Rhetoric and literary criticism in the early Scottish Enlightenment

McLean, Ralph R. (2009) Rhetoric and literary criticism in the early Scottish Enlightenment. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2670514


In recent years the importance of the Scottish contribution to rhetoric and literary criticism has begun to be fully recognised by historians and literary critics. Men such as Hugh Blair, Adam Smith and George Campbell have now been afforded a just place in the canon of literary critics. However, the period before the 1760s which saw a great flourishing in Scottish intellectual activity has, by in large, remained untouched. The main purpose of this thesis is to rehabilitate those thinkers in Scotland who were active in the period before this, and who began to change the boundaries of rhetoric and literary criticism, which ultimately paved the way for their fellow countrymen to export their own systems to Europe and the wider Atlantic world.
In addition to this, the thesis addresses two other major concerns. Firstly, it will argue that Scotland in this period does not deserve to be viewed as merely a cultural province of England, reacting solely to its larger neighbour’s cultural agenda. Instead, the Scots were engaged in a European-wide exchange of ideas which allowed them to develop a system of rhetoric and literary criticism which was richer than a brand that was developed only in response to English cultural pressure. Secondly, the thesis will demonstrate the importance of the classical influence on Scottish thinkers in their attempts to forge a new style of rhetoric for modern consumption.
The structure of the thesis has been set in such a way as to provide a balance between the development of rhetoric in regional enlightenment centres, in terms of both university and club activity, and its development and progression in the traditional institutions of Scotland: the parliament, the church and the law. The first three chapters focus on Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and chart the different influences that each city was subjected to, that in turn led to the construction of differing, yet still in many respects, complementary systems. Within the universities themselves, the figures of Thomas Blackwell of Aberdeen, Francis Hutcheson of Glasgow, and John Stevenson of Edinburgh, merit substantial analysis for their role in this process, not only for the influence which they exerted on future generations of literary critics in Scotland and abroad, but also for their own contributions to the discipline, which have been frequently overlooked. The focus on the regional varieties of Enlightenment also permits for a discussion of club activity in Scotland, which was an integral part of the Scottish Enlightenment. This will demonstrate that the growth of rhetoric and literary criticism in the country was not the sole preserve of the educated elites, but was something which could be accessed from all levels of society.
The second half of the thesis focuses on the institutions of Scotland. This section seeks to restore to parity, sources such as political pamphlets, sermons and style books which, under the rules of modern day criticism that concerns itself with only a narrow band of literature, have become overlooked as a foundation for rhetorical development. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to assess the contribution to the advance in critical theory of those individuals such as Lord Kames and Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh who did so away from the universities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Rhetoric, Literary Criticism, Literary Theory, Belles-Lettres, Classicism, Scoto-Latinity, Religion, Politics, Eighteenth Century, Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Club culture, Thomas Blackwell, David Fordyce, John Stevenson, Charles Mackie, Thomas Ruddiman, William Leechman, Francis Hutcheson, George Mckenzie, John Maclaurin, John Witherspoon, Lord Kames, Hugh Blair, Adam Smith, Daniel Defoe, Union of 1707, Douglas Controversy.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Kidd, Professor Colin and Carruthers, Dr. Gerard
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr Ralph R McLean
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-802
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:26
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/802

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