Landscape’s Constitutive Agency in Macpherson's Ossianic Collections
: The Liminal Sublime in Ossian's Landscape

  • Aila Schaefer

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Research (awarded by UHI)


Recent scholarly debate about James Macpherson’s Ossianic Collections has sought to place them within their social and cultural context, away from the authenticity debate. This included considerations on Ossianic topographies, which determine the influence of Ossianic geographies on subsequent travel tourism and landscape observations within the region. However, a textual analysis in regards to depictions of nature and landscape within the Ossianic Collections that determines their impact on the appreciation of the texts, has not been conducted yet. To fully understand the central role nature and landscape assume, and to offer a different perspective, Ossian’s natural environment must be regarded in more detail. An ecocritical approach, in combination with a close reading, sheds light on the ambivalent message of otherness and familiarity within the Ossianic Collections. This thesis considers nature in the Ossianic Collections as an active component of the texts and regards the agency of nature and landscape to demonstrate the sense of liminality, created by the use of natural elements. By examining the aesthetics of nature, as well as the relationship between nature and humanity, and their cultural contexts, it will demonstrate that the mostly uninhabited Ossianic landscape settings are typically of ambiguous character, creating a liminal space between the mundane world and the otherworld. Unlike conventional literary studies which predominantly deal with the relationship between text, author and the outer world, this ecocritical approach defines society within the natural surroundings of the text. It brings about a paradigm shift in favour of an ecological perspective, positioning Ossian and the heroes of his narrations in their natural environment. This approach therefore contributes to a new way of understanding the Ossianic landscape, taking its agency into account and acknowledging a shift away from human-centred power relations, which results in a merging of Ossianic heroes with the landscape of the Highlands.
Date of Award26 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SupervisorJim MacPherson (Supervisor) & Ian Blyth (Supervisor)

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