Ecology and Modern Scottish Literature

Ecology and Modern Scottish Literature

Louisa Gairn
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Ecology and Modern Scottish Literature
    Book Description:

    This book presents a provocative and timely reconsideration of modern Scottish literature in the light of ecological thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3198-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Re-Mapping Modern Scottish Literature
    (pp. 1-13)

    This book suggests that the science and philosophy of ecology, which asks questions about being in the world, about ‘dwelling’ and ‘belonging’, and most fundamentally, about the relationship between humans and the natural environment, has been a valuable and significant concept in the work of Scottish writers since the mid-nineteenth century. When the Grampian novelist Nan Shepherd wrote that ‘Knowledge does not dispel mystery’, ‘the more one learns of this intricate interplay of soil, altitude, weather, and the living tissues of plant and insect . . . the more the mystery deepens’, she picked up on an important idea which...

  6. Chapter 1 Feelings for Nature in Victorian Scotland
    (pp. 14-45)

    The Scottish scientist Alexander Bain described his groundbreaking psychological treatise, The Senses and the Intellect, published just four years before Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), as a ‘first attempt to construct a natural history of the feelings’.² ‘Feeling’, in the Romantic period, had come to be associated with the emotions evoked by aesthetic or sentimental subjects, famously characterised by Henry MacKenzie’s >The Man of Feeling (1771), or the contemplation of the picturesque or the sublime in novels such as Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814) or in the poetry of William Wordsworth. However, Bain’s scientific approach to sensation and...

  7. Chapter 2 Strange Lands
    (pp. 46-76)

    Born in the Scottish east coast town of Dunbar in 1838, the environmentalist John Muir emigrated with his family to Wisconsin at the age of eleven. Very much a ‘lad o’ pairts’ in the Scottish tradition, Muir embarked on independent study in the rare hours he was spared from labouring on his father’s farm, and following some years of botanising and stravaiging across the American continent, was to become the founder of the North American national parks movement. Writing of his thousand mile walk from Indiana to the Gulf of New Mexico in 1867–8, Muir relates his experience of...

  8. Chapter 3 Local and Global Outlooks
    (pp. 77-109)

    Hugh MacDiarmid argued in the 1920s that the Scots vocabulary he had unearthed by reading Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language constituted a valuable ‘unutilized mass of observation’ which was a ‘vast storehouse of just the very peculiar and subtle effects which modern European literature in general is assiduously seeking’.¹ The crucial features of this vocabulary, for MacDiarmid, were precisely what had consigned it to obscurity: its roots in the Scottish rural environment, and its ability to describe and facilitate the relationships of rural people to that environment. MacDiarmid writes that the observational power implicit in the Scottish vernacular...

  9. Chapter 4 Dear Green Places
    (pp. 110-155)

    If the experience of war, urbanisation and technological innovation in earlier decades of the twentieth century had provoked a mixture of excitement and apprehension in Scottish writing, the events of the Second World War and its aftermath brought concerns about place, community and technology into even sharper focus. Personal experience of wartime Europe and fears about the atomic age, paralleled by a sense of expanding possibility in a world increasingly mediated by technology, led Edwin Muir in 1956 to question how ‘progress’ affects not only everyday life but, perhaps more fundamentally, the poetic imagination.

    Two hundred years ago, in the...

  10. Chapter 5 Lines of Defence
    (pp. 156-191)

    John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie and Alan Warner are three younger Scottish writers who are not only reviewing human relationships with nature, but also the role writing has to play in exploring and strengthening that relationship helping to determine the ecological ‘value’ of poetry and fiction. What I want to argue in this final chapter is that in Scotland, contemporary poetry, and lyricism more generally, constitute an ecological ‘line of defence’, providing a space in which reader and author can examine their relationship to the world around them. While these writers do not form a conscious ‘school’ or affiliation, they share...

  11. Index
    (pp. 192-198)