History Of Scottish Literature, A

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The Flouer O Nationheid2014100220141005 (RS)

1/8

In the company of distinguished academics and prominent writer such as James Robertson, William McIlvanney, Janice Galloway and Alexander McCall Smith, Billy Kay will trace the origins of Scottish literature in Welsh, Gaelic, Norse, Latin and Scots....from Welsh epics to Norse sagas and the Celtic myths and legends of the Gaelic West. We will hear how those traditions inspired modern writers like Iain Crichton Smith , George Mackay Brown and Janet Paisley in her recent novel Warrior Daughter. Billy will initially focus on the emergence of Scotland as we know it and the importance of epics like Barbour's Brus and Blind Hary's Wallace in nation building and the creation of a national identity. Scottish literature from the beginning was at the core of Scottish identity. We will hear how the story of Wallace helped promote and define Scottishness in different periods in our history - finding echoes from Burns to Braveheart. Historians questioned the partisan and at times dubious history, but Blind Harry's Wallace was the expression of a vigorous oral tradition about Wallace that he collected from the common people - hence its power and direct appeal.

We will hear the resounding cry of Barbour's Brus, " A! Fredome is a noble thing!" and contrast it with Kathleen Jamie's gentle lyrical take on the subject with the poem that now features at the Bannockburn monument.

'Come all ye', the country says

You win me, who take me most to heart.

Kathleen's poem evokes lines from the Ballads, Hamish Henderson and Violet Jacob - showing the strength of the great literary tradition started by these epics. We will end with a celebration of the first of the great Scots makars, Robert Henryson and his masterpiece - the Testament of Cresseid.

The Flouer O Nationheid2014100220141003 (RS)

Billy Kay celebrates Scottish literature and its importance to national identity.

The Flouer O Nationheid20141002

1/8

In the company of distinguished academics and prominent writer such as James Robertson, William McIlvanney, Janice Galloway and Alexander McCall Smith, Billy Kay will trace the origins of Scottish literature in Welsh, Gaelic, Norse, Latin and Scots....from Welsh epics to Norse sagas and the Celtic myths and legends of the Gaelic West. We will hear how those traditions inspired modern writers like Iain Crichton Smith , George Mackay Brown and Janet Paisley in her recent novel Warrior Daughter. Billy will initially focus on the emergence of Scotland as we know it and the importance of epics like Barbour's Brus and Blind Hary's Wallace in nation building and the creation of a national identity. Scottish literature from the beginning was at the core of Scottish identity. We will hear how the story of Wallace helped promote and define Scottishness in different periods in our history - finding echoes from Burns to Braveheart. Historians questioned the partisan and at times dubious history, but Blind Harry's Wallace was the expression of a vigorous oral tradition about Wallace that he collected from the common people - hence its power and direct appeal.

We will hear the resounding cry of Barbour's Brus, " A! Fredome is a noble thing!" and contrast it with Kathleen Jamie's gentle lyrical take on the subject with the poem that now features at the Bannockburn monument.

'Come all ye', the country says

You win me, who take me most to heart.

Kathleen's poem evokes lines from the Ballads, Hamish Henderson and Violet Jacob - showing the strength of the great literary tradition started by these epics. We will end with a celebration of the first of the great Scots makars, Robert Henryson and his masterpiece - the Testament of Cresseid.

02Lament For The Makars2014100920141012 (RS)

We celebrate the golden age of Scottish poetry from 1450 - 1603 when some of the greatest literature in Europe was written by the Makars, Gavin Douglas, Sir David Lindsay, Alexander Montgomerie and especially William Dunbar. Dunbar's poetry ranges from ornate aureate verse reflecting the court of the Renaisance prince, James IV, to the earthy sexuality of the Treatise of the Twa Mairrit Wemen and the Wedo. It also includes the stunning Lament for the Makars, which we will hear in a wonderful recording by the great Welsh actor Richard Burton. Modern makars Sheena Blackhall and Andrew Greig testify to the poem's inspirational power.

