PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions Specialising in large archives and delivering content across platforms, Exact Editions offers the most diverse and broadly accessible content available for libraries and businesses by working with hundreds of publishers to bring valuable historical and current publications to life on web, iOS and Android platforms. read more
Most Read... Daniel Kaneon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
David Herdin Conversation with John Ashbery
(PN Review 99)
Henry Kingon Geoffrey Hill's Oraclau/Oracles
(PN Review 199)
Dannie Abse'In Highgate Woods' and Other Poems
(PN Review 209)
Sasha DugdaleJoy
(PN Review 227)
Matías Serra Bradfordinterviews Roger Langley The Long Question of Poetry: A Quiz for R.F. Langley
(PN Review 199)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Litro Magazine
The Poetry Society
Next Issue Alex Wylie sponsors the Secular Games Emma Wilson quizzes Carol Mavor Anna Jackson's Dear Reader Freddie Raphael's Dear Lord Byron David Herd on Poetry and Deportation

This article is taken from PN Review 191, Volume 36 Number 3, January - February 2010.

Antithetical Folk Neal Ascherson

They’re a gey antithetical folk are the Scots,
jurmummelt thegither like auctioneer’s lots
or a slap-happy family of bickeran brats…

So wrote Robert Garioch. No mean ‘bickeran brat’ himself, he meant these lines to satirise some of the easy, helpless definitions of Scottish identity as a jammed knot of contradictions - the notorious ‘Caledonian Antisyzygy’, a term now fortunately out of fashion.

This bold book sets out to show that there is, after all, a consistency to modern and contemporary Scottish culture, which can be traced by setting together the development of literature and the visual arts in the last century and a half and studying them against two backgrounds. These are place, locality and landscape, and, secondly, social and political change.

Alan Riach, one of the co-authors, suggests that the ‘foundational myth’ of Scotland is the desire for ‘some kind of social justice and egalitarianism’. Scotland to him is not so much ‘antithetical’ as diverse and thereby open: ‘our distinction is in a sense of our own multiplicity in languages, voices, geographies … And anyone who comes here or lives here should have equal access to all these different ways of understanding’. If this is our foundational myth in Scotland, maybe it is a good one.

Arts of Resistance began as a famous series of three lectures, or rather of lively and unscripted public dialogues between a poet and a painter, about the condition of the arts ...
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image