'Nature's making' : James Hogg and the autodidactic tradition in Scottish poetry.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis explores the autodidactic tradition in Scottish poetry during the nineteenth century. From the late eighteenth century onwards self-taught Scottish poets offered a vigorous alternative to the literary mainstream. Autodidacts explored both oral and literary styles and genres, utilising a wide frame of reference to express their unique experiences and ideas. Diversity of poetic voice characterises autodidactic poets, including Robert Burns, Janet Little, Allan Cunningham, Alexander Anderson and James Young Geddes. However, Scottish autodidacts shared poetic concerns and techniques, and were highly influenced by their compeers. It is suggested that James Hogg, 'the Ettrick Shepherd' is the central and most significant figure in forming a Scottish autodidactic identity.
There are three major sections to the thesis. Part One looks at the origins of the 'peasant poet' image in the national context, exploring prototypes such as Ramsay's The Gentle Shepherd (1725), Macpherson's Ossian and Burns as 'Heaven-taught ploughman'. The middle section concentrates on Hogg, illustrating the precise ways in which he explored and, at times, resented his peasant poet typecasting. Works considered include Scottish Pastorals (1801), The Mountain Bard (1807 and 1821), The Queen's Wake (1813), The Poetic Mirror (1816), The Royal Jubilee (1822), Queen Hynde (1825), Pilgrims of the Sun (1815 and 1822) and A Queer Book (1832). Part Three discusses Scottish autodidacticism as it developed after Hogg, discerning subgroups within the peasant poet category.
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