scotland" in B. Kershaw and P. Thomson, The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), ISBN 0521651328, p. 223.
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