Discourses of race, place and nationalism in the writing of Neil M. Gunn - PhDData

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Discourses of race, place and nationalism in the writing of Neil M. Gunn

The thesis was published by Sneddon, Andrew John, in September 2022, University of Stirling.


My thesis examines the early and middle periods of Neil M. Gunn’s writing career in the context of contemporaneous debates and discourses emergent in Scottish political and cultural nationalism. I locate my thesis within a new, broad development in Scottish Studies which is adopting more rigorously analytical, interdisciplinary and theorised models of interpretation. The first chapter examines Gunn’s own nationalism in the light of other contemporaneous Scottish nationalisms and assert that it is moderate in tone but radical, being based on a model of cultural repression / resistance. I examine current theoretical approaches to the study of nationalism and adopt the analytical methods of Anthony D. Smith’s ethno-symbolism. The second chapter examines Gunn’s used of racial figures of speech and concludes that he carefully constructs a politicised account of Scotland’s early history. This account is predicated on a theory of racial essentialism communicated through the visual clue of race. The third chapter examines Gunn’s racial tropes alongside those of D. H. Lawrence and fellow Scottish novelist James Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon). I demonstrate how they share an interest in aesthetic primitivism. All three writers adopt radical political positions based on the rejection of ‘whiteness’ and modernity. The last chapter examines Gunn from the perspective of current landscape theory, and analyses how his use of what Denis E, Cosgrove calls ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ positions is figured in his novels, and in his contribution to the Highland Hydro-Electric debates of the 1930s and 1940s. I conclude that Gunn is a profoundly political writer and urge a reassessment of his oeuvre in this light.

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