In Volume I of The Literature of Scotland it is proposed that there have been three periods of outstandingly rich achievement in the long narrative of Scottish writing. The first two of these, which are the concern of the first volume The Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century, would include the poetry of the makars from the fifteenth century and then the extraordinary period of renewal and revival that saw the Enlightenment — an outpouring of vernacular literature in Scots and Gaelic; and a major engagement with Scottish history and identity in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. The third and in some ways the most striking of these developments takes us to the ‘Modern. Scottish Literary Renaissance’ and the later productions of the twentieth century. Such is the remit of this second volume. The division, however, is no more than a formal device, for we never really throw off the ghosts and the books of the past, and their traces are more than evident in the work of many modern Scottish authors. Thus James Robertson’s novel The Fanatic is haunted by Hogg’s Confessions — nor is he the only contemporary writer to be so visited. Andrew Greig’s fiction refers to John Buchan and the Scottish ballads; novels by Neil Gunn and Iain Crichton Smith revisit the Clearances, while Sir Walter Scott is re-imagined by Allan Massie. Thus Edwin Muir, Fionn Mac Colla, Liz Lochhead and many more try to come to terms with the ghost of John Knox.
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