English Literature

Bella Caledonia: Woman, Nation, Text. (SCROLL: Scottish by Kirsten Stirling

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By Kirsten Stirling

Bella Caledonia: girl, kingdom, textual content appears to be like on the frequent culture of utilizing a feminine determine to symbolize the country, concentrating on twentieth-century Scottish literature. The woman-as-nation determine emerged in Scotland within the 20th century, yet as a literary determine instead of an institutional icon like Britannia or France's Marianne. Scottish writers utilize time-honored features of the trope similar to the protecting mom country and the lady as fertile land, that are evidently complex from a feminist viewpoint. yet darker implications, buried within the lengthy heritage of the determine, upward push to the outside in Scotland, reminiscent of woman/nation as sufferer, and woman/nation as deformed or enormous. because of Scotland's strange prestige as a country in the greater entity of significant Britain, the literary figures into account listed here are by no means easily incarnations of a convinced and entire kingdom nurturing her warrior sons. particularly, they mirror a extra glossy anxiousness in regards to the proposal of the country, and include a stricken and divided nationwide identification. Kirsten Stirling lines the advance of the twentieth-century Scotland-as-woman determine via readings of poetry and fiction through female and male writers together with Hugh MacDiarmid, Naomi Mitchison, Neil Gunn, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Willa Muir, Alasdair grey, A.L. Kennedy, Ellen Galford and Janice Galloway.

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Additional info for Bella Caledonia: Woman, Nation, Text. (SCROLL: Scottish Cultural Review of Language & Literature)

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This line is ambiguously placed and so it may merely be the drinking of which Jean is ignorant and not necessarily the contact with the mysterious woman. The very appearance of Jean in this section of the poem, however, serves to juxtapose the two female figures and to suggest the possibility of sexual infidelity. The Drunk Man finds himself caught between the forces of familiarity, physicality and home, represented by Jean, and the attractive, disruptive and foreign “other” woman. The disruption she causes is the same disruption caused by MacDiarmid’s eclectic assimilation of foreign literatures and philosophies within a poem which claims to be looking at “the thistle”.

However, the lack of any significant Scottish tradition of nation as woman means that writers have to look elsewhere for models. Established and thoroughly institutionalised figures such as Britannia and Marianne provided one model, but closer to home and also more relevant to Scotland’s political situation was the use of the nation-as-woman figure in the Irish Literary Revival, as in Yeats’ play Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902). The figure of Cathleen ni Houlihan is perhaps the finest example of a literary use of the nation-as-woman figure functioning as the inspiring genius of oppositional nationalism, and MacDiarmid explicitly acknowledges his appropriation of Yeats’ figure in his poem “The Gaelic Muse” (1985: 660).

Kurt Wittig suggests a schematic reading of the trilogy whereby this identification may be expanded throughout the trilogy and throughout the span of Chris’s life: “Chris, the woman, becomes, more and more ‘Chris Caledonia’”. She “comes from the land”, her marriage to the Highlander Ewan Tavendale signifies the union of Highlands and Lowlands, and her second husband, the Rev. Robert Colquhoun, represents the ties that bind state and religion in Scotland (Wittig 1958: 331). Various critics, engaging with Wittig’s claims, have attributed the phrase “Scotland herself” to Wittig, though in fact he takes it from Cloud Howe (Hagemann 1991: 189; Murray 1987: 109).

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