Buntin, Melanie Clare
Augustanism in Scotland: the pastoral and the georgic in the work of Allan Ramsay and James Thomson.
MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Contemporaries Allan Ramsay (1684-1758) and James Thomson (1700-1748) are two of Scotland’s most influential literary figures. Without the invention and impetus of these two writers, it is difficult to imagine how the work of Burns or Scott would have been possible. Ironically, the cultural legacy left by these two writers has, to a certain extent, been misunderstood by traditional criticism. Conventional criticism portrays Thomson as personifying a British literary identity while, conversely, Ramsay has been appropriated by Scottish nationalist criticism; for these critics Ramsay represents an ardent Scottish literary and cultural patriotism.
While these critical constructions are not without justification and validity, the portrayal of Ramsay and Thomson as literary opposites operating within separate cultural and national spheres is both reductive and misleading. Recent scholarship, that of Mary Jane Scott for example, has attempted to repatriate Thomson into the Scottish literary canon whilst critics such as Gerard Carruthers and Carol McGuirk have begun to explore the extent of Ramsay’s Augustan and nuanced British literary identity. In the course of this dissertation I will build upon this line of research as a more fruitful and less limiting formulation for interpreting the creative output of Scottish writers following the Union of 1707.
The term ‘Scottish Augustan’ has of course been used as a label for Scottish writers of this period in the past. I intend, however, to counter the often negative connotations of this label which render it a somewhat derogatory term for a group of Scottish writers who were contemporaneous with the English Augustans and who are perceived as mere imitators, and rather poor ones at that, of the literary styles and modes which were in literary currency in England during the period. In order to evaluate Ramsay's and Thomson's contribution to the Augustan milieu, this dissertation focuses on the way in which the pastoral and the georgic modes are manipulated in their corpora. By pursuing such a line of enquiry, I hope not to present an Anglocentric view of the period, in which Scottish writers are judged by the English Augustan norms and standards of the day, but to offer an alternative formulation whereby the creative contribution of Scottish writers becomes a significant factor in the development of a British literature in the wake of the Union of 1707.
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