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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Scottish Fiction 1880-1939 (ENLI10419)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will survey the development of fiction by Scottish writers from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s. The centre of its attention will be the arrival of 'Modernist' forms and concerns in fiction written by women in the 1920s; the preceding three weeks will prepare for this by examining formal experimentation and controversy among writers of the fin de siècle, and after essay completion week the course will conclude by discussing novels and stories from the 1930s. The approach taken will be generally historicist, understanding fiction as one among several social institutions through which readers experienced and understood the shifting social context in which they lived. But there will be a recurring concern with the gendering of the subject of this historical experience, from the tortured masculinities and femininities of the fin de siècle, through the liberated female protagonist after the Great War, to the folding of this feminine subject back into history in the work of Gibbon and Mitchison.
Course description

This course will survey the development of Scottish fiction in this period by linking formal and thematic experimentation to social tensions and ideological conflict. The social context introduced will include political liberalisation, including the introduction of a universal male franchise in 1918 and its extension to women in 1928; the intensification of class conflict in the General Strike of 1926 and in the Depression of the 1930s; and the appeal of Soviet Communism as a solution to this social and political crisis.

After an introductory week, the first three weeks will relate the new types of fiction being developed in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the very beginning of the twentieth to the social and political context to which it responded: the anti-realism of R.L. Stevenson, the formal expression of a scepticism towards political liberalism; the theological liberalism of sentimental 'Kailyard' fiction, and the Naturalist backlash against this at the turn of the century; and the racialised aestheticism of 'Celticist' narratives set in the Gáidhealtachd.

The following three weeks will be spent studying fiction written by women in the 1920s, which in various ways interrogate the new opportunities, but also the unresolved social conflicts, that followed the Great War. The course will examine the possibility that the gender of these writers, and of their female protagonists, was related to their adoption of modernist forms: that the reconfiguration of the modern writer's relation to the literary past, and history more generally, promised by these innovations acted as a formal correlative to the reconfiguring of women's social roles in the aftermath of the apocalypse of 1914-18.

The term essay, completed in week eight, will give students the chance to compare the fin de siècle texts with the post-war ones. Then in the last three weeks the course will turn to novels written in the 1930s, when the Great Depression had made the achievements of Bolshevik revolution all the more attractive, and the rise of Fascism prompted examinations of the course of human history, and the relation between science, democracy, and totalitarianism. It is in response to this that Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Naomi Mitchison fold the feminine subject of fiction from the 1920s back into narratives of historical change, whether that is the history of the Great War itself in Sunset Song, or the declining city states of third-century BCE Greece in The Delicate Fire. The course ends by coming full circle to the reconfigured (and re-masculinised) Celticism of Gunn's Highland River.

Each week, students will complete the assigned reading, both primary and secondary; watch/listen to a presentation by the course organiser on Learn outlining the social and cultural background to that week's text; meet in an ALG to prepare a short report on a set question, then come to the seminar ready to explain and discuss that question and those set for the other ALGs. Evidence of their achievement of the intended learning outcomes will be provided by the final essay.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) OR English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) OR Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016)) AND ( Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025) OR Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022) AND Scottish Literature 2B (ENLI08023) OR English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) AND Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the formal developments in Scottish fiction in relation to its social and political context between 1880 and 1939
  2. Produce close readings of narrative discourse that show understanding of formal techniques and the relationship between language, structure, genre and theme
  3. Critically evaluate and compare texts with reference to appropriate primary and secondary evidence
  4. Communicate critical arguments using appropriate academic English
Reading List


Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae (World's Classics)

George Douglas Brown, The House with the Green Shutters (Polygon)

Catherine Carswell, Open the Door! (Canongate)

Nan Shepherd, The Quarry Wood (Canongate)

Louis Grassic Gibbon, A Scots Quair (Penguin)

Neil Gunn, Highland River (Canongate)


Anderson, Carol and Aileen Christianson, eds. Scottish Women's Fiction, 1920s to 1960s: Journeys into Being (EUP)

Brown, Richard Danson and Suman Gupta, eds. Aestheticism and Modernism: Debating Twentieth-Century Literature 1900¿1960 (Routledge)

Dymock, Emma and Margery Palmer McCulloch, eds. Scottish and International Modernisms: Relationships and Reconfigurations (ASLS)

Fielding, Penny, ed. The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Louis Stevenson (EUP)

Gifford, Douglas and Dorothy McMillan, eds. A History of Scottish Women's Writing (EUP)

Hubble, Nick, Luke Seaber and Elinor Taylor, eds. The 1930s: A Decade of Modern British Fiction (Bloomsbury)

Nash, Andrew. Kailyard and Scottish Literature (Rodopi)

Norquay, Glenda, ed. The Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Women's Writing (EUP)

Price, Richard. The Fabulous Matter of Fact: the Poetics of Neil M. Gunn (1991)

Shaw, Michael. The Fin-de-Siècle Scottish Revival: Romance, Decadence and Celtic Identity (EUP)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Skills in the critical analysis of language, and in particular of narrative; historical consciousness; ideological self-consciousness; skills in constructing rational and evidence-based argument; articulacy, scepticism, and curiosity.
Additional Class Delivery Information one 2-hour Seminar per week;
one 1-hour Autonomous Learning Group per week (at time to be arranged)
KeywordsScottish Literature,women¿s writing,fiction,the novel,Modernism
Course organiserDr Robert Irvine
Tel: (0131 6)50 3605
Course secretaryMs June Cahongo
Tel: (0131 6)50 3620
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