ENGL 472 Special Topic: Imagining Scotland


Scotland had been called ‘the world’s best hypothetical nation’ (Andrew O’Hagan) and a place where myth is ‘never driven out by reality, or by reason, but lingers on until another myth has been discovered, or elaborated, to replace it’ (Hugh Trevor-Roper). This course explores the role of writers – from Robert Burns to Ian Rankin – in shaping the ‘imagined community’ of Scotland. In Semester One, the course will focus on three major modern writers – Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson – before turning to the ‘Scottish Renaissance’ movement of the early twentieth century. In Semester Two, the course will explore the new modes of urban writing, working-class writing and women’s writing that have emerged in the postwar period, including the ‘Glasgow School’ of James Kelman, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead and Alasdair Gray, the postmodernist fiction of Muriel Spark, and the ‘Tartan Noir’ of Ian Rankin. Topics to be discussed include: the myth of the Highlands; historical fiction; the Scottish adventure novel; writing the city; crime fiction; postcolonial Scotland; the literary use of nonstandard language; literature and empire. Our readings will be contextualized with reference to historiography in the form of T.M. Devine’s The Scottish Nation, 1700-2007.



Poems of Robert Burns, selected by Ian Rankin (Penguin)
Walter Scott, Chronicles of the Canongate (Penguin)
Walter Scott, Waverley (Penguin)
Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped (Penguin)
Robert Louis Stevenson,The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Penguin)
John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps (Penguin)
Lewis Grasic Gibbon, Sunset Song (Penguin)
Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (New Directions)
Alasdair Gray, Lanark: a Life in 4 Books (Canongate)
Ian Rankin, Black & Blue (Orion)


Coordinator and Lecturer

Professor Liam McIlvanney