Forms of memory in late twentieth and twenty-first century Scottish fiction
Tym, Linda Dawn
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According to Pierre Nora, “[m]emory and history, far from being synonymous, appear now to be in fundamental opposition”. Drawing on theories of memory and psychoanalysis, my thesis examines the role of memory as a narrative of the past in late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century Scottish literature. I challenge Nora’s supposition that memory and history are fundamentally opposed and I argue that modern Scottish literature uses a variety of forms of memory to interrogate traditional forms of history. In my Introduction, I set the paradigms for my investigation of memory. I examine the perceived paradox in Scottish literature between memory and history as appropriate ways to depict the past. Tracing the origins of this debate to the work of Walter Scott, I argue that he sets the precedent for writers of modernity, where the concerns are amplified in late twentieth and twenty-first century literature and criticism. While literary criticism, such as the work of Cairns Craig and Eleanor Bell, studies the trope of history, Scottish fiction, such as the writing of Alasdair Gray, James Robertson, and John Burnside, asserts the position of memory as a useful way of studying the past. Chapter One examines the transmission of memory. Using George Mackay Brown’s Greenvoe, I consider the implications of three methods of transferring memory. Mrs McKee’s refusal to disclose her experience indicates a refusal to mourn loss and to transmit memory. Skarf’s revision of historical narratives indicates a desire to share experience. The Mystery of the Ancient Horsemen demonstrates the use of ritual in the preservation and the communication of the past for future generations. Chapter Two studies the Gothic fiction of Emma Tennant and Elspeth Barker. I examine sensory experience as indicative of the interior and non-linear structure of memory. I argue that the refusal to accept personal and familial loss reveals problematic forms of memory. Chapter Three traces unacknowledged memory in Alice Thompson’s Pharos. I use Nicolas Abraham’s theory of the transgenerational phantom to consider the effects of this undisclosed memory. I argue that the past and its deliberate suppression haunt future generations. Chapter Four considers the use of nostalgia as a form of memory. I investigate the perceptions and definitions of nostalgia, particularly its use as a representation of the Scottish national past. Using Neil Gunn’s Highland River, I identify nostalgia’s diverse functions. I examine nostalgia as a way in which, through the Scottish diaspora, memory is transferred and exhibited beyond national boundaries. Chapter Five builds on the previous chapter and extends the analysis of the ways nostalgia functions. I study nostalgia’s manifestations in the diasporic Scottish-Canadian literature of Sara Jeanette Duncan, John Buchan, Eric McCormack, and Alastair MacLeod.
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