Beyond the antisyzygy : Bakhtin and some modern Scottish writers
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This dissertation shows how beneficial the ideas of the Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin are when used to investigate both classical and more recent Scottish writing. An exploration of how a desire for a Scottish literary identity early in this century became inextricably bound up with a sense of historical necessity and psychological division, known as the Caledonian Antisyzygy, forms the basis for the first section of this work. The limitations of this mode of thinking and its failure as a 'theory' are then exposed and compared with the greater benefits of Bakhtinian thought. Succeeding chapters lead the reader from the vision of an historically centered and 'fixed' perception of Scottish literature that dominated the early decades of this century, to one which offers the possibility of endless interpretation. Close analysis of works by Robert Burns, James Hogg, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Hugh MacDiarmid investigate how useful Bakhtin's theories are for reinterpreting classic Scottish texts. The remaining chapters analyze works by a selection of contemporary Scottish poets and novelists (Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, Tom Leonard, Edwin Morgan, Liz Lochhead, and Muriel Spark) in an effort to display both the continuity of a literary tradition and the applicability of Bakhtin's ideas of dialogic interaction and carnival response to recent fiction and poetry that is concerned with the preservation of unique yet pluralistic community identities. It will be shown how Bakhtin's work lends itself to the project of freeing cultural identity from the bonds of a linguistic, historical, and geographical determination that is based on sterile oppositional constructs.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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