Desire for perpetuation : fairy writing and re-creation of national identity in the narratives of Walter Scott, John Black, James Hogg and Andrew Lang
This thesis argues that ‘fairy writing’ in the nineteenth-century Scottish literature serves as a peculiar site which accommodates various, often ambiguous and subversive, responses to the processes of constructing new national identities occurring in, and outwith, post-union Scotland. It contends that a pathetic sense of loss, emptiness and absence, together with strong preoccupations with the land, and a desire to perpetuate the nation which has become state-less, commonly underpin the wide variety of fairy writings by Walter Scott, John Black, James Hogg and Andrew Lang. The disappearing fairies and elusive fairy queens who haunt subterranean realms, together with the immaterialised and etherealised homeland, are frequently depicted in the works of fairy writing explored in this study. While they metaphorise the loss of the state, the rightful monarch and the old national identity, they also serve to symbolically, and strategically, immortalise the Scottish nation through mythification and romanticisation within the subliminal textual layers of fairy writing. Choosing four authors in Scottish literature, this thesis explores the spectrum of the wide range of fairy writing created during the long nineteenth century, shedding new light on the contrast, as well as the echoes, between Romantic and Victorian writing. It specifically suggests that fairy narratives by Black and Hogg display ironic self-consciousness of those who were involved in the processes of cultural nation-building in the post-union Britain. This thesis also contends that Scottish fairy writing serves as a problematic site of experimentation where different genres, values and ideas clash and conflict, generating intensified tension, and rarely bringing negotiation without haunting aftertaste. It is contended that genre-mixing is a common methodological feature employed by the four authors, and moreover, that the act of genre-mixing itself is metaphorical of the creation of new and hybrid national identity, which also foregrounds its artificiality, inventedness and internal cracks. This study reassesses a long-forgotten material: The Falls of Clyde (1806) by John Black. It also draws attention to the relatively ‘marginal’ texts by Scott and Hogg, and attempts a radical interpretation of Langian works, arguing that Lang played a significant role in the processes of the diasporic re-imagining of Scottishness which were arguably undertaken outside Scotland by Briticised elites, and are a neglected yet important part of post-Union Scottish nation writing. Drawing on a wide range of texts and paratexts, this study foregrounds a profound complicity in the conceptions of Scotland and national identity inscribed in fairy narratives, perceiving the sub-genre as a site of realism rather than fantasy.