Hall, Simon W.
The history of Orkney literature.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The history of Orkney literature is the first full survey of the literature of the Orkney Islands. It examines fiction, non-fiction and poetry that is uncomplicatedly Orcadian, as well as that which has been written about Orkney by authors from outside the islands. Necessarily, the work begins with the great Icelandic chronicle Orkneyinga Saga. Literary aspects of the saga are examined, as well as its place within the wider sphere of saga writing. Most significantly, this study examines how the saga imposes itself on the work of subsequent writers. The book goes on to focua on the significance of Orkney and Orkney history in the work of a number of key nineteenth- and twentieth-century figures, including Sir Walter Scott, Edwin Muir, Eric Linklater, Robert Rendall and George Mackay Brown. The Victorian folklorist and short story writer Walter Traill Dennison is re-evaluated: The History of Orkney Literature demonstrates his central significance to the Orcadian tradition and argues for the relevance of his work to the wider Scottish canon. A fixation with Orkney history is common to all the writers considered herein. This preoccupation necessitates a detailed consideration of the core historiography of J. Storer Clouston. Other non-fiction works which are significant in the creation of this distinctly Orcadian literary identity include Samuel Laing's translation of Heimskringla; the polemical writings of David Balfour; and the historical and folklore studies of Ernest Walker Marwick. The study welcomes many writers into the fold, seeking to map and define a distinctly Orcadian tradition. This tradition can be considered a cousin of Scottish Literature. Although the writing of Orkney is a significant component of Scottish Literature at various historical stages, it nevertheless follows a divergent course. Both the eighteenth century Vernacular Revival and the twentieth century Literary Renaissance facilitate literary work in the islands which nevertheless remains distinctly independent in character. Indigenous Orcadian writers consider themselves to be Orcadians first and Scots or Britons second. Regardless of what they view as their national or political identity, their sense of insular cultural belonging is uniformly and pervasively Orcadian. What emerges is a robust, distinctive and very tight-knit minor literature.
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