English 166

Special Topics: Scotland and Romanticism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2015 Duncan, Ian
MWF 11-12 229 Dwinelle

Book List

Burns, Robert : Selected Poems and Songs; Hogg, James: Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner; Johnson, Samuel and Boswell, James: Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides; Momus: The Book of Scotlands; Scott, Walter: Rob Roy; Smollett, Tobias: Humphry Clinker; Stevenson, Robert Louis: Kidnapped; Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Master of Ballantrae; Wordsworth, Dorothy: Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland

Other Readings and Media

A course reader featuring additional readings by James Macpherson, Margaret Oliphant, and others.


Between 1760 and 1830 Scotland was one of the centers of the European-North Atlantic “Republic of Letters.” Here were invented the signature forms and discourses of 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, and 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 still holds today: although debates around the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence have drawn sparingly on the nostalgic appeal of Romantic Scotland, to the surprise of some. Our course will consider the production of Romanticism by Scottish writers and institutions as well as its consumption in tourist itineraries and media fantasies. We will discuss the problem that Scotland poses for the definition of Romanticism: on one hand, it's the original Romantic nation, and on the other (according to the critical orthodoxy of the past sixty years) it's the locus of an untimely, inauthentic or pathological Romanticism. We will read works from the key Scottish innovations in poetry and fiction (James Macpherson's "Poems of Ossian"; Robert Burns and the vernacular poetry revival; Walter Scott, James Hogg, and historical fiction) in the long eighteenth century; consider the versions of Scotland discovered (and constructed) by English literary visitors (Samuel Johnson, William and Dorothy Wordsworth); and we will look at the legacy of Romantic Scotland in the current rethinking of Scotland’s status within the British state, in Victorian and contemporary Scottish fiction, poetry and critical writing.

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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