The Stewart Kings were hugely influential in the creation of Scots literarature with James I writing his poem The King's Quair and JamesVI writing a treatise on how to write great poetry in the native vernacular as well as encouraging his Castalian Band of poets at court. Poetry was not confined to the Court though and we hear of a remarkable bawdy poem from the Gaelic tradition written by the Countess of Argyll. Earthy sensuality and soaring spirituality existed one with the other in this period of brilliant creativity.

We look at Ane Sayre of the Thrie Estaitis and meet John the Commonweill for the first time - the beginning of the crucial democratic tradition in Scottish literature where the focus is on the ordinary man rather than the aristocrat. We also project forward to later centuries when MacDiarmid's war cry was "Not Burns, Back to Dunbar" because of the brilliant intellectual discipline of this earlier period. Billy also attends the 500th anniversary celebration of Gavin Douglas's Scots translation of The Aeneid which the American poet Ezra Pound

said was better than Virgil's original!

02Lament For The Makars2014100920141010 (RS)

Billy Kay celebrates the golden age of the Makars, from Dunbar to Douglas and Montgomerie.

We celebrate the golden age of Scottish poetry from 1450 - 1603 when some of the greatest literature in Europe was written by the Makars, Gavin Douglas, Sir David Lindsay, Alexander Montgomerie and especially William Dunbar. Dunbar's poetry ranges from ornate aureate verse reflecting the court of the Renaisance prince, James IV, to the earthy sexuality of the Treatise of the Twa Mairrit Wemen and the Wedo. It also includes the stunning Lament for the Makars, which we will hear in a wonderful recording by the great Welsh actor Richard Burton. Modern makars Sheena Blackhall and Andrew Greig testify to the poem's inspirational power.

The Stewart Kings were hugely influential in the creation of Scots literarature with James I writing his poem The King's Quair and JamesVI writing a treatise on how to write great poetry in the native vernacular as well as encouraging his Castalian Band of poets at court. Poetry was not confined to the Court though and we hear of a remarkable bawdy poem from the Gaelic tradition written by the Countess of Argyll. Earthy sensuality and soaring spirituality existed one with the other in this period of brilliant creativity.

We look at Ane Sayre of the Thrie Estaitis and meet John the Commonweill for the first time - the beginning of the crucial democratic tradition in Scottish literature where the focus is on the ordinary man rather than the aristocrat. We also project forward to later centuries when MacDiarmid's war cry was "Not Burns, Back to Dunbar" because of the brilliant intellectual discipline of this earlier period. Billy also attends the 500th anniversary celebration of Gavin Douglas's Scots translation of The Aeneid which the American poet Ezra Pound

said was better than Virgil's original!

03The Solace Of Mankind2014101620141019 (RS)

Billy Kay explores the ballads and the Scots revival led by Ramsay, Fergusson and Burns.

03The Solace Of Mankind2014101620141017 (RS)

Billy Kay explores the ballads and the Scots revival led by Ramsay, Fergusson and Burns.

03The Solace Of Mankind20141016

After1603 and the disappearance of royal patronage for poetry, we celebrate the great Ballad tradition and the influence of folklore on the literature. This gains momentum in the 18th century when the writers react against the anglicisation process following the Union of 1707, to initiate a Vernacular Revival.

Contemporary writers such as Janice Galloway and Val McDermid testify to the power of Scots song growing up, while Kirsteen McCue of Glasgow and Penny Fielding of Edinburgh University reveal the vogue for Scots song and poetry in England through the influence of Alan Ramsay's musical play The Gentle Shepherd. Ramsay was a nationalist and Jacobite, and published the older Scots poems of the Makars as well as writing new ones, and his cultural endeavour was matched in the collections by Watson, Ruddiman and Hamilton of Gilbertfield. Many of these prime movers were Jacobites....and this was a period when Scots amd Gaelic culture crossed over. One of the ironies is that Duncan Ban Macintyre joined the City Gaird of Edinburgh which Robert Fergusson called the Black Banditti - because of their reputation for police brutality. So the greatest Gaelic and Scots poets of the age possibly confronted each other on the steering streets o auld reikie.

