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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

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Edited By 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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“No gods and precious few heroes”: Writing War 1939–45 (Roderick Watson)

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Roderick Watson (Stirling)

“No gods and precious few heroes”: Writing War 1939–45

Abstract: This essay considers whether the literature of war can ever escape the structural expectations of its own production, or the pressures of official histories and popular mythology. It argues that Scottish writers who lived through the event, with a distinct perspective of their own, produced some of the finest poetry of the Second World War.

How do you write about war in the face of the scale of suffering, the organised global logistical madness, the waste and the terrible, almost literally unspeakable particularities of injury and death? And how can one not write about it?

The current memorialisation of the outbreak of the First World War has led to a matching outbreak of reassessment and historical revisionism about such matters including the proposal that our popular understanding of the 14–18 conflict, its cause, justification and conduct, has been notably influenced, even unduly influenced, by many contemporary or near contemporary re-enactments (mostly satirical) from Joan Littlewood’s Oh What a Lovely War to Blackadder Goes Forth, not to mention a regular exposure in our nation’s classrooms to the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. While they cannot deny the power of those tales of sacrifice and tragic futility, contemporary historians are redressing the balance with counter narratives of German aggression, a necessary political response and the inevitability of military deadlock. There is a lot at stake in such...

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