Euan Hague sent me his latest article on Scotland, in which he notes that in romance novels set in Scotland (but written by US authors)
the idea of Scottish adversity, typically in relation to England, produces an 'underdog' theme which researcher Jody Allen [...] finds appealing: 'Scotland as the underdog, always fighting back, still today with the "yes" vote campaign for independence.' The idea of fighting against a superior political power resonates with US readers reminded every Fourth of July about their nation's struggle for independence. A reader of romances who posted on Word Wenches (2013) concurs: 'I think we like to read about the "underdogs. Scotland is loaded with "underdogs" in history ... I read a lot of English-set novels - but for them I am usually reading for the heroine, who is the underdog. When I'm reading a Scottish one, the hero is just as important because usually he's as much of an underdog - the stakes are greater! Freedom for your entire country - a huge stake!' (188)
These novels are not, however, necessarily ideal entry points to understanding either modern Scotland or its independence referendum. The kind of Scotland to be found in US romance novels can generally be described as
Tartanry, replete with kilt-wearing, sword-wielding, bagpipe-playing Highlanders wandering across treeless mountains and along scenic lochsides among the purple flowers of heather and thistles, remains the dominant representation of Scotland internationally. (173)
key themes include genealogy, family and heredity, which raise associated plot lines of the legitimacy of heirs and competing claims to land, power and leadership positions in both clans and royal families. Brooding, passionate, feisty Scots are often drawn in contrast to more prosaic English or American protagonists. (176)
It would be very wrong, for instance, to assume that those campaigning for Scottish independence are motivated primarily by "genealogy, family and heredity":
In Scotland, both the devolutionists of the Constitutional Convention and the independence-minded SNP (which stood outside the Convention) have proclaimed a non-ethnic, inclusive, ‘civic’ concept of nationalism.(SA 29:138) Ethnic nationalism ‘is in essence exclusive’, stressing the ethnic group and common descent. Civic nationalism ‘is inclusive in the sense that anyone can adopt the culture and join the nation’. (Kellas p.65) (Miller and Hussain 1)
As for being an underdog, well
Dr Nasar Meer, an Edinburgh-based social sciences academic at the University of Strathclyde who has studied the support for independence among minorities, agreed that minorities "identify with the narrative" of Scotland.
"They understand what it feels like to be oppressed, and that's the Scottish version of their history too," he said. "Though, of course, it's not necessarily true that Scots have always been oppressed. Scots ran the British Empire, practically. The Indian military has a Scottish tartan in its formal regalia." (Elgot)
If that sounds like a bit of a paradox, try this, from Professor Tom Devine:
the Scottish people seem to be wedded to a social democratic agenda and the kind of political values which sustained and were embedded in the welfare state of the 1950s. In fact, you could argue that it is the Scots who have tried to preserve the idea of Britishness in terms of state support and intervention, and that it is England that has chosen to go on a separate journey since the 1980s.
Devine, Tom. "Tom Devine: why I now say yes to Independence for Scotland." Bella Caledonia, 22 August 2014.
Elgot, Jessica. "Why Are So Many Scots From Ethnic Minorities Voting Yes?" Huffington Post, 14 June 2014.
Hague, Euan. “Mass Market Romance Fiction and the Representation of Scotland in the United States.” The Modern Scottish Diaspora: Contemporary Debates and Perspectives. Ed. Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2014. 171-190.
Miller, William L. and Asifa M. Hussain. "Devolution, Nationalism and Ethnic Minorities: The Civility of Civic Nationalism."
The image of the Scotch Terrier came from Wikimedia Commons and was created by Pearson Scott Foresman.
It's a pleasure to know that
It's a pleasure to know that you're in touch with my colleague Euan! He gave a fine talk at PCA on this topic, and I suspect that the article he sent you was the finished version.
"Civic nationalism" is a beautiful thing, and I'd love to see it flourish, in Scotland and elsewhere.
Good luck next week!
Sorry to hear about your
Sorry to hear about your hiatus, I liked your posts! :( Maybe when you recover a bit, you'll return?
Thanks! Blogging usually
Thanks! Blogging usually feels like sending out posts into space, where they just disappear into the mass of other debris already in orbit, so it's good to know that they do get read.
I'm feeling really disillusioned with human nature at the moment but I hope I can finish the book on US romance I've been working on. After that I don't know what I'll do.
Yeah, blogging can feel that
Yeah, blogging can feel that way. Might be worth it to switch to Wordpress. People can follow you easily, and you can get an idea who's reading.
I feel that disappointment with people a lot too. Fortunately, not everyone is the same. Good luck on your book, and I hope we still see you around!