We celebrate what Robert Louis Stevenson called the "fizzing vitality" of Fergusson' poetry and hear James Robertson's poem in praise of his statue in the Canongate. Burns recognised his debt to Fergusson when he paid for his headstone and described him as "my elder brother in misfortune, by far my elder brother in the muse." We hear how Burns took up the Scots tradition and gave birth to a world wide cult - the American writer Ralph Waldo Emmerson saying that his songs were "the property and solace of mankind.".

04Wizards Of The North2014102320141024 (RS)
20141026 (RS)

Billy Kay explores the legacy of Scott, Ossian, Burns and Byron in the Romantic movement.

Billy Kay explores the portrayal of Scotland as a centre of the Romantic Movement through the influence of the Ossian cult, Burns, and the epic poetry and novels of Sir Walter Scott. Scott is regarded as the author who created the new genre of the historical novel - here we discover just how innovative he was.

The balancing act between restrained sensibility and extravagant romanticism emerged in one of the iconic works of the age, James Macpherson's Fragments of Ancient Poetry which the author claimed were part of an oral tradition going back to the ancient Celtic bard Ossian. Professor Willie Gillies asserts that the pathos in Ossian was quite alien to the native Gaelic tradition. But the great and good from Thomas Jefferson to Napoleon lapped it up as yet another expression of an appealing Zeitgeist with a Caledonian epicentre.

That epicentre also claimed the other literary giant of the period, George Gordon, Lord Byron, who prided himself on his Aberdeenshire roots and celebrated them in his song, Dark Lochnagar. With all this evocation of history and landscape, Scotland became THE must see travel destination for cultured Europeans with the Trossachs, Fingal's Cave and Burns Cottage becoming places of pilgrimage and commerce! Billy discusses the role writers still have in promoting the country with Ali Bowden, Director of the world's first Unesco City of Literature, Edinburgh.

Another reason for our writing flourishing in the 19th century was a thriving publishing industry, and contributing to it was a talented group of female writers such as Mrs Oliphan and Susan Ferrier. Sadly, many of these authors await re-discovery, so when growing up, the Scottish tradition appeared very masculine to a contemporary writer like Louise Welsh.

05Twa Corbies And Tartan Noir2014103020141031 (RS)
20141102 (RS)

Billy Kay explores the dark side of Scotland's literature from ballads to tartan noir.

For Halloween Billy Kay enters the dark realm of literature with writers like James Robertson, Andrew Greig, and Sheena Blackhall. We celebrate the supernatural in eerie tales such as R.L. Stevenson's Thrawn Janet and The Strange Tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. We explore the fey, other worldly shimmer of the minstrelsy of the Scottish border and the relish for blood letting in iconic ballads like The Twa Corbies. It became popular in Russia through Pushkin's translation and we hear a contemporary echo of it in Liz Lochhead's performance of the Corbie's speech from her play Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off.

Murray Pittock comments on the outsiders' image of Scotland as a place where the supernatural was close to hand, and how Scottish writers adopted this and ran with it brilliantly in their writing. We look at doppelgangers and divided selves in James Hogg's masterpiece The Confessions of a Justified Sinner which languished for almost a century until the French writer André Gide discovered it and declared its genius to the world. We explore Scotland as a setting for Gothic tales with Dracula's creator Bram Stoker's stay at Slains Castle and Mary Shelley writing that Frankenstein was born "on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee." Did Edgar Allan Poe get his taste for the Gothic during a childhood sojourn in Irvine at the height of the body snatching epidemic in the early 19th century? We bring the story up to date and discuss the vicarious thrill of crime fiction and tartan noir along with Val McDermid, William McIlvanney and the author of The Cutting Room, Louise Welsh. At the end we discover which Scottish author was being read by Goebbels and Hitler in the bunker just before the downfall.

06Sunset Songs2014110620141109 (RS)

Billy Kay celebrates the literary renaissance of MacDiarmid, Gibbon and Gunn.

