Epic Scotland: Wilkie, Macpherson and Other Homeric Efforts

Kristin Lindfield-Ott

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As Casey Dué points out, ‘in recent years a number of Homerists have approached the so-called Homeric Question by investigating Homer as author and “inventor” of the poetic tradition that we know as the Iliad’, and ‘in the eighteenth century [...] scholars and translators, most notably Alexander Pope, understood the term invention quite differently, assessing the “genius” of Homer in terms of “fire” and “invention”’. This essay seeks to situate a number of eighteenth-century Scottish epics — Hamilton’s Wallace, Wilkie’s Epigoniad, and Macpherson’s Highlander within an epic tradition that — some argue — had been largely discontinued in Britain by the mid-eighteenth century. This essay will begin with some general remarks on epics and the state of epic writing in eighteenth-century Scotland. Its focus, however, lies on Hamilton, Wilkie and Macpherson, who — apart from the Ossianic Collections — have not received much critical attention. This essay will discuss their works as epic continuations as well as in relation to contemporary notions of epic writing. Finally, the essay will conclude with a very brief excursion into 20th-century Scottish epic writing (MacDiarmid and Garioch) to show that the eighteenth-century examples explored here are not the end, but merely a waypoint in Scottish epic writing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBrill's Companion to Prequels, Sequels, and Retellings of Classical Epic
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-36092-1
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-24935-6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2018

Publication series

NameBrill's Companion to Classical Reception


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