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Inspiring Views from «a' the airts» on Scottish Literatures, Art and Cinema

The First World Congress of Scottish Literatures in Glasgow 2014


Klaus Peter Müller, Ilka Schwittlinsky and Ron Walker

Where do Scottish literatures, art, and cinema stand today? What and how do Scottish Studies investigate? Creative writers and scholars give answers to these questions and address vital concerns in Scottish, British, and European history from the Union debate and the Enlightenment to Brexit, ethnic questions, and Scottish film. They present new insights on James Macpherson, Robert Burns, John Galt, J. M. Barrie, Walter Scott, James Robertson, war poetry, new Scottish writing, and nature writing. The contributions highlight old and new networking and media as well as the persistent influences of the past on the present, analyzing a wide range of texts, media and art forms with approaches from literary, cultural, media, theatre, history, political, and philosophical studies.

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Interpreting Galt’s Omen (Angela Esterhammer)


Angela Esterhammer (Toronto)

Interpreting Galt’s Omen

Abstract: John Galt’s short novel The Omen is a curiously modern experiment with genre, temporality, and an unreliable narrator that shows the influence of Gothic tales, scientific treatises on paranormal psychology, and Galt’s experience writing for Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. The first-person narrator’s attempt to interpret his traumatic memories, dreams, and omens finds a parallel in the experience of reading the text, as Galt challenges readers to make sense of a narrative full of ambiguities and paradoxes.

Early in 1826, an anonymous one-volume novel entitled The Omen appeared simultaneously in Edinburgh and London. Readers and reviewers guessed that its unacknowledged author might be one of the most respected novelists of the day, Walter Scott or William Godwin, or one of the most popular, John Gibson Lockhart or William Maginn. But The Omen is in fact by John Galt, who, though best known (then and now) for his fictions of regional Scottish life, deserves greater recognition for his experiments with narrative technique and temporal distortion that anticipate Poe, Dickens, and George Eliot. The Omen is a first-person narrative about a disturbed psyche that treats themes of trauma, obsession, and fate while blurring the line between documentation and delusion. It belongs to the genre that Ian Duncan has called the “accursed memoir” (Duncan 2007, 172, 334) and other modern critics and Romantic-era reviewers term the psychological novel, the case study, or the “novel of character” (Scott 1826, 53). It can be...

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