‘The Gael Will Come Again’: Reconstruction of a Gaelic world in the work of Neil M. Gunn and Hugh MacDiarmid

Paterson, Fiona E. (2020) ‘The Gael Will Come Again’: Reconstruction of a Gaelic world in the work of Neil M. Gunn and Hugh MacDiarmid. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Neil Gunn and Hugh MacDiarmid are popularly linked with regards to the Scottish Literary Renaissance, the nation’s contribution to international modernism, in which they were integral figures. Beyond that, they are broadly considered to have followed different creative paths, Gunn deemed the ‘Highland novelist’ and MacDiarmid the extremist political poet. This thesis presents the argument that whilst their methods and priorities often differed dramatically, the reconstruction of a Gaelic world - the ‘Gaelic Idea’ - was a focus in which the writers shared a similar degree of commitment and similar priorities.

Both writers tackled the question of Scottish identity on a local and national level. An integral feature of this task was the issue of reclaiming Gaelic identity in a manner which was suitable for modernity and yet respectfully preserved its ancient and classical values. The term ‘Gaelic’, applied to the collective identity of the Highlands and Islands, is defined not only by the historic and continued use of the Gaelic language but by the region’s distinct social and economic structures, relationship with nature, and cultural heritage. This is summed up in the word ‘dùthchas’, a concept coined by Gaelic scholars and one to which this thesis will return. Gunn and MacDiarmid’s focus on Gaeldom in the 1920s and 30s followed the romanticisation of the Gael in the Celtic Twilight and precedes the Gaelic Renaissance of the 1960s and 70s, their work therefore acting as an integral stepping stone in the revitalization of Scotland’s Gaelic culture and its representation in literature in the twentieth century.

Taking into consideration the themes considered most important by Gunn and MacDiarmid to the Gaelic experience, the thesis conducts a thorough overview of their treatment of the Gaelic world. Chapter One’s focus is on ‘people’ – the construction of individual, community and regional identity – Chapter Two on ‘land’ – its symbolism in the texts, the materialist economics it stands for, and the specific place of the archipelago within the Gaelic world – and Chapter Three on ‘culture’ – including reclamation of traditional or ‘lost’ cultures in the form of language, literature and music. Although the focus is primarily on close analysis of their creative work in the 1930s, relevant non-fiction has been included in the investigation so as to provide biographical evidence of the expansion of their consciousness of and involvement in this world, the reality which compliments their constructions.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Hugh MacDiarmid, Neil Gunn, scottish literature, gaelic, scottish renaissance, poetry, modernism, celtic twilight, highlands, culture.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Riach, Professor Alan and Gibson, Dr. Corey
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Miss Fiona Paterson
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81487
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2020 12:51
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2020 16:19
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81487

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