This project disinterred a wide range of poetry and song in Scotland that responded to moments of agitation for reform and the extension of the franchise. It examined the neglected impact that local verse culture had on Scottish politics, including songs performed in the streets, in meetings, at marches, at dinners and other events. At its core, this project sought the key features that shaped the articulation of political ideology in popular cultural contexts. In addition, it investigated how written verse circulated in the emerging print cultures of this period. It interrogated the relationship between 'song' and 'poetry', and investigated the allegiances of political verse, exploring its relationship to regional, national, party and international identities, and the intersections of class, gender, religious and political identity that it fostered. Four periods associated with the extension of the franchise: 1830-32, 1866-68, 1884-86 and 1913-18 offered the principal chronological focus. The project thus critically assessed the shifting role of verse culture in the reform agitation of the 1820s and '30s; the emergence of a reforming Liberal agenda leading up to franchise extension in 1867; the evolution of the Labour movement in the 1880s and the extension of the franchise in 1 884; and the campaign for the female suffrage up until 1918.
The project website can be accessed at thepeoplesvoice.glasgow.ac.uk. There you will find an extensive database of political poems and songs from across Scotland, online essays, performances, schools resources and an anthology of poetry and song.
A project of this type, however, does not seek the final word on any particular question; nor can it be comprehensive in any absolute sense. Rather, it seeks to facilitate further questions and lines of inquiry. It is with this in mind that the project investigators welcomed the opportunity to put together a special edition of the SLR in which research relating to political poetry and song--broadly conceived--would be show-cased.
This issue begins with Michael Shaw's provocative and closely argued assessment of satirical verse in the print culture of Glasgow at the time of the Great Reform Act. Shaw's analysis foregrounds the place of Glasgow in a wider British tradition of satire that, contrary to conventional assumptions, persisted into the nineteenth century. The second article by Erin Farley highlights the merits of a micro-history approach to verse relating to local politics. Here, her focus is on Dundee, and representations of 'local hero', George Kinloch (1775-1833), and she draws particular attention to the critical role played by the local press in sustaining a vibrant political culture on Tayside. The presses themselves are the focus when we turn to the third article--David Finkelstein's study of Scotland's compositor poets (1850-1880). Examining the work of Alexander Smart, James Smith and Robert Brough, Finkelstein makes the case for the influence of 'labour laureates' in sustaining a literary culture among the labouring classes in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Kirstie Blair, meanwhile, places Scotland in a genuinely European context, assessing representations of Kossuth and Garibaldi appearing in poems in the newspaper press in Scotland in order to place in context poetic patriotic sentiments in a broader tradition of hero worship and claims to national self-determination and 'liberty'. Finally, Sean Murphy draws our attention to the ways in which vernacular Scots infused the anti-suffrage cause in the years before the Great War, pointing to how the Scots language was employed to enhance dominant notions of female domesticity, and mock women's claims to equal citizenship. These essays together are a tantalising glimpse at the potential of political verse in Scotland to reveal both historical and literary insights into Scotland's political and poetic evolution at a time when both social and cultural conventions were being overturned.
Catriona M. M. Macdonald, Guest Editor,
University of Glasgow
Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
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|Author:||Macdonald, Catriona M.M.|
|Publication:||Scottish Literary Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2018|
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