06Sunset Songs2014110620141107 (RS)

Our most popular novel, Sunset Song is an elegy for a rural way of life which died at the end of the Great War. We will explore its iconic significance with Billy Kay visiting the Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre in the Mearns hamlet of Arbuthnott. The poet Hugh MacDiarmid had fought in the Great War and like many who returned home questioned why they had been fighting "for little Belgium's sake" when Scotland was a wasteland, culturally, economically and politically. The Scottish Literary Rennaissance was a catalyst for a cultural revival and a political awakening, with writers like MacDiarmid, Eric Linklater, Compton Mackenzie, Neil Gunn and and RB Cunninghame Graham involved in the founding of the National Party...the forerunner of the SNP. We will hear the voices of Gunn and MacDiarmid from the BBC archive talking of the spirit of renewal abroad.

We contrast the emerging vigour and realism of the 20th century with the parochial sentimental version of rural life depicted by the Kailyard school in the later 19th century - the author of The House with the Green Shutters hoped that his novel would "stick the kailyard like pigs" Alasdair Gray discusses the latter and acknowledges its influence in a "list of plagiariasm" from his novel Lanark. Kay notes with humour that Gray's description of this influence is one he repeats exactly when he also acknowledges the influence of the play Hamlet by one William Shakespeare! Alasdair Gray and academics such as Alan Riach, Douglas Giffford and Alison Lumsden also recognise the crucial role of RL Stevenson in modernising literature in Scotland, America and the South Seas. We end with the lyrical tradition continuing with a group of women writers, as exemplified in the song Norland Wind by Violet Jacob.

06Sunset Songs2014110620141107 (RS)

Billy Kay celebrates the literary renaissance of MacDiarmid, Gibbon and Gunn.

Our most popular novel, Sunset Song is an elegy for a rural way of life which died at the end of the Great War. We will explore its iconic significance with Billy Kay visiting the Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre in the Mearns hamlet of Arbuthnott. The poet Hugh MacDiarmid had fought in the Great War and like many who returned home questioned why they had been fighting "for little Belgium's sake" when Scotland was a wasteland, culturally, economically and politically. The Scottish Literary Rennaissance was a catalyst for a cultural revival and a political awakening, with writers like MacDiarmid, Eric Linklater, Compton Mackenzie, Neil Gunn and and RB Cunninghame Graham involved in the founding of the National Party...the forerunner of the SNP. We will hear the voices of Gunn and MacDiarmid from the BBC archive talking of the spirit of renewal abroad.

We contrast the emerging vigour and realism of the 20th century with the parochial sentimental version of rural life depicted by the Kailyard school in the later 19th century - the author of The House with the Green Shutters hoped that his novel would "stick the kailyard like pigs" Alasdair Gray discusses the latter and acknowledges its influence in a "list of plagiariasm" from his novel Lanark. Kay notes with humour that Gray's description of this influence is one he repeats exactly when he also acknowledges the influence of the play Hamlet by one William Shakespeare! Alasdair Gray and academics such as Alan Riach, Douglas Giffford and Alison Lumsden also recognise the crucial role of RL Stevenson in modernising literature in Scotland, America and the South Seas. We end with the lyrical tradition continuing with a group of women writers, as exemplified in the song Norland Wind by Violet Jacob.

07A Beacon in the Darkness2014111320141116 (RS)

"Our writers have always been a beacon in the darkness, even though what they've written out of, and what they've written about has been the darkness...so I think writers in Scotland have been massively important." Professor Willy Maley, Glasgow University.

We celebrate the poetry of McCaig, Maclean, Morgan and Lochhead and the cultural impact of the novels of Gray, Kelman, Welsh and McIlvanney in the flourishing of Scottish literature in the later 20th century. Billy Kay visits the National Portait Gallery to view the iconic painting Poet's Pub with the artist Sandy Moffat. He was part of a cultural and political movement inspired by the great writers in the painting who reached a wider public from the 1970's onward because of the popularity of poetry readings. Liz Lochhead, Andrew Greig and Aonghas Macneacaill testify to the generosity of spirit of their older peers which made them feel part of a community. However, they also enjoyed the older Scots literary tradition of flyting...."If there was any back scratching going on among Scottish poets" said Norman McCaig, "It was done with dirks!". Later, an influential group of writers emerged in Glasgow - prominent among them were Booker prize winning novelist James Kelman, Lochhead and Alasdair Gray, who discusses his seminal novel Lanark. We also question with Janice Galloway whether modern literature has been too concerned with gritty, masculine urban realism from No Mean City to Trainspotting? Alexander McCall Smith e.g. felt that he had to adapt his writing at one point so that it would fit the Scottish norm! For Willie Mcilvanney and Alan Bissett though the streets of working class communities are simply where they come from and depict with feeling in novels like Docherty and Boy Racers.

