The mutual gaze: the location(s) of Allan Ramsay and James Thomson within an emerging eighteenth-century British literature

Buntin, Melanie Clare (2015) The mutual gaze: the location(s) of Allan Ramsay and James Thomson within an emerging eighteenth-century British literature. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The primary aim of this thesis is to bring Allan Ramsay (1684-1748) and James Thomson (1700-1748) into close critical contact for the first time and, in so doing, deconstruct the paradigm of opposition which has previously attached to these two contemporaries. The thesis posits that the separation of Ramsay and Thomson has been effected, retrospectively, by the twentieth-century Scottish critical tradition. The narrow, cultural essentialism exhibited by this body of scholarship has been effectively challenged in recent decades by the work of Gerard Carruthers, and revisionary ‘Four Nations’ approaches to late eighteenth-century British literature have done much to reinstate the importance of what were previously viewed as marginal or peripheral literary locations. Ramsay and Thomson, however, have never been fully united in literary and cultural terms. This thesis demonstrates that Ramsay and Thomson shared, not only a chronological context, but also a creative context informed by a reciprocal engagement with the work of the other and posits that the relationship between these two lowland Scottish writers can be conceived of in terms of a sustained mutual gaze.
James Thomson remains entrenched within an English literary canon, despite the efforts of Mary Jane Scott to reclaim him for his native country. Conversely, Allan Ramsay remains firmly rooted in his native Scottish soil as the father of the vernacular revival and the epitome of literary and cultural resistance to a supposed English cultural hegemony in the wake of the 1707 Act of Union between Scotland and England. It is true that Ramsay’s and Thomson’s creative trajectories exemplify the literary choices and cultural paths available to a Scottish writer in the years immediately following the Union of Parliaments, but to set them in creative opposition as a result of these choices is a critical commonplace which this thesis challenges.
Thomson spent the greater part of his literary career in and around London, whilst Ramsay remained in Edinburgh until his death; clearly the corpora of these two writers were conditioned by the locations of their production. Hence, the thematic structure of this thesis relies on the notion of location, both physical and literary. The first two chapters of this thesis, ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘London’, illustrate the urban contexts of both writers; in so doing they suggest that a mutual gaze was sustained, not only between Ramsay and Thomson, but that a similarly reciprocal relationship and network of influence existed between the literary and cultural centres of Edinburgh and London. The third chapter of this thesis, ‘Nation’, traces the fluid and nuanced literary responses to the concept of nation in a period when national and literary boundaries were in a state of flux. The fourth and final chapter of this thesis, ‘Land’, explores the shifting aesthetic landscape of the period and, with an emphasis on mode and genre, demonstrates Ramsay’s and Thomson’s original contribution to an emerging British poetic, elucidated by an extended analysis of their poetry of place.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Eighteenth-century literature, British literature, Scottish literature, Allan Ramsay, James Thomson
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Brown, Dr. Rhona
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Miss Melanie C. Buntin
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6461
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2015 13:25
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2018 08:27

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