The influence of Calvinism on Scottish literature

Ewing, James Murdoch (2004) The influence of Calvinism on Scottish literature. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the influence which Calvinism has had on Scottish literature, directly as a theme in itself and indirectly as a social influence on the history of the nation. We have concentrated on a small group of novels, written between 1816 and 1824, which represent the peak of Calvinism as a literary influence in the historical theme of the Covenanting movement and the theological theme of hyper-Calvinism, which themes we treat separately. Before our main critique, we examine in Part One of this thesis the theological and historical background of the novels concerned. In Section I, we trace the development of Calvinism from the works of Calvin himself to a hyper-Calvinism which Calvin would scarcely have recognised, then give an account of the historical background to the Covenanting movement, that the literature may be fully appreciated and understood in its historical and theological context. Section II sketches the influences which came to the fore in the Enlightenment, which provide the immediate cultural background for the writers whose work we examine. We give special attention here to the influence of Robert Burns, who, we argue, made possible the theological debate which we examine in Parts Two and Three by tackling theological themes in his work. Part Two examines over six sections the literary portrayals of the Covenanters and the Killing Times in selected works of Scott, Hogg and Galt. Section I explains briefly how the novels came to be written and how they were seen to relate to each other; Sections II, III and IV in turn give theological critiques of Scott's Old Mortality, Hogg's The Brownie of Bodsbeck and Galt's Ringan Gilhaize. We also demonstrate in Section IV how Galt portrays the social and theological changes in Scotland during the Enlightenment period. Section V examines the various novels' distinct portrayals of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, equally lambasted as "Bloody Clavers" and lauded as "Bonnie Dundee"; his characterisation is a key element to understanding each author's sympathies and prejudices. Section VI examines how the novels portray the prevailing superstition of the times and in light of this ponders how well established Reformed theology was in Scotland and the implications for the claim that Scotland was a Covenanted nation. In Part Three, we examine the portrayal of hyper-Calvinism in the psychological novel. While we note Scott's portrayal of the psychological turmoil of Jeannie Deans and her father in The Heart of Midlothian as they confront a crisis of faith, we mainly give a critique of Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner as an exposition of the consequences of the extrapolation of a certain theological thesis to its logical conclusion. Part Four highlights the decreasing influence of Calvinism and theology in general after the first quarter of the 19th century. We give an overview of our findings in our Conclusion; our personal considerations on the relevance of Calvinism in Scottish life and literature today we reserve for a Postscript.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: English literature, Religion
Date of Award: 2004
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2004-71238
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:49
Last Modified: 10 May 2019 10:49
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71238

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