07A Beacon In The Darkness2014111320141114 (RS)

Billy Kay celebrates the flourishing of Scottish literature in the later 20th century.

07A Beacon in the Darkness20141113

"Our writers have always been a beacon in the darkness, even though what they've written out of, and what they've written about has been the darkness...so I think writers in Scotland have been massively important." Professor Willy Maley, Glasgow University.

We celebrate the poetry of McCaig, Maclean, Morgan and Lochhead and the cultural impact of the novels of Gray, Kelman, Welsh and McIlvanney in the flourishing of Scottish literature in the later 20th century. Billy Kay visits the National Portait Gallery to view the iconic painting Poet's Pub with the artist Sandy Moffat. He was part of a cultural and political movement inspired by the great writers in the painting who reached a wider public from the 1970's onward because of the popularity of poetry readings. Liz Lochhead, Andrew Greig and Aonghas Macneacaill testify to the generosity of spirit of their older peers which made them feel part of a community. However, they also enjoyed the older Scots literary tradition of flyting...."If there was any back scratching going on among Scottish poets" said Norman McCaig, "It was done with dirks!". Later, an influential group of writers emerged in Glasgow - prominent among them were Booker prize winning novelist James Kelman, Lochhead and Alasdair Gray, who discusses his seminal novel Lanark. We also question with Janice Galloway whether modern literature has been too concerned with gritty, masculine urban realism from No Mean City to Trainspotting? Alexander McCall Smith e.g. felt that he had to adapt his writing at one point so that it would fit the Scottish norm! For Willie Mcilvanney and Alan Bissett though the streets of working class communities are simply where they come from and depict with feeling in novels like Docherty and Boy Racers.

082014112020141123 (RS)

Billy Kay explores contemporary Scottish literature, language and politics.

082014112020141121 (RS)

Billy Kay explores contemporary Scottish literature, language and politics.

082014112020141121 (RS)

Billy Kay explores contemporary Scottish literature, language and politics.

0820141120

Billy Kay explores the vitality of contemporary literature and its roots in real communities, with writers like Janet Paisley saying how important it was for them to find their own voice and write in the language of the people.

A feature of Scottish writing from Stevenson to AL Kennedy and Kelman is the survival of the short story as a vehicle for major writing and we hear from Janice Galloway, a brilliant exponent of the genre. Love has been at the heart of our literature , but only recently has gay love been depicted honestly by artists like Louise Welsh and Zoë Strachan. Zoë discusses her novel Ever Fallen in Love, while Louise reads a wonderful passage on love from The Cutting Room. The bittersweet love of country has also been at the core of Scottish writing from its beginnings through to recent struggles for a Scottish parliament - Val McDermid, James Robertson and Robert Crawford talk about the role of literature in the continuation of a distinctive Scottish identity. We hear about the international reach of a literature which, ironically, is often viewed with ambivalence here because of the tension between Scottishness and Britishness in our society. Murray Pittock, Alasdair Gray and Professor Alan Riach discuss this - Glasgow is Scotland's only university with a department of Scottish literature! All of the interviews for the series took place before the Referendum, so we will hear artists and academics imagining what will happen with a Yes or a No result. Billy concludes by saying that Scottish literature is "ane o the brawest o aw the flouers o oor natiounheid" and looks to the future with the words of Hugh MacDiarmid:

For we hae faith in Scotland's hidden pouers

The present's theirs but aw the past an future's oors.