Scottish Studies Fall Colloquium: Popular Culture in Scotland and Abroad
Date and Time
Robert Whitelaw Room (246), McLaughlin Library
Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillion brent-new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge
- Robert Burns, Tam o’ Shanter
The popularity of Robert Burns, the “Ploughman Poet” highlights the way in which Scottish popular culture has been central to the construction and maintenance of Scottish national identity. In the aftermath of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, The Guardian posed the question: “What does it mean to be Scottish?” and sought their answer in children’s books which were set in Scotland, which included Scottish characters, or whose authors drew on Scottish culture and heritage (26 Aug 2014). The question of cultural identity have long preoccupied historical and contemporary Scots and their descendants, who have often searched for answers in forms of popular narrative and popular print culture.
Popular literature is produced by and for the masses and is, by definition, often accessible to a large percentage of the population. Though literacy and access have waxed and waned over time, this literature nevertheless reaches beyond its initial readership to resonate with and respond to the ideologies of the society that produced it. In the nineteenth century, especially, Edinburgh and Glasgow served as hubs for popular literature that went on to be read in Scotland and abroad including newspapers, chapbooks, broadsides and other materials. Approximately 200 000 chapbooks sold every year between 1750 and 1850. These materials drew on oral and literary traditions and circulated widely among a large audience in Scotland and abroad. While the authors of many of these texts claimed that their work was rooted in Scottish history, many also stressed their origins in contemporary Scottish society and culture.
Scottish popular culture is diverse, but it has also had a longstanding association with the supernatural. Present in nearly all popular genres and traditions are references to early modern witchhunt ghosts, fairies and other elements of folk belief and ‘superstition’. These proliferated from the sixteenth century and through the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Though extant sources are mostly in written form, in many cases, these sources represented (or claimed to represent) a ‘vanishing’ oral culture and sought to preserve and reinforce vanishing Scottish traditions.
This year, the Centre for Scottish Studies Fall Colloquium is providing a platform for further discussion on Scottish popular culture in Scotland and Scottish communities abroad.
Coffee, tea, refreshments and a light lunch are provided to registrants.
General Public - $40
Members of the Scottish Studies Foundation - $35
Students - $15