English 165

Special Topics: Scotland and Romanticism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2009 Duncan, Ian
Duncan, Ian
TTh 11-12:30 121 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

The Best Laid Schemes: Selected Poetry and Prose of Robert Burns, ed. Crawford and Maclachlan; Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides; Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker; Dorothy Wordsworth, Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland; Walter Scott, Rob Roy and Old Mortality or The Bride of Lammermoor (with Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor); James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner; Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped or The Master of Ballantrae or Weir of Hermiston; Margaret Oliphant, “The Library Window”. Readings in other poetry (A. Ramsay, R. Fergusson, Macpherson, the ballad revival, W. Wordsworth) and Scottish Enlightenment philosophy will be made available in a course reader, along with relevant critical and historical selections.


Between 1760 and 1830 Scotland was one of the generative centers of the European-North Atlantic “Republic of Letters.” Here were invented the signature forms and discourses of both the “Enlightenment” and “Romanticism” (terms for cultural movements and historical periods that were invented later): social history, anthropology, political economy, the indigenous epic, the poetry of popular life, the historical novel. Scotland also became a notable place within the symbolic geography of Romanticism – a site of lost worlds of tradition and allegiance, of ghosts and heroes, an imaginary role it continues to hold today. Our course will consider the production of Romanticism by Scottish writers and institutions as well as its consumption in tourist itineraries and literary fantasies. We will discuss the problem that Scotland poses for the definition of Romanticism: on one hand, it is the original Romantic nation, and on the other, according to the critical orthodoxy of the past sixty years, the locus of an untimely or inauthentic Romanticism. Topics to be explored include: the idea of a national literature and its relations to history, religion, language, culture, region, origins, the past, the people; the idea of modernity (civil society, commerce, liberalism, enlightenment) and its ideological and political adversaries (Jacobites, Covenanters; the primitive, the fanatic); the Highlands as a site of historical catastrophe and trauma, of tourism and adventure. We will read works from the key Scottish innovations in poetry and fiction (James Macpherson’s “Poems of Ossian”; Robert Burns and the vernacular poetic revival; Walter Scott, James Hogg, and historical fiction); we will also look at the discourses of history, sentiment, the imagination and primitivism in the Scottish Enlightenment human sciences (Hume, Smith, Ferguson, Blair, Monboddo). We will consider the versions of Scotland discovered (and constructed) by English literary visitors (Samuel Johnson, William and Dorothy Wordsworth); and, if we have time, we’ll look at some late-Victorian revisitations of Scottish Romanticism, by Margaret Oliphant and Robert Louis Stevenson.

This section of English 165